By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Memories were made last season by the Graham G-Men.
That is what they will remain. They certainly won’t help in the year ahead.
“It was a good experience last year and we know what we have to do to get back to that point,” Graham junior Colby Hill said. “Looking right now we know it is not given to us just because we have been there once.
“We are going to work hard and we know what we have to do to get back there.”
That is the attitude that Graham head coach Glynn Carlock Jr., had hoped the G-Men were taking in looking back at last season’s success, which included a 17-10 record, ending with a loss to Gate City in the Division 2 state quarterfinals.
“It was a very satisfying year, but here is the thing..., last year was last year,” Carlock said. “It is not something you want to sit here and harp on, it is something you want to store away in your good memories.
“If you are going to rely on what is going on from last year for this year, then we are hurting,”
Fortunately, these G-Men are not hurting. Both Hill and Roman Workman were injured during football season, and Tony Hood had been hampered by a strained muscle in his back, but all are back, having contributed to Graham’s season-opening 69-59 win last Friday at Tazewell.
Graham will open its home slate tonight against Abingdon at Graham Middle School.
The goal remains the same as last season. Just win.
“I feel like we can go as far as we want to if we work hard and play to our potential and do what we have got to do,” Graham’s lone senior Zach Proffitt said.
“I want this team really to just have a great season and do things we are capable of doing,” added Hood. “Hopefully we will be good this year.”
Hill injured his throwing shoulder during the football season, but showed no ill effects, pouring in 16 points against the Bulldogs.
“It is a lot better, it is almost 100 percent now,” Hill said. “It scared me a little bit, but once I started getting physical therapy and started getting back in the groove of things I knew I would be all right.
“I think we are back to a full squad with Hood back now and we should be full game now.”
Hood, a junior point guard, had 28 points in that state tourney loss to Gate City last season, and continued his strong play against Tazewell, scoring 20 more points for the G-Men.
“I have got great confidence going into the season,” Hood said. “We had a little bit of a loss at the end, but that is not going to hold us back from getting to where we want to be and where we need to be...
“We have just got to work hard and do what we do every day in practice and build it up and we will be ready.”
Graham also got 13 points from Thomas Clarke, a former home-schooled student, while Workman and freshman Nick Morgan had nine points apiece. The 6-foot Proffitt had four points, but was able to crash the boards and play tough inside with the extra 20 pounds he gained in the offseason.
“I have been working hard, I knew this was going to be the last one,” said Proffitt, who felt like he got pushed around at times last year. ‘I spent the offseason putting on a little bit of weight and I am ready to push people around, I am ready to accept that role.
“I hope to provide a little bit of scoring the ball, getting the rebounds, I like doing all the dirty work. That is my goal this year, just do what I have to do to win, anything I have to do.”
While Hill also plays football, basketball is his true love, and for good reason. Call it a family affair.
“It is my favorite, I have been raised on basketball,” Hill said. “Mom and dad both played in college and dad coached in college and mom coached here for a few years so it is a basketball family. I was born with it.”
A three-year starter for the G-Men, Hill worked on getting better in the offseason as he continues to climb to the 1,000 points mark in his career.
“Just shooting the ball, getting quicker and getting elevated on the jump shot and just trying to get it off any time I want to,” said Hill, who struggled to make shots in the state quarterfinal loss to Gate City. “We couldn't lay it in the ocean. Tony played a heck of a game, he is about the only one that had anything going for him that night.”
Point guard for Graham is in good hands with Hood, who can pass, handle the ball and shoot with equal effectiveness.
“I have worked mostly on my ballhandling and keeping my composure when I get trapped,” Hood said. “Just stay calm when they try to trap you, make smart decisions.
“You just feel when you need to do things to help your team and help your team do what they do best and get them in a good situation to win.”
As the lone senior on a team with six sophomores and freshmen on an 11-man roster, Proffitt is taking on the added responsibility of team leader.
“I am trying to lead them and hopefully teach the young ones,” Proffitt said. “I feel that I should be able to lead the whole team and do what I have got to do to just win. That is the main thing on my mind is just winning.”
Proffitt has a physique fit for football, but has stuck with basketball since breaking his collar bone playing football in the eighth grade.
“I quit everything just for basketball,” Proffitt said. “Playing basketball is what I love to do. As long as I am playing I am all right.”
Graham will also place much emphasis on its backups this season, and Hood likes what he has seen.
“This is probably one of the deepest benches we have had in a few years,” Hood said. “I believe they can come in and help relieve some of the pressure off the starting five and help us win games.”
Graham has proven it can put the ball in the basket, but Carlock preaches defense and limiting turnovers to his G-Men, and his club has listened.
“Defense wins championships, you can score the ball as much as you want, but if you can't stop teams you are not going to win the game,” Hill said. “You have got to get out here, buckle down and play some defense.”
Graham advanced to the Division 2 state playoffs last season behind a thrilling double-overtime win over Grayson County.
“That was too close for me, but those are the ones that are fun to play in,” Hill said. “You just have to step up, take big shots and it is just fun to play in those kind of games.”
It won’t get any easier this season, with the district tournament now a thing of the past and the G-Men part of the six-team Southern Empire Conference 39, which will also include Tazewell, Richlands, Grayson County, Marion and Grundy.
“We have got to get out of this region,” said Hill, whose G-Men must finish in the top two in Conference 39 to advance to Region 2A play. “This is a tough region we are in right now, we have to get in here and get focused and play some basketball to get out of this region.”
After a long offseason since that loss to Gate City, Proffitt was thrilled to finally get the season started at Tazewell, and it will continue today with a visit from Abingdon.
“It will be great to get out there and play somebody besides ourselves,” said Proffitt, with a smile. “I can't wait.”
—Contact Brian Woodson