Thursday, November 28, 2013
Fans of the North Augusta High School basketball team will see some fresh new faces this year.
Last year’s squad, anchored by seniors Tavarez Hall, TJ Sheppard and Kenny Finley, made it to the third round of the playoffs. The team finished the year with a 19-7 record, 7-3 in Region 5-AAAA. The team went on a run to capture the region crown, and picked up playoff wins against Richland Northeast and West Ashley, before falling to Sumter 70-67 in overtime.
Leading the charge for this year will be senior Christian Davis. The point guard was likened to a court general by head coach Al Young. He is one of two seniors – the other being Evan Parkman – on a relatively young squad. Budding superstar Malik Dunbar, only a junior, has made major strides in the offseason to improve his game and may find himself as the team’s No. 1 scoring option this year.
“Those two guys certainly,” Young said, referring to Davis and Dunbar as players to watch. “I also feel real good about Chandler (Harrison, another junior), who is playing real well right now. Jaquez Smith (sophomore), who started for us a lot last year and played well, I expect him to do well this year. Hopefully he has grown and gotten better in his game.”
Another player that Young is excited to see is Victor Johnson. That name may sound familiar to some, and that’s because Johnson is currently playing on the defensive line for the football team. Last year, he didn’t get much playing time behind Hall, but this could be his year to step up.
“He’s quite capable, and he’s a big guy,” Young said. “I think he’s going to play well and he’ll step up.”
Last year’s team was known for its depth and having a number of playmakers who could put up double-digit points. Young said he is a bit concerned that this year’s squad may not have that quite yet, at least until football season ends and the team gets some reinforcements.
“These guys out here didn’t have to be the guys last year,” Young said. “Now they don’t have anyone else to depend on – they’re going to have to be the ones to step up. It will be important and it will be interesting to see how they respond to that. They won’t have anyone else to look back to – it’s all on them now.”
For the football players having to come off the field and on to the court, Young said it is sometimes difficult for them to make that transition.
“Conditioning is a little different, but sometimes you’ll have kids who are good athletes who can step right in,” he said. “Playing basketball is just different.”
For their part, the players are feeling confident. Dunbar and Davis both hope to make the All-Region team, with loftier goals including All-State.
“I just want to basically lead this team,” Davis said.
Harrison said he hopes to be “better as a person” and to lead the team to the state title.
Of course, the state title is the biggest goal, but Dunbar has one checkmark he hopes to get along the way.
“I want to go undefeated in the region,” he said with a smile.
The team will have some time to gel together with its first action coming in the 100 Black Men tournament on Friday and Saturday in Augusta. The team’s first game will then be Dec. 3 at Evans, Ga., with the home opener coming on Dec. 7 against Greenbrier.
“This first group (the starters) will be fine,” Young said. “I think they have played together enough, but the newcomers will have to learn what we do. It takes a while, and I always tell kids that it’s hard to play basketball.”
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter @NAStarRodgers.