by Chris Hunt
Lake Norman Christian coach Rodney Monroe took another step toward establishing boys basketball at the small, private Huntersville school. The former N.C. State mens basketball star’s squad made the leap to a mostly varsity schedule this season after his junior varsity squad cruised to a 16-2 record in its 2009-10 campaign. Armed with only sophomores and freshmen players this season, the Storm took their lumps, but Monroe said the experience should prepare his troops for a complete varsity schedule next year.
Monroe noted that the Storm stockpiled wins over local varsity teams Mooresville Christian, Davidson Woodlawn and split its two contests with Mooresville’s Pine Lake Prep. In addition to a healthy varsity schedule, the Storm also played three junior varsity teams from powerhouse programs United Faith, Queen’s Grant and Oak Ridge Academy, faring well in all three contests, including a win over Queen’s Grant. Monroe said the games served as a measuring stick for his team’s future.
“The guys we had last year played junior varsity teams and there wasn’t really much competition,” said Monroe. “We wanted to improve the level of competition and we thought the kids could handle the move up this season. It turned out the be a great experience.”
Monroe admitted the play from his young squad during the season was inconsistent, but several players flashed immense potential. Point guard Jalen Sanders proved to be too quick for most defenders. Monroe said that even at 5 foot 9, Sanders finished extremely well at the rim. The coach added he has “yet to see anyone stop Jalen’s ability to penetrate and it won’t be long before he’s dunking the basketball.”
Monroe also applauded the growth of shooting guard Samuel Murphy, who improved his range beyond the three-point arc. Murphy showed the ability to come off screens and sink shots consistently. Monroe added that the versatile Ben McCrickard was the team’s defensive stopper and 6-4 freshman Issac Gittleman improved immensely during the season. In the Lake Norman Christian coach’s opinion, the Storm was just a piece or two from challenging the 2009-10 season’s winning record.
“When you take a bunch of eighth, ninth and 10th graders to the varsity level, it’s going to be an up-and-down season,” said Monroe. “I think we were just missing a big man and experience. I don’t know if we’ll get a big man next season, but we got the experience. If we get a 6-6 or 6-7 big man next year, we could compete with any of the schools in the area.”