Oak Hill High School has a rich history when it comes to boy’s basketball. Could the Red Devils be primed to add another stellar season to that legacy?
Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, Oak Hill has the pieces this year to make some noise.
“I like the way they have been working so far. They are going at each other hard in practice. I think they know that minutes are going to be hard to come by,” Oak Hill head coach Benitez Jackson said. “We don’t have any really tall guys, but we are long and have several guys that are 6-foot-1 or 6-2. We are a little more athletic than I thought going into the season and we have some quick guards. I think we have the ingredients to compete, we will just have to see what happens.”
The Red Devils finally have some experience on the floor after playing young for the past couple of season. The roster shows eight seniors, but some of the experience has been tempered by fewer games during the pandemic.
“We have some older guys, but several of them are still young because the season was cut so short last year,” Jackson explained. “Ethan Vargo-Thomas led us in scoring last year, but he only has like 13 varsity games under his belt. Which is good, but he really doesn’t have a full season of varsity experience yet.”
Jacob Perdue and Sammy Crist are back and have two-plus years of varsity experience. They will lead a group of seniors that include Leonard Farrow Shakir McDowell, Trey Foster, Braxton Hall, Cade Maynor and Jacob Ward.
“Cade can play inside and out. Overall he may be the most athletic kid we have as far as being able to run, jump and get his hand over the rim,” Jackson said.
Junior Omar Lewis is another veteran that will run the show up top for Oak Hill.
“We are looking for contributions from a lot of guys. We also feel like we are deep enough to play a little faster and use more guys,” Jackson said. “We have some older guys, but we are mixing in guys that don’t have a lot of varsity experience.”
The younger guys include junior Jerimiah Jackson who is the coaches nephew and two sophomores that have shown some promise.
“Jerimiah just started playing basketball in his freshman year, but played really well in our scrimmage game. He rebounds well and is strong and athletic.”
The two sophomores are 6-foot-5 post player, Trevor Kelley and guard Malachi Lewis.
“Trevor also just started playing basketball as a freshman, so we will mix him in with the varsity. He will still get him a couple quarters of JV for development,” Jackson said. “Malachi is Omar’s brother and we think by the middle of the season that he can really help us some.”
One area of struggle for the Red Devils last year was scoring the basketball. Jackson feels like his team is much improved in that area.
“We have talked with our team about the offensive issues. We are better off the bounce, so we hope that we are a little harder to guard than we were last year,” Jackson said. “We have the ability penetrate and shoot the 3. We won’t be doing anything hard offensively because we want them to play free and keep the spacing.”
While Jackson wants his team to play free, he doesn’t want them to play reckless.
“We want to run up and down the court, but we have to value the basketball. We want to spread the court so they can drive or if they are open, shoot the ball,” Jackson said. “We didn’t get easy baskets last year and shot a lot of 3’s. We still want to shoot the ball, but we want to create opportunities at the basket and get some layups.”
While the offense struggled a little last years, the defense was solid for Oak Hill.
“Hopefully we can extend our defense out a little bit more this year and stay in front of people. I think we have some quickness and we were decent defensively last year,” Jackson said.
If the Red Devils make it to Charleston it will not be an easy road. There will be no easy games in the sectional tournament.
“I haven’t seen the other team, but judging by my team, I think we have just as good a chance as anybody else,” Jackson said. “Woodrow will be ready to go like every year. (Greenbrier) East lost some guys, but had some depth last year. Princeton still has some really good players. It won’t be an easy task. It will come down to who wants it more.”