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Galax hopeful despite holes

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A solid group of returners plus a good bunch of newcomers should help lessen the sting of graduation.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

Confounded graduation.

Here Galax goes to the state final four for the first time in decades, and darned if the state board of education doesn’t go and tell seven Maroon Tide players that they are no longer needed as students at GHS.

Well, if Tide coach Verl Brown must start over, he has a pretty good nucleus with which to do so.

“It’s a good bunch to build around,” said Brown, in his 12th season as the Maroon Tide head coach and his 30th overall at Galax. “We’ve got some offense, we’ve got defense, we’ve got guys who’ve got heart. You can only be as good as your seniors, and I’m hoping that these four guys will be great leaders for us.”

Those seniors, building blocks for the 2008-09 edition, are solid ones. Cameron Frazier (10.2ppg, 7.7 ast.) is as good a point guard as you’ll find in these parts. Scott Alouf, a forward, knocked down 45 percent of his 3-point attempts last year. Kyle Adams (5.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is a solid presence in the post, and guard Tyler Houk is a gritty player and a stout defender.

The key for Galax is how well and how quickly a talented crop of newcomers blends with the seniors and adjusts to the pace of the varsity level.

“The different atmosphere is the biggest thing they’ve got to get used to,” said Brown, whose Tide went 24-5, ending with a Division 1 state semifinal loss to Surry County. “They’ve got talent, but varsity compared to JV is so much quicker and more intense. The quicker they can learn that mode, the quicker they’ll fit in with our program.”

That program is, as usual, a pressing, up-tempo style relying on a deep bench and numerous ballhandlers. Frazier can handle it out front, there’s no doubt.

“This will be Cameron’s third year on varsity, and he just needs to believe in his game,” Brown said. “He’s got to be the one to just come forward.”

Beyond that experience at point guard is a concern for Brown.

“What scares me right now is being able the handle pressure,” he said. “Being such a fast-paced game, can these young guys handle different defenses being thrown at them? Our goal is always not how you start, but I want to see improvement every game.”

Newcomer Justin Hash joins Frazier and Alouf as an outside threat, along with Deion George. Brian Martin will also help on the perimeter, as will Pres Cardwell and Kyle Schaeffer.

The loss of Jeremiah Criner has for now left Adams alone underneath, and Brown is expecting a lot from his senior big man.

“If Kyle doesn’t have a big year it could be a long season,” Brown said.

Michael Douglas and Patrick Anderson should be able to contribute right away on the inside. Adding depth are first-year seniors Shane Harris and 6-7 Jake Snyder.

Along with Criner, G Zachary and Aundrey Sams, Brown is also having to find a replacement for an assistant coach. This will be the first year for Brown without Fuzzy Bartlett on the bench with him.

“It’s just going to be different, losing somebody I’ve had so much confidence in,” Brown said. Rudolph Bryan will ascend to the varsity ranks from the JVs, and Yerrick Stoneman will handle the JV and 8th grade.

Brown is looking to solidify an 8- or 9-man rotation, and a strong early schedule will help in that process as Carroll County, George Wythe and Twin Springs dot the slate in the coming weeks.

“We’ve got some games we can measure ourselves by,” Brown said.