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April 2, 2014

VaPreps 1A All-State Hoops Teams

VirginiaPreps.com is proud to release our sixth annual All-State Basketball Teams. Unlike the past years when we chose four teams of First, Second, Third and Honorable Mention Team in Group AAA, we are now choosing a First Team and Second Team for all six of the classification in the first year of the new VHSL realignment.

A total of five players are picked on First Team with a Player of the Year and Coach of the Year. After all, a regular basketball starts five, and so does ours. And just like most teams, we go with seven guys on the bench to make up the Second Team, although not one member on any of the six squads was a reserve.

So what are the factors that go into the choices that are made? All are made by me with no consultation of the coaches simply because that's what the VHSCA Teams are designed for in my opinion. However, we try to study individual statistics (some supplied by coaches upon request) as well as factor into the equation team success and overall impact. Once everything is weighed, we try to blend it all together and make the best choices possible, even though there's no perfect team or right and wrong picks.

It's never an easy process because there are always many deserving players who don't get recognized on First or Second Team. A lot of difficult picks had to be made yet again with some back-and-forth on a few of the final spots as usual.

Without further ado, here's the VirginiaPreps.com 1A All-State Basketball Teams for the 2013-14 campaign with bios on each player. . .

1A First Team:
Nate Jones - Radford - Jr.
Juan Thornhill - Altavista - Jr.
Darius Johnson - Altavista - Jr.
Clif Conley - Galax - Jr.
Isaiah Phillips - Radford - Sr.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Nate Jones (Radford)
COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike Cartolaro (Altavista)

1A Second Team:
Demetrius Johnson - Altavista - Jr.
L.A. Allen - West Point - Sr.
Montie Gould - Colonial Beach - Sr.
Derrick Bailey - Surry - Sr.
Sam Armstrong - Parry McCluer - Sr.
Antonio Harris - Charles City - Sr.
Derrick Cusano - Eastside - Soph.

VirginiaPreps.com 1A First Team All-State:

Nate Jones, Radford, Jr. (Player of the Year)

On a potent Bobcats team that won 26 times and lost its three games by a collective 11 points, two of those to schools in Group 4A, Jones was the straw that stirred the drink. He was the Western Gate Conference 45 Player of the Year in addition to being an All-State Team selection by the VHSCA and First Team All-Region. Stars are supposed to perform at a high level in the playoffs and this guy did.

Jones averaged 17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 45.1% from the field (188-of-417), 68.2% at the foul line (116-for-170) and sinking 30 three-pointers, plus committed just 40 turnovers in 29 games. In the State Tournament, he made 16-of-24 shots from the field, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 10 rebounds in the 49-44 loss to Altavista.

Nate is the son of Radford University Head Basketball Coach Mike Jones and has the prototypical size and frame to be a Division I shooting guard at the next level at 6-foot-4. So far, he holds offers from Bucknell and Wofford, and as he continues to blossom, look for others to get actively involved.

Juan Thornhill, Altavista, Jr.

A do-it-all 6-foot-2 guard committed to play his College Football at the University of Virginia, Thornhill earned the trifecta of State Player of the Year by the VHSCA, 1A-East Region Player of the Year and Conference 44 Player of the Year. His athleticism was apparent night and night out for a Colonels team that won consecutive state titles for the first time in school history.

Described by Coach Mike Cartolaro as the quarterback of his team that controlled the game, Thornhill was a playmaker in every facet. He averaged 13.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and two steals per game. Additionally, Thornhill sacrificed his body by taking 10 charges and blocked 17 shots in 21 games, looking to make a play on the defensive end as much as offensively for a Colonels team that lost only three times in 26 games, none to Group 1A schools.

Darius Johnson, Altavista, Jr.

Chosen Group A State Player of the Year by the VHSCA as a sophomore, Johnson did nothing to disappoint during his junior season in being the leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker on an Altavista team that repeated as State Champions with a record of 23-3 overall. In fact, in that 49-44 triumph over Radford to capture the state title, he was the team's top scorer with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, making all four of his shots in the second half.

Selected All-State First Team yet again to go with First Team All-Region and First Team All-Conference honors, Johnson shot an extremely efficient 68% from the floor inside the arc. He averaged 16.7 points and 7.6 rebounds to go with 51 rejections while changing several other shots for the Colonels in a season where they didn't lose to a single opponent in Group A.

Clif Conley, Galax, Jr.

From 6-16 to 19-6 overall with an appearance in both the 1A-West Region Championship and the State Final Four, the Galax Maroon Tide were one of the most improved teams in all of Virginia and it's no secret that the addition of Conley helped them greatly in their reversal. A transfer from Floyd County, Conley lit up some of the best teams he faced, scoring a game-high 24 points with seven three-pointers off the bench in a 50-46 regional semifinal win over Eastside.

Even in a State Tournament semifinal loss to Altavista, Conley piled up 13 of his game-best 21 points in a two-minute stretch that tied the game in the second quarter. On the year, he finished with 328 points in 22 games, an average of 14.9 a contest, and shot 41% from the field as well as 86.7% from the free-throw line (78-of-90). Also leading Galax to a Conference 46 Championship, Conley was a logical choice for All-State First Team by the VHSCA and First Team All-Region in 1A-West.

Isaiah Phillips, Radford, Sr.

The 6-foot-1 senior and captain for the Bobcats earned All-State honors from the VHSCA for a second year in a row as well as First Team All-Western Gate Conference 45. Phillips certainly played a major part in Radford going 26-3 overall, winning the 1A-West Region Championship in a landslide (56-30) over a defensive-minded Galax team and returning to the State Championship game after winning it a season ago.

In 28 games played, Phillips averaged 13.3 points, five rebounds and 2.3 steals per game, plus led the team in blocks and only turned the ball over 37 times the entire season. He made 141-of-318 field goals (44.3%), shot 57-of-98 from the free-throw line (58.2%) and did a decent job of scoring away from the basket with 34 three-point makes.

Coach of the Year: Mike Cartolaro, Altavista

A 1978 graduate of Parry McCluer, Cartolaro has molded Altavista into a title contender on annual basis and his Colonels knocked off a Radford team that was ranked #1 all season in a rare matchup between defending State Champions. In his 13 seasons at the Group A level, Cartolaro's teams have made the State Tournament on nine occasions.

After losing their season opener in overtime to Goochland, Altavista won 23 of its next 25 games with the only two losses coming to a Dan River team that didn't play anyone to single-digits except, you guessed it, the Colonels. In the last nine games, Cartolaro's team trailed at half-time five times and rallied to win. Clearly, his adjustments matter. During his 20 years on the job at Altavista, the Colonels have played in the State Championship five times, winning three of them (2004, 2013 and 2014).

VirginiaPreps.com 1A Second Team All-State:

Demetrius Johnson, Altavista, Jr.

Solidifying the front-court along with his twin brother Darius for Altavista, Demetrius received First Team All-State recognition by the VHSCA as well as First Team All-Region in 1A-East and All-Conference 44 First Team. More of a high post player that also proved to be a lockdown defender on the perimeter, Johnson averaged 12.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in helping the Colonels repeat as State Champs. Not to be forgotten is the fact that he shot 63% from the field inside the three-point arc, definitely making his touches count.

L.A. Allen, West Point, Sr.

Basketball fans got a taste of how good Allen is when as a junior he helped lead the Pointers to their first State Final Four appearance since 1985, ultimately seeing his West Point team fall short of capturing the title in the 1A Championship to Altavista. The 6-foot-2 guard that also participates in football was a driving force in the team going 18-4 overall this past season, and performed at a high level in his final game when he scored 25 points in a 76-67 loss to Surry in the regional quarterfinals. Allen went over the 1000-point barrier in his career and was tabbed Second Team All-State by the VHSCA.

Montie Gould, Colonial Beach, Sr.

Another dual-sport athlete that participated on the gridiron, Gould was often golden for the Drifters on the hardwood with how he scored points in bunches and provided vital energy to his team's attack. In January, the 5-foot-11 guard became the 14th player in Colonial Beach history to go over the 1000-point mark in a career. Whether it was his 31 points against Washington & Lee or 15 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Group 5A North Stafford, he made his presence felt. Gould followed up being Second Team All-State as a junior by earning Conference 43 Player of the Year honors and First Team All-State recognition by the VHSCA as a senior.

Derrick Bailey, Surry, Sr.

Two guys really ignited the Cougars making their sixth State Tournament appearance in 10 years and second in a row, and they were Bailey and 6-foot-1 senior guard Dontrae Lyttle. Named the Conference 41 Player of the Year, Bailey averaged 16 points and seven rebounds per game as Surry went 17-7 overall and beat the likes of West Point and Mathews on their way to reaching the 1A-East Region Tournament Championship. Coach Jake Mintz described Bailey as an all-around performer and diligent worker.

Sam Armstrong, Parry McCluer, Sr.

Selected First Team All-State by the VHSCA, Armstrong brought experience and smarts for the Fighting Blues as they posed a 16-8 overall record and earn a trip to regionals. During their nine-game winning streak in the middle of the season, he averaged 19.8 points per game and scored 32 in a rout of Highland. All-State in both cross country and baseball as well, Armstrong was selected First Team All-State by the VHSCA and All-Conference 44 First Team to close out a splendid career where he steadily progressed.

Antonio Harris, Charles City, Sr.

Checking in at about 5-foot-11, Harris was able to play small forward or shooting guard and show a penchant for scoring no matter what defense he faced. On the year, he averaged almost 30 points per game and scored 30-plus on 12 separate occasions. Among some of the memorable performances for the Conference 42 Player of the Year was a 50-point showing at Chesterfield, 46 in a loss to Mathews and 40 with 30 in the second in a rally from double-digits down against Rappahannock. For the second year in a row, Harris was pegged Second Team All-State by the VHSCA.

Derrick Cusano, Eastside, Soph.

Helping the Spartans enjoy a turnaround from 11-13 last year to 18-7 overall, including a perfect record at home, was Cusano, a versatile 6-foot-2 tenth grader with an excellent basketball IQ and the ability to score from an array of spots on the floor. He showed that with 22 points in a win over Abingdon, 21 in a victory over Castlewood and a game-high 20 in defeating Thomas Walker. In a 69-66 regional quarterfinal win over Haysi, he scored 14 points and delivered the go-ahead free-throws in the closing seconds for an Eastside team that finished ranked #5 in the state in Group 1A.

Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail [email protected], and don't forget to listen to him every Saturday at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.

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