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Basketball teams win games; families win championships.
Those seven words succinctly define the philosophy of Jamestown Boys Basketball Coach Donovan Bridgeforth, who is in his first year coaching the Eagles.
Coming to Jamestown, a school which has never won a state championship in boys basketball and finished 8-13 last season, Bridgeforth had the task of turning around the struggling program.
Just seven games into his first season at Jamestown, the building blocks appear to be already falling into place, as Bridgeforth has guided the Eagles to a 6-1 start with wins over Tabb, Bruton and Lafayette. Jamestown’s only loss was to Smithfield, the top team in the Bay Rivers District.
While impressive 3-point shooting from juniors Mason and Evan Wang have certainly helped the Eagles’ strong start, the roots of their success go deeper than the scoreboard.
Heading into summer workouts, Bridgeforth was most concerned about changing the culture of Jamestown basketball, which seemed to accept mediocrity.
“It’s tough when you almost have been OK with not having the best result,” Bridgeforth said of Jamestown’s basketball program. “They were used to not going the extra mile, so they pushed back from it at first.”
This was a stark contrast from Bridgeforth’s last gig as the girls basketball coach at Williamsburg Christian Academy, which has basketball championship banners hanging from the walls in every direction. Jamestown, on the other hand, has a single basketball banner hanging: a girls basketball AA title from 2006.
For Bridgeforth, getting his players to buy into the concept of being winners and pushing themselves was the biggest challenge at first. That’s why Bridgeforth, a former point guard for Division III Albright College, made a point to get his hands dirty and show his players he meant business on the court.
During practices, Bridgeforth will occasionally run through a play with the team or take on a player one-on-one. Whether it’s with a crossover or pull-up jumper, Bridgeforth gets his message across by showing, not telling.
“It teaches them that everybody is here for a goal. Nobody is scared to get his hands dirty,” he said of his teaching methods. “It shows them I really love them, so it lets me push them to the max.”
The reception from some players was slow at first, but now players have bought into Bridgeforth’s system and appreciate the emphasis on togetherness and playing for each other.
“We’re a family, but at the same time we’re fighting against each other and competing in practice,” said Connor Swain, a senior. “In everything we do, whether it’s help defense or having each other’s back on offense, just knowing we’re there for each other really helps out in game situations.”
When asked about Jamestown’s success, Bridgeforth is quick to deflect praise onto God, Jamestown’s administration and the players themselves. Not one to steal the spotlight, Bridgeforth said his goal is to promote his program and players, which he considers his family.
That mindset of togetherness has rubbed off onto the Jamestown players, who are keenly aware of how much Bridgeforth wants to turn them into champions on the court and great men off the court.
“We have more heart than anybody in the district, I believe,” said Kevin Greene, a junior. “[Coach Bridgeforth] installed toughness and heart in us, and we just ride out for each other, man. It’s all about brotherhood. He really fights for us, and we want to fight back.”