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Boys basketball: Experienced backcourt looks to lead Hurricane

By Nick Brockman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Experience along with success return to the Hurricane boys basketball team, a program eager to build upon its accomplishments.

The Redskins return four of their top six players, including the entire starting backcourt, from last year's group that finished 13-10, the program's second winning season in a decade.

"It's one of those things we haven't had in Hurricane in a long time," Coach Lance Sutherland said of the returning experience. "Practice has gone so much better because they've done it now for a year."

Hurricane graduated forward Garrett Tinsley and center Sawyer Smith, as well as Brandon Osburn, yet return three starting guards. Senior guards Rasaan Harris and Ian Miles, as well as rising sophomore Trey Dawson should provide a solid base for further success this season.

Sutherland, the reigning Mountain State Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, said Harris provides much-needed reliability as both a leader and statistical contributor.

"He's that senior leader that we've needed for a while," he said. "His actions speak on the court, but he's also the one who will pull aside a player and say 'Hey, this is what we need to do.' He's an extra coach on the floor.

"He's very athletic, very quick. This is probably the quickest or fastest team we've had at Hurricane in a long time. He can score, he can shoot. He can do all of it."

Meanwhile, Sutherland said Miles provides solid defense as well as offensive skills at shooting guard.

Dawson returns after a surprising and much-welcomed end to the season in 2011-12. Dawson finished the year averaging 9.4 points a game, but contributed 13.4 points a contest during the final 10 games of the season and was eventually named Kanawha Valley Rookie of the Year.

"His minutes started increasing and he just started getting better," Sutherland said of Dawson's improvement. "He knows the game, he knows how to play, and he works well with all the guys we got coming back. He's a real good basketball player and knows how to play the game. He's really smart, very athletic."

Athleticism across the board will be one of the Redskins' strengths this season, Sutherland said, as well as team unity.

"They're very athletic, they're a good group of kids that get along very well with each other," he said. "You can't build the cohesiveness that they have because they've been playing together for so long.

"They were undefeated at the middle school level and then last year, we were very successful, the JV was very successful. They just bring that - I don't know how to explain it, but they just mesh very well together and it elevates everyone around them."

In addition to a strong backcourt, 6-foot-4 junior forward Henry Sorsaia and junior Alex Estep will round out the starting positions. Junior Garrett DeFries represents the Redskins' sixth man, Sutherland said, the first player from a potentially deep bench.

"I think, if all things work out, we could go 9, 10, maybe 11 deep," he said citing a talented sophomore class.

If all goes well, Hurricane could potentially threaten to reach the State Tournament, Sutherland said, but the Redskins will focus on simpler goals first, like being the first Hurricane team to record back-to-back winning seasons in more than 10 years.

That goal shouldn't be too difficult to attain with the returning experience, but only time will tell if the Redskins' talent will reach further heights this year.

Hurricane opens the season with a visit to Point Pleasant at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.


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