By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
NARROWS, Va. —
Chandler Burton can put the ball in the basket. It just didn’t come as easily last season.
The Narrows senior was the subject of numerous gimmick defenses, and it took its toll on the talented 6-foot-6 Burton.
“It wasn't bad, but it stinks when you can't do anything,” said Burton, with a smile.
A four-year starter for the Green Wave, Burton averaged 14.1 points a game last season, which wasn’t bad, but not what he would have liked.
“Last year he was in a little bit of a shooting slump, but this year so far he has returned to his normal form,” Narrows second year head coach Chris Gautier said. “He struggled, his averages went down slightly last year, but again we didn't have a ton of talent around him. He was frustrated night in and night out.”
So far through two games, all seems to have improved, with Burton scoring 18 points in a season-opening win last Monday over Eastern Montgomery, and that was followed with 17 two nights later at Rural Retreat, both wins for the Green Wave.
“He was down quite a bit last year off his average,” Gautier said. “He started off the first two games this year with 18 and 17 so he is back up there near that sophomore average and he only played three quarters (at Rural Retreat).”
His last basket against the Indians was a milestone for Burton, the 1,000th point of his career, which was news to him when action on the floor came to an abrupt end.
“I didn't even know it was coming,” Burton said. “They blew the horn, I didn't know it was coming, I didn't know if I got fouled or what was going on. I had no idea.”
Burton was recognized for that basket which actually pushed him 1,001 points, and then set out the rest of the game.
Don’t expect that often this season. Narrows is looking to rebound from a 7-14 record. With plenty of experience back, the Green Wave has enough weapons that opponents might not be able to focus solely on Burton this time around.
“This year it is going to be interesting how teams deal with the multiple threats that I believe that we have,” said Gautier, a former player at Narrows, who graduated with 1,020 points in 2001. “Chandler is a threat anywhere on the floor.
“We can use him to bring the ball up the floor, we can use him inside, 2-guard, 3-guard, he can play anywhere on the floor and he can score at will.”
Burton comes from a family of athletes. His sister, Savanna, was a three-sport standout at Narrows and now plays volleyball at Radford. His father, Michael, played basketball for the Highlanders, while his mother, Erin, played volleyball at Concord.
That’s not all. His cousin, Sydney Lindsey, is the Green Wave’s all-time leading scorer with 1,618 points, a mark Burton has long had his eyes on.
The high mark among the boys at Narrows is 1,558 scored by Joseph Kinzer.
“I have always wanted to break my cousin Sydney's record,” Burton said. “She holds the record here with 1,600 points, that is my goal.”
It appeared Burton was on his way, scoring 16 points a game as a freshman and 18 the following season, but defenses began flocking to him last year, and the shots were either defended or just missing their mark.
This year’s Green Wave appears to be much improved with more threats to score, including point guard Rodney Perdue, who is recovering from a football injury, 6-foot-5 Brandon Spangler, 6-4 Kyle Hall and 6-3 Austin Lively among others on the 12-man roster.
“I have a lot more scorers around me than we had last year,” Burton said. “(Perdue) is coming back today (Thursday), we have got a lot more scorers than we did last year so they are more of a threat.”
His goal isn’t just to score.
“Just to help everybody improve, we are pretty big so we are just looking to get the ball inside and post up on some people,” Burton said. “I just want to score more than I did last year, get more rebounds, get more assists and get them to score and get them going and for us to put up a lot of points.”
Still, Burton — who has spent time playing AAU travel teams in Christiansburg and Richmond — will remain the primary focus of the Narrows offense, and defenders from the other teams.
“We have to do a good job of getting screens, making him our first option every time down the floor,” Gautier said. “I think if we can get him going early in a lot of games we are going to be hard to beat and we are going to be hard to stop.”
Burton, who has also played football and baseball at Narrows, is focused on basketball with good reason, with hopes to playing at the college level, preferably by joining his sister at Radford.
“I have heard from a bunch of smaller schools, I have heard from a few D-II schools,” Burton said. “I want to go to Radford and play. It is kind of close to home and I want to stay close to here.”
Gautier is confident that Burton has what it takes to play at the Division I level with the Highlanders.
“He has got the talent and the skills to play at the Division 1 level,” Gautier said. “I know he is capable, he knows he is capable, we have just got to put the pieces in around him to be successful with it.”
College can wait. Burton wants to help the Green Wave win basketball games, and keep his Narrows career going as long as possible into the postseason.
We should make it pretty far,” Burton said. “If we all work together we should make it pretty far.”
—Contact Brian Woodson