Blue Devils stacked with ex­pe­ri­ence, depth

Tay­lor, Jef­fer­son twins head­line re­turn­ers

The Progress-Index Weekend - - SPORTS DESK 2 - Staff Re­ports

HOPEWELL - The Blue Devils are tall, ex­pe­ri­enced and stacked with po­ten­tial key con­trib­u­tors, and they’re re­turn­ing play­ers who have that ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in the state cham­pi­onship game from two sea­sons ago.

Hopewell Boys Bas­ket­ball is com­ing off a 16-8 sea­son with sev­eral re­turn­ers hav­ing gained key play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence from that year. Faizhon Tay­lor, Ma­lik and Jalen Jef­fer­son, Sean Wal­lace, Izeah Parker, Travonte Jones they’re all com­ing back.

“We are more ex­pe­ri­enced,” said Hopewell Boys Bas­ket­ball head coach Elvin Ed­monds III. “Last year we only had one re­turn­ing starter with lim­ited depth. This year we have six play­ers re­turn­ing with sig­nif­i­cant game ex­pe­ri­ence and no drop-off when we have to go to the bench.”

Tay­lor, with 16 points per game, has proven his abil­ity to score at will, while Ma­lik Jef­fer­son, with 13 ppg and 10 re­bounds per game, and his brother Jalen have both locked down the bas­ket on de­fense and landed shots for points on both short and long dis­tances.

The Jef­fer­son broth­ers also have size - Ma­lik is 6-8 while Jalen is 6-6 - and they’re not the only Blue Devils with stand­out height. Parker (6-8), Jones (6-4) and fresh­man La­monta Ellis Jr. (6-3) all add to Hopewell’s tall look for 2017 and 2018.

“We will have six guys 6-3 or taller with good skill sets,” Ed­monds said. “So our length will be our strength.”

In ad­di­tion to Ellis, fresh­man Elvin Ed­monds IV, Ja­mar­ion Brown and Ant­wone Black­well are all join­ing this year’s edi­tion of the var­sity Blue Devils.

Also re­turn­ing to the team are se­niors Tyquan Young and JaQaun Dembo.

“We have scor­ers but we have to de­ter­mine our de­fen­sive iden­tity,” Coach Ed­monds said. “Are we go­ing to man to man, zone or press­ing de­fen­sive team?”

While the postseason for­mat has changed whatwith the elim­i­na­tion of con­fer­ences, Ed­monds said the level of com­pe­ti­tion re­mains the same, al­though there could be longer-dis­tance trav­el­ing based on seed­ing.

“District games are al­ways fun and com­pet­i­tive,” Ed­monds added. “Last year, from the top to the bot­tom there was not a lot of sep­a­ra­tion. So, you can ex­pect to see ex­cite­ment in the Cen­tral District.”

Ed­monds also said: “This year we have a ben­e­fit game ver­sus The Blue Ridge School that will def­i­nitely test our re­solve.”

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