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The senior guard has helped the Bobcats make it to the state semifinals.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Radford senior Josh Little looks for an opening against Virginia High on Friday at Salem Civic Center.
JOHN WIMMER | Special to The Roanoke Times Radford senior guard Josh Little drives to the basket during the Bobcats' Division 2 boys state quarterfinal basketball game with Virginia High.
JOHN WIMMER | Special to The Roanoke Times Radford senior guard Josh Little attempts a shot during the Bobcats' Division 2 boys state quarterfinal basketball game with Virginia High.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
RADFORD — Maybe Josh Little doesn’t think people notice.
Radford’s most experienced senior isn’t the type of high school basketball player who calls attention to himself. Self-promotion isn’t a strong point with him. Extended conversation on the topic of his own accomplishments isn’t something he spends much time with.
Which isn’t to say he can’t talk, witness his use of the term “cinematic” in postgame remarks after Radford flattened Virginia High 59-42 in the state Group A Division 2 quarterfinals last weekend.
When it comes to discussing his own occasionally dramatic impact on the Bobcats fortunes, Little leaves that to somebody else.
Radford coach Rick Cormany readily accepts the challenge.
“Josh Little is as good a leader as we’ve had in a Radford uniform,” Cormany said.
The reason is simple. Little does the little leadership things that may be overlooked but taken as a whole add up to winning basketball.
For starters, he’s been one for the best part of four years. He’s been one of the Bobcats guards on teams that have gone to three Group A Division 2 tournaments in four years. Little was a sophomore point guard on the team that won Radford’s last state title in 2011.
The Bobcats (26-2) will try for another starting at 7 tonight when they take on Essex in a semifinal matchup at the Siegel Center in Richmond. The winner plays the Gate City–William Monroe survivor at 5 p.m. Friday for the title.
Had it not been for a last-second Lebanon shot in the 2010 quarterfinals, Little would have gone to three final fours in four years.
Radford carries an 18-game win streak into this year’s semifinals. The last victory in the run was a 59-42 pasting of Virginia High in the quarterfinals last weekend. As he does with all of the opponents’ top perimeter players, Little took on Bearcats 1,000-point scorer Nicholas Howard defensively. Howard scored 13 points, most of those coming late in the game.
“It was over by then,” Cormany said.
Other Little defensive matchups included the two most dangerous offensive players for Radford’s principal Three Rivers District rivals, Floyd County’s Caleb Tanner and Glenvar’s Tyler Crockett. The Bobcats were 7-0 against those teams, both of which qualified for the Region C postseason.
“Josh is our best defender, by far,” Cormany said.
On non-game days, Little is the one who organizes the guys on team-building activities such as going out to eat. His house is a regular gathering place for team members. Little serves as an alarm clock and chauffeur for another of Radford’s top players, Isaiah Phillips.
How’s that working out? Not only has Phillips never been tardy for an early morning Saturday practice, he and Little are always the first to arrive — an hour before practice is scheduled to begin.
If somebody’s down, having confidence issues, not performing up to standard, Little is the one who approaches the troubled young man for a soothing chat. Maybe it will be in the locker room, maybe it will be during a quiet drive around town.
It’s all quiet and low-key, but effective. Little never talks about it, though.
“I know a lot of this because his father tells me,” Cormany said. “There’s a lot I don’t know.”
Little’s father, Jeff, is one of the assistant coaches.
“The thing that impressed me about Josh when we were sitting around talking about things, he would say things like he was blessed to have guys ahead of him like Jerome Alexander, and Donate Carter, and Josh Smith, who he could watch, see and emulate how they led,” Jeff Little said.
Those three players were the leaders on the 2010-11 state title team. Little was the point guard. He also played point as a freshman and junior. With the emergence of freshman whiz Marcus Finley as this year’s floor general, Little moved to the off guard.
“It gives me a chance to improvise offensively and run,” Little said. “It’s given me a chance to score a little bit more, create a little more, create more for others as well. It’s been a nice change of pace, I think.”
Sports runs in Little’s family through multiple generations. His mother, Jamie Osborne Little, was a star guard for the Bobcats and later for Virginia Tech. In his last go-round as a Radford guard, Josh Little has averaged 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
“He’s really picked it up at the end of the season,” Cormany said. “At times it’s as if he’s willing us to win.”
Over the last seven games, Little has increased his scoring average to 12.5 points per game. That included 14 in the Three Rivers tournament title game against Floyd County, 15 against Glenvar in the regional semifinal that put the Bobcats in the state and 11 against Graham in the regional championship.
The leadership role came to him almost by default. There are two other seniors on the team, but Drew Cox is on the varsity for the first time, and Monoari Gichana’s floor minutes typically have been limited. Little embraced his duties.
“He’s a lot more mature than his father was at that age,” Jeff Little said.
Josh Little figures to be done with organized sports after he runs middle distances and relays for the track team. His specialty is the tough guy race, the 400 meters. Next year, he’s going to Virginia Tech, where the preliminary plan is to study business. As for a possible future in coaching, he doesn’t see it for now.
“But I’ll always keep in touch with the Bobcats program while I’m at Tech,” he said. “I won’t be too far away.”
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