Coach Rick’s Hoops and Dreams Observations: Day 1 Action
The Second Annual Hoops and Dreams Showcase had 14 teams and seven games on the first day of action at Methodist University. The Hoops and Dreams Showcase is a joint venture between Lucas Moore Reality (Fayetteville) and Phenom Hoop Report. There was plenty of high level action from the teams and the players. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the day’s storylines and recaps.
Welcome Back: Coach Anquell McCollum
A former standout at E.E. Smith High School and Western Carolina University basketball player, Anquell McCollum enjoyed being an assistant coach at his alma mater (Western Carolina). The college coaching profession is one that is fluid and brutal at best. After legendary coach Larry Hunter resigned and shortly passed away, Western Carolina was looking for a new head coach. Like all coaching hires at the collegiate level, most new hires want to bring in their own staff. That was the case as well with Anquell McCollum. After being sidelined from the coaching ranks, Coach McCollum had his opportunity to return to the sideline and coach Freedom Christian. The one thing that has always impressed us is Coach McCollum’s positive attitude and outlook on life. Even during his time of unemployment, Coach McCollum always looked at the bright side of things. That positive energy carried over his team in a hard fought loss to a very talented Great Bridge Christian team from Virginia which featured multiple D1 prospects. Even in defeat Coach McCollum enjoyed the moment, was glad to be back on the sideline doing what he loves best. For us at Phenom Hoop Report, Coach McCollum is truly one of the good guys in the business.
Fayetteville is Hoop City
If North Carolina is the “Hoop State,” then Fayetteville is the “Hoop City.” It’s unbelievable to comprehend the bevy of talent that exists in the city and the amount of quality teams and coaches. At the Second Annual Hoops and Dreams, we had the likes of Anquell McCollum (Freedom Christian), Bill Boyette (Fayetteville Academy), James Strong (Northwood Temple), Kurtis Darden (Village Christian), Heath Vandevender (Trinity Christian), JD Johnson (Cape Fear Academy), and Aaron Parker (New Life Christian). The city of Fayetteville continues to crank out collegiate prospects at every level.
One of the best: Coach Preston Davis (Independence High School)
We have been a huge fan of Preston Davis for quite some time. Last season, Coach Davis led Independence to the NCHSAA 4A state championship. Jamarius Burton graduated and earned a basketball scholarship to Wichita State University. That being said, Coach Davis returned seniors Matt Smith, Andra McKee and Raja Milton and earned a spot in the Fab 50 nationally. That being said, Coach Davis still doesn’t get the proper respect he deserves in our opinion. His teams are well coached, tough, disciplined, patience, but most of all play together. In the 69-59 win over Northwood Temple, Coach Davis has his team playing an aggressive and attacking defense. He mixes things up going from a half court zone to utilizing a 1-2-2 and a 2-2-1 full court press effectively. Look for Independence to make another title run at the NCHSAA 4A championship. He’s a master motivator and while his team is the defending state champion, he has his team playing with that proverbial chip on their shoulder. They are hungry and motivated which is not often easy to do after the previous year’s success. Mark it down, Coach Preston Davis is one of the best coaches in the state.
First Love Christian is loaded with talent
First Love Christian beat Moravian Prep 65-46. Remember, this is the same Moravian Prep team that lost in overtime to one of the best teams in the country in Oak Hill Academy. First Love Christian is well coached and have an abundant of talent, not to mention they play well together and are so well balanced. Leading the way was 6’5 2020 DJ Gordan (17points), 5’11 2020 Isaiah Wilson (16 points), 6’8 2019 Egon Ruhek (14 points), 6’7 2019 JaMier Fletcher (9 points), and 6’5 2019 Naim Miller (6 points). Isaiah Wilson overall play earned him the Phenom Hoop Report Game MVP. Look for this team to gain traction nationally and be a heavily recruited team over the course of the season.
Watch out for Cape Fear Christian and EJ Bethea
We’ve known coach JD Johnson for quite some time. He resurrected the basketball program at Statesville Christian the past two seasons. Now, he is at Cape Fear Christian doing the same thing. In the impressive 68-42 win over Heritage Christian (WV), 6’2 unsigned senior EJ Bethea used the platform to further enhance his stock as a scholarship ready prospect. Currently, sporting an offer from Lees McRae, look for other D2 and lower tier D1 programs to get involved. We’re talking about an a fundamentally sound combo guard that can easily transition to the point guard position at the next level. More importantly, we have always stated, shooters translate at every level and Bethea absolutely put on a shooting exhibition. He finished with a game high 30 points including seven 3-pointers. We were impressed with his poise, maturity and overall confidence.
Overcoming adversity: 6’3 2019 Talton Jones (Trinity Christian)
To put it mildly, Talton Jones has been through alot the past few months. Talk about resiliency and perseverance! Jones used the game vs. New Life Christian as a “statement game.” He was simply sensational as he poured in a game high 24 points. He did it all Friday afternoon at the Hoops and Dreams Showcase. He attached the rim, hit midrange jumpers and was effective on both ends of the court. Jones played a tough, gritty all around game. He played with a sincere passion and purpose and we at Phenom Hoop Report were proud of his effort and success on the court. In addition, he was selected the Game MVP.
One of the best defenders in the state: 6’7 2019 Greg Gantt (Trinity Christian)
We continue to be impressed with the overall play of Providence signee Greg Gantt. Yes, he is blessed with length, explosiveness and athleticism. A week ago at the National High School Showcase, Gantt put together one of this best all around performances especially on the offensive end of the court. Today, at the Hoops and Dreams, Gantt showed toughness on defense guarding multiple positions. It’s no secret when he played on Team Felton or with Trinity Christian, if the team needs a defensive stop, they look to Greg Gantt. Mainly, because he has all the physical attributes, but more important Gantt has the toughness, desire, and mental makeup to be the best defensive player on the court. In the game vs. New Life Christian, he was often matched up against smaller, quicker guards when they switched off ball screens. What did Gantt do, he sat down lower in a defensive stance, clapped his hands and embraced the challenge. Providence got a great one in Greg Gantt. As he stated from the Phenom National High School Showcase, Gantt has the possibility to be all All Big East performer; on both ends of the court.
Please be sure to read Coach Rick’s Hoops and Dreams Observations from Day 2 below