Rock Hill boys’ basketball won five games last season, and yet the Bearcats are ranked No. 8 in the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association’s 2018-19 preseason poll.
That fact alone shows what most in the state’s high school basketball scene appreciate about Eric Rollings’ team, its potential. But that’s all it is at the moment, the possibility of success.
“It’s great for our kids but they understand we’ve got a lot of work to do in order to get to what we believe we can actually be,” said Rollings.
Besides, Nation Ford was ranked No. 2 and Fort Mill, Clover and Northwestern also look strong. Region 3-5A will be as tough as any in 5A basketball this season and it’s important to remember how young Rollings’ team is. The Bearcats start two freshmen and have one senior, guard Malik Logan.
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Maybe no Bearcat player represents the team’s possibilities more than Jordan Wildy, the team’s 6-foot-8 junior and Honor Roll student. Wildy has multiple Division I offers and one of the goals for him this season is to start realizing the huge potential housed in his long and slender frame. He’s already a game-changer on the defensive end of the floor, thanks to his length and shot-blocking ability. Rollings said around 20 college coaches came through his gym this preseason checking out Bearcat players and Wildy was one of the main attractions.
Wildy teams with 6-foot-5 freshman Luke Bracey, 6-foot-4 pogo stick Malachy McGuirt and 6-foot-4 junior Saiveon Williams to ensure that Rock Hill will have a height advantage over most opponents. Bracey played extensively last season as an eighth grader and should be a double-double machine, while McGuirt brings buzzing energy off the bench.
But even that group is in flux, especially Williams, who will play more on the wing this season after spending his first two prep years closer to the basket.
“For him and the next level, that’s where we felt like we needed to move him in order to benefit him,” said Rollings. “And we want to win, but in the end, putting these kids in college, having the opportunity to play at that level is where we really win.”
Williams has an offer from DePaul and recently visited East Carolina. But he knows he has work to do before he becomes as effective on the wing as he was inside. That’s emblematic of Rock Hill’s team, really.
“We’re still trying to figure ourselves out,” said Williams. “We really don’t know what’s our best strength right now.”
Rollings has a pair of slick ball-handlers in Shane Blakeney and Donavan Brown, who should help the Bearcats’ offense keep ticking over, whether in the open floor or halfcourt. And Logan, who hit five 3-pointers in a win over South Meck last week, carries the heavy and lonesome burden of providing senior leadership.
It’s clear that Nation Ford is the team to beat in Region 3-5A. But the Falcons were in a similar position to Rock Hill last season, tons of potential but no real track record of statewide contention. Jared Adamson’s team advanced to the third round of the 5A playoffs and set itself up to be a legitimate title contender in 2018-19. Even if Rock Hill doesn’t win a state championship this season, this group of Bearcats has at least another year to make a big dent in South Carolina high school basketball’s postseason before their prep careers end.
“We’re still a young team, but as long as everybody buys in, works together, keeps working hard, we should be good this year,” said Williams. “We should make a good run.”
Storylines to watch
- How will Lewisville adjust to 2A basketball? Region 4-2A is a tough football league, but the Lions should have a better shot of making the playoffs in hoops. Michael McCray’s team returns experienced guards and should be able to hang in the bigger classification.
- What can Nation Ford do this season? The Falcons reached the third round of the 5A state playoffs last season, but Jared Adamson returns almost his entire starting lineup. The Falcons have multiple sources of offense and great depth at guard. They’re not quite as deep inside as they were last season but reaching the third round of the postseason should be the bottom line expectation this season.
- The Herald’s coverage area has more boys basketball talent this season than in many years. There are multiple Division I prospects (or signees) in all four grades and that should make for a winter that provides plenty of entertainment, instead of just a high school football hangover.
Players to watch
Heze Massey, Clover - senior guard can fill it up offensively for Clover and coach Bailey Jackson.
Jacobi Wright, Fort Mill - sophomore guard is already getting some high-major Division I interest, with Clemson watching one of Fort Mill’s preseason practices. Wright can score the ball in a big way.
Kelton Talford, Great Falls - 6-foot-6 junior has an offer from Maryland-Eastern Shore and is a big reason the Red Devils are highly-ranked in the SCBCA preseason 1A state rankings.
Kemarkio Cloud, Lancaster - powerful guard is coming off an All-Region 3-4A season and should be full-speed in a few weeks after a football season at QB for the Bruins.
Demetric Hardin, Lewisville - teams with Maurice Grant to give Lewisville a long and talented pair of guards. The Lions compete in 2A basketball this season for the first time.
Zeb Graham, Nation Ford - last season’s All-Area player of the year has offers from Hampton, USC Upstate and Presbyterian College. Interest from many, many more schools for the pure scorer.
Khydarius Smith, Nation Ford - springy 6-foot-7 senior signed with USC Upstate several weeks ago. Smith is a big-time shot-blocker and finisher on the offensive end.
Shaman Alston, Nation Ford - another easy scorer for the Falcons, the 6-foot-4 senior wing has offers from Francis Marion, St. Leo (Fla.) and Wingate.
Ashton Parker, Northwestern - bouncy 6-foot-5 senior post is a difference-maker on the defensive end. He’s got an offer from Guilford College.
Zay Martin, Northwestern - 6-foot-3 senior wing is a scoring machine and a powerful player at the guard position. Has an offer from Spartanburg Methodist.
Zuric Harvey, Northwestern - jitterbug point guard has offers from Bob Jones University and Pfeiffer.
Saiveon Williams, Rock Hill - 6-foot-4 junior wing committed to DePaul also has heavy interest from East Carolina.
Jordan Wildy, Rock Hill - 6-foot-8 junior’s recruiting is picking up. He’s got offers from Tulane and Western Carolina.
Luke Bracey, Rock Hill - burly 6-foot-5 freshman played considerably as an eighth grader for the Bearcats last season.
Isaac Ross, South Pointe - senior guard should give the Stallions a solid backcourt pairing with freshman Quan Peterson.
Jameel Brooks, York - 6-foot-6 sophomore is part of a rebuilding York team this season with new coach Justin Zaleski.
Deuce Dean, York Prep - high-scoring senior guard is a high-major Division I recruit with offers from Charlotte, Colorado State, Kansas State, Saint Joe’s, Southern Miss and Virginia Tech, as well as many others.