At 6 feet 5, with long arms and an impressive vertical leap, Herndon senior Kent Auslander possesses the physical tools to play above the rim.
On Friday night against Oakton, Auslander showed his capabilities when combining an aggressive mentality with his ability to jump out of the gym.
Auslander dunked four times and scored 15 points as the Herndon boys’ basketball team defeated the Oakton Cougars 81-66 on Jan. 24 at Herndon High School.
Hornets head coach Gary Hall said Auslander in the past shied away from finishing strong at the rim. Against Oakton, No. 23 dunked once in each quarter, each time throwing it down with one hand.
“Tonight, what I was happy about [was] so often he’ll be right there with the ability to dunk and he’ll lay it in or be a little bit softer and try to be a finesse player,” Hall said. “It’s like, ‘Kent, just [dunk the basketball].’ … I just don’t like him to be soft.”
There was nothing soft about Auslander’s emphatic, crowd-pleasing dunks. His fourth slam came during the final minute of the fourth quarter during a 12-2 Herndon run.
“My dad always told me [to] try to dunk everything and if you have to adjust it, then adjust it at the end,” Auslander said. “If you go hard like that, you’ll get a foul call a lot.”
Along with two points, Auslander’s dunks provided a spark for the Hornets.
“It definitely gives us energy, especially when our crowd is here -- our hype squad,” Herndon senior Dorian Johnson said. “It gives us a big boost.”
Auslander is one of many talented athletes on a Herndon team with state-title aspirations. Johnson, a 6-foot-4 senior, surpassed 1,000 career points this season. After combining with Will Ferguson to provide a 1-2 scoring punch last season, Johnson this year is part of a more well-rounded Hornets offense.
“Dorian is like an unassuming, quiet superstar,” Hall said. “The thing about Dorian is we sort of take him for granted.”
Johnson finished with 15 points against Oakton, including nine in the first quarter.
“We’re trying to win a state championship,” Johnson said. “…That’s what our expectations are.”
“The one thing I like about this team is they’re pretty talented, but they’re a pretty tough group of kids. There’s never a moment that’s too big for them.”
— Herndon boys’ basketball coach Gary Hall
Seniors Delontae Wingfield and Deandre Thomas each scored 16 points for Herndon. Senior Malcolm McKenzie finished with nine.
Thomas, who transferred back to Herndon after playing his junior season at Potomac Falls in Loudoun County, is thriving in a reserve role. Hall praised No. 12 for his unselfishness.
“He could start for any team in Northern Virginia,” Hall said. “He could start for us, but he’s not only accepted his role coming off the bench as a sixth man, but he’s embraced it.”
A bucket by Wingfield gave Herndon a 59-46 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Oakton battled back to pull within five points on three occasions, but each time the Hornets found a way to maintain a two-possession lead.
“The one thing I like about this team is they’re pretty talented, but they’re a pretty tough group of kids,” Hall said. “There’s never a moment that’s too big for them.”
The already-talented Hornets could receive an additional boost from the arrival of 6-foot-5 senior Brandon Alston, a college-caliber transfer from New Jersey. Hall said he expected Alston to enroll in classes at Herndon High School on Monday, Jan. 27, and he will join the team if deemed eligible by the VHSL.
Herndon defeated Centreville 99-70 on Monday and lost to Robinson 82-67 on Tuesday, moving its record to 14-2. The Hornets will host Chantilly at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31.