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May 8, 2013

Bittersweet changes for Stith

When what many knew to be true finally became official several days ago, four-star UVa commit B.J. Stith finally could begin to process that not only would his father/coach be headed for a college job but he'd be transferring schools.

The 6-foot-5, 180-pound shooting guard, winner of three state titles at Brunswick, will be headed to Oak Hill Academy for his senior year of high school. Former Virginia legend Bryant Stith, who led the Bulldogs to seven straight VHSL Group AA championship games and three championships, will be an assistant at Old Dominion next season.

With change often comes opportunity and for Stith, the No. 36 player in the Rivals150 for 2014, that means a serious challenge awaits. It's one that he's starting to see from multiple angles.

"It's bittersweet," he told CavsCorner this week. "I'm so excited for my dad, I'm so excited for the opportunity to play at Oak Hill, and I'm so excited for what playing there will mean for me when I get to UVa. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some sadness involved. There's that feeling of a shift or something, that things won't ever be the same again.

"It's time, though. I know that's true. And that makes the challenge ahead of me all the better."

Stith won't be alone when he makes the transition to the storied program in Mouth of Wilson. Two of his AAU teammates from Team Loaded, NC State-bound four-star twins Caleb Martin (No. 40 overall) and Cody Martin (No. 50) are also transferring there for their senior seasons.

"A lot of people don't know it but that played a really big role in my decision," Stith added. "These are guys I've known for so long, been teammates with in AAU, and we've spent so much time together. It's kind of like making the move with brothers. We'll have one more year left together before we get to be enemies on the court in the ACC."

He admits that he thought long and hard about leaving Lawrenceville and when he first realized that his father and coach was headed for the college game, Stith was a little skeptical that he wanted these changes. Over time, it began to sink in.

As he dealt with what he called a "wide range of emotions," Stith understood that it was the right situation for everyone.

"The more we talked as a family, the more we realized this was in everyone's best interest," he added. "ODU is getting a great coach and I'm getting a chance to play against the best competition at the high school level. This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow as a player and a person."

His experience being the son of an NBA player, Stith says, gives him confidence he can adjust life away from home.

"I was young and all but I was used to not seeing my dad as much then," he said, adding that he's also used to not seeing his older brother Brandan, who is headed to East Carolina, during the AAU season when he was with Team Loaded and Brandan was playing with Boo Williams. "This will help me mature, there's no question. I have no choice. The toughest part will be being away from my mom and my sisters but that's part of growing up and accepting the differences that come with it."

When his family toured Oak Hill last month, Stith said he could feel the tradition in the program. And the more time he thought about being a part of it, the more he realized he wanted to be challenged.

"You walk into that gym and you see the jerseys and the names and the banners, man, it makes you want to compete, makes you want to leave your own mark," he said. "And here I was thinking Brunswick had tradition."

A move that is fully supported by the coaches at UVa, Stith said he was able to talk to them before the dead period and all he heard was positives.

"The big thing I've always felt like from talking to Coach (Tony) Bennett and his staff is that they care about me on and off the court," Stith said. "I'm just trying to keep working on my game and making sure that I'm ready to do whatever they need when I get there."

His game this AAU season is "coming along well" as he continues on a mission to "model" his game after UVa's Joe Harris, an All-ACC player this past season.

"I want to be able to stick my jumper consistently and I want to see what that element adds to my game," Stith explained. "That's what he does for us and that's what I want to do when I get there. I want to put the pressure on the defense by making good decisions on the wing and helping my team.

"I've been playing well but I know I have to do a lot of work before I can step in his shoes when I get to Charlottesville," he added.

In the end, change, Stith said, is only a bad thing if you accept it and run with it. He plans to do that at Oak Hill and at UVa even if he didn't get to do everything at BHS.

"A chance at four state titles doesn't come around often and Dad joked on me that I'll be the only male Stith to leave Brunswick without scoring 1,000 points in my career," Stith he said with a laugh. "That's alright, though. I'm excited for all that is ahead of me."


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