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July 3, 2014

Henrico Wins Richmond Team Camp

Under Head Basketball Coach Vance Harmon, the Henrico Warriors have been among the very best teams in the state of Virginia year in and year out. They've made the State Tournament three consecutive years, winning the school's first ever state title in 2013 and falling in the Group 5A title game to Potomac.

In Harmon's 11 seasons at the helm, the Warriors have won no fewer than 14 games in any season, compiling a gaudy record of 234-72 (.765). With seven players back from last season's team, led by highly regarded D-1 prospect De'Monte Buckingham from the Class of 2016, Henrico figures to be on the short list of legitimate Championship contenders in 5A once again.

Further solidifying the sentiment that Henrico could be playing into March was their undefeated 10-0 run to win the University of Richmond Team Camp last weekend. They outlasted a strong field that featured the likes of Gonzaga (D.C.), Hedgesville (WV) and Robinson reaching the Final Four, beating Hedgesville in the Finals.

"What we were trying to go into the camp with was keep somewhat of a clean slate as to who can step up to new roles and who has been working on their games as individuals. We also wanted them to show that they can accept the reigns and put their stamp on this year's team," Harmon told VirginiaPreps.com.

"Our veteran players took ownership of this new group. We had a core of young players that were particularly impressive, too."

Buckingham, a talented 6-foot-3 wing that's rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com, was the main attraction and that's understandable. The reigning 5A State Player of the Year holds double-digit offers that include the Spiders as well as Cincinnati, Hofstra, Longwood, Maryland, Old Dominion, Radford, Rhode Island, VCU, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Henrico got significant boosts from 6-foot-1 shooting guard Ryan Pearson - - D-1 prospect in his own right with current offers from Navy and Northern Arizona - - as well as versatile 6-foot-3 guard Walter Williams.

Pearson missed the first day of action while attending American University's Elite Camp. He averaged 14.2 points per game a season ago while netting home a team-high 65 three-pointers. Williams was a key reserve who put up 6.6PPG and should now crack the starting lineup. Both will be seniors next winter.

"The first time we played Robinson, Ryan wasn't there and the game was very close. When he returned, he played like the rising senior that he is, third year on the team and really was the one that put us over the top for the rest of the games," Harmon said.

"Williams really took off big time, too. He's gotten longer, more skilled and stronger. Although the buzz every time you walk on he floor, especially from out of town teams, is they want to know which one Buckingham is and he nationally gets all the attention, I was pleased to see other kid prove they're more than worthy of stepping up and being there."

Marquis Johnson (5'11" Sr.) and Tristan Bazemore (6'0" Sr.), two other returnees, are likely to see increased playing time for the Warriors in 2014-15. Five underclassmen, in addition to their established star in Buckingham, showed promise also.

Five-foot-11 guard Jamal Newton is a rising junior that's a hard-nosed ball-hawk type who can find his way on to the floor with his hustle. Adding to that depth in the backcourt are 5-foot-8 rising freshman Timon Jones and 5-foot-8 rising sophomore Chris Morris. Jones is a cat-quick point guard and younger brother of ex-Henrico standout Timmy Jones, while Morris is a potential floor general in the making.

In the front-court, 6-foot-5 center D'Marco Suggs is the tallest player back on the team and the rising sophomore will be asked to control the paint. Giving him help will be rising junior Isaiah Miller, who despite being only 6-feet-tall, serves as a blue-collar rebounder and defender.

The ingredients are in place for Henrico to have a special team. From the looks of things, they look further ahead at this point compared to a year ago, even though the Head Coach proceeds cautiously.

"I'm very careful or guarded to compare from year to year because I really feel like each team has its own unique identity. Last year, we came into the season as defending State Champs, but that was in name only because we really only had one starter back and a guy who came off the bench. We had to fill some huge holes and we were more trying to figure out who we were at that point with the huge bull's-eye on our back," remarked Harmon.

"Now, we've got a good chunk of the team back that had a nice run last year. They now know what it's about and I think that they have to re-fine their skills, game and things of that nature. We had an undefeated J.V. team last year as well, so you mix those kids in with it and it looks like it might be a nice little recipe."

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 hatfieldsports2k4@yahoo.com, 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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