BOONVILLE - After five years around the Starmount boys basketball program, Rocky Horton was given his dream shot.
Horton was named the Rams head varsity coach in early June after four-year skipper Jeffrey Hague announced he was stepping down.
“Being a head coach has always been a dream of mine,” Horton explained. “Working here the past five years, getting to know the people and the staff, I have prepared myself to be in this position. When I first started, I was JV coach, then I helped Hague the last two years as an assistant on varsity. So I think progressively I’ve worked to be a head coach.
“I’ve always been into basketball; I’ve been playing since I was five,” he continued. “My dad was always my coach, pushing me out in the driveway - this is something I always wanted to do.”
A Surry County native, Horton played high school hoops at North Surry under “two really good coaches.”
“I played under Shane Slate my first year,” he said. “Sophomore year I played under Coach Phillips on varsity for the rest of my high school career, so two really good coaches.”
Horton takes over a squad that lost eight of its top players from a season ago. Dillon Dobson, Dillon Bray, Eugene Billips, Austin Somers, Fondae McDaniel, Alex Barr and Christian Hurt all graduated in June, while rising senior Charlie Wagoner transferred to North Forsyth.
“We graduated seven seniors, and all of them were solid players and one of the best group of kids I’ve ever been around in my life,” he explained. “With graduating seven, we’re going to be young. As I’m taking over the program and it’s new to me, it’s going to be new to them too. So we’re working together here during the summer, and I look forward to working with them in the fall when we get back to school.
“We’ll have one returning senior in Zach Worley and a couple guys who moved up in the middle of the season last year in Ben Combs, Josh Hauser and James Ashley,” Horton continued. “And all those guys will be sophomores or juniors. This will be a year if the young guys, if they’re willing to work hard, are going to have to step up into that role and play some varsity basketball.”
Despite a revamped, young roster, Horton said he will be continuing Hague’s philosophies on the court.
“For the most part, we’ll be keeping the same philosophies,” he said. “Hague did a great job with this program. Every year we looked at what the personnel was going to be and what was going to fit that style best. And this year, we’re going to be young and short, but we’re going to have good speed.
“So I’m still looking at what’s going to help our program best and use our strengths,” Horton added. “Whether it’s a lot pressing or a lot of motion, moving offense, we’re going to make sure we’re always moving. To be this young, they have a good understanding about basketball.”
The Rams have held several scrimmages during the summer and, according to the new coach, “the kids have played hard.”
“These kids are going to play hard,” Horton said. “They’ve been playing hard this summer. We went to scrimmages at West Stokes and South Stokes and they played hard. They give me everything they’ve got.
“We went this summer without any X’s and O’s, so they did a really good job. When we get it all together, we’ll be competitive out there,” he added.
Horton and his wife, Amber, live in Mt. Airy, where she is a physical education teacher. His brother, Robby, is a running backs and special teams coach at West Stokes, helping lead the Wildcats to 2AA State Championship last season.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.