By Marty Gordon
Radford High School Bobcats
Radford High School has dominated boys’ basketball locally for the past 10 years. Head coach Rick Company has won 551 games at Radford and 715 games in his career. This past year, he was named the All-county/All-city coach of the decade.
Already, the Bobcats have shown they plan to stay on that elevated plateau. Despite the pandemic, they managed to play five games so far this winter, and they won every game.
But Cormany and his team have a different type of opponent this season, an invisible one they can’t meet head-to-head on the court: COVID-19.
“With a shortened season, we’ve had to try and not put so much in but rather be good at a few things,” Cormany said. “It’s just been so hard to deal with all of this.”
The boss Bobcat said his group has been handling the added stress well, but it definitely takes a toll on a day-to-day basis. The Bobcats might have to play at an even higher level than what they’re accustomed to.
Of course, the longtime coach doesn’t have to look too far from the dinner table to see one of his top scorers. His son, Cam Cormany, is one of the top shooters in the entire state.
Last year, Cormany (the player) connected on 108 of 247 shots from behind the arc for a 43.7 percentage and averaged 21.2 points per game. He and Auburn’s Ethan Millirons were last year’s All-county/All-city co-players of the year. Cormany was also the Three Rivers District and Region C player of the year.
The Bobcats won 24 wins last season but fell short in a regional championship game with Gate City.
Cormany the coach is optimistic his team can pick up where it left off.
“I think this team has a chance to be pretty good, especially if some of the younger players develop like I think they are capable of,” Cormany said.
The Bobcats did lose 6-4 Jon Woods to graduation.Woods played a pivotal role for the team inside for the past two seasons. But the Cats have nine players taller than 6-1 and three taller than 6-4 on the roster. That includes 6-5 freshman Elijah Kelly.
The biggest returner could be 5-10 P.J. Prioleau, who sat out last season after suffering a knee injury in the football preseason.
Cormany can also look down the “social distance” bench for his younger son, 6-1 freshman Gavin. All-district performer Alex Kanipe (66 rebounds) returns and at 6-3 will give the Bobcats some experience inside the paint.
5-11 Nate Wesley will provide some help at the guard position along with Jackson McManus. 6-4 Carter Davis could also help the defense this season.
Radford put the program on hold last week and cancelled three ball games after COVID-19 contact tracing affected as many as five players.
Rising COVID-19 numbers have not allowed Montgomery County’s boys’ teams to even get out of the gate, and for over three weeks, athletic directors have been scrambling to reschedule or even cancel ball games.
Auburn High School Eagles
No one knows this struggle more than Auburn High School’s Terry Millirons, whose team was moments away from playing for a Class 1 state championship this past March.
“We were one of the first to be affected,” Millirons said. “We were in VCU, watching the games before ours when we found out that our state championship game against Matthews was cancelled. Telling the kids the game was cancelled was the toughest thing I have ever had to do as a coach.”
Instead of claiming the trophy on the court, Auburn was declared co-state champions.
Auburn finished 22-7 last season, won the Mt. Empire District tournament and finished as the regional runner up before beating Grundy to advance to the state title game.
Millirons, who is in his 10th straight year coaching the boys’ team, returns all five starters including junior Ethan Millirons, who sits across the kitchen table after hours. The two are joined by little brother 5-9 freshman Nicholas Millirons.
Ethan was the 2019 all-Mt. Empire, Region C and Class 1 all-state player of the year. He led the Eagles in scoring at 21.9 points per game that included hitting on 67 of 171 shots from behind the three-point line for a 39.2 percentage. He also hit 88 percent of his free throws and pulled down six rebounds per game.
Coach Millirons said this is the best team the school has ever had with a deep bench with 14 kids who can play on any given night.
“We can play big- or small-ball,” the head Eagle said. “We are experienced, returning all but one player from last year’s team. We have the best player in the state, Ethan Millirons, regardless of classification. I just hope we get to play,”.”
Rich with seven seniors, the roster also includes 6-4 Michael Royal, 6-1 Rusty Marshall, 6-4 Daniel Brotherton and 6-0 Reed Underwood.
Christiansburg High School Blue Demons
Mike Hunter probably returns one the most-experienced teams in his time at Christiansburg after going 14-9 last season. He admits the pandemic has affected them so far.
“We have not been able to bond as one unit,” the head coach said,” because we haven’t been able to prepare for teams due to not knowing whether we are going to play. We are dealing with it by staying positive and doing what is asked of us.”
Like other area coaches, Hunter’s son, MJ, will be a key in the Demons’ success during the shortened season.
Hunter, who was the All-county/All-city athlete of the year, is a 6-0 guard who will have to direct traffic while also being relied on to score. His range is a mixture of inside and out, as he hit more than 30 percent of his shots from the arc last season.
Two-guard Chris Calloway returns and could also be key with second-level scoring for the Blue Demons. Big men Tyrique Taylor and Kenyon Johnson-Buchannon will patrol the paint this season, and the team will also get some help from New York-transfer Matt Simmons.
Eastern Montgomery High School Mustangs
Eastern Montgomery lost All-county/All-city performer Cole Shepherd (10 points and seven rebounds a game), but returns a group of four-year starters in Darion Moore, Adam Bahnken, Jacob Price and Justin Tyree. At 6-1 and one of only three players taller than six feet, Bahnken will move to the middle.
Coach Josh Blevins is blessed with several hard-nosed kids who moved up from a decent jayvee team, but for now, he is still trying to get on the court as COVID has slowed their start.
“The unknown is killing everyone,” Blevins said. “I have four seniors who have started games since their freshman year eager to get after someone, but we don’t even know week-to-week what we can do. Hopefully we can get on the court soon.”
Blacksburg High School Bruins
The same is true in Blacksburg where Coach Doug Day admits it definitely has been an adjustment.
“When you compare what we were doing at this time last year with what we’ve been doing this winter, it has been a big adjustment,” Day said. “But to our kids’ credit they have shown a lot of resiliency. They have continued to work hard and strive to get better each day. Our players worked really hard this offseason on their skills and fundamentals. We were not able to participate in any competitive or live action due to our mitigation protocols, but I feel like we had a successful offseason.”
The Bruins were 12-10 last season and lost a lot of scoring in their top four players. But there is some height to pour on the court with 6-4 Owen Walters, 6-3, Keegan Appea, 6-2 Alex Trexell, 6-1 Cody Miller, 6-1 Brock Duma, 6-1 Bennett Shealor and 6-5 Brett Babcock.
Some scoring could come from freshman guard Brooklyn Vick.
“I really like this group and feel like they have the potential to be good,” said Day. “Our guys will compete and play hard each and every night. I feel that year in year out, the teams in our area are some of the best in the state. Teams are well coached and prepared. You must bring your ‘A’ game every night. That makes it exciting for coaches, players and fans. I feel our kids fit right in with all the other good teams in our area.”
Boys’ basketball predictions:
Three Rivers District: 1) Radford 2) Giles 3) Alleghany 4) Carroll 5) James River.
Pioneer District: 1) Narrows 2) Parry McCluer 3) Eastern Montgomery 4) Covington 5) Bath 6) Craig.
River Ridge District: 1) Cave Spring 2) Christiansburg 3) Hidden Valley 4) William Fleming 5) Patrick Henry 6) Salem 7) Blacksburg.
Mountain Empire District: 1) Auburn 2) George Wythe 3) Ft. Chiswell 4) Grayson 5) Galax 6) Bland.