Blue Ridge’s boys basketball team held one of its regular team meetings just before jumping into the regular season schedule, and when the coaching staff started announcing captains, Keane Emmans-McGill agreed with the first two choices.
Chris Rogers, the team’s returning senior at point guard, had helped lead the Barons to a state final appearance in the spring of 2018. Dhruv Mehrotra, another senior guard, is a sharpshooter and a hard-working presence who’s been with the program for three years.
The third choice caught the Barons’ long-time student manager off guard.
“I heard Chris Rogers and I heard Dhruv Mehrotra and I knew those guys were going to get it because they’re the hardest working guys on the team,” Emmans-McGill said. “But I guess being here four years and doing whatever the coaches need — I was just amazed by it.”
Blue Ridge’s coaching staff announced Emmans-McGill as the third team captain, joining the ranks of players like Liberty’s Darius McGhee and Clemson’s Aamir Simms who’ve served recently as captains for the Barons. After making the choice to toil for the Barons filling up water, organizing jerseys, wiping up the floor and helping run pregame drills for the last few years, Emmans-McGill was rewarded with one of the program’s highest honors.
“Keane is the epitome of what we stand for, our core values in the Blue Ridge program,” said Blue Ridge coach Cade Lemcke. “Selflessness, discipline and hard work are three things that are huge and whether it’s the stuff in the season, outside of the season or in the dorms, he brings it every single day. He has the respect of his teammates, the respect of the coaching staff, the administration and the faculty here. When we tried to figure out who the best captains would be for us this year it was a no-brainer to give him something he deserves.”
At a school with a wide array of extracurricular programs ranging from mountain biking to indoor soccer, Emmans-McGill has emerged as one of the campus’ most talented actors, performing as the leads in Damn Yankees and You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown as well as a role last spring in student-written Decatur 404. He’s also chosen to serve the Barons’ high-profile hoops program in a largely unrecognized role.
“It’s different from any other program at Blue Ridge School,” Emmans-McGill said. “It’s more of a family, the 13 guys you’ve got plus the two or three managers, it’s a tight bond. I’ve felt special here, I’m treated like one of the guys so every year I’ve wanted to continue it and look forward to it every season.”
Along the way, the Northern Maryland native has earned the respect of the Barons’ players by doing things the right way and making things a little easier for them to focus day in and day out on improving and refining their craft.
“Keane is a leader — he expects what we need as a program,” Rogers said. “He always shows up on time to do his job to perfection. He does everything we ask of our players even better as a manager. He deserves it.”
By naming Emmans-McGill a captain, the Barons’ coaches set a pretty deliberate tone for a blue collar squad whose identity is rooted on the defensive end.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the leading scorer, the sixth man, the last man on the bench or the student manager, everyone is crucial to the success of the team,” Lemcke said.
The Barons have subsequently jumped out to an 12-4 record to start the season including big wins over Mercersburg Academy and Parkersburg South as part of what has grown into an international schedule thanks to a trip to Manchester, England over winter break. In a year where one of UVa’s managers, Albemarle alum Grant Kersey, earned the opportunity to snag a sliver of the spotlight for one of the nation’s top college basketball teams, Emmans-McGill’s recognition indicates how much Blue Ridge’s basketball team values servant leadership.
“Keane brings up the mood every day, makes sure everybody is feeling well, making sure everybody has their head straight,” said Blue Ridge senior forward Savion Helm. “And he’s a role model off the court, the way he carries himself, how he carries himself — he’s just a really cool dude.”
Emmans-McGill has also gotten the chance to absorb and grow during his stint with the Barons’ basketball team.
“It’s really hard work, every day is a challenge,” Emmans-McGill said. “Coach Cade is one of the better coaches here and the life lessons he’s taught me have been great, that’s what I can really take from it.”
The Barons can take something pretty special from it too, a chance to honor a student who’s been a steady presence for them. That ripples out into how the Barons’ players approach the game.
“It shows us that even though you don’t get the publicity, you’re still a key piece for the team,” Helm said. “If you do it quietly or not, you’re still a key piece.”
Emmans-McGill is a key piece. He has been all along. Blue Ridge just made sure it was official this year by placing that capital C beside his name on the roster.