Over the years, this gym has featured some strong boys’ basketball teams. The program has often competed for Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association titles, winning its most recent one in 2015.
But this year, the main attraction for No. 13 Middleburg has been a pair of junior guards. Together they have not only led the Dragons through a competitive, travel-heavy schedule, but they have also drawn college coaches and scouts to this sprawling, secluded campus.
“When we play our best basketball, it’s a show,” point guard Isaiah Folkes said. “It’s must-see basketball. Flying around, knocking down shots, dunking — everything.”
Folkes is the team’s primary ballhandler, while Jaden House often plays shooting guard. Both players transferred into the program before this season — Folkes from Stonewall Jackson High in Manassas and House from Henrico High in Richmond.
“It’s really different here,” House said with a laugh. “When I first came to visit in the summer, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t really believe it.”
Both are dynamic scorers, featuring quick handles and plenty of bounce. More than once this season, the duo combined to outscore Middleburg’s opponent. In early January, they teamed to drop 72 points on Newport News’s Peninsula Catholic, creating a highlight video in the process. The clip only added to the hype surrounding the program, and word continued to spread that Middleburg Academy possessed a pair of playmakers.
On Tuesday night, in a 76-46 trouncing of Takoma Academy, only Folkes starred for the Dragons (19-3). He set the tone early with a soaring left-handed dunk that got House, who was out with an illness, off the bench. Even without his running mate, Folkes finished with 22 points.
“They complement each other really well,” Coach Joe Philogene said. “Jaden is a bucket-getter, and [Isaiah] is the type of player who can will you to a win.”
Folkes and House first met last spring, but in their nine months playing together — both for Middleburg and their AAU program, Team Loaded VA — they have developed exceptional chemistry.
“It’s crazy how much we have a feel for each other,” House said. “It seems like he can hear me from anywhere on the court. Playing off each other has been easier than any teammate I’ve had.”
The pair will face the season’s final test later this month when they lead the Dragons into the VISAA Division II tournament. Middleburg is without a conference, so the VISAA tournament is its biggest postseason event. For Folkes and House, a state championship would be a surreal ending to a surreal year.
“It’s been like a dream,” Folkes said. “I’ve always imagined this kind of buzz, and now it’s coming true.”