All-Rowan Basketball: Salisbury's Rankin boys player of the year
By Ronnie Gallagher
According to the players and coaches assembled for the 2011 All-County basketball photo shoot Wednesday at Catawba, Salisbury’s Darien Rankin could have easily scored over 20 points a game this season.
If he had wanted to.
But that’s just it. Rankin, the repeat winner as Rowan County Player of the Year, wanted to win more than he sought individual stats.
“You could ask Darien if he’d rather score 50 points and have a close game or not score and win the game,” said Salisbury coach Justin Morgan. “He’ll say he’d rather win.”
Rankin averaged 15 points as the 6-foot-1 star became more of a rebounder, passer and defender. It all helped the Hornets to a Western Regional berth.
A perfect example of Rankin’s team play came in the first game of the Moir Christmas Classic, a 98-66 win over South Rowan. He scored 12, but was one of six Hornets in double figures.
Ah yes, the Moir Classic. The biggest sporting event of the year in Rowan County has been Rankin’s personal playground over the past three years. He was named MVP of the tournament for the third time.
Rankin would score when his team needed him the most. In the Moir semifinals, he put up 20 points and sank two clutch free throws to beat the eventual 1A state champ North Rowan, 79-77.
“You have to really prepare for him,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “It’s real scary. It’s like having to plan for Kobe or Michael Jordan. You have to sit down and really game-plan and figure out how you’re going to handle him. He can beat you by himself.”
That’s the beauty of this past season. Rankin didn’t have to do it by himself. He took great pleasure in dishing to big men Jarrett Rivens and Alex Weant, or guards Corey Murphy and John Knox.
“Darien accepted those guys and he was happy for them,” Morgan said.
Other all-county players said they looked forward to playing Rankin.
“It was a good experience for me to have somebody that athletic guarding me,” said West Rowan junior Keshun Sherrill, the county’s leading scorer (18 ppg). “When you have a body like that, it’s tough.”
Sherrill’s teammate, B.J. Sherrill added, “It was fun, but it wasn’t that good. He beat us dating back to middle school. I’m glad I don’t have to play against him again.”
Asked if he ever guarded Rankin, B.J. laughed.
“I was way too slow to guard him.”
Perhaps Rankin’s best matchups came against North’s Sam Starks, the MVP of the state 1A title game.
“It was fun,” said Starks, who always guarded Rankin. “I did pretty good and he did the same on the other end playing me.”
When Rankin wanted to score, look out.
In a CCC matchup against Lexington for first place, Rankin exploded for 33. The next game he had 23 against East Davidson. He finished the season by hitting double figures in his last 11 games and finishing his career with 1,358 points.
Rankin said he was honored to get the Player of the Year award.
“I respect everybody I play against,” he said. “We always bring the competitiveness.”
Morgan just loves the fact Rankin proved what an all-around player he was and it was the main factor in Salisbury finishing 20-7.
“What made him special is he did what it took to win the game,” Morgan said. “We’d have 3, 4 guys in double figures and it was always a result of Darien’s play. He was always unselfish.”