Above all else, Culpeper County boys basketball coach James Thompson prides himself on developing the players that come through the Blue Devils’ program.
This season, Thompson will have plenty of opportunities to do just that. Culpeper returns seven players from a squad that went 18-8 and advanced to the Class 3 state quarterfinals last year, but just two of them are seniors.
“There are three phases to a program; you’re either building, competing or contending,” Thompson said. “Right now, we’re definitely doing some building.”
The Blue Devils lost three starters from last season’s team. Devin Mosley, an all-state performer at guard, averaged 20 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals per game. Will Jamison, a physical 6-foot-4 center, checked in at 12 points and 10 rebounds per contest, while Nazier McDonald complemented Mosley in the backcourt with 11 points an outing. Both Jamison and McDonald earned all-Class 3 Northwestern District honors.
Despite those graduation losses and their lack of seniors, Thompson and the Blue Devils do have a solid foundation to build upon.
The two seniors are Dejour McCray and Jordan Murphy. McCray, a 6-foot-2 swingman, averaged 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals per game on his way to all-Region 3B honors as a junior. Murphy, meanwhile, gained valuable experience at the guard spots late last season while Culpeper was without regulars Mosley and JoJo Crenshaw for a variety of reasons.
Crenshaw, a 6-foot-5 junior, joins McCray as the team’s lone returning starters. He averaged 11 points and seven rebounds an outing last season.
“Dejour and JoJo have been around the program and played in some big games for us,” Thompson said. “They’re by far the two most experienced players we have, and they’ll set the tone for us this year.”
Both McCray and Crenshaw played key roles for Culpeper’s football team, which has unfortunately slowed their readiness for the basketball season. Crenshaw is recovering from an ankle injury suffered during the last week of the football campaign, while McCray battled a variety of injuries throughout the year.
“They both came in so banged up,” Thompson said. “We’re going to ease them into it, which could mean they’ll play very little or not at all in our first few games.”
While McCray and Crenshaw are getting into basketball shape, Murphy and junior returnees Cameron Cropp and Chase Smith will handle much of the backcourt duties.
“We won’t have just one set point guard,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a by-committee approach for us depending on who’s healthy and what the situation is at any given moment.”
In the frontcourt, 6-foot-4 junior Reece Reynolds returns after seeing sporadic playing time—mostly off the bench—last season. Fellow holdover Jaiden Penn, a 6-foot-2 junior, and 6-foot-4 sophomore newcomer Quentin Butler will join him as the Blue Devils try to replace Jamison’s production in the paint.
Another challenge Culpeper will face is its move up from the Class 3 section of the district to its Class 4 division. Among the new opponents the Blue Devils will see as a result of the move will be Winchester powerhouses Handley and Millbrook. Handley played for the Class 4 state championship as recently as 2018.
“There are so many tough opponents [in Class 4],” Thompson said. “The Handleys and the Millbrooks aren’t just very good programs, but they’re virtually unknowns to us in terms of our lack of familiarity with them. We’ll face the wild card of not knowing them on top of playing in some very hostile environments on the road.”
Culpeper opens its 2019-20 season with a nondistrict home game against Class 5 Albemarle on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.