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West Forsyth’s basketball season gets underway

By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

It seems strange, but it’s mid-January and high school basketball just started last week across North Carolina.

That’s about six weeks later than normal. Why? Just like with everything else the start of the season, and likely the entire season, will be affected by COVID-19.

The West Forsyth boys varsity team tipped off its season Tuesday night against Ragsdale, and it follow that Thursday with a road game at Parkland. It’s just a 12-game season with two nonconference games and 10 conference games within the Central Piedmont 4-A.

Getting ready for the season has been an arduous task for Kevin King, the Titans’ second-year head coach. There was a question about whether the season would even happen, let alone having a much shorter season than normal.

“It has been different,” he said. “It’s been nice to have some workouts in the fall. We really hadn’t done anything since the season ended back in February or March. We hadn’t done absolutely nothing. So working working out — September, October — it was nice to see the kids again and nice to be around each other.

“I think the kids — I think the biggest thing for them was just getting a chance to see each other. Just the fact that you were doing something different.”

Despite the NCHSAA allowing teams to play, and volleyball and cross country started play in November, there are all sorts of COVID protocols for which a team must adhere. Players and coaches must take a temperature check before each practice and game, go through a list of health questions, and maybe the biggest one is wearing a mask at all times, even while playing in a game.

“We talked as coaches, and I’ve talked to other coaches about trying to figure it out,” King said. “How much different is it? Brittany (Cox Hudson, the girls coach at West Forsyth), when they won state (NCHSAA Class 4-A state title in 2019) she basically won the state title with six girls. She basically had one sub and she played that one sub in pretty much through her rotation.

“(Callie) Scheier (now a sophomore at High Point University) was never coming out of the game. I’m not sure how much depth you’re going to have to have.”

King, like most coaches, isn’t really looking too far ahead. He is just focused on one game at a time.

“I think you just have to look forward to playing the next game,” he said. “You look on television, there’s college games canceled left and right. You just know right now there are going to be teams that is going to do that. It’s just going to happen.

“Our opponent can’t play or we can’t play for whatever reason, there’s going to be a lot of cancellations and a lot of stops and starts.”

Despite being the head coach for just his second season, this is his third year as a coach at West Forsyth. He previously was the head coach at North Surry, where he compiled a record of 88-47, including an NCHSAA Class 2-A state-championship appearance in 2017. He resigned at North Surry after the 2017-18 season to become an an assistant coach at West Forsyth with Coach Howard West, whom King had been an assistant with West.

Even with King being there now for his third season, coaching stability has been an issue at West Forsyth since Mike Pennington, now the athletics director at West Forsyth, resigned as the boys basketball coach in 2014 to become the athletics director. Since then, the Titans have had four head coaches — Derrele Mitchell, Rusty LaRue, West and King.

“This is the first year in ever how many years that all of the (basketball) coaches are on-staff,” King said. “The first year that I was there as an assistant, the second semester I was the only coach in the program on-staff. Everyone else came to practice from somewhere else every day.”

The Titans struggled much of last season, losing their first 11 games. However, they rebounded somewhat and finished 6-20 overall and 4-6 in the Central Piedmont 4-A.

“I thought last year we ended on a positive note,” King said. “We really played our best basketball at the end of the season. That says a lot about the kids because there was really no reason to. A lot of kids would’ve folded the tents and give up. We won like six of our last eight.”

West Forsyth lost leading scorer C.J. Smith, who was named all-conference last season, to graduation after averaging 14 points per game. Even though losing Smith will be a big hit King will still be able rely on returners senior Jake Hill and junior Braelon Morris, who averaged 11 points and eight rebounds.

“You can certainly say that when we started winning was when Jake Hill really started to play well,” King said. “Jake’s a football kid, and (he) came from a pretty long run in football. He didn’t really get out for basketball until early- to mid-December. Last year, we never got a chance to really practice. We were still playing games. At one point we had played four games and we’d only had three practices.

Once the Titans had a chance to practice and get through the rugged portion of their nonconference schedule things began to click for them in January.

“We were really playing the hardest part of our schedule early, but once we got a chance to practice, and also had a chance to get into the conference, things got a little bit easier for us because we got a chance to get our feet under us a little bit.”

Following its two nonconference games this week against Ragsdale and Parkland West Forsyth will jump right into Central Piedmont 4-A play next week with a road game at Davie County on Tuesday and a home game against Reynolds next Friday.

“I would imagine in our conference, other than Reynolds everybody’s got some questions,” King said.

King believes that Reynolds is the clear favorite to win the conference.

“I think the first goal (for West Forsyth), and probably not just a simple goal, is to get off to a decent start,” he said. “That’s the one thing — get off a decent start and get a little bit of confidence.

“But I think looking at the league, other than Reynolds, I would imagine all the rest of us can say if everything goes correct we could finish second.”