Twitter: @matoacabball

 

Matoaca High School (Chesterfield, VA)

Classification: Class 5, Region B

2017-18 Record: 10-12

 

 

Getting Back on Track

While Matoaca has seen some noteworthy success in their backyard of Chesterfield County throughout the past several seasons, everybody (all coaches and players) returning from this previous season views their last outing as a fairly disappointing one. After going 18-7 in the 2017 season, the Warriors only managed to win ten games last winter. In the eyes of the coaching staff, a different narrative could and should be told.

“Honestly, our record should’ve ended at like 17-5, versus 10-12, if we finished games off the right way,” head varsity coach Michael Knight explained. “We left a lot of those games at the free throw line, especially. That, and some other small late-game mistakes. Something we’re focusing on now to make sure that doesn’t become a problem again. Got to finish strong down the stretch.”

Several young players have now turned into experienced veterans and/or upperclassmen so learning from those past mistakes should come as no problem. The returners have a clear focus in their approach to daily workouts and take great charge in teaching new faces the program’s standards. If anything, I think last season’s disappointing late-game occurrences will make this year’s team even more dangerous. They have that hunger in their eyes.

 

Turning it up a Notch

Observing the potential depth of Matoaca aids into what I mean by how they can become ‘dangerous’ in the county. I’ve already had the opportunity to watch the team play on four separate occasions this preseason; they participated in the Meadowbrook High School Fall League and Christopher Newport University’s (CNU) annual Fall Team Camp. They went undefeated in every contest I witnessed, as they also won the Silver Bracket championship within the CNU team camp. As their outstanding preseason showings start to conclude, I can determine that opponents struggle to find an answer for the Warriors’ combined effort and confidence in their style of play. It takes little to zero time for the squad to gain momentum right from tip-off. Getting back to playing at a fast-paced tempo serves as one of the main areas of focus to find success this season.

“We definitely want to play fast this season,” Knight asserted. “In the past, I always had a team goal of 80+ possessions per game. Last season, we averaged around 70 possessions. Looking to pick those numbers back up moving forward.”

Roster numbers should not emerge as an issue in regards to the Warriors’ strategy of turning up their game speed. During my visit, the players definitely got in their share of conditioning throughout the drills/consequences. So, getting in proper shape for games won’t provide any worries either. Knight’s group has all of the tools necessary to get those aforementioned possessions on a nightly basis.

 

“I Got It!”

 Even with their depth and exciting style of play, nothing impresses me more about Matoaca than their consistency on the glass. This goes for rebounding on both ends. They GET AFTER IT. Only two returners stand over 6’5” tall but pretty much everybody on the roster can produce in some way when it comes to going after boards. The Warriors stood out as the best defensive rebounding team in the Meadowbrook Fall League by a wide margin; rarely did they ever give a team a shot at gaining second-chance points. Down at the CNU team camp, rebounding again proved a major reason as to why they took home the trophy in their division. It starts with the forwards and carries over to the wings and even guards. Everybody has a nose for the ball once it comes off the rim. Other teams in the area can expect Matoaca to test them all night long in fighting for position to score off offensive put-backs and secure their possessions.

 

Who to Watch For:

 

Kaleb Coleman ‘20

Going into his third year as a varsity letter-man, the 6’0” guard will retain his role as the Warriors’ primary ball-handler. There’s much to love about Coleman’s game but his court vision arguably stands out as his best skill. From what I’ve seen thus far, few in Chesterfield can put on a passing clinic like him. He greatly embraces playing as the initiator of his team’s offensive tempo and can assist in a quick number of transition points. A lefty who can attack the basket with either hand, Coleman now seems to have some reliable hesitation moves in his arsenal to keep his defender guessing in which decision he will choose to make. His jump-shot still needs some touching up at the moment, along with his lateral quickness. Coming off of a strong summer with Team Richmond Garner Road 16u, the floor general has put on some notable strength and looks ready to take it to another level as an official upperclassman.

 

Jalen Hargrove ‘19

I’ve been a fan of Hargrove’s game since the first time I saw him on the court and he steadily continues to prove his worth every time I come across the Warriors. A senior leader, the bouncy 6’5” forward gives whoever he comes across trouble in a handful of different ways. For starters, he runs the floor like a gazelle… this obviously proves beneficial for any team attempting to play fast. Other than his speed, Hargrove returns as one of the team’s top rebounders and best hustle player. His activity around the rim never stops in how he crashes the glass and strongly finishes with either hand at will. Defensively, he sets the tone in changing shots within close range and hedging hard on screens. Once he switches onto another defender, his focus grows even greater. Hargrove’s handle could use the most work currently; if he can show a confidence in creating his own shot (as he does solid in finding others around him), he’ll become a PROBLEM. Bluefield State has offered and many more should keep an eye on him throughout the incoming months.

 

Tyrese Tingle ‘19

The tallest returner for Matoaca, standing at 6’6,” Tingle serves as the anchor of the team’s defensive rebounding prowess. The burly forward has strong hands to secure the ball whenever in position and uses strength to his advantage by boxing opponents out of the picture. I honestly expect to see him average double-digit rebounds for the season (at least close to). Aside from his dominance on the boards, Tingle shows the capability to knock down trail three-pointers as well. Since he most likely will finish as one of the last ones down the court due to his rebounding, the team should look to make him a weapon from these trail looks, especially from where he’s most comfortable. When he makes himself available on the block, opponents will have their hands full in denying Tingle from getting the ball. He has a nice touch on his hook shot to go along with his strong moves toward the rim. Turnovers need to diminish for him, especially in transition. If he can lessen them, and keep defenders honest with his left hand, I suspect he’ll have one of the better senior seasons in Chesterfield County.

 

Bryson Kitrell ‘21

After making big contributions as a freshman last season, the Warriors’ young shooter returns with high confidence in how he now understands what to expect on the varsity level. I’d classify Kitrell as more of a ‘streaky shooter’ but man, he can really get going when he catches fire. In Matoaca’s semifinal game down at the CNU team camp, he exploded for five three-pointers in row during the late stretch of the second half. He sets his feet really well and always quickly fixes his eyes on the rim to knock in looks before defenders can get out to him. When Kitrell puts it on the floor, he has a nice touch to score off short floaters in the lane. The next step for him involves improving his consistency on defense and all-around ball skills. He has a knack for picking up steals when guarding on the perimeter but tends to gamble too much, which often doesn’t result in his favor. He must protect the ball better when trying to drive through pressure, as his loose play leads to more turnovers than he should end with. Regarding his youth and natural feel for the game, I have high confidence he’ll emerge as a bigger threat once he cleans up some things.

 

Shaun Kindred ‘20

Standing strong and broad-shouldered, the junior wing brings a lot to the table in how he plays the role of a ‘glue guy’ for the Warriors. Kindred definitely puts in the most work on the glass aside from the front-court duo of Tingle and Hargrove. He finishes around the rim well with solid body control and knows how to emphasize in a half-court offense whenever a play may collapse. I especially took notice of his all-around play on both ends during Matoaca’s tournament run in the CNU team camp. On defense, his IQ, reaction time, and strength all tie into his versatility in guarding pretty much anybody on the floor. I can see Kindred playing as the ‘Draymond Green’ of the squad this year. He shoots it pretty well from close distance but should look to increase his range. One to keep an eye on for these next two seasons.

 

Vadell Hawkins ‘19

The senior plays similarly to Kindred as a strong wing who can do a lot on the floor. Hawkins stands out a bit more with the ball in his hands, whether it’s creating for himself or others. He has a great nose for the ball around the rim and can go on quick offensive outbursts without relying on much help. I like his presence on the floor; he calls out instructions, brings a competitive atmosphere to the gym, and doesn’t allow anything to diminish his confidence. His off-ball movement can get better, as he shows the most comfort whenever handling the rock. Hawkins does well as a stationary shooter; I think adding in a pull-up jumper to his arsenal will allow his scoring to take a jump. He has a lot of talent and prides himself on things you can’t teach. These attributes should complement him in going off for his senior season.

 

Outlook

The Warriors have put last season in the back of their minds and now return with some true grit to start off this winter the right way. Their preseason play serves as a large indicator of their focus and maturity. I feel that they have a good shot of making some noise within their area simply based on the fact in how hard the players compete on both sides of the ball. The coaching staff has already shown great emphasis on defensive principles during workouts. They, as well as myself, most likely recognize how well the returners benefit from their defense leading right into offense. When everything starts to click together for them, it becomes a great performance to watch. I can only imagine how they’ll appear in mid-season form.

 

 

 

Watch out… the Warriors are winding up!