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Galax gave up its athletic director for a year. In return, the Maroon Tide got a girls’ basketball coach for the long haul.
After completing a one-year deployment in Iraq with the U.S. Army Reserves, Yerrick Stoneman returned to a school in need of a girls’ basketball coach. Having spent 11 years as an assistant coach with Oak Hill Academy’s ultra-successful boys’ team under gazillion game winner Steve Smith, Stoneman knows a little about the game. And with twin daughters in the sixth grade who are taking an interest in hoops, the potential was there for a long-term relationship between Stoneman and the Tide girls’ program.
“I’ve got a little more interest in the game with my two girls enjoying basketball right now,” said Stoneman, 39. “I’d like to coach my girls, and I can see myself at least that many years in it. Just by me being gone a year, this is something I can do to bring back some of that time.”
Stoneman inherits a program that has been steadily on the incline under former coach Jamie Dotson, who led Galax from a 1-19 season in 2006-07 to within one win of a state tournament berth two of her last three seasons. Last year, a sophomore-heavy Maroon Tide upset Parry McCluer in overtime in the Region C Division 1 quarterfinals before ending up at 11-13 by falling to top-seeded Bland County in the semis.
Galax is 2-2 on the new season, which isn’t bad considering there is a new scheme to digest, and most of the team was still playing volleyball while other schools were opening basketball practice.
“It’s a slow process right now just for the fact that everything is new,” Stoneman said. “We’re going to play man-to-man as much as possible, and that’s new for us – how you guard ball screens, how you handle it on the weak side, how you handle it if the ball’s on your side of the court – that’s all new.”
Developing depth and honing offensive sets against a zone will be crucial for Galax. With an athletic starting five, the Tide hopes to push the tempo, and with five on the floor who can handle the ball, facing a zone will probably be the norm.
“Right now we’re only six deep in my opinion, but all six of them have played varsity,” said Stoneman. “We should get Burgundy Bobbitt back right around Christmas time, so that will add a lot of depth, especially down low.”
The Maroon Tide returns the bulk of its scoring, including Bailey Shumate (10.6 ppg), Allison White (9.7), Taylor Bryant (7.4) and Bobbitt (7.0).
“I’m trying to get them to shoot,” said Stoneman. “The difference between guys and girls is, when a guy catches the ball, his first instinct is to shoot, whereas in my experience, when a girl catches it, she’s looking to pass. The girls know I’m not going to fuss at them for shooting.”
White, Bobbitt and Bryant all averaged between 4.1 and 6.4 rebounds, and starting point guard Channing Russell was good for 3.4 assists per game.
“Offensively we’ll push it as much as we can,” Stoneman said. “Hopefully our defense will create our offense where we’re having layup opportunities. With our speed and quickness, we should be alright. If Allison White isn’t the fastest player in the district, she’s one of the top two or three.”
Shumate will be the team’s top outside threat (“If someone’s playing three feet off her, I want her to shoot,” said Stoneman), along with Hailey Cassell, and the latter is probably the team’s best on-ball defender.
Jennifer Laws, Haley Reynolds and Carolyn Vaughan will provide depth, and until Bobbitt’s return, Kaitlynn Mohr and Harley Brewer will be the team’s size.
“Harley is going to help us,” Stoneman said of his first-year junior. “She’s just learning some post moves, but she’ll get in there and battle. It’s all new to her, but she’s an athlete,”
With the bulk of this team around for at least two years, the groundwork is there for what Stoneman hopes to accomplish.
“This is setting the tone for building a program,” he said. “I’m looking to build something similar to Floyd or some of those at their level. That’s what I’m looking forward to building.”