Prep basketball preview: Stokes, West boys have high hopes

West Davidson’s Derrick Stokes welcomed the opportunity to come home, returning to his alma mater to coach the boys’ basketball program.

His first task will be getting the Dragons out of what has become their annual camp-out in the bottom half of the Central Carolina Conference standings.

Stokes replaces Russ Snyder, who accepted an administrative position at North Davidson. Unlike many coaches who take over programs, Stokes doesn’t feel like he’s walking in to a bad situation.

West only lost Nolan Benson from last year’s roster. Benson, a freshman post player last season, transferred to Lexington. But Stokes believes the cupboard is far from bare.

The key, however, will be how quickly his players pick up a new system. Taylor Beck is a senior point guard who was a very solid leader last season; he will be called upon to lead the team on both ends of the floor, and in the locker room with his grit and hard work.

Austin Teague is another senior who could be primed for a breakout season. He can play both guard spots, and is capable of slashing to the basket or hitting shots from the perimeter.

Post player David Monk, a 6-foot-3 senior, showed flashes last year that he was capable of taking over games on both ends of the floor. “David Monk is a guy that’s very physically gifted,” Stokes said. “And he has the opportunity to be very good.”

Tyler Grooms came up and saw significant minutes last year as a freshman. Snyder used Grooms primarily as a perimeter threat; he could shoot the lights out from behind the 3-point arc when he was hot.

Stokes has a different vision for the 6-3 sophomore. “The most impressive player I’ve seen, and I think my assistant coaches would probably agree, is Tyler Grooms,” he said. “He has been put into the post, and he has not played that position in the past.

“It’s fundamentals 101 right now, and he’s been pretty impressive.”

Stokes hopes, if he can establish himself in the paint, Grooms can suck defenses in and then step out and hit the jumper.

Nathan Little is a sophomore up from the junior varsity. At 6-4, he can team with Monk and Grooms to form an imposing front line. Jeremiah Blackburn is a 6-3 forward up from the JV who can also provide positive minutes.

Zach Queen saw plenty of action last year as a sophomore. He can play on the wing or in the post, giving the Dragons even more versatility. Andrew Kahn is another returning guard who figures into the rotation. Stokes said he believes the team can go 10-deep, and his players’ unselfishness will help make that possible. “I’ve been very impressed with the excitement the kids are bringing to practice,” he said. “They’re playing extremely hard in practice, and they’re very coachable.”

West opens the season at home Tuesday against Wheatmore.

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220 or