The Oak Hill Academy Warriors’ powerhouse basketball program recruits nationally, so these things aren’t always doable. But whenever he can, head coach Steve Smith likes to schedule a homecoming game for his players — just like Dean Smith used to do with North Carolina.
So when former
star Troy Williams decided to play his senior season with the Warriors, who are based in the southwest Virginia town of Mouth of Wilson, Smith looked for a game in
. Kecoughtan’s Ivan Thomas, always one for a non-district challenge, was happy to oblige.
Oak Hill, which has won 55 consecutive games, will go against Kecoughtan in the inaugural Howard White Classic on Thursday night at Heritage High. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30, but that might change depending on how long the 6 p.m. prelim — Cape Henry Collegiate of Virginia Beach vs. Riverdale Baptist of
, Md. — goes.
“We wanted to do it for Troy because we know he’s a very popular guy in that area,” Smith said. “We can’t do it with everyone, but we thought it would be good for Troy to go back home to play in front of his family and friends.
“Actually, this trip is two-fold. We’re playing in D.C. on Saturday (against Paul VI) for (point guard) Nate Britt, who’s from there. We get two good games out of it, and it’s good to have that type of competition this time of year.”
Williams, who scored 1,032 points in three seasons with Phoebus, is looking forward to it.
“When I came here, I thought I’d never get to play back there again,” Williams said. “Now everybody will get a chance to come out and criticize me again. I’m excited about it.”
This will be Oak Hill’s first trip to Hampton Roads since 2005, when it beat Woodside 104-76 in
. That team was led by
and Ty Lawson.
Thomas loves scheduling games like these. He did so when he coached T.C. Williams in Alexandria, and his Kecoughtan teams played Montrose Christian the last two years.
Oak Hill has three players who signed during the early period: guard Sindarius Thornwell with South Carolina, Britt with North Carolina and Williams with Indiana.
“It’s an extreme challenge,” Thomas said. “They have five D-I (caliber) guys starting and they have D-I guys coming off the bench. They have high-level players who are future pros, and that gives our kids the opportunity to measure their game and see how they can compete against kids going to Indiana, North Carolina, schools like that.
“It should be a good experience. We’ll learn from it whether we win or lose.”
Wait … “win or lose?” Can Kecoughtan become the first team to beat Oak Hill since the final game of the 2010-11 season?
The odds are firmly against it, but that doesn’t shake Thomas’ outlook. Last January, the Warriors gave a credible performance in a 77-64 loss to Montrose Christian, the No. 7 team in the nation. A year earlier, Kecoughtan lost on the road in overtime.
“I’ve played these games since I’ve been coaching high school basketball,” Thomas said. “I’m definitely coaching to win. But it hasn’t always worked out that way.”
HOWARD WHITE CLASSIC
WHERE: Heritage High
TICKETS: $12 adults, $10 students
•Cape Henry vs. Riverdale Baptist, 6 p.m.