SOUTH PRINCE GEORGE, VA – Andrew Lacey arrived as the new head men's basketball coach at Richard Bland College of William & Mary on June 1. He needed to fill a roster, finalize a schedule and build a new foundation for a program that had been one of the nation's finest in Junior College basketball circles.
For Lacey, it was a large "to do" list to accomplish by the time the College Fall semester began on August 19. But the coach who led Varina High School to the VHSL Class 5 State Championship in 2018 and three straight State Championship appearances in 2017, 2018 and 2019, was more than up to the task.
With the 2019-20 season beginning on Friday, November 1 against Davidson Community College in the Louisburg College Tip-Off Tournament, the Statesmen have a wealth of talented players, a complete and challenging schedule and are putting the pieces together to rebuild the program. It's a process, Lacey says, one that will take some time to fully mature.
"Our goals are to play the game the right way," Lacey says. "The focus is on energy, effort, fundamentals and building a winning culture. I feel if we can do those things, winning will take care of itself."
Lacey likens his situation at RBC to one that he inherited at Varina H.S. where he coached for six seasons. The program had won six games in six years and needed a rebuilding that eventually culminated in a state championship. "Richard Bland had a strong identity as a JUCO Division II program, but we're in Division I now," Lacey explains. "It takes time to build that awareness, recruit the next-level players, and most important do it the right way with quality student-athletes."
Lacey feels his coaching staff provides a decided edge with the addition of Tahj Scott, the head assistant basketball coach at St. Andrews (NC) University in North Carolina, and former VCU standout Bo Jones, who has extensive coaching experience in the area, most notably at Huguenot High School.
Lacey says he has a deep lineup with eight or nine players who can all see significant playing time. "Due to having so many new players who are playing college basketball for the first time, our style of play will be unique," Lacey says. "Each game is different and depends on the opponent we play. It's a game-by-game process until we find our identity.
"Our number one goal is to be consistent every game," Lacey stresses.
A bountiful collection of players has led Lacey to initiate the program's first junior varsity team that he calls "our developmental team." The JV program will play four separate games from the varsity and the eight roster players also are available to play and practice with the varsity program.
RBC has shown flashes of a team with potential in exhibition games against Virginia State, University of Mary Washington and Eastern Mennonite, games in which the Statesmen held early game leads against NCAA opponents. The Statesmen raced out to a 26-7 lead over Mary Washington in a display of what can become the norm with developmental time and seasoning.
"Our goal from November 1 to February 19 is to set up the team to play in the post-season. We want to be playing our best basketball in February," Lacey says.
An ambitious 30-game season awaits RBC, one that has the Statesmen playing only three of its first 15 games at home before winter break. It will provide a good litmus test for the second half that features nine of 15 games inside of Statesman Hall.