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Even without Hairston, Courtland keeps on winning

With Josh Hairston’s departure for No. 2 Montrose Christian between the end of last season and the start of this current one, there were plenty of questions marks that surrounded the Courtland boys’ basketball team -- Hairston’s former squad.

The Cougars had finished 27-2 and captured the Virginia AA Division 4 championship, but Hairston, a 6-foot-10 Duke recruit, decided to transfer, something colleague Josh Barr wrote about on Dec. 3. Despite Hairston's absence, the Cougars have not missed a beat, winning three straight games to start the season.

“We had some good players coming back from last year, even though Josh had left,” said Courtland Coach J.T. Nino, who's in his sixth season of work at the Spotsylvania school and has a career record of 106-31.

One of the players to which Nino was referring is senior guard Avery Green, who has totaled 33 points in his past two games. Nino also praised the work of senior point guard Mario McMorris, saying that “he runs the show for us.” A consummate distributor, the 5-foot-9 McMorris averaged two points and six assists per game last winter.

Another outstanding development, Nino said, has been the play of junior forwards Xavier Alston and James Fitzgerald -- the low-post replacements not only for Hairston but also for Lamar Giggetts, who’s now on the men’s basketball team at Randolph-Macon College.

Nino said that both Alston and Fitzgerald were tested a bit during Courtland’s most recent win, a 57-52 victory over Massaponax on Wednesday, but that it was ultimately a good thing for the development of both players, who were on the junior varsity squad last winter.

Alston and Fitzgerald have combined with last year’s sixth man, 6-foot-4 senior Kyle Brooks, to give the Cougars a serious inside presence.

“They’ve been able to put the ball in the hole and do a good job on defense,” Nino said. “That’s why we’ve had a couple lopsided victories.”

Courtland beat its first two opponents this season, Massaponax and Fredericksburg Christian, by a combined 75 points before Wednesday's close call -- also against the Panthers.

The 6-foot Green, who averaged 10.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists last year, has relished his starring role. Many times last season, Green was lucky to be the person to pass to Hairston in the clutch, nevermind being the one would take the game-changing shot.

“He knows that if we need a big bucket, it’s his ball whereas last year we’d be dumping it to Josh,” Nino said. “I think that’s been his personality all along and that he just had to wait his turn.”

Hairston has visited his former teammates a handful of times, the coach said, and still remains “no stranger to Courtland," and his departure has been tempered a bit by the outstanding play of Courtland’s current players, who have a Friday night home game against King George and play at Spotsylvania on Tuesday.

By Jason Mackey  |  December 11, 2009; 3:19 PM ET
Categories:  Battlefield District , Boys' basketball , Courtland , Region I  
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