High school boys basketball: Givens will do his cooking on the court

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2024


West Rowan’s Will Givens. CK Photography

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA — When West Rowan senior sharpshooter Will Givens tells people he’s going to play college basketball in Charlotte for Johnson & Wales University, people are either amazed or amused.

The second-leading scorer for Rowan County males is going to a cooking school?

Say what?

Well, yes, and no.

Yes, it’s true Johnson & Wales is known nationally and internationally for the magic its students make as chefs, but that’s not who Givens is.

The 6-foot-1 Givens is a future accountant, but not many accountants can shoot basketballs like he can. He plans to cook for J&W all right, but he’ll be slicing and dicing some unfortunate opponent’s 2-3 zone defense.

“Everyone knows about Johnson & Wales as a cooking school, and that’s cool,” Givens said. “They’ve got some good basketball players over there. I have had a chance to meet some of the guys and play in some Saturday pickup games. The coaches can’t be there, but the older players can run things. I’ve fit in well with new guys.”

Givens will fit in well anywhere there’s a 3-point line.

“When coaches first started talking to me about Johnson & Wales back in September, I was skeptical,” Givens said. “But we kept communicating, we had some great conversations, and when I went over there, the campus was bigger than I expected and the basketball gym was better than I expected. I had a chance to go to Pfeiffer or Brevard (D3s that everyone knows), but Johnson & Wales seemed to want me the most. They seemed like the best fit to continue my career in college.”

West Rowan head coach Dadrian Cuthbertson got a first-hand look at Johnson & Wales during the 2023-24 season, as his daughter, DeDe Cuthbertson, was a freshman on a J&W team that played in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship game. His daughter obviously enjoyed the experience, made new friends and made future business connections.

Who does Johnson & Wales compete against?

Well, the Wildcats have a crazy range of opponents. They played a few exhibitions against D-I schools this past season, but most of the opponents were D2s or D3s. The J&W men lost to Johnson C. Smith 80-72 and lost to Pfeiffer 71-67, so it’s a competitive program.

Givens should help. He was one of the most consistent shooters and scorers the Falcons have had in the last three decades. He totaled 1,206 career points, playing for pretty good teams in a challenging league.

He basically was a three-year guy as he played only a few varsity minutes as a freshman.

The breakout for Givens came in the third game of his sophomore year — he scored 22 points in a win against Salisbury.

Givens suited up for the Falcons for 72 games the last three seasons and scored in double figures 63 times. He scored in the 20s 14 times. He scored his career high of 32 three times, and it was interesting who he racked up those 32s against — Davie, Crest and Robinson. Three good opponents and three close games. No slouches in that group.

His steadily improving scoring averages were 13.6 as a sophomore; 17.0 as a junior and 19.1 as a senior. His 1,000th point came early in a game his senior year at South Rowan.

“That was my best high school memory because it’s such a journey to 1,000 points,” Givens said. “Anytime I think about 1,000, I’ll think about all the family, teammates and coaches who helped me get there. There were so many up and downs on the way.”

Second-best memory for Givens? That was the dunk against North Iredell that got his senior season started.

“The first game of my last year of high school ball and all that,” said Givens who realized basketball was his game when he was very young. “It was nice to start the season with a dunk.”

He probably drilled 100 3-pointers for every dunk during his career. Givens is a good athlete who can get some fast-break points and points off defense, but his mastery of the 3-point line is always what made him special and made him a major threat. When you played West, the first thing you talked about was taking the 3-point line away from him, but his release was quick and deadly.

“Will has meant a lot to us,” Cuthbertson said. “He’s been a scoring leader for three years. Every time he stepped on the floor, he could go for 20 or 25, so teams had to worry about him. There has been major growth for him in the last year. He’s gained some size and some strength, and he’s putting the ball on the floor more than he ever has.”

At his recent signing party at West, Givens remarked that “everyone ate well.”

He can appreciate good cooking, but he’s got plans to make J&W a basketball school.