LINKS
2011-01-26 / Sports

Skyhawk boys basketball team is flying high this season

By Joey Matthews
CONTRIBUTING WRITER


Bird’s Anthony Harris (center) tries to recover a loose ball during last Wednesday’s game against Clover Hill. The team played Cosby on Friday night, winning 66-44. 
Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer Bird’s Anthony Harris (center) tries to recover a loose ball during last Wednesday’s game against Clover Hill. The team played Cosby on Friday night, winning 66-44. Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer L.C. Bird High School boys basketball coach Chuck Thomas has preached a sharethe wealth message since taking over the head-coaching reins. Two years later, it’s apparent that a host of talented Skyhawk players have bought his philosophy. The end result is a 8-0 Dominion District record through the middle of January and a 11-1 overall record. The team was ranked No. 4 in a recent regional poll.

“We teach our players to share the basketball,” said Thomas, whose 22-year coaching career includes stops at William & Mary and Hampden-Sydney colleges. “We tell them that if they do that, they can be pretty good. We teach them to give of themselves for the betterment of the team.”

Two years ago, the Skyhawks finished unbeaten in District play under longtime coach Chuck Tester. Last year, Bird finished 9-7 in Thomas’ first year as head coach and 12-13 overall.


Bird’s Harvey Freeman makes a play during last week’s game against Clover Hill High School. Bird won 72-49. 
Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer Bird’s Harvey Freeman makes a play during last week’s game against Clover Hill High School. Bird won 72-49. Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer This year’s team hit the court running and has not looked back. “We just have a lot of unselfish play,” Thomas said. “We have four players averaging double figures in scoring.”

Sophomore off-guard Robert Johnson led the way through the first half of the season, averaging 16 points per game. He was followed by senior swing player Tyrek Branch (14 points per game), junior forward Christian Smith (12 points) and senior forward Anthony Harris (10 points).

“This year’s team, everybody’s at one,” Branch said. “We’re a team. Last year we played more as individuals. We have one goal – that’s winning. We can’t do that as individuals. We have players on the team that can take over a game on their own, but coach has taught us that we can be even better if we each do our part to chip in. We have guys on this team that don’t score a lot that do a lot of other little things to help us win.”

Sophomore center Bryce Harman is among those players. He comes off the bench determined to pitch in any way he can.

“I don’t play a lot, but I try to make the most of it when I do play. We just put a lot of heart and hard work in at practice, and then when it comes to the game, we’re ready to go.”

Junior guard Yahkee Johnson and sophomore guard Javonte Reddick are among other off-the-bench contributors, Thomas said.

“We’re clicking now,” said Yahkee. “At the beginning of the season, we didn’t have this chemistry. We’re passing the ball well and being a team now…a good team.”

Asked to assess the team’s strengths, he said, “Offensively we shoot the ball well and make good decisions. On defense, we work hard at it. We don’t give up any easy baskets.”

A mixture of young players and veterans have assisted the team’s cause.

“Our older players provide a  good amountof leadership to show the younger players the right way to play,” Thomas said. “They’re a real good group as far as being coachable. They’ve worked hard to buy into what we tell them.”

Harris, who will play football at the University of Virginia this fall, typifies the team’s versatility. “He’s very athletic,” Thomas said. “He does a lot of things to help us win. Not only does he score, but he rebounds well (about nine per game), and he usually guards the other team’s best player.”

Thomas doesn’t want his players to look too far ahead.

“Our first goal is to win the District, then get to the Regionals, then take it one game at a time from there,” he said. “We have a lot of season left to play. I’m just happy to be coaching such a good group of guys. I really like the makeup of this team.”

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