High school basketball: North kids missed the scoring hit, but look to reload
Posted 12:00 am Sunday, November 27, 2022
Ninth in a series of reports on local basketball teams…
By Mike London
SPENCER — Most of the firepower is missing and they won’t be tall, but North Rowan boys’ coach Jason Causby is confident the Cavaliers can find enough points and enough rebounds to build another strong team.
North was 19-6 a year ago. Five losses came to extra-strong conference rivals such as Salisbury and Thomasville. The Cavaliers won twice in the 1A state playoffs.
“We still have a lot of athletes, a lot of interchangeable parts, a lot of guys in that 6-2 to 6-3 range,” Causby said. “We could even score better than last season. If we play together, we can be dangerous. If the guys accept, and so far they have, I think we can be good.”
Causby is a proven trainer. Usually, he’s had exceptional athletes, but he’s also gotten a lot out of them. The only men to have coached more Rowan men’s basketball wins than Causby (Mike Gurley, Bob Hundley, Sam Gealy and Bob Pharr) are in the Salisbury-Rowan Hall of Fame. Causby will surpass Pharr’s win total this season.
But it won’t be an easy ride for the Cavaliers. The North is missing the top five scorers from last season, including double-digit guys Quashawn Carpenter, Derrick Hanson and Amir Alexander.
There has also been a significant preseason injury that the Cavaliers will have to overcome. Causby said Dyzarious Carpenter was playing as well as anyone on the roster, but he broke a thumb. He will be out at least until the end of December.
Amari McArthur will be essential. The star football receiver was very good at the rim his sophomore year, but he gave up a bit in his junior year and it wasn’t a big factor.
“He’s really important to this school in football, basketball and track,” Causby said. “I think last season of basketball he had the distraction of worrying about getting football offers and he wasn’t sure what was going to happen next, but he comes into this season with good football offers on the table. There was some pressure on him last season, but now he’s relaxed and going to enjoy his senior year of basketball. He can defend many positions, he is good on the backboards and he shoots the ball well”.
Like McArthur, Kemon O’Kelly is a tall and tall three-sport senior with some basketball skills.
“Kemon attacks well, he hits the glass hard,” said Causby. “We’ll probably use it near the basket.”
Jericho Charleston, who is averaging 5.9 points per game, is the Cavaliers’ leading scorer. As a freshman, he was promoted to the varsity team eight games into the season after dominating at the jayvee level. He scored in double figures three times.
“He’s a good scorer, but his biggest role will be as a point guard,” Causby said. “Charleston is a fast lefty who can dribble, drive and break down a defense, and we’re looking to him to provide a lot of the things that Quashawn Carpenter has given us over the past three seasons.”
George Maxwell, a junior guard who averaged 4.4 points per game, with a high of 17, will be counted on to increase his scoring production.
“He’s a good 3-point shooter and has a good pull-up game,” Causby said. “He’s a natural scorer, a guy who can get us a big bucket. He played spots last season because other guys were ahead of him defensively, but he’s worked hard to become a better defender.”
Senior Jalen Smith returns. He is a tall, long shooter at 6-foot-3, the best shooter on the team. He will be a factor as a zone destroyer.
Junior Jaemias Morrow, the star running back on the football team, has two years of college experience. He has only scored in double figures once, but he offers many positives.
“He’s tough, tough, and sometimes he finds space and plows through defenders on the basketball court like he does on the football field,” Causby said. “He’s a good rebounder for his size and a good leader.”
Jeremiah Alford, the quarterback, suffered an injury in North’s last football game, but he will be back on the field soon and will be a factor.
“He’s going to do a lot of sticky stuff for us,” Causby said. “He is very strong and he can handle the ball and defend.”
JD Sullivan isn’t tall, but he is big, and the senior football lineman will be asked to give the Cavaliers some muscle and presence in the paint.
Causby expects good things from varsity newcomers Jayden Polk and Jamarion “JoJo” Tarver.
Polk started out strong, scoring 17 points in North Rowan’s opening game against South Rowan.
“Polk is a 6-foot-3 lefty with some rebound,” Causby said. “He’s a good shot and he could be special.”
Tarver, a freshman, also had a strong college debut.
“He’s quick, he’s smart and he’s a really good passer,” Causby said.
Michael Strickland will help. He’ll probably be a fifth-quarter guy splitting time between the Jayvees and the varsity. He scored 22 in the game on the Jayvees’ opponents.
Without a real big man, it will take a committee effort at the boards, but Causby believes the Cavaliers can do a lot.
There’s not a lot of hype and not a lot of pressure. Salisbury and Thomasville are going to be good, and everyone knows it, but the Cavaliers can be there with them.
“We’re younger than last season and smaller than last season, so we’re sure to face adversity at some point, but I liked the way we started (78-31 over South Rowan),” Causby said. “We went out against South and the guys did everything they were asked to do. We played hard and for a first game, we played very well. I like this team. We just have to be relentless.”
KIDS OF NORTH ROWAN
Coach: Jason Causby (5th season at North, 75-23; 19th season overall, 246-147 at Rowan County)
2021-22: 19-6 overall, 8-4 1A/2A Central Carolina Conference
Playoffs Lost the third round to Bessemer City.
League: 1A/2A CCC (Salisbury, Thomasville, Lexington, South Davidson, West Davidson, East Davidson)
Top Returners: Seniors Amari McArthur and Kemon O’Kelly, Junior George Maxwell, Sophomore Jericho Charleston
Key Additions: Jayden Polk and Dyzarious Carpenter move from the Jayvees