Warriors play to win

Published 8:23 am Friday, January 29, 2010

WAKEFIELD—Playing basketball at Tidewater Academy is a family tradition if your last name is Westbrook. The family connection is even more evident with the Warriors right now with the head coach and his son involved.

Walter Westbrook played at TA in the ’70s and is now the school’s head coach. Austin Westbrook, a senior at the school, is the team’s point guard. Austin is following in his brother Cameron’s footsteps. Cameron also played point guard under his dad at the school.

Walter said his senior year, the Warriors went 28-8. After graduation, he went to the University of Richmond and was the manager of the basketball team for four years. In 1976, he began to farm and had no intention of coaching.

“In 1982, the athletic director said ‘I need a middle school basketball coach.’ I didn’t want to do it. I was happy as a bug in a rug. I was farming and I loved to deer hunt, and I had my winter free,” Walter said after his team’s victory over Richmond Christian Tuesday night. “I came in in ’82 as the middle school coach, and boy I liked it.”

Eventually he became the JV coach and, in 1993, took over as varsity coach.

“I’ve had some great kids and a lot of tradition here at this school,” Walter said. “I’ve had some great players. It’s easy when you have players.”

For the last three years, Austin has been one of those players. At 6-feet, 1-inch tall, Austin started at point guard last year on the Warriors’ 28-2 team. He is averaging about seven assists per game, very similar to last year.

“This year we are 17-1 and he’s a big reason because he likes to share the basketball. With the kids I’ve got that can score, you can’t have a selfish point guard. He can shoot, but he hasn’t been shooting the ball,” Walter said. “He doesn’t look at ball (on TV) like his older brother did. They were both point guards and smart basketball kids.”

In Tuesday’s game, Austin had a hot hand at the 3-point line. He knocked down four 3-pointers and finished the game with 12 points. He also had several nice passes on the inside, which resulted in easy buckets for his teammates.

“That’s my shot, I don’t hardly shoot much in other games. I just felt it tonight. I had to keep going,” he said.

Austin said father and son talk a lot about basketball off the court.

“Sometimes I get tired of it,” Austin said jokingly. “He puts more pressure on me. I have less room for error, but I live up to it.”

Walter agrees sometimes the basketball talk is a bit much.

“We go to a lot of college games together and we talk about it more than I want to, I guess to show him different things,” Walter said.

At the same time, Walter has enjoyed coaching his son.

“He’s been a real surprise here. I never thought he would be the starting point guard last year,” Walter said.

Austin, who has been receiving looks from Roanoke College, Lynchburg College, Eastern Mennonite and Hampden-Sidney, joked about his legacy at Tidewater Academy.

“Dad played here. I had no other choice,” he said with a smile.