Bring up that West Potomac graduated a lot of seniors from last year’s Patriot District boys basketball championship team and head coach David Houston III acknowledges the loss. But mention that a group of inexperienced athletes will be defending the title and Houston disagrees.
"These guys aren’t defending it," the coach said. "They didn’t have it."
West Potomac enters the 2010-11 season as the defending district champion, but the Wolverines return only four players from a team that reached the region quarterfinals. Eight seniors are gone, leaving only Daryl Copeland, Jalen Dawson, Nik Dimitrijevic and Karl Grabbi as athletes with varsity experience. But while Houston declines to label his newcomers defending district champs, the coach offers an endorsement for a group he feels capable of its own accomplishments.
"We lost a lot of experience and toughness," Houston said, "but I think that we are more talented this year."
West Potomac’s best player is senior Daryl Copeland, who enters his third season as a varsity starter. The 5-foot-8 guard was the MVP of last season’s Patriot District tournament and will once again be the Wolverines’ top scoring threat. This year, however, Copeland’s role will be expanded to help deal with the team’s inexperience.
"He’s now the veteran leader," Houston said. "He started when he was a sophomore when he was one of the younger guys on the team. Last year, with as many seniors as we had, he was still one of the younger guys on the team. Now, he’s a veteran, has a lot of game experience and [he’s attempted] a lot of big-game shots.
"Last year, his role was more, ‘Put it in. Score. Get us in our offense and make some shots.’ This year, he’s going to score, no doubt about that, but he’s going to be helping the guys — more of a leader on the floor."
It’s a role Copeland said he’s ready to assume.
"I like," Copeland said, "being depended on and taking the last shot — being the important person."
Along with Copeland, the 5-foot-8 Dawson, who Houston called "the best athlete on the team," will also be a factor in the West Potomac backcourt.
An area of uncertainty for West Potomac is the frontcourt. Houston said the Wolverines have five players standing 6 feet 4 or taller, but none of which have varsity experience. Seniors Jesse Fico and Evans Labossiere and junior Bryant Fultz are potential frontcourt standouts for West Potomac.
The Wolverines open their season at home against Mount Vernon at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 3. Houston said the team wants to end up playing at Robinson Secondary School in the region final four. For now, West Potomac needs to gain experience — a reality of which one of its veteran players is well aware.
"We have a golden opportunity to try to defend [our district crown] and that’s what we want to do, but that’s not what we’re looking at now" Dawson said. "What we’re looking at now is execution, working hard, instilling confidence in our players and listening to what the coaches say. … If we do that, anything can happen."