High school basketball: Hornets Harris, Bryant honored

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 23, 2023

By Mike London

SALISBURY — If you’re wondering why the All-Rowan County basketball teams are coming your way five weeks after the Salisbury and West Rowan girls put championships seasons in the books and with spring sports seasons hitting their stretch run, there’s the best possible reason.

Announcement of the teams was delayed this year because there was a presentation of tangible, touchable Rowan County Player of the Year awards for the sport for the first time. The delay was created mostly because one of the honorees has a very ambitious AAU schedule that kept him busy.

For many decades, being the Rowan County Player of the Year for hoops has always meant a pat on the back for a job well done and nice photos and glowing words in the paper, but there was no plaque, no trophy, nothing for the players to keep on a permanent basis. Nothing shiny for their parents to put on Twitter and Facebook. Nothing for them to put on the mantel and show the grandchildren someday.

That changed this year. A committee consisting of Tristan Rankin, Reggie McConneaughey and Dr. Darren Ramsey, former Rowan athletesand a trio that stays close to the local sports scene and wanted to give something back, offered to provide awards that the smiling winners could actually hold and hug. That meant picking up the tab, and those sweet plaques are pretty expensive these days.

The awards are known as the Shayla Fields Award for the girls. It’s the Scooter Sherrill Award for the boys.

It would be hard to argue with the committee’s choices for the names on the plaques. West Rowan’s Scooter and Salisbury’s Shayla are one-name legends like Kareem or LeBron. They’re the leading career scorers in the county for their respective genders and they also were winners who played for state championship teams. Both played with distinction for N.C. State. Both got a taste of professional basketball. Both are members in good standing of the Salisbury-Rowan Hall of Fame.

The trio of former heroes volunteered to pick the POTY honorees not only for this season but for many years to come, an offer that was happily accepted by the Post, which hasn’t been blessed with a “staff” that could vote on things like this for quite some time now.

Awards were formally presented last Sunday at Salisbury High. It was a Hornet sweep. Fields made the presentation to inaugural winner Kyle Bryant herself. Sherrill lives in Washington, D.C., and couldn’t make it in person, but he congratulated Jayden “Juke” Harris via FaceTime.

Harris is the athlete who has been extra-busy on the AAU circuit, competing, dunking and raining 3s for CP3, one of the nation’s elite programs. Harris, a junior who committed to Wake Forest on his mother’s birthday, had to be a pretty easy pick for the committee after a monumental season in which he broke the male county records for points per game (29.2) and total points (818). That POTY discussion probably took no more than 30 seconds. Harris is a long and lean 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 and he has legit guard skills.

Beyond the points, Harris, a four-star recruit, improved his rebounding, steals, blocks and assist numbers from his sophomore year and shot higher percentages. Rated as one of the top 50 players in his class nationally, he also was the main scorer for the county’s most successful team. The Hornets shared the Central Carolina Conference regular-season championship, won the CCC tourney and won two state playoff games.

As far as the girls, three of them had the sort of magnificent seasons that can make you Rowan County Player of the Year. West’s Lauren Arnold did everything you can possibly do — led a 31-0 state champ, was state championship game MVP, was conference player of the year— while North Rowan’s Bailee Goodlett, who has terrific speed and quickness, had one of the strongest scoring seasons in county history while putting up monstrous numbers of steals and assists.

Still, the committee got it right, I think. Arnold and Goodlett were great, but Kyla is Kyla. Headed to North Carolina Central, she has been a fantastic high school player who led back-to-back 2A state champs. She brings a wide range of skills to the floor and does everything well. She scores, handles, passes, defends, rebounds, leads and can do it for 32 minutes if needed. She’s the CCC Player of the Year, the No. 2 scorer in Salisbury’s proud history and now a three-time Rowan County Player of theYear. She shared the previous two awards.

The other girls who have been three-time players of the year: South Rowan’s Tracy Connor and Janiya Downs — and Fields.

Rowan girls basketball obviously was super-stout this season with two state champions.

West Rowan thoroughly dominated everyone.

Salisbury was outstanding. The Hornets’ three losses were to powerful teams.

Fifteen Rowan girls were recognized as all-conference by league coaches, so I won’t deny any of them an all-county berth. That still leaves out some good players. Peyton Whicker often was East’s best player down the stretch. Kynlee Dextraze turned in numerous impactful games for South Rowan. Haley Dalton’s defense was instrumental in Salisbury’s state championship run. Bloom Goodlett had more than a few shining moments for North Rowan. West Rowan’s Makaylah Tenor was one of the best sixth persons ever.

As far as the guys, there’s talent, but it’s thinner, especially with several top scorers not finishing the season. Only nine Rowan boys made the all-conference teams. So I’ll hold the all-county boys squad to 12, including a representative from South because he competed in every game and usually was their best player.

All-Rowan County Girls

West (5)

Lauren Arnold, Jr.  — Averaged a steady 16.1 points per game and surpassed 1,000 career points.

Tiara Thompson, Fr. — While Arnold was MVP of the 3A championship game, Thompson also put up a double-double and was West’s “Most Outstanding.” She averaged 12.2 points.

De’Mya Phifer, Jr. — Scored in double figures in West’s last 11 games. Very quick, averaged 13.2 points and easily can reach 1,000 points as a senior.

Emma Clarke, Jr. — Lots of points and rebounds per minute. Averaged 9.5 points, but all of West’s individual numbers were held down by a full season of blowouts and running clocks.

Jamecia Huntley, Sr. — West’s leading rebounder and averaged 8.0 points. A big part of Salisbury’s 2022 title team, she played on state championship teams for two schools, giving her a unique place in county history.

Salisbury (4)

Kyla Bryant, Sr. — Averaged 22 per game, topped 1,800 for her career. Had a hot-handed stretch in which she scored 20-plus points in 12 straight games. She could turn it up when there was a serious challenge. Averaged 29.3 points in three games with North Rowan.

MaKayla Noble, Jr. — 2A championship game MVP. Averaged 13.0 points. A lot of offensive skills and a lot of size, she might have a higher ceiling than any girl in the county.

Icecis Nwafor, Sr. — Lots of clutch 3-pointers in big games and stout defense. Made a jump from reserve to “Most Outstanding” in 2A title game.

Mary Morgan, Sr. — Probably set a career record for charges taken, she did everything except score. Excellent passer, rebounder, defender and ball-handler.

North (3)

Bailee Goodlett, Jr. — A bundle of energy who can score off steals, on drives or by making 3s. Scored 40 points twice. Piled up 793 points, averaging a county-best 27.3. Headed for one of those rare 2,000-point careers and getting offers.

Brittany Ellis, Jr. — Track and field star (throws) who is tough and strong and a terrific 3-point shooter. Averaged 13.1 points.

Chloee Stoner, Sr. — Guilford softball recruit was not a big scorer, but she stood tall in the rebounding and steals column almost every game.

East (1)

Hannah Waddell, Jr. —  Led East with 10.8 points per game and had nights with 25 and 26. Excellent 3-point shooter.

South (1)

Madilyn Cherry, Sr. — Led the Raiders with 12.6 points per game. Had games of 23 and 28 late in the season.

Carson (1)

Allie Martin, So. — Jumped from freshman reserve to sophomore team leader and top scorer. She had hot games of 26 and 32 and averaged 12.4 points per game.


Salisbury (3)

Juke Harris, Jr. —  Impossible to guard when he got hot from long distance, he had games with 40, 42, 43 and 45 points. He scored less than 20 points only three times in 28 outings.

Mike Geter, Jr. — His 8.9 points per game doesn’t tell much of the story. All the intangibles in the world and he did his scoring in the games when the Hornets needed it.

Deuce Walker, Jr. — Known for his defense, but he’s come a long way on the offensive end and averaged 8.0 points per game. A very tough rebounder for a 5-foot-10 guy.

West (2)

Will Givens, Jr. — An outstanding shooter with plenty of range, he averaged 17 points in a solid league. He had 32-point efforts against 4A Davie and against Crest in the 3A playoffs.

Kayvone Norman, Jr. — Floor leader who provided a number of strong scoring games, especially against Rowan opponents.

Carson (2)

Jonah Drye, So. — Excellent shooter proved to be an ideal fit for Carson’s drive-and-kick system. Scored 20-plus four times and averaged a team-high 12.2.

Mikey Beasley, Sr. — Lefty could stroke it from the corners. He averaged 10.4 points and had games of 25 and 26.

East (2)

Tee Harris, Sr. — Averaged a double-double and put up 21 points per game. Scored 34 against North Rowan and had two more games with 30-plus.

Dylan Valley, Sr. — Scored from deep and on the drive and became the first 1,000-point scorer for Mustangs since 2008. Scored 20-plus seven times and averaged 17.7 per game.

North (2)

George Maxwell, Jr. — The county had some serious shooters, and Maxwell could match 3-balls with any of them. He could get insanely hot and put up 42 points vs. West Davidson. He averaged 16 per game to lead the Cavaliers.

Amari McArthur, Sr. — The Lenoir-Rhyne football recruit was more of a glue guy than a stats guy, but the Cavs always were better when he was on the floor.

South (1)

Aaron Jones, Jr. — Solid outside shooter with good size, he finished strong with four straight games with double-digit scoring.