High School Basketball: The Eastern boys still have a 1-2 punch
Posted at 12:00 AM Tue, Nov 22, 2022
Seventh in a series of reports on local basketball teams.
by Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY East Rowan’s boys’ basketball program got a nice boost last season from the transfer of Teyachta “Tee” Harris, who debuted in stunning style with 31 points and had Mustang fans dream big.
It turns out that the 6-foot-6 Harris, who came to East Virginia, was a really strong all-county player, but not an underdog. Harris’ 31-point effort against Mount Pleasant on opening night turned into a season-high and very little. He scored 20 or more five times and averaged a double-double—14.6 points and 10.8 rebounds—but that wasn’t enough to get over the hump. East’s offensive numbers are actually down from the previous season. The Mustangs won only seven games overall and the only truly satisfying wins were against SPC Northwestern rivals Cabarrus and Carson.
East’s season ended early, with a 53-27 loss to Carson in the play-off game for the South Piedmont Conference championship.
In comic book terms, Harris was a young Batman, but the East needed Superman to step up in the SPC. The good news for the Mustangs is that they could see the red-headed champ fly as a regular this season.
“As a senior captain, we want Tee to lead, lead, and lead,” said third-year East coach Andrew Porter. “He’s had a great summer and makes big gains with his bounce shot. He’ll be able to shoot people, and he’ll knock them down. He was good last season, but he’ll be a much more complete player when he’s a senior.”
East has a legitimate 1-2 punch. Guard Dylan Valley was the Mustangs’ leading scorer as a junior, with 15.9 points per game. Like Harris, Vale scored 20-plus five times. He had a height of 27.
Vale can play the point, although East will want to use him off the ball most of the time to increase their chances of scoring. Even with a COVID-shortened sophomore season and an eye injury that cost him a game last season, Valley has a chance at 1,000 career points.
“Dylan can score, and like Tee, he’s more forthcoming when he’s a senior and pushing our other guys,” Porter said. “It adds to his game every year. Opponents try to take the three-point line away from him, but he takes it to the basket and finishes it better than ever. He’s got a really nice pull. He’s added a float. He’s aggressive, he’ll attack, he has the mentality that people are going to have to turn it off.”
Porter has the luxury of knowing he will get 35 to 40 points from the Harris/Valley combination most nights, but it will be improvement by other Mustangs that determines how much damage the East can do this season.
“We lost five games last year that we could have won, and that’s the difference in making or getting out of the playoffs,” Porter said. “The guys work really hard, and we put most of our time on the defensive side trying to win more of those games 50/50. We preach defense, defense, defense. We had a good atmosphere, a lot of really good energy as we prepared for the season.”
There have been no major transfers, so the improvement at the Mustangs has to come from within, from the players who have been in the program and gotten stronger and more mature.
Porter has described Jonathan Wimpola, the 6-foot-3 youngster who showed some flashes last season, as the most likely candidate for a breakout.
“He’s improved a lot and can be an inside-out guy for us,” said Porter.
Guard Tijon Everhart will be important as a ball handler, driver and distributor. The rookie has the speed he creates for his teammates and can get to the edge.
Garrett Lee, a forward who was promoted to the university as a freshman midway through the season, scored twice, averaged 5.7 points per game and should have a bright future.
Jaden Sprinkle, a rookie point guard, will have a huge role and could take some of the scoring pressure off Harris and Valley if he can make 3-pointers.
“He’s a talented shooter who can stretch the earth,” Porter said. “He’s cunning. He knows how to fire his shot.”
Juniors Jaguar Jones and Taiquan Danzin are fierce defenders who will add speed to the bench.
Porter is expecting some good minutes from senior striker Caleb Haynes.
“He has skills,” Porter said. “It could be a surprise.”
The versatile Jordan Brooks is a charming man who can defend in almost any position, so he’ll be a factor.
William Chesney and Ahmed Ali will be relied on to hit inside and rebound. Ali returns to basketball after being away from the game.
Whitt Hoesman could help the shooter, but he was slowed down by a back injury.
“We’re still young, but I love this team,” Porter said. “They’re after it. I know they’re going to play hard every night.”
The children of the eastern rowan
Coach: Andrew Porter (Season 3, 10-26)
2021-22: 7-15 overall, 4-10 3A Southern Piedmont Conference (tied, 6th)
Conference: 3A SPC (West Rowan, South Rowan, Carson, Lake Norman Charter, Concord, NW Cabarrus, Central Cabarrus)
Top returnees: Seniors Dylan Valley and Ty Harris