ROCKINGHAM — Preparation for another run at a state title is already underway for the Richmond Senior High School boys’ basketball program.
The Raiders will step up their year-round development regimen throughout June and early July, playing a series of summer league games.
Getting within 15 points of winning the program’s first 4A state title in March, the Raiders and head coach Donald Pettigrew understand the assignment in what it will take to be the last team standing in 2023-24.
And all of that work started just days after Richmond’s loss to Myers Park High School in the title game. The Raiders have been holding workouts after school as the travel ball season has also picked up.
Starting next week, the Raiders will immerse themselves in an intense three-week summer campaign that features several team camps, invitationals and tournaments.
Raider Basketball Summer Schedule
June 12-14: North Carolina State University (team camp)
June 15: UNC-Pembroke (team camp)
June 17-18: NCHSAA Live Event (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
June 19-20: Richmond Raider Classic
June 22-25 East Coast Invitational Tournament (Jacksonville, N.C.)
June 28: Shaw University (team camp)
June 30-July 1: Forest Hills High School Tournament
Across the seven events, Pettigrew expects the Raiders to play between 28 and 30 summer league games. The Richmond Raider Classic will feature Fairmont, Forest Hills, Pine Forest, Red Springs and Scotland high schools.
“Summer ball is all about continuing to work on our game and get better,” Pettigrew said. “We’re adjusting our game from last year to this upcoming season. This is a chance for our JV guys to get used to varsity speed and working with higher-level guys.
“Summer development is very important because we can’t expect to take time off and be the same caliber team,” he added. “There is an understanding that we need to work harder to get back to where we want to be. It’s not going to get any easier.”
For many of the players, Pettigrew said the yearlong grind is something that has become a part of their identity and the team’s brand.
The offseason regimen also provides players with a chance to be seen and recruited by college coaches. Richmond will return seven players as seniors this winter, including a recent transfer from Marlboro County.
Among the soon-to-be seniors are Paul McNeil Jr. (N.C. State commit), Jullien Cole, Javian Drake, Dylan Lampley, Toby McInnis, David McNair and Jamarion Wall.
Braylon Barfield, a 6-6 power forward, recently enrolled at Richmond after playing at Marlboro County last season. Also a rising senior, Barfield has been playing travel ball with the Richmond Jammers.
Some players who will be making the jump to varsity action over the summer will be Keidreion Crump, Keyonta Davis, Davion Ingram, Ahaiver McDonald, Amer Morrison and Terande Spencer.
“The guys have been working hard to get ready and a lot of them are looking to make a big step up,” Pettigrew said. “Jullien, JV (Drake), Jamarion and Dylan are all guys with aspirations to play in college. This is a good opportunity for everyone.”
A cornerstone in Pettigrew’s coaching philosophy is defense with an extra serving of defense. He admitted that the Raiders didn’t execute their defensive schemes as well as they could have late in the winter, which is something he’s doubling down on this summer.
“Our focus will be working on sets and continuing to improve our defensive scheme,” Pettigrew said. “That’s something we can always get better with and will help us in the long run.
“We want to improve and see where we are with our mental toughness,” he closed. “It’ll be a hard summer with a lot of games in a few weeks. But it will be good to see where we are heading into the new school year.”