By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
NARROWS, Va. —
Chandler Burton had a memorable sophomore basketball season at Narrows, asserting himself as one of the area’s top players by averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Green Wave.
He’s striving for more this time around.
“I am shooting for about 25 and 15,” Burton said.
Burton wasn’t born with a basketball in his hands, but it wasn’t long before he had one to hold.
“They gave me a basketball when I born,” Burton said. “They gave me a little plush basketball.”
He knows what to do with it.
No one enjoys his abilities more than Narrows head coach Chris Gautier, who is happy Burton is on his side of the court. Gautier has spent the preseason looking for reinforcements to surround Burton and help the Green Wave improve on last year’s seven-win campaign.
“Roughly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game helps out a lot, but we are trying to get other guys to step up and play some roles alongside him and help out and we have got the guys to do it this year,” said Gautier, who replaced Todd Lusk as boys coach in December of last season.
“I think that help will alleviate some of the pressure off of him and get those other guys going. I think teams are going to have a little bit harder time defending us this year.”
Burton comes from a family of athletes. His father played basketball at Radford and his mother was a volleyball player at Concord. His sister, Savanna, was a standout performer at Narrows in basketball, volleyball and track, and just recently completed her freshman campaign playing volleyball at Radford.
No wonder Burton is a sports fanatic.
“It is pretty fun because we are an athletic family,” he said.
The 6-foot-6 Burton, who grew two inches since last season, was held to 11 points in a season-opening 43-41 loss to Eastern Montgomery on Tuesday, but has plans on how to reach his individual and team goals.
“I am trying to get the hole more instead of shooting as many 3s as I did last year,” said Burton, who was a standout on the football field for Narrows this season.
Being 6-6 will often relegate a player like Burton to the inside, but he’s not even the tallest player on his team. Allen Oney, a 6-8 senior, is expecting to provide a presence in the paint, from rebounding to scoring when needed.
Burton knows what must happen for the Green Wave to improve on last year’s seven-win mark, survive the rugged Mountain Empire District schedule and advance to the regional tournament.
“Play harder, and play better defense. We didn’t play very good defense last year,” Burton said. “If we play hard we will be able to compete in it, hopefully we can make the region tournament this year.
Gautier will be looking for production from all 13 players on the roster, including Burton and Oney, returning point guard Rodney Perdue, 6-1 JV import Austin Lively and seniors Will Patteson and Danny Stevers.
“We are going into it with high expectations,” Gautier said. “We want to make an impact in the district, we want to win the thing, it is a very competitive district.
“From top to bottom I would say it is the strongest in the state.”
Burton agrees. He thinks the favorite resides in Bland County.
“I think it could be Bland, they are going to be really good,” Burton said. “They have got Asher (Dillow) and Darryl (Clark) and Chase (Hankins).”
The MED also includes two-time defending state champion Galax, Grayson County, Fort Chiswell and Graham, all of whom are capable of competing at the regional level and possibly beyond.
“Grayson has got a great group of guys coming back, they are all back,” Gautier said. “Fort, Galax, Graham, Bland is returning everybody.
“There is nobody that is weak in our district and we are fighting every week night in and night out.”
Narrows narrowly missed out on the regional tourney last season. Getting there this year is a definite goal for the Green Wave.
“We have got high expectations, we missed the Division 1 Region C playoffs by about 4/100ths of a point even with only seven wins so we have got high expectations of getting there this year and trying to make some noise,” Gautier said. “We have got the guys to do it.
“We just have to put everything together and hopefully that translates into a few wins for us.”
Burton and the Green Wave will return to the court on Friday when Narrows hosts archrival Giles.
“I am ready to play,” Burton said.
—Contact Brian Woodson