Boys' basketball outlook

You’d think graduating the Region 4C Player of the Year and a First Team All-State player would be devastating loss for a Handley boys' basketball team that advanced to the Class 4 quarterfinals last season.

Surely the Judges will miss Emerson Fusco, but they also come into this season with high expectations with the return of several key players and the addition of some new faces.

Certainly a new face that people are going to be looking to see is freshman Will Braun-Duin, who is already drawing the attention of scouts from major schools. As videos on YouTube attest, the 6-foot-2 Braun-Duin has range from well beyond the 3-point line and can beat a defender off the dribble. Braun-Duin played at Legacy Christian last season.

The Judges already return sophomore Jaevon Brisco, who led the area in 3-point shooting percentage (42.6 percent) and 3-pointers made (46). Forward Kyren Oglesby (8.3 ppg) played just 12 games after joining Handley for the stretch run and made a huge impact as a starter. Oglesby, a 6-4 sophomore forward, also is drawing attention from scouts.

Zach Harrell-Zook’s squad also returns the inside presence of senior 6-6 center Breylon Miller (7.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg), senior defensive stopper Kaplan Ambrose (2.1 steals per game) and sophomore guard Amari Brown, who saw a lot of action last season.

The Judges get back senior guard Quincy Dinges, who did not play last season, and add his younger brother Christian, a 6-3 forward, to the roster.

Sherando beat the Judges last season in a thrilling double-overtime special playoff game for the Class 4 Northwestern District regular-season title and had state semifinalist Tuscarora on the ropes in the Region 4C semifinals before the Huskies pulled off a miraculous comeback.

The Warriors lost several top players from that squad, but return standout senior guard Trey Williams (12.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.3 apg), a First Team All-District and Second Team All-Region selection.

Drew Tyson, who has mainly come off the bench during his career, has shown that he can put up points in bunches and can be a presence inside for Garland Williams’ squad.

Erick Green, Sr., knows what it’s like to build a powerhouse program. He led the Pioneers’ girls’ program to a state title and numerous Class 4 state appearances.

Now he takes over a boys’ program that had one state semifinal appearance during Steve Grubbs’ four seasons.

Green inherits a squad that lost four starters, including three who averaged more than 10 points per game.

Rich Pell and Andrew Henry saw significant playing time last season. Henry, a senior, had 13 points and newcomer Rylee Baker added 12 in the Pioneers’ loss against Class 3 quarterfinalist Spotswood on Monday.

James Wood returns a standout post presence in senior forward Ashton Kees (14.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg). Senior guard Kemper Omps came on strong down the stretch and guard Brandon Waters is an offensive threat for Tim Wygant’s squad.

All four area teams know that their regular-season record will determine seedings in the Region 4D tournament. Unlike in years past, only one area team will have the opportunity to advance past the regional level and that team must capture the Region 4D North Division crown in the playoffs. That winner will face the South champion for the Region 4D title. State runner-up E.C. Glass is among the teams in the South.

Clarke County will play its first season without longtime coach Brent Emmart, whose death in March at age 52 stunned the school and community.

Kent Auslander takes over a squad that finished in a three-way tie for the Bull Run regular-season title (with East Rockingham and Madison County) and return many of those key players.

The Eagles will be led by four returning starters: senior forward Will Booker (14.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg), senior guard Michael Kerr-Hobert (3.8 apg, 2.7 spg), senior guard Louie Marino (10.0 ppg, 2.3 apg) and senior forward Moses Day (9.4 ppg).

The following is a capsule review provided by area coaches:


Coach: Zach Harrell-Zook, fourth season

Last season: 17-12 overall, 10-2 Class 4 Northwestern District, District tournament champion, Region 4C runner-up, Class 4 quarterfinalist

Key losses: Emerson Fusco, Brian Trammel, Isaiah Lavette, Ryan Pratt

Key returners: Kaplan Ambrose (Sr., G), Breylon Miller (Sr., C), Amari Brown (So., G), Kyren Oglesby (So., F), Jaevon Brisco (So., G)

Key newcomers: Will Braun-Duin (Fr., G), Quincy Dinges (Sr., G), Christian Dinges (So., F)

Harrell-Zook’s outlook: "We don't have expectations — we have standards. Our standards are to bring our best every single day — to be the hardest-working, most-prepared, most-together team on the floor night-in and night-out. Focus on standards and results take care of themselves. We have competed at a very high level this summer challenging ourselves against Paul VI, Gonzaga, Greensboro Day, and other powerhouse programs on the East Coast through College Team Camps. We defeated Lake Norman and Orange High School (N.C.) in the NCHSCA College Live Period Recruiting event, the same event in which Lake Norman defeated Varina, last year’s Class 4 state winner. It was an event that was flooded with Power 5 Division I Coaches, some of which took interest in Will Braun-Duin and Kyren Oglesby. We know what we did all spring, summer, and fall, and there comes a time when the winter asks what happened during those months. We don't sweat answering that question. Our most improved players from last year are by far the Dinges brothers. Quincy was not with the program last year, yet, has taken his game and his personal approach to the level we knew he could. Christian is the younger brother. A sophomore, he grew about four inches and has worked his tail off. I am excited for them both. I don't know how things will plan out within the district and region — I just know we are prepared for it and we are ready and I have no doubt we have outworked the surrounding cast. We focus on the men inside our walls, gym, and locker room and let the rest take care of itself. I don't know what any of the other schools will have. Sherando seems to breed a tall and big newcomer every year, and there is no telling what Millbrook has coming through the door with the new staff. We are just focused on our guys, our standards, and the dominoes will fall."

Next game: Dec. 5 at Spotswood


Coach: Garland Williams, 27th season

Last season: 16-8 overall, 10-2 Class 4 Northwestern District. Regular-season district champion and Region 4C semifinalist

Key losses: Jake Brown, Gavin Blye, Wes Craig, Lazare Adingono, Anthony Binibini, Caleb Bowers, Kellen Tyson, Eliza Lawson

Key returners: Trey Williams (Sr., G), Drew Tyson (Sr., C), Cassius Williams (Sr., G), Jackson Dicken, (Sr., G), Charles Lease (Sr., G)

Key newcomers: Jack Ogle (So., F), Micah Carlson (Jr., F), Landon Dahlinger (Jr., G), Reth Puller (Fr., G), Blake Sneddon (Jr., C), Rayan Hussain (Jr., F), Josh Miller (So., F)

Williams’ outlook: “This is a good group of young men and we hope to be in a top-3 spot by the end of the season. Trey Williams and Drew Tyson are three-year varsity players who will be looked upon for team leadership. Handley and Millbrook look very strong with them returning a large number of quality players. James Wood be very competitive with the return of their big man [Ashton Kees].”

Next game: Dec. 5 at Strasburg


Coach: Erick Green, Sr., first season

Last season: 12-12 overall, 8-4 Class 4 Northwestern District

Key losses: Tyler Seminaro, Ryan Liero, Detric Brown, Jacob Burns, Javell Holmes

Key returners: Rich Pell (Sr., G), Chase Ford (Sr., G), Andrew Henry (Sr., G), Darius Banks (Sr., G)

Key newcomers: Shaun Rooks (Jr.), Rylee Baker (So.), Kyle Arthur (Jr.), Keon Lewis (Fr.)

Green’s outlook: "The overall goal is to win championships. We are holding the players accountable to compete, give 100 percent all of the time and have the attitude of whatever it takes to win. The seniors are doing a great job helping the younger players learn the 'Pioneer Way.' I want every player to learn to follow instruction and also learn to be a leader on and off the court. Our goal as a coaching staff is to build leaders. The region has an abundance of good teams. It will be a dogfight to earn a playoff spot in the region. Our players are learning a new system and it will take a few months to get comfortable with the schemes but once they get comfortable we will be a really good team. Our goal is to make the regional playoffs, advance to the state tournament and compete for the state championship. The players are working extremely hard so they can have a successful season."

Next game: Wednesday at Liberty

James Wood

Coach: Time Wygant, 11th season

Last season: 10-12 overall, 5-7 Class 4 Northwestern District

Key losses: Jared Neal, Ben, Tollok, Eli Miller, Chris Morrison, Andrew Link

Key returners: Brandon Waters (Sr., G), Ashton Kees (Sr., F), John Copenhaver (Sr., G), Kemper Omps (Sr., G), Harry Nichols (Sr., F); Ethan Abbott (Sr., G), Shaun Johnson (Sr., F)

Key newcomers: Paul Brookes (Jr., G), Zach Woskobunik (Jr., G), Alex Gritton (Jr., P), Alex Evans (Jr., G), Brodie Sirbaugh (So., G)

Wygant’s outlook: "I think there will be a lot of parity with the district and the region this upcoming season. I don’t really like to speculate on wins and losses, but I know our group works hard in practice every day, and the expectation is that we will compete every game. As always, our defensive intensity and tough, physical play will be our linchpin. If we can bring those two things every day, we will have success. Our seniors have picked up right where they left off last year in terms of their productivity. We are looking to them to lead and establish a standard of intensity that will permeate through the rest of the team. Our scrimmages have shown us what we can do as a team as long as we share the ball, play solid defense, and transition well as a group. I know all of our teams in the Northwestern District will compete every day in practice, and in every game regardless of the opponent. Locally, Handley is returning the majority of starters and established role players. Sherando, from what I saw over the summer, has a lot of size and can shoot the ball well. Millbrook graduated a lot of seniors last year, but the intensity they brought over the summer was outstanding. All of these teams should compete very well and should prepare all teams for our new Region 4D tournament. This setup is new to all of us, so we’ll see how it shakes out but I know we are looking forward to it. It is going to be a fun year."

Next game: Thursday vs. Park View

Clarke County

Coach: Kent Auslander, first season

Last season: 17-9 overall, 13-3 Bull Run District. Tied with two other teams for the district regular-season title.

Key losses: Tyler Sansom, Nate Thompson

Key returners: Will Booker (Sr., F), Michael Kerr-Hobert (Sr., G), Louie Marino (Sr., G), Moses Day (Sr., F), Josh Crawford (Sr., F), Tyler Gentry (Sr., C)

Key newcomers: Caidan Broy (Sr., G), Lincoln Booker (Jr., F)

Auslander’s outlook: "Our seniors will bring something to the table for us this year and I am excited about the progressions they have all made. There will be a ton of minutes played this year where we have five seniors on the court at one time. We have the talent and skill across the board at every position but still need to make sure we are rebounding and doing the dirty work. I have high expectations for our team this year. If we keep working and bringing it every day, I think we can compete for championships. Even with how good the Bull Run District is, we can compete with anyone when we have great effort. I think we have a chance to compete for championships within the district and the region. Nothing is given though, especially in a district as tough as ours. There are great teams throughout the Bull Run and we have to bring it every night."

First game: Friday at Skyline

— Contact Walt Moody at

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