Prep Basketball: North Rowan’s West shines at home in all-star game
By Mike London
SPENCER — The Blues beat the Whites 87-79 in Friday’s boys senior all-star game staged for autimsm awareness, and at least one person cared about the score: North Rowan’s intense floorleader T.J. Bates.
“It was a really fun game and all that, but my team got the win — like I knew it would,” Bates said with a satisfied look.
Of the 166 points that were scored, maybe 120 were spectacular or borderline spectacular. Sure, that’s the nature of all-star games, but the fans who nearly filled the North gym to see the show, often got more than they bargained for.
For one thing, they’ll remember Rowan County Player of the Year Oshon West’s 33 points and nine quick-release 3-pointers in his farewell game on the floor in Spencer. He made them falling away, falling down and falling out of bounds to carry the Blues.
“Been working on my jump shot a little bit the last few weeks,” said a grinning West, who officially will announce a junior-college destination next week.
For fans who prefer dunks to long-range artistry, the White team had it covered.
North’s 6-foot-7 Malik Ford offered quantity (six jams in the second-half alone) and Statesville’s Jaquan Warren provided NBA quality. Warren, who is only 6-1, dunked off the opening tip on a lob by Salisbury’s Buster Hillie — and never really stopped. He was flying in from the ceiling.
“When I first saw the Statesville kids up close, I couldn’t believe how small they were,” said North coach Andrew Mitchell, who organized the event. “But now I can see how they came within a single point of winning the 3A state championship. They are not only very talented, they are small guys with giant hearts.”
While Warren had some 9.9 dunks, including a lefty one, Salisbury’s Keion Adams, a Western Michigan football signee, who also played for the Whites, had the best one. Adams threw down in traffic, with Blues hanging on his broad shoulders.
“Keion’s dunk was great, because it was so unexpected,” Bates said.
Adams sort of liked it.
“Jaquan kind of motivated me with his dunks at practice this week,” Adams said. “I thought I’d show what I could do. It was a fun experience, a special night for everyone.”
It wouldn’t have been what it was without the presence of seven of Statesville’s talented players pushing the ball at a furious pace. They included Warren, NPC Player of the Year Josh Gaither, and future Duke DB Breon Borders.
Borders and Gaither also played for the White team, which appeared to be the stronger squad on paper.
“When we were invited, it was an honor for us to represent Iredell County and our school,” Gaither said. “I’d played with Oshon and T.J. and Malik in AAU back in eighth and ninth grade, so we knew those guys. Oshon was a player even then. He’s always been a player.”
If you’re wondering how in the world the Blues prevailed, the scorching-hot West got just enough help.
Carson’s Rameiq Howard got the Blues off to a fast start, outworking everyone in the gym for muscular stickbacks.
Jack Gallagher, a Methodist football signee who didn’t play much for West Rowan’s basketball team, drilled two 3-pointers in a matter of seconds, and Salisbury big man Tyler Petty had nine huge points down the stretch that finally put the Blues over the top.
That was one of the best things— seeing evenly matched rivals Petty and Ford duel in the paint again. Petty would block a Ford shot one trip, but Ford would dunk the next time. Back and forth.
“One last time, Petty and me,” Ford said quietly. “It was a good time.”
There were occasional mismatches. Gallagher, a husky tight end, found himself guarding the lightning-quick Borders at the outset of the second half. He may as well have been trying to defend the wind. Borders whirled by him for a sudden dunk.
“Yeah, he was fast,” Gallagher said cheerfully. “But everyone else they put out there was just about as quick.”
There were surprises. The biggest was a cameo appearance by Tony Nunn, the 6-8 former Salisbury Hornet, who has been playing in Florida. Nunn has signed with the University of North Texas.
“I just came by the gym to say hello to some old friends, and they put a blue jersey on me,” Nunn said with a shrug. “I didn’t have my shoes, so I only played a few minutes.”
Nunn looked to be in good shape, and you can’t teach 6-8 and mobile. He’ll do well for the Mean Green of North Texas. He was in a good mood.
So was Mitchell.
“There’s always a lot of stress and worry trying to put on something like this,” Mitchell said. “But we can’t thank the Statesville players enough for being part of it, and it was a joy to see this all come together. The games were exciting, the players had fun, and I think every fan had a smile.”