Terriers adjust to life without Wheeler


The William Byrd boys will have a week to work on their new rotation as they won’t play another basketball game until next Tuesday, January 9, at William Fleming.

The Terriers got a bad break in their last game before Christmas when senior point guard Jaylen Wheeler went down with a torn ACL in a loss to Northside. With Christmas on Monday and the Northside Invitational Tournament beginning the following Wednesday coach Josh Cunningham had little time to adjust to life without one of his best players.

“We had about a day and a half to practice,” he said. “It’s a real shame. Jaylen had a great start to the season and he’s a good leader. It’s a really tough loss for us, but I hate it more for him.”

How do you replace your best ballhandler and one of your top scorers?

“No one player can do what he does, he ran our offense,” said Cunningham. “It’s going to have to be a collective effort.”

Byrd was 4-2 prior to that Northside game but they’ve now lost five in a row, including all three games in the Northside Tournament. Byrd lost to Blacksburg, 66-56, Giles, 76-72, and Chatham, 77-64.

“We had a tough time at Northside,” said Cunningham. “We played some good competition and it was an adjustment playing without Jaylen.”

In the tournament opener with Blacksburg J.J. Seymore led the Terriers with 17 points and Terrell Smith had a dozen. Casey Smith had six rebounds.

On Thursday against Giles Seymore and Casey Smith had 19 pints each and Terrell Smith had 17.

“After the first quarter we played well,” said Cunningham.

In Friday’s seventh place game against Chatham Casey Smith stepped up with 22 points and six steals, and he’s making a case that he can run the team in Wheeler’s absence.

“He’s been running the point,” said Cunningham. “He’s taking on more responsibility.”

Byrd led at the half in this one but Chatham dominated the third quarter and went on to win, leaving the Terriers winless in the tournament. Host Northside won the championship with a 68-56 win over North Cross in the championship game. The win lifted the Vikings to 11-0 on the season.

Byrd was back in action Tuesday, dropping a 60-56 game to Bassett in Vinton. The Terriers led by three after the first quarter but were down 31-28 at the half. Bassett outscored them in the third, 19-11, and went on to win. Byrd cut the lead to four with 30 seconds but couldn’t pull it out. Dustin Poff had 14 points, Seymore had a dozen and Casey Smith had 11.

While Wheeler is out for the year, Byrd will get Cullen Livingstone back this week. He’s a 6’4” forward/center who has been out all season with an injury.

“He’ll give us some toughness that we can really use inside,” said Cunningham. “This is a good time for us to have a week off. Our goal right now is just to get better.”