High School Sports

HS basketball: is December the most important part of the season for York Prep?

York Prep’s D.J. Burns talks about the Patriots’ busy December

York Prep basketball standout D.J. Burns relishes December, one of the busiest times of the season for the Patriots when they face the best competition.
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York Prep basketball standout D.J. Burns relishes December, one of the busiest times of the season for the Patriots when they face the best competition.

For typical high school basketball programs, the holiday portion of the season usually carries less importance.

During Thanksgiving and Christmas many high school basketball players are focused on turkey and cranberry sauce, or requesting Xboxes or new Air Jordans from family gift-givers.

Some teams are still transitioning from football to basketball and getting all their players acclimated to playing together. Plus, exams and a long break from school are looming, so it’s understandable that a teenager’s thoughts might be scattered.

Most programs want to play their best basketball in February or March, not December.

York Preparatory Academy’s basketball squad is not a typical high school basketball program. Yes, these kids like to eat and yes, they do play video games and take exams.

But for charter schools such as YPA, December and the holiday season is one of their busiest portions of the basketball season. The Patriots have no league or state championship to chase in the spring. They do play in national tournaments at the end of the season, but December, with of all the tournaments they play in against other top-notch competition, is much busier for Frank Hamrick’s program than most.

Hamrick said that his team will play 16 games between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with 13 of those coming in December. That basically averages out to a game every two or three days during a time when some teams can go a week or longer without games.

“My wife knows there’s virtually no Thanksgiving or Christmas,” Hamrick said.

That schedule can really take its toll, as evidenced by this little bit of information that the coach threw in as almost an aside during a Wednesday interview.

He had a heart attack two weeks ago.

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York Prep's D.J. Burns and his teammates get plenty of exposure and quality competition during the busy month of December. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

YPA was playing Butler and Hamrick, not feeling well, sent the team on without him. He ended up having two stents put in and missed four games, but is back and feeling better.

Still, the team’s schedule hasn’t let up. YPA played games on Monday and Tuesday night in Asheville. But Hamrick’s players don’t seem to mind being so busy. In fact, they embrace it.

“I think this is the best part of the year,” said senior Jaron Williams, who will play college basketball at Longwood.

Heavily recruited junior guard Deuce Dean agrees, and he likes the exposure that comes with all the games. The players not only get noticed by colleges, but also get experience with a college-like travel/school schedule.

“We’re here for two days and then we could be on the road Thursday, Friday, and Saturday,” Williams said. “It really gets us prepared for the next level.”

The tournaments offer top competition against the best players and teams in the Carolinas, and sometimes beyond.

“We don’t only play top teams in South Carolina, but we play teams from other states as well,” 6-foot-9 junior D.J. Burns said. “I love it that way. Wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Burns is being recruited by many schools, including Tennessee and Virginia, and even defending national champion North Carolina. Hamrick said his talented team can compete with anybody. The Patriots have already played against individual players that are headed to UNC, Kansas, N.C. State, and Duke.

“You can see where you’re at as a player going against players that are top-ranked and committed to the top schools,” Dean said.

Case in point, Spartanburg Day School and one of the country’s top 2019 recruits, dunking machine Zion Williamson, will pay a visit to the young school on Eastview Road Jan. 6. Efforts were made to play the game at the larger Winthrop Coliseum, but scheduling conflicts made that impossible, and only 200 tickets remain before the fire marshal cuts off sales for the much-anticipated game.

The Patriots are ready to welcome Williamson and his team.

“He’s got to come here,” Dean said. “We haven’t lost here yet and don’t plan on it.”

Hamrick looks at his team’s December results to see how much it has grown, and expects the Patriots to hit peak form in the subsequent seven games in January. He feels like the schedule he put together this season can match up with any other.

“Here’s how I know,” Hamrick said. “Every time somebody needs a scouting report, they call or email me. I feel like this is the hardest schedule I’ve ever put together.”

December is busy and important, but the Patriots’ season does build to something else.

“February we’ll go to the National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) in Dayton, Tennessee,” Hamrick said. “First of March we’ll play in the USA National Prep Championships, and then we’ll go in the middle of March to the Grind Session “World Championships.” And that’ll be the toughest test.”

What’s up?

▪ The Chester Cyclones’ boys’ basketball team is 6-1. Sebastian Hopkins’ crew graduated just one senior, albeit an important one -- 3A All-State guard Malik Williams -- and has plenty of talent, including guard T.J. Hollis. Chester has beaten Northwestern and Rock Hill twice, and knocked off a third 5A school, White Knoll, Wednesday night.

▪ Lancaster senior Zaria Woods is off to a great start, averaging close to a double-double 20.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per outing. The 5-foot-10 post player signed to play college basketball at Francis Marion last month.

▪ South Pointe started 5-1 without all of its football players on the basketball court, and is 6-1 now after beating Northwestern Tuesday. The Stallions get a stern test of their credentials Friday, Dec. 15 against 5A state-ranked Nation Ford. B.J. Davis and Andarius Boulware give South Pointe an athletic and skilled 1-2 scoring punch and guards Isaac Ross and J.C. McCorn can get to the rim.

Ivory Latta basketball camp Saturday

Former York Cougar basketball star Ivory Latta is returning to the school Saturday, Dec. 16 to host a basketball camp from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The cost is $25 per athlete and the camp is open to boys and girls ages 7 to 17 years old. Registration begins at the school at 8:30 a.m. the day of the camp.

Standings (as of morning Dec. 14)

Region 4-5A boys

Team

Record

Nation Ford

5-1

Clover

3-2

Northwestern

3-4

Fort Mill

3-4

Rock Hill

0-7

Region 4-5A girls

Team

Record

Nation Ford

6-0

Rock Hill

7-2

Clover

5-3

Northwestern

4-4

Fort Mill

5-3

Region 3-4A boys

Team

Record

South Pointe

6-1

Lancaster

4-2

York

3-3

Richland NE

1-4

Ridge View

2-3

Westwood

2-5

Region 3-4A girls

Team

Record

Westwood

7-0

Richland NE

5-0

South Pointe

6-2

Lancaster

6-2

Ridge View

3-2

York

2-6

Region 4-3A boys

Team

Record

Chester

6-1

Camden

3-2

Indian Land

3-4

Fairfield Central

1-4

Columbia

1-8

Region 4-3A girls

Team

Record

Camden

4-1

Fairfield Central

3-2

Columbia

0-2

Indian Land

0-7

Chester

0-9

Region 2-A boys

Team

Record

Great Falls

6-0

Timmonsville

3-3

Governor’s School

3-3

McBee

2-3

Lewisville

2-4

Lamar

1-6

Region 2-A girls

Team

Record

McBee

2-3

Timmonsville

2-4

Lamar

2-5

Lewisville

2-6

Great Falls

1-5

Governor’s School

0-6

Standings compiled by Sam Copeland; email him high school sports scores at scopeland@heraldonline.com

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