Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA)
Classification: VISAA Division II
2017-18 Record: 21-10
This past Monday, I made my second trip to the school campus up in the mountains of St. George to partake in the Barons’ first-ever Media Day. After watching the team put on a clinic last month, during their hosted ‘Fall Shootout,’ I definitely had some eagerness to watch the varsity group put in some more court work. Now, having seen them up close twice, I can assure that a big season looks promising for the VISAA Division II powerhouse.
Getting Rid of That Sting
I just referred to Blue Ridge as a basketball powerhouse due to their collection of state championships for the last several decades. Looking at the banners, one will see titles achieved in 1987, 2000, 2001, 2015, and 2017. This past spring, the Barons made their way down to Petersburg, VA once again for a championship matchup but ultimately ended up losing to Miller School (Charlottesville, VA). I’m confident in saying that ugly feeling still may linger a bit amongst the returners as they gear up to start off this winter on the right foot. When observing their practice, I liked the emphasis in attention to detail. The players seemed to also appreciate this, as they realize the importance of ridding any bad habits now so they won’t interfere with the team’s plans of getting back to the state tournament in March. There’s still a long way to go until the state playoffs come into the picture, however, and the Barons are currently focusing their attention on building up team chemistry to its peak level. It’ll especially play a big role with a team containing several new faces.
At their hosted ‘Fall Shootout,’ the first thing I noticed about this year’s Blue Ridge team is the impressive depth on the team roster. During that same event, head coach Cade Lemcke and his staff went through a method of a ‘5 in, 5 out’ rotation; something that I see working for the program all season long. Their size has definitely taken a leap, as six guys stand 6’5” or taller. In addition, guard play looks very strong with some senior veterans paving the way. As one of the team captains noted, the roster composes of several guys from outside of the United States, including the countries of Russia, Nigeria, and India. It appears that both the players and coaches have done a great job in creating a strong camaraderie around each other; this should prove as another element conducive to the Barons’ future success.
Yes, to reiterate, Blue Ridge has some great height. Leading the way in the frontcourt comes in the form of 6’9” senior forward, Jaden Frazier ’19. Having recently signed with Chattanooga, the lefty big man will have a large role in making his assertiveness felt in the paint on both ends. He has a strong build, plays at his own speed, and shields the ball well to finish around the rim. After averaging seven points and 5.5 rebounds last season, I expect his numbers to soon take a big jump. Newcomers Sasha Glushkov ‘20 and Houston Emory ’21 both bring in some more two-way production and length to the squad, standing at 6’11 and 6’10, respectively. Both have high ceilings in how they use their wingspans well to complete plays at the rim and can get up and down the floor with grace. I’d say Glushkov showed the best shooting touch out of the bigs, while Emory made the most hustle plays. Blue Ridge’s size should make them a FORCE on the glass, night in and night out.
Opposing teams most likely will soon realize they cannot solely key in on the bigger players on the Barons’ roster due to their guards also being capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Senior guard and team captain, Chris Rogers ’19, returns as the team’s primary ball-handler, after averaging 7.2 points and 4.2 assists per outing during his junior year. The natural floor general has a lot of skill, craftiness, and confidence that should all aid in him conducting the show for his team. Salem International University and Chestnut Hill College have both offered, while a handful of other programs have expressed interest. The other team captain, Dhruv Mehrotra ’19, has one of the best vocal presences within his peers and can contribute both on and off the ball. He makes smart decisions and moves around the perimeter very well to seek open shots. His leadership and passion should inspire his teammates daily. Two new faces, William Lee ’20 and Michael Gray ’21, both play as combo guards who can make plays off of the bounce pretty much whenever desired. Lee has a strong frame that helps him muscle past weaker defenders. When off the ball, he also can shoot well from three-point land, especially at the top of the key. Gray has a chance to emerge as one of the top go-to scorers for the Barons. He simply knows how to put the ball in the basket, at all three levels, and sizes up opponents well to have them bite on hesitation moves. Bouncy wing, Savion Helm ’19, has a solid all-around game at 6’5.” He can shoot from distance, finish above the rim, make unselfish plays, and defend several positions. His energy and enthusiastic nature looks the best out of the group. Every team needs a guy like Helm; someone who can provide a big spark in various aspects of the game.
The Barons have a full schedule this year in taking on teams from all over the state of Virginia. Portsmouth, Roanoke, Floyd, Virginia Beach, and Chatham are all just a few of the cities/towns that the varsity squad will travel to throughout the incoming months. However, their more significant trips will take place in December. On the weekend of December 14-15, Blue Ridge will head out of the state to participate in the ‘South Holiday Classic’ in Parkersburg, WV. About two weeks later, they will fly out to Manchester, UK for the ‘Haris Charalambous Memorial Basketball Tournament’ (December 27-29). Every contest will undoubtedly bring a challenge but I’m sure the Barons wouldn’t rather have it any other way.
One cannot deny that some key pieces graduated last season; Darius McGhee (Liberty University), Sardaar Calhoun (Missouri State-West Plains) and Myles Jones (Tusculum University) are now all busy with their own freshmen seasons of college hoops. Nonetheless, the combination of Blue Ridge’s skillful returners and promising newcomers makes them an imposing team in the VISAA Division II classification. Not only do they have the numbers and talent, but the group plays really well together; something that usually tends to take a while when you have several new faces on a roster. As long as they stay disciplined and continue to push each other every day in practice, I predict the Barons to finish with a successful regular-season record and make their way back to the state tournament. Honestly, I’m sure they’ve already discussed about refusing to settle for anything less. This can be a really fun team to watch in the state.
St. George, VA, stand up!