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Prep Basketball Preview: Carson boys

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó More jump shots are clanging off the rim at Carson practices than they did the previous two seasons, but coach Brian Perry sees that as good news.
Perry has employed accurate shooters in Carson’s first two seasons, but the Cougars’ defense hasn’t scared anyone.
The offseason was spent on defensive fundamentals. Perry, who was a Junior Olympics high jump champion and a stellar basketball player at East Rowan back in the day, believes his team now has a better chance to make key stops.
“It’s all about getting better defensively if we’re going to win more often,” he said. “That’s what we’ve emphasized all summer, so hopefully that emphasis will show up during the season.”
Carson quietly took baby steps in its second season. The Cougars went 3-21 and were beaten by 16 points on an average night in 2006-07. Last season, the Cougars were 6-18, and their average outing was a respectable 66-55 loss.
With a handful of fourth-quarter stops they could have won more often, but they did land three big fish. They split with rival South Rowan and stung West Rowan and Lake Norman, two of the top squads in the NPC.
The victory over West was meaningful for Perry, a longtime assistant in Mount Ulla who understands how hard the Falcons work at the game.
Only two of Carson’s top eight are back in uniform ó graduation plus off-court adversity ó but Perry is optimistic he’ll have more balance and more defense.
The Cougars will miss the toughness of Dustin Craft and Alex Freeze, Renard Adams’ hustle and the outside range of Justin Basinger, Brandon Ferguson and Dylan Kosinski. Darius Moose, the all-county cornerstone of the offense, does return.
Moose, who scores inside and out with a velvet touch, also rebounds vigorously and handles the ball competently. He is 6-foot-3, but opponents swear he’s 6-5 because his arms are unusually long.
Moose averaged 12.6 points per night as a varsity freshman after a quick promotion from the jayvees. He bumped his scoring average to 19.3 as a sophomore.
He enters the season as one of the top three male players in the county. Any list based on proven production starts with West’s K.J. Sherrill, Salisbury’s Brandon Abel and Moose, who has scored 32 or more points on four occasions.
“Moose plays big and finds lots of ways to score,” Perry said. “But I think what people will notice about him this year is his defense. He understands he’s going to have to guard wings in college, and he’s bought into things we’re trying to do defensively. He’s a more complete player now.”
Once the star buys in, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to convince everyone else it’s essential to box out and get on the floor for loose balls.
The only other returner with serious varsity time is 6-4 senior Josh Doby, who owns a wide range of gifts. He’s one of the county’s taller players as well as one of its streakier 3-point shooters. That makes him a potentially lethal matchup problem.
Doby’s been a little too thin to bang and a little too quick on the trigger, but he’s more seasoned and mature now.
He had one two-game stretch last season in which he poured in 43 points. He may not blossom all the way until he’s in college, but there’s also a chance he’ll break out in the next few weeks.
With so much firepower missing, Perry needs Doby to score more than the 8.9 points per game he produced last season while improving his shot selection, rebounding and defense.
“Josh really shot it well in our scrimmages, and he’s another one who’s starting to get a defensive mindset,” Perry said.
A third sure starter is junior point guard Brandon Ferrare, a little bundle of barbed wire who had his moments as a varsity freshman but wasn’t part of the team last season.
As good as Moose is, there’s a chance Ferrare will be equally important to the Cougars because he brings fire and emotion. He would rather take a charge than score, and those guys don’t grow on trees.
“We missed Brandon’s energy and speed last year because he’s one of those guys that’s always attacking, always putting pressure on the ball or on the other team’s defense,” Perry said. “He makes all the hustle plays, and he’ll dive on the floor as often as anyone around.”
Look for 6-2 sophomore guard Nick Houston to be a key component. A good athlete who quarterbacked the jayvee football team, Houston can shoot and defend.
Cody Clanton, a long-armed 6-2 sophomore, is a potential starter because he’s such a good defender.
Devon Heggins, a 5-9 sophomore point guard, will back up Ferrare, but they also could be on the floor together in situations that require Perry to go with his quickest lineup.
“Devon’s fast, strong and can handle the ball,” Perry said. “He’ll be a big part of it.”
The Bosnian duo of 6-4 Salih Begic and 6-2 Anel Ramic is a mystery, but both impacted Carson soccer, especially Ramic, the keeper.
They are long, lean guys who look like players, but they’re also inexperienced seniors who have to learn the NPC ropes quickly.
“They’re picking things up fast and rebounding hard,” Perry said.
Junior Jenson Harden, a standout safety on the football team, is a good bet for the rotation because Perry likes the way he sets a tone defensively.
Justin Holloway, a 6-footer, saw limited action last year, but Perry sees the senior’s role expanding.
Hard-working Aaron Walser, 6-2 and another senior, is being counted on as backup in the post.
Junior Derrick Sewell is a 6-footer up from the jayvees. He played in a handful of varsity games last season and impressed Perry with his strength.
Perry said hard-nosed, scrappy junior Jonathan Barringer earned a roster spot by his willingness to “fight for everything and box out.”
Josh Britt, 6-1, “runs like a deer,” and has a chance to get some minutes.
Finally, there’s Ryan Jones, the football team’s quarterback. Jones, a senior, missed all of the 2007-08 hoops season after breaking his collarbone on the gridiron, but Perry welcomed him back.
“Ryan has a lot of leadership qualities, so he’ll help us no matter how much he plays,” Perry said. “And if he gets back in the groove, he’ll get time on the floor.”
Assuming Ferrare and Houston play at the level Perry anticipates, the Cougars will be in a lot of NPC games in the fourth quarter.
How many they win will depend on their new commitment to defense.

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