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Prep Boys Basketball Preview: White must step up game for North
BY NATHAN WARTERS
When T.J. Jones graduated, it marked a major transition in the career of North Stafford senior guard Lyndon White.
White is known as a defensive stopper, and for doing everything but putting the ball in the basket. That’ll change this season.
“Everybody keeps telling me it’s my turn to be that guy, so I’m trying to live up to that hype,” White said.
This week, The Free Lance–Star is previewing the winter high school sports season. Here is the schedule:
Thursday: Track and field
Saturday: Girls basketball
TODAY: Boys basketball
The Wolverines, who are aiming to repeat as Commonwealth District regular season and tournament champs, are looking to replace the 22 points per game scored by Jones, an all-state player last season who is now playing at Division II St. Thomas Aquinas College.
And they’re looking to replace the 15 points and eight rebounds per game of Trejon McGee, who also graduated.
That’s where White comes in. North Stafford coach Brad Lear is certain of the senior’s ability to be a top scoring option. The challenge has been conditioning White to share in that certitude.
“There is not a shot in this game he can’t make—off the dribble, catch and shoots, pump and go. He can do everything, and he plays defense,” Lear said. “He has the ability to score 16–18 points a game if he chooses to. And we’ve told him there are some nights where we’re going to need that.”
The ever-smiling White is gung ho about the added scoring responsibility.
“Last year, I was a defensive stopper. I had to guard the best player. This year I’m going to do the same, but I’m also going to have to score,” White said. “I’m going to have to take more shots and still get assists and everything. I’ve got to do a lot more.”
He won’t have to do it alone. The Wolverines have several players capable of picking up part of the scoring slack that was lost with the graduations of White, McGee and Tykie Nelson.
Included in that group is 6-foot-5 junior swing man Even Skjellaug, a Norwegian exchange student with a polished game.
Skjellaug played on a club team in Norway and has a high basketball IQ. He has a smooth stroke, can knock down the 3-pointer and is a strong defender, as well.
“I wanted to experience something new because I lived in Norway my whole life,” Skjellaug said. “And I wanted to play basketball, too, because Norway isn’t very good at basketball. We have six teams or something in the whole country.”
Lear said Skjellaug is more advanced than most junior players. He picked up North Stafford’s offensive and defensive concepts very quickly.
“He’s very long and lanky, so he plays good defense, but he also played point guard for [his club team] last year at 6–5, so he has a head like a point guard,” Lear said. “He makes some great passes and is fundamentally sound. He’s the best free throw shooter right now that we have. He’s just done an outstanding job since he’s been here.”
Unlike the rest of the Commonwealth District, the Wolverines have yet to play a game. They pushed back the start of the season because five of their players—captain Brandon Ravenel, Anthony Shegog, Jalen Sarratt, Eric Szymanski and Raun King—are on the football team that saw its season come to a close Saturday in the state semifinals.
North Stafford opens its season at home Friday against Albemarle.
“Four of them are seniors, so they could have potentially missed five games if we were to start the season [without them],” said Lear, an assistant coach for the football team. “In our opinion, it was a lot about them getting to play a full season their senior year rather than push the games back because we don’t want to lose them.”
White made a concerted effort to shoot more this offseason, knowing that he’d be shouldering a bigger load on the offensive end.
Even though Jones, McGee and Nelson—three critical players for last year’s 24–3 team—are gone, White is confident North Stafford has what it takes to pull off a repeat championship run.
“I feel our team is going to come out strong. They’re going to come out knowing that we still want to defend our championship,” White said. “I feel like we’re going to go further than we did last year. It’s going to be a great season.”
Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442