By Mike London
East Rowan senior Justin Vanderford has never been Rowan County Player of the Year, but he’s the frontrunner at this point in a strong field that includes West Rowan junior K.J. Sherrill, Salisbury junior Brandon Abel and Carson sophomore Darius Moose.
Vanderford has established himself as one of the all-time best guards not just at his school, but in the county. He is averaging 7.3 assists per game, is shooting better than 60 percent on two-point field goals and has scored 20 or more points in each of East’s 15 games this season.
Vanderford averages 24.7 points a game. The school record for points per game is Travis Goins’ 21.3 in 1995-96.
Only a handful of Rowan County players in the modern era (since school consolidation and integration) have put up more prolific scoring numbers than Vanderford has this season.
It’s a distinguished list ó Salisbury’s Bobby Phillips, Bobby Jackson and Shamari Spears and McDonald’s All-American Scooter Sherrill of West Rowan.
Phillips, who went on to a stellar career at Western Carolina, averaged a county-record 27.4 points in 1993-94. Spears, who now plays at Boston College, poured in 27.3 points a game in 2002-03. Veteran NBA guard Jackson tossed in 26.2 points per night in 1990-91.
Sherrill averaged 25.2 points for the Falcons in 1999-2000 and 25.1 points in 1997-98 before playing at North Carolina State.
The 5-foot-9 Vanderford has 1,470 points in his career. That’s exactly the same number scored by his old adversary, West’s Jamel Carpenter.
Assuming he stays healthy, Vanderford will play a minimum of 10 more games. East projects to do well in the NPC tournament and 3A state playoffs, so it’s a good bet Vanderford will take the floor at least 15 times. Based on his current scoring average, he could finish his extraordinary career in the neighborhood of 1,800 points.
The only modern-era players who remain ahead of Vanderford on the county’s all-time scoring list are Sherrill (2,469), West’s Donte Minter (2,087), Phillips (1,849), North’s James Henderson (1,654) and Jackson (1,546).
WINNING: Vanderford has played in a school-record 79 victories, one more than teammate Kenan McKenzie.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.