William Fleming Colonels Ready to Start From Scratch

Fleming head coach Mickey Hardym discusses a call with a ref.
Fleming head coach Mickey Hardym discusses a call with a ref.

So close, and yet so far.

That in a nutshell sums up the state of the basketball program at William Fleming High School as they head into the 2009-2010 season. Only eight months ago, the Colonels took a 24-9 lead into the half against King’s Fork High School in the VHSL Group AAA state boys championship game, virtually certain of capturing their second state title in three seasons. But William Fleming collapsed in heartbreaking fashion in the second half, falling 49-47 to the Bulldogs.

Despite the loss, last year’s group was a special bunch. Led by Troy Daniels and Jamelle Hagins, the Colonels went 25-5, winning the Western Valley District and featuring a roster of which 6 went on to receive college scholarships in either basketball or football: Daniels (VCU), Hagins, (Delaware), Stephon Anderson (Chowan), Eric Thomas (Concord), Shaquan Manning (football – Hampton) and Derek Brown (football – Charleston).

When Fleming head coach Mickey Hardy looks out onto the court this season, he will see an entirely new set of faces. In fact, only two players from last year’s roster – senior Arthur Mack and sophomore Miles Henderson – are back for another run, and neither saw significant minutes last season. The rest of the team either played on the junior varsity squad last winter, or transferred in from another school.

Talk about going from one extreme to the other. “We’re a young team, that’s for sure,” Hardy said. “And when you’re as young as we are, you don’t really have any expectations for the kids. They’re new to the program and it’s gonna take time.”

Truth be told, even Hardy doesn’t know what kind of team he has yet. The Colonels have only practiced together nine times (as of December 1st), and have yet to play in a game together. Because of that, the first few games of the season will be used by the coaching staff as a way to evaluate the players, set rotations and positions. “We’re hoping to get that all figured out in 3 or 4 games,” Hardy said.

For now, Fleming will play with a small lineup, featuring 3 guards – Mack, Henderson, and Javonte Brown, a transfer student. Hardy likes all three players, noting that each has the ability to score and can shoot well from the outside. Inside, another transfer, Julian Hicks, will start in the post. Hicks, however, is only 6’5”, and a lack of height in the paint could lead to serious rebounding issues as the season progresses.

It’s a safe bet that the youthful Colonels will struggle early as they learn to play with each other under Hardy’s system. It is doubtful they will contend for the WVD title, as G.W. Danville, Patrick Henry, and Franklin County each return four starters from a year ago. But Hardy isn’t disheartened. Instead, he’s taking a long-term view of things, hoping that he can take the youngsters on his team and mold them into winners, much like he did Daniels and Hagins.

“We’ve just gotta be patient and take the peaks with the valleys. It’s all going to be a part of the learning process,” Hardy said. “There’s gonna be some good and there’s gonna be a lot of bad, and I’m sure there’s gonna be a deer-in-the-headlights look when they come out for their first game. I just told them at the end of the day, it’s still basketball. You still have to play basketball.”

The Colonels season got underway Wednesday at home against Pulaski. William Fleming will take on The Kamit Institute from Washington, D.C. Saturday at Patrick Henry High School.

By Matt Reeve
[email protected]

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