Tide boys have holes to fill

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Galax lost the bulk of its production off a team that won the Region C Division 1 championship.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

 Galax boys’ basketball coach Verl Brown seen had his share of hospital rooms, been in the company of his share of physicians and gulped his share of medications in the months since the Maroon Tide won the Region C Division 1 basketball championship.

Brown’s best medicine has been getting back on the basketball floor. “I probably feel the best I’ve felt in 20 years,” said Brown, who spent nearly two months in the hospital this past spring, dealing with intestinal problems. “I’m back doing something I love, working with young men and young ladies. I’m at home.” A 31-year veteran at GHS, including the last 12 as the boys’ coach, Brown dropped nearly 40 pounds while recovering, but the weight is just the beginning of what’s missing from this year’s team. Also gone are about 45 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and six steals per game as the Maroon Tide was gutted by graduation. Scott Alouf and district player of the year Cameron Frazier both averaged more than 17 points per game, Alouf and Kyle Adams each grabbed between seven and nine boards per night, while Frazier and Tyler Houk were worth between three and five assists per game. “Losing the kind of seniors that we lost, it’s going to be a challenge for us,” Brown said. “Filling all those spots will be hard but we’ve got a good nucleus of boys who I feel will play hard. I don’t know how we’ll shoot the ball but I think defensively we’ll get after people. We’ve got a lot of quickness and some size, but a lack of experience is always a concern starting the season out.” Point guard Justin Hash is the lone returning starter, and Deion George, Bryan Martin, Michael Douglas and Pres Cardwell return. Hash averaged 10.3 points and 4.1 assists as a freshman, but Galax will rely heavily on athletic ability as experience is in short supply. “The main thing I miss is the leadership,” said Brown. “You’ll always miss the talent and desire, but a lot of those guys were in the state tournament twice, and won region for the first time in my tenure. I’d like to think these guys are following along behind the guys who have set the foundation for our style of play.” Which will be dogging folks on defense and scoring in transition. Brown won’t be able sub in a fresh five as tempo dictates, as he had the luxury of doing as Galax won its first region title since 1974. But he won’t be far from it. “I think we’ll be eight or nine solid, even early in the season,” he said. “All of them are on about the same level. I think we’ll be the best when I’ve got the five smallest kids on the court. They’re all over the floor. Our main thing will be trying to get up and down the court.” Galax has six players listed at 5-foot-8 or shorter, but one of them could help fill the long-range shooting void left by Alouf and Frazier, both of whom were capable of hitting five to seven 3-pointers on a given night. “The biggest surprise may be Brock Cox,” Brown said. “He’s had a good early season, and he’s blending in well.” Michael Bond can also hit from the outside. Athletes such as Devonte McKinney, Juan Ruiz, Jerad Brown, Dustin Thompson and Terrance Mazon will fit well into Brown’s style of play. “They’re good defensive players,” he said. “They’re such good athletes, and they came to open gym all summer, so I think it’ll pay off for them.” Much of the offensive load may fall on Hash’s shoulders, especially early on, and Brown expects the sophomore guard to draw some gimmick defenses before the season’s over. “Right now I’m concerned about who can play point if he’s in foul trouble or if I move him to shooting guard,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of ideas, but folks will just have to see that when it happens.” The Tide isn’t lacking a big man, either, as 6-5, 230-pound senior Devae Goins is back on the court for the first time since 10th grade. Goins isn’t the only bulk that has come back. “I went to the doctor today and the man told me I’ve done gained all the weight back,” Brown said. “I told him it must be muscles, because I sure ain’t eating. I would like to thank everybody for their support and we still want people to keep praying for us. I appreciate everything that was done for me and my family.” In discussing his health, Brown said he still has to be careful, keeping an eye on his blood pressure and his diet, while minding not to lift too much. Hopefully the doctor didn’t say anything about hoisting trophies.