Young team finding its feet after losing heralded senior group

CHESTERFIELD -- For the Prince George boys basketball team, Jeff Jackson Jr., Jajour Lambert and Patrick Gee are gone. The three senior leaders from last year’s 15-win team have moved on to college, and they have taken the identity of that squad with them.

This week, at the L.C. Bird Summer League, head coach Travis Carr has been dealing with that identity crisis, trying to take stock of his young squad.

“This summer league that Bird puts on, it’s fabulous to get your new squad together and see what you have -- ingredients for the new season,” he said. “We’ve got some guys coming back, we’ve got some new faces from the JV team, and guys maybe in some new roles of leadership.”

Those new faces will have to account for about 35 points per game in the new season this winter -- the combined scoring average of Jackson, Lambert and Gee -- and fill the unquantifiable void of their voices and example in the locker room and on the court.

While there are still plenty of questions regarding who will replace the on-court production, the Royals are quickly finding out where their leadership will come from.

Prince George returns rising senior point guard Johnny Soto, who Carr says he counts on.

“He’s just an extension of the coaching staff,” Carr said of Soto. “He could run the team if I’m not even here, and we trust him. So it’s good to have leadership there.”

Among the emergent faces is Khalif Dickson, a 6-foot-tall, seldom used reserve last season, who is coming into his own in this summer league.

“I joke around with the guys, but honestly, I don’t know what he sounded like last year,” Carr said of Dickson. “He didn’t say much. He was one of our bench guys, kind of waiting his turn. He’s a rising senior and he’s stepping into that role where he’s very aggressive now. He’s out of his shell, and I’ve seen some good stuff out of him this week.”

As for the replacements Jackson, Lambert and Gee in basketball terms, Carr is still looking for solutions. He hasn’t settled on what his starting lineup will be, and one area he’s very focused on is the front court. Jackson and Gee stood 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-4 respectively, and replacing their rebounding ability has been a struggle this off-season for Prince George.

That lack of size, though, might have benefits in other ways. With a guard heavy group, outside shooting has not been a problem in the summer league, and could allow Carr to show opponents a different look this winter than Prince George has presented in recent years.

“The strong part is, we’ve actually got some shooters on the court that maybe we haven’t had in the past,” Carr said. “We’ve had shooting (in the past), just not maybe a bunch of shooters. We’ve got more this year. We can actually spread the floor a little bit, do some things we haven’t done in the past.”

However things shake out for Prince George, it seems Carr isn’t interested in pushing square pegs into round holds -- he will work with the tools at his disposal.

“We’re adjusting with the personnel we have,” he said.

By Jeff Milby, Sports Editor
The Progress-Index
Jeff Milby can be reached at jmilby@progress-index.com or 804-722-5151. Follow him on twitter @JeffMilby.