Oak Ridge enters the new season with 10 seniors to replace.
That task seems like a big one, but the load is lightened significantly because of one junior they have coming back in Griffin Datcher IV.
Datcher was the All-Montgomery County Offensive MVP and a first team District 15-6A player last season. As a sophomore, he averaged 17.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
“Last year, as a sophomore, (Datcher) was really ready to make a jump and kind of forced the issue a lot,” Oak Ridge coach Marlin Cloudy said in a recent phone interview. “This year, he’s a lot more patient and just allows the game to come to him. He doesn’t force as much, which helps cut down on turnovers and also helps the rest of the team get into a rhythm.”
Datcher has taken over some of the leadership. He’s been joined in that role by the Oak Ridge junior varsity MVP from last season.
“(Datcher) was definitely one of (the leaders) because naturally, guys gravitated toward him because he’s had two years on varsity and brings experience and talent,” Cloudy said. “We also had a senior step up, Corbin Phipps. I don’t think he missed anything we did all summer, all spring and all fall. Corbin really stepped up. He’s hard-nosed, tough and willing to do whatever it takes to win. He’s already set the tone going into his senior year.”
Cloudy, who is entering his third year as the War Eagles’ head coach, says the players who are stepping up to the varsity team this season have benefited from being in the program with him for two years.
“Those guys have been with me for two years now in the (athletic) period, so they’re familiar with my voice and familiar with expectations,” Cloudy said. “It’s new guys playing at the varsity level, but they know what we’re about in our program and they handled it great in the offseason.”
Scott Hayes and John Cordaway join Phipps in a senior class that Cloudy credited for its hard work.
At point guard, sophomore Ian Egele will look to fill the void left by three-year letterwinner Chandler King.
“He had a great summer and great fall,” Cloudy said of Egele. “The only thing he has going against him right now is lack of experience. I think he’s one of us our top-3 workers. He’s putting in plenty of time after practice to work on his skills. Really looking forward to Ian having a great year.”
Last season, Oak Ridge posted a 6-10 mark in District 15-6A play. Ten of the contests were decided by 10 or fewer points.
Cloudy expects an already-close district to only get closer this winter.
“You have Klein Cain who’s going to finally have a senior class and Conroe, whose underclassmen teams were really good last year,” he said. “You really can’t take a night off. I think instead of 8-15 point games, now you’re going to see to 4-9 point games more common in the district.”
With so many contests figuring to be up-for-grabs, Cloudy says the message for his mostly-new-to-varsity team will always be to stay on course .
“The biggest thing we’re trying to preach to our guys is, of course, we cannot take possessions off because possessions get you beat,” he said. “You can’t take games off, either, because if you slip up one game that can come back to bite you in the playoff race.”