Well, it’s official; the Varina Blue Devils have officially finished the regular-season with the best record in Richmond, VA, at 20-1 overall. Their sole loss happened during a visit to L.C. Bird High School (Chesterfield, VA) last month on January 31st. Most expected Varina to once again take over this season as one of the top teams. I mean, heck, when a program returns a great portion of their players that won a state championship a year ago, expectations will always arise. Nevertheless, the accomplishment of staying the course to win so many games throughout the longest of high school sports seasons is always impressive. It doesn’t matter how much talent a team may contain… winning 20+ games deserves serious praise. The Blue Devils are far from finished, however, as I’m sure they’ve been hungry for the playoffs to start since the New Year. Unsigned senior wing, Charles Tart ’19, who I consider the most athletic player on the roster, has his eyes on collecting one more state ring before he receives his high school diploma in the upcoming months.
Here’s something else that speaks volumes about Varina’s dominance: they haven’t lost a home game in the past two years. That’s ridiculous… pretty much the prime example of what it means to ‘protect one’s home floor.’ This past Friday, on their Senior Night, they ended the regular-season with a 73-43 blowout victory over a talented Highland Springs team. Tart can now look back and reflect on some notable experiences that took place in the Blue Devils’ home games (which usually attract packed audiences) over the past few seasons.
“My senior night was a wonderful experience,” Tart said. “Some memories that stand out would be how many people I dunked on and the amount of wins my team and I fought to get on that floor.”
Playing as a 6’3” wing, one could walk in the gym and take no more than a few seconds to notice Tart’s gifted athleticism, as I touched upon earlier. He can get UP to finish above the rim in a bunch of different ways, combining some power with finesse. The lanky guard uses his exceptional wingspan well in this aspect, along with on the defensive side. Tart plays some of the best in transition; he has a good nose for the ball and body control to complete plays once the ball’s thrown toward his way. Or, he’s even better off just signaling for a teammate to throw up a lob in transition. Trust me, he’ll take care of the rest.
On a team surrounded with plenty of next-level prospects, I honestly feel Tart’s been one of the more underrated players in the Class of 2019 this season. He’s one of those guys who could likely take over as more of a go-to guy on another team that would require him as a focal point. Regardless, supporters of the Blue Devils acknowledge the value that Tart brings to the program as a guy who knows how to produce and win.
“My role on this team has mainly been just acting as a team player and trying to get everyone involved. I’m known for my athleticism but I feel like I started to develop more in my jump shot too.”
When a program like Varina has success in back-to-back seasons similar to this, it’s often no stopping frequent comparisons between the two teams, of different school seasons, from spectators. Some may point out things such as “Oh, well last year’s team had more size,” or “The team this year scores a lot better but lacks experience,” or whatever the remarks may be. Tart and his teammates don’t pay much attention to that. Entering this season under everyone’s microscope, they knew they could only control so much but combined together to thoughtfully construct their own objectives.
“Well, honestly, I feel like this year’s team is basically the same as last year’s. We look a little more productive on the offensive side of the floor this season, however. One thing we all made sure to do early on was make a list of goals for this year in our team room. That way, every time we walk in there, we’re always reminded us what we’re trying to accomplish this season.”
I like that tactic of keeping a list of goals around. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ makes clear sense, so I can see why the Blue Devils wanted to make sure that they could never forget what they’re striving for. It’s one thing to speak about goals, but it’s an entirely different feel when having those same words appear right in front of your face in the locker room every day when lacing up your sneakers.
Even with his unselfish nature, Tart (along with every other unsigned senior) knows that each day keeps passing by and a decision for college must soon take place. Now in mid-February, we’re starting to get closer and closer to when most players began to make their decision of where to take their talents next after graduation. Tart currently holds offers from Virginia Union University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Other interest from Virginia State University, Chowan University, and Virginia Wesleyan University have all come into the mix as well.
“My school decision will be determined on if the school feels like the best fit for me career-wise, sports-wise, and just allowing myself to become my own person in life. I always want to see if the atmosphere has me feeling like it’s a second home.”
Tart’s also a step ahead by already having an idea of the career path he wishes to pursue. It’s a good field; something he’s actually been considering for some time now.
“I plan on majoring in sports medicine for college. I’ve been taking sports medicine classes since I was in the sixth grade. I’m planning to use that to become an athletic trainer one day.”
Absolutely a great occupation to pursue. It’s always satisfying to see athletes mature into qualified professionals that allow them to aid other younger athletes. That experience of living that lifestyle definitely gives them an advantage to connect with those in need of assistance. It seems like Tart’s pretty focused on making sure he’s ready for whenever an opportunity of becoming an athletic trainer arrives.
“Yeah, when I’m not on the court, I’m pretty much just studying to learn more about my athletic trainer career. I’ve also lately been looking to see how I can be more involved in helping our community. Other than that, ball and senior year have gone well. I’ve been making sure to stay back for tutoring so I can keep an A & B honor roll.”
By now, it’s fairly obvious that Tart has a list of his own goals to complete outside of already excelling at the ones found in the Blue Devils’ locker room. With his mature approach to things, I sense a great deal of success happening for him soon. College coaches, take note of both the unsigned senior and his team as they soon begin the playoffs! I’m confident several opportunities to watch the Blue Devils will happen; another run to the state championship looks very attainable.
Hold up, so where does Charles Tart see himself in ten years?
“I see myself as a certified athletic trainer or playing basketball overseas.”
Tart and the Varina boys sound more than ready to take care of business in this postseason. You won’t want to miss the show!