Pre Basketball Preview: North Rowan boys
By Bret Strelow
SPENCER ó North Rowan’s boys have relied on strong finishes to offset slow starts, and coach Kelly Everhart hopes the Cavs can strike a better balance.
North opened last season with a 1-8 record, rebounded to win its first three conference games and reached the CCC tournament final before falling 59-54 to Salisbury.
D.J. Hipps, Tristan Gill, Greg Sims, Javon Hargrave and Lamonte Bell are among the returning players with experience.
“I felt like those guys really began to jell late in the season last year, and we’ve actually done that the last two seasons,” Everhart said. “The key for us this season is getting out to a little better start than we did those last two years.
“We’ve struggled early on the last two years, and that’s something we’ve talked about. I’m excited about this group, and I think there’s a lot of potential here.”
North, which got off to an 0-11 start two years ago, will have home-and-away matchups with Carson, Davie County and West Rowan before taking on Ledford in a CCC opener.
The entire basketball team came together sooner than usual because of the football team’s struggles, but the non-conference schedule is always difficult for North as it faces talented squads from larger classifications.
“I’ve tried to remind the kids that it’s not all about winning the games, it’s competing,” Everhart said. “I feel like if we can compete with the Davie Countys and West Rowans then when we get to the competition in our league I feel like we stand a better chance of coming out on top in those games.”
Hipps, who started last season with a 20-point outing, ranked second on the team with a 9.3 scoring average. He posted at least 12 points in four of North’s last five games.
Gill scored 51 points in 24 games, and Sims had 45 points in 25 appearances. He recorded nine points in a late-season victory against Salisbury.
Everhart said 6-foot-1 junior C.J. Fortson is probably the most athletic player on the team.
“He has great leaping ability, and he’s quick,” Everhart said.
“He could be a key ingredient to the success of this team if he gets off to a good start and develops a little more confidence.”
Senior guard Andre Blakeney played in 16 games as a junior, and sophomore Jessie Rudisell will likely back up Hipps at point guard.
Senior guard Sammie Overstreet, who didn’t play last season is a streaky shooter. The varsity team has a pair of newcomers who could contribute on the perimeter in Reggie Smyre and Ryan Rhames.
“I’m not sure we’re a good enough perimeter shooting team to just stand back in a zone and then allow people to go back and set up their defense for us to come down and methodically run an offense,” Everhart said. “I think we need to be more flying all over the place, diving on the floor, getting loose balls, pushing the tempo and trying to score that way.”
With one notable exception, the Cavs’ frontline is relatively undersized.
Bell, a 6-2 senior, is a strong rebounder who can score close to the basket.
Hargrave, a standout defensive end in football, is a 6-1 sophomore who played in 25 games as a freshman.
“He played well last year, especially toward the end of the season,” Everhart said. “He’s a pretty wide body to try to get around, so whenever he boxes somebody out, even though he might be giving up a couple inches in height, he makes up for it by his physical strength.”
Julian Hicks, 5-10 senior Bradley Vogel and 6-1 sophomore Hunter Feezor are North’s other post players.
Hicks is a 6-4 junior. He spent the first part of his freshman year at North before moving to Virginia.
“He has long arms and long legs, and he can do a lot of different things for us,” Everhart said. “We’re excited to have him back.”
North, which will compete at the 1A level starting next season, will attempt to improve on back-to-back finishes of fourth place in the CCC.
The Cavs went 7-1 last year when they scored at least 55 points. They allowed fewer than 47 points in five of their conference victories.
“This team could be really quick and could get lots of steals and turnovers,” Everhart said. “Hopefully that will convert to layups on the other end of the court. I’d like to play an up-tempo style of game if we’re willing to work to do that.
“Hopefully we play better man-to-man defense this year than we did last year. Toward the end of the year we thought we really picked it up and began to understand how to help out and how to apply pressure. Hopefully that will carry over.”