Prep Basketball Preview: South Rowan boys
By Mike London
LANDIS ó If you’re an optimist, South’s boys tied for seventh in the NPC last season.
If you’re a pessimist, the Raiders ended up in a four-way tie for last place in a 10-team league.
South’s return to 3A in 2007-08 almost mirrored its farewell 4A season in 2006-07. The Raiders treaded water. They improved their defense by seven points a game, but their offense declined by seven points a game.
South coach John Davis is back for his 10th season. With a career record of 75-142 ó most of it spent fighting uphill battles against Mount Tabor, R.J. Reynolds and West Forsyth in 4A ó he’s seen decent times (13-12 in 2006) and ugly times (3-20 in 2005).
On paper, South doesn’t have the firepower or height to challenge NPC favorites West Rowan and Lake Norman, but the Raiders should win their share in a league that has to be down from last season. Northwest Cabarrus and East Rowan were the league’s top duo a year ago, and both were pounded by graduation.
“We look better than last year because we’re deeper,” Davis said. “We’re more mature, more experienced and more athletic across the board.”
Quite a few Raiders got a late start because of football, and gridiron standouts such as Reid Shaver, B.J. Grant, Jabin Wilson, Blake Houston, Dakota Walker and Anthony Bowles will be a big part of the basketball puzzle.
South will depend a great deal on Hunter Morrison, a work-aholic, hoops-aholic senior point guard who will probably have the ball in his hands even more than last season.
The 5-foot-9 Morrison is drawing interest from Conference Carolinas schools. He was South’s leading scorer as a junior at 11.6 points per game.
He had a handful of huge outings. He poured in 34 points against West Iredell, scored 27 against Statesville and had 25 in an upset of West Rowan in the Moir Christmas tournament.
Morrison’s game against West Iredell was the biggest scoring outing by a Raider since 2001 and one of the top 10 in school history.
Davis said the improvement people will notice in Morrison this year is on the defensive end.
“He’s become almost that shutdown guy, and camp after camp, everyone who has seen him loves him,” Davis said. “He’s also been instrumental in getting our non-basketball guys together at the YMCA in the offseason.”
South will miss graduated Derek Davis ó who contributed 10 points per night, muscle and rebounds ó but Shaver is capable of boosting his 9.5 scoring average considerably. Shaver, a senior, scored in double figures nine times last season, including a 30-point outburst against Salisbury and a 20-point outing in the NPC tournament against Northwest Cabarrus.
The 6-foot redhead is an athletic southpaw with a solid stroke from mid-range.
“He can shoot it or get to the rim, and we’d love to see more 20s and 30s out of him this year,” Davis said. “When he gets on a roll, he can light it up.”
The 6-foot-1 Grant’s season ended after 20 games in 2007-08, but he averaged 7.2 points a game when he was on the floor and could produce double-doubles. The junior showed his potential by scoring 64 points in a four-game span in late December and early January.
“He’s our most athletic jumper, and we’re really going to depend on him for rebounds,” Davis said. “B.J. can drive on people, and he can pressure the basketball.”
Wilson, whose basketball season ended simultaneously with Grant’s, is a solid 6-2 senior post player who can score in flurries in the paint. He had an eight-game stretch last winter in which he posted five double-figure games.
“Jabin bangs and controls the boards,” Davis said. “What he lacks in height he makes up for by being physical.”
Seniors Steven Johnson and Addison Corriher were at the end of the bench last season, but both could see significant playing time.
Johnson, 6-2, can shoot and is athletic enough to drive when opponents run at him on the perimeter. Corriher is only 5-11, but he jumps well and will get his share of rebounds.
If Davis had a polished 6-foot-6 guy to run out there, South could make a run at a top-three finish, but South’s tall guys are works in progress.
Davis has high hopes for 6-3 Steven Dessasore, 6-3 cross country runner Dalton Johnson and 6-4 John Honeycutt, but the three juniors are probably a year away from making an impact.
“Steven can jump and run, he’s coming along well and he’s a pleasant kid that helps keep me sane,” Davis said. “Dalton has a good jump shot from around the foul line. Honeycutt likes to face the basket and can knock down shots. They’re all learning to be more physical.”
While the big men develop, Davis can count on his son, a junior also named John Davis, to play bigger than his 6-2 height. Davis was a pest last season while scoring 3.2 points a game.
“He’s playing more confidently, he’s better defensively and he does a nice job boxing out,” Coach Davis said. “He got eight stitches against Anson this summer, but he showed he was willing to mix it up with anybody.”
Houston, a 5-11 junior, is a quick point guard. He could see some time alongside Morrison, and he’ll run the team when Morrison isn’t on the floor. He played briefly with the varsity early last season before settling in full-time with the jayvees.
He’ll enhance South’s team speed and its ability to pressure the ball defensively. He’ll benefit in practice each day from working against Morrison.
Walker, a football linebacker, is 5-11 but will play inside.
“He didn’t play last year, but he’s our most physical presence,” Davis said. “He can force taller players off the block. He boxes out, and he’s quick off his feet.”
Bowles, a 6-1 senior, is a shooter and could play a key role against zones because of his 3-point accuracy.
Justin Huffman, a 5-7 junior, is new to organized basketball.
“He’s just one of those kids you see at the Y and you figure with time he can really help us,” Davis said.
South does look more athletic, and it’s going to have a better chance to beat East Rowan and Northwest Cabarrus than it’s had in years.
Improvement on last season’s 6-20 mark looks like a sure bet, and the Raiders should settle somewhere in the middle of the NPC pack.
“You look back at the end of last year and we beat Lake Norman and had a chance for several more big wins,” Davis said. “We just didn’t have the depth we needed to finish, but now we do.”