Sunday, 17 November 2019 18:51

Raider Basketball Season Preview: 'Gold Status' set as Richmond shoots for SAC title

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Third-year head coach Donald Pettigrew said the Raiders have set a "gold status" in 2019 with hopes of winning an SAC championship. Third-year head coach Donald Pettigrew said the Raiders have set a "gold status" in 2019 with hopes of winning an SAC championship. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — The way the Richmond Senior High School boys’ basketball program is going about its business this season is a step up from years past.

Returning for his third season as the Raiders’ head coach is Donald Pettigrew, a former standout with Richmond in the mid 1990s. He and the program are entering play coming off his first postseason appearance last season, and Richmond has set its expectations even higher in 2019-2020.

So much so, that Pettigrew and the Raiders have established a “gold status” for the program this winter. The phrase is printed on warm-up gear and is a locker room moniker Richmond hopes to use to secure its first Sandhills Athletic Conference title since 2015-2016.

“I’ve realized how much tradition and history there is with our program,” Pettigrew said during practice last week. “Looking back at the success coach (Tom) Baucom had and the type of programs he produced (in the 90s), we want to bring that back. 

“I bleed green and gold and I know our players do, too,” he added with a smile. “I love everything about Richmond and our community support. The guys are ready to win and that’s what the gold status is about.”

After a subpar first season two years ago, Pettigrew and the Raiders bounced back with a third-place finish in the SAC standings in 2018-2019. Finishing 17-12, Richmond overcame a 1-5 start and put together an eight-game conference winning streak in the process, something that hadn’t happened since 1997. 

The Raiders contended for a regular-season conference title and came up just two buckets short of winning the SAC tournament prior to the postseason. In the NCHSAA 4A playoffs, Richmond rolled past Hickory Ridge High School in the opening round before falling to a veteran Independence High School squad a round later.

That same focus and energy, along with a strong group of returning players, is what Pettigrew thinks can propel the Raiders to another successful run. In addition to bringing back six players who logged significant minutes last year, a full summer workout regimen is something Richmond will look to use to rack up the wins.

Back for Richmond are seniors Quamir Sivels (point guard) and Jarvis Tillman (power forward), along with juniors Caleb Hood (guard), PJ McLaughlin (point guard) and Nygie Stroman (forward). Sophomore Kellan Hood (guard) is also expected to build on his freshman season.

New to the varsity level this year are juniors Jakolbe Baldwin, Dylan Lewis and Dalton Stroman. Sophomores Jalen David and Dashaun Watson bring a season of junior varsity experience with them as well.

“We’re going to rely on trusting each other and our chemistry this year,” Pettigrew explained. “So many guys have grown (in their skill set) over the summer, and being in the gym so much together has really helped us. 

“The older guys like Quamir, Jarvis, Nygie and PJ, they’re bringing the younger guys along,” he added. “Their belief in one another is really impressive. That’s what’s different about this year -- we’re a family out here.”

The Raiders will be without former All-SAC members Rod Newton and Xavier Pettigrew, as well as former guard Alex Quick, who have since graduated. Instead, Pettigrew will look to his band of veteran, and mostly underclassmen, players to guide Richmond.

Stroman, the only other All-SAC selection from last year, stands at 6-foot-7 and is a towering presence in the post for the Raiders. But the junior forward, who was named a “Top 100 Sophomore” in North Carolina, also has a reliable outside shot, and he returns as Richmond’s leading scorer, having averaged 11.6 points per game last year. 

He and Tillman, who is 6-foot-6 and led the team in rebounds as a junior, will look make a power duo in the frontcourt. McLaughlin and Sivels will run the point in an offense that Pettigrew noted as being fast-paced and guard heavy.

“We have five or six guys who can all dribble and shoot the ball,” Pettigrew said. “I want them to have fun on the court and that’s going to help our offense. It all starts with PJ and Quamir, but Jalen and Dylan are also two of the best ball handlers on the team.

“The way we play is going to be totally different, but I know people are going to enjoy watching us play.”

The bread and butter, however, will be Richmond’s defense. Pettigrew has spent the last two seasons shifting the way the Raiders play to a more defensive mindset, and from what he’s seen so far this pre-season, it’s promising to be the team’s strongest component.

“We are getting better and better on defense and the older guys know what I expect now,” the head coach said. “The more comfortable we’re becoming on defense, the tougher it is for other teams to score. 

“The 3-2 (zone) defense we run has a little bit different look to it that throws other teams off,” he added. “Our defense will be our staple.”

Last season, Richmond averaged 59.6 points per game on offense and allowed 56.1 points per game on defense, both statistics that Pettigrew hopes to see improve this winter.

The Raiders have competed in three pre-season scrimmages and have a perfect slate entering the regular season. Beating Broughton, High Point Central and Wilson high schools, the Raiders averaged 52.3 points per scrimmage (in time-shortened games) and allowed just 25.7 points per contest.

“I’m looking for everyone to step up this season. If we can do that, we can be really special,” Pettigrew said. “We want to win a conference championship and make a deep run in the playoffs. What we really want to do is win a state championship.

“Our guys know they can compete with anybody,” he closed.

Richmond will officially open its season and put the “gold status” to work at home Tuesday against non-conference Anson High School. Tipoff is expected for a 7:30 p.m. start.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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