ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond boys basketball team still looks to score the ball at a high clip this season.
First-year head coach Donald Pettigrew may have done away with “The System,” which allowed the program to lead the nation in scoring and break multiple school and state records last season, but he guarantees that his team’s energy on both sides of the floor will lead to many scoring opportunities night in and night out.
”We’re still going to be uptempo and run when we can, but we’ll also run a lot of sets. And we’re still going to press and play a lot of man (on defense),” Pettigrew said. “We’re going to mix it up a whole lot.”
After 16 years of being an assistant under former coaches David May (2001-08) and David Laton (2009-17), Pettigrew was officially named Richmond’s head coach this past June — following Laton’s resignation.
Since then, his main focus has been getting his players to commit to defense.
The Raiders have been able to score quickly in recent years, but they were also giving up a fair share of points to their opponents. So every day in practice, although there’s usually a plan in place, Pettigrew spends “almost an hour” going over what he expects out of his team on the defensive end.
“We’re going to be good defensively,” he said. “Sometimes it might be boring at practice, but we’re going to grind every day. We’re just trying to be better, so we’ve got to be more tuned in.”
Richmond returns six players from last year’s team in seniors Jamel Baldwin, Darius Butler, Malik Flowers, Ru McNeal, Da’Shaun Wallace and junior Rod Newton. They all are familiar with Pettigrew’s expectations and have been some of the more reliable players during the preseason months.
Butler and McNeal stood out during a jamboree a few weeks ago and Wallace is expected to be the team’s “X-factor” off the bench this season. Because of his height and ability to handle the ball, Wallace can play point guard, go out to the wing as either a shooting guard or small forward, and sometimes go down low to be a power forward.
“He’s a mismatch problem, so he’s got to come ready to play all the time,” Pettigrew said. “I expect a lot out of him this year.”
A few of the newer faces include juniors Xavier Pettigrew, Malik Stanback and Bobby Terry, who all bring athleticism to the team. Xavier is the son of the first-year head coach and will be heavily relied on in the paint, Stanback has the ability to knock down outside shots, and Terry “is a pit bull” on defense.
“We expect a lot out of Zay,” Pettigrew said of his son. “Although he’s coming from Temple (Christian), a private school, he’s adjusted well. He still averaged dougle figures over the summer.”
Richmond kicks off the season at Fairmont next Wednesday, Nov. 29, and will then play three games the following week versus Purnell Swett (Tuesday, Dec. 5), at Clayton (Wednesday, Dec. 6) and versus Pinecrest (Friday, Dec. 8).
The two home matchups against Swett and Pinecrest will give the Raiders a sneak peek into what should be a tough road through the Sandhills Athletic Conference this year. Hoke County — who added a Division-I prospect in senior guard Dakari Johnson — still looks to repeat as champions, while the additions of Jack Britt and Seventy-First will make things a bit more challenging.
“It’s going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I know it’s my first year, but I expect to win no matter what,” Pettigrew added.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.