Prep Basketball: Carson's Houston going to Catawba

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 8, 2011

By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — If you hear a basketball bouncing somewhere in Rowan County, there’s a good chance one of Nick Houston’s hands is attached to it.
The ultimate gym rat, Houston made a successful transition from bomber to all-round player during his career at Carson. A shooting guard who is almost 6-foot-3, he averaged 18.2 points a game as a senior to rank third in the county. He recently signed with Catawba after seriously considering reuniting with his former Carson buddy Darius Moose at Brevard.
“I think Nick’s gonna be good for Catawba, and Catawba’s gonna be good for Nick,” said Carson coach Brian Perry, who played for the Indians in the 1990s.
Assuming the Indians’ returning guards stay healthy, the plan is for Houston to redshirt the 2011-12 season. Houston expects Catawba to have a scholarship available for him beginning with the 2012-13 campaign.
Houston’s strength is a terrific outside shot. His playing time will depend on how much the rest of his game continues to grow.
He made great strides as a senior, rising from a good player to an exceptional one. Aside from West’s Keshun Sherrill and Salisbury’s Darien Rankin, it would be hard to identify anyone else in the county who was any better, night in and night out.
Carson’s season (8-15) was not memorable, but it went in the books with an asterisk. Seniors Cody Clanton and Devon Heggins were counted on heavily, but Clanton’s season ended with the Sam Moir Christmas Classic. Heggins played just one game after Christmas.
“I think for about 21/2 years, Nick was mostly a shooter,” Perry said. “But things happened. We had kids get hurt. We lost kids. Nick’s game had to grow out of necessity and he became a really good player.”
The subtractions basically left Houston as Carson’s only steady offense, and he was the sole focus of every opposing defense. He also had to rebound more and handle the ball more.
“It was kind of up to me, more or less, as the offensive option,” Houston said. “I tried to do more. I practice driving all the time, so I figured why not start doing that in games.”
What he did was pretty impressive, including five efforts of 20 or more points in his last seven games. He broke one of Moose’s many school records with 37 at West Iredell and had 28 of Carson’s 54 in a first-round playoff loss to Waddell.
He got all those points, not just by raining 3s but by hitting pullups, finishing inside and getting to the foul line.
“There was a time when if Nick didn’t hit four or five 3s, he wasn’t going to score much, but by the end of the season, even if the 3s weren’t falling, he was still scoring,” Perry said.
A Southern Conference coach had a chance to see Houston, and while he had reservations about Houston playing at the Southern level, he endorsed Houston as a solid Division II player.
Duing the season, Houston expressed disappointment at the underwhelming recruiting interest, but schools, including Catawba, were quietly watching and evaluating.
“Moose signed early with Brevard, but Moose was not the norm for D-II,” Perry said. “There was interest in Nick, on and off, from several schools, but most of the Division IIs wait to see who might fall to them. I thought all along Nick would find a place to play.”
As winter turned to spring and basketball season surrendered to baseball, Houston, always the gym rat, kept working on his game.
Division II schools can bring in players for workouts/tryouts, and one of Catawba’s invitations went to Houston.
“I went up there and worked out, got to play against some of Catawba’s players, and they were cool guys,” Houston said. “We played drive-and-kick basketball, just like we do at Carson, and I enjoyed it.
“I also went up to Brevard. They made an offer, and it would’ve been fun to play with Moose, but it was just too cold up there.”
When Catawba called Houston back for a second session of workouts, they made an offer. Houston accepted.
“It was a big thing to be able to stay close to home,” he said. My family likes to watch me play.”
Perry is obviously delighted. He’ll have chances to watch Houston on Saturday afternoons.
“Once Catawba had a chance to get to see Nick, up close and personal, they really liked him,” Perry said. “He’s not just a great shooter. He’s got a great mind for basketball and a great work ethic. He knows he’s got to keep working defensively, but he should be fine once he gets a little stronger and a little more physical.”
The most exciting thing about Houston, if you’re a Catawba fan, is that he’s still working. Probably in some gym, right now, Houston is dribbling a basketball and nets are swishing.
“If he improves each year as much as he did this past year, he could really be something,” Perry said.