Here’s a hearty thumbs up to Winston-Salem Prep. The Phoenix won another state championship by dismantling Rocky Mount Prep (53-41) in the Class 1-A final last weekend in Raleigh. Whether the crowd at Reynolds Coliseum realized it or not, they were eye witnesses to a special moment.
Not only did Winston-Salem Prep repeat as state champs, but the victory marked the third time in six years that the Phoenix has walked off the court with the state championship trophy in hand. This serves as resounding evidence that Coach Andre Gould’s program is a bona fide high school dynasty in men’s basketball in North Carolina.
For the second year in a row, Prep combo guard Mike Hughes (12 points, seven rebounds, four assists) was named the state championship game MVP. Hughes, a 6-feet-4 junior, is sure to be on a lot of college recruiting lists for next season.
There’s nothing magical or mystical about the Phoenix formula for winning. Throughout the state playoffs, Prep showcased its offensive proficiency frequently enough. Lock-down defense, however, is this team’s modus operandi – the key ingredient needed to complete its title-winning mission.
Scanning over the roster, there’s every reason to believe that Prep’s dynasty run is not over. The Phoenix lose only two seniors, one of whom is Raekwon Harney, the unflappable point guard with the smooth handle. Harney, arguably the team MVP for this season, will continue his basketball career at the college level. Just where he might wind up is yet to be determined. Harney is on the radar screen of several Division I colleges.
Harney will surely be missed. But, the Phoenix has learned how to adjust when star players move on. The fact is, it happened during this recently-completed season.
After Prep won the 2012 state title, prized college prospect Greg McClinton, the Phoenix’s best player, departed after completing his junior year to attend Hargrave Military Academy (Va.). He left in order to further hone his skills against elite-level competition to better prepare for prime-time college basketball. McClinton signed with Wake Forest and will join the program in the fall. The 6-feet-7 small forward is viewed as a key acquisition for the rebuilding Deacons who are looking to move up the ladder in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Next year’s Phoenix squad will feature eight seniors and six juniors. Another plus is that Prep’s junior varsity has developed as a viable pipeline for replenishing the roster. At least five players from the junior varsity are expected to compete for roster spots.
Aside from Hughes, Prep has the players to help keep the title streak going. Coye Simmons (6-feet-8 center) is a rugged defender and rebounder who has
developed nicely as an inside scoring threat. Aaron Lipscomb is as lethal as they come from 3-point distance (shot 47 percent from beyond the arc this season). Will Tibbs, a 6-feet-5 swing player with point-guard skills, could challenge for a starting position after turning in solid performances coming off the bench this season.
As talented and as game-tested as this group is, that’s no guarantee that Prep will win a third consecutive state title. Gould knows all the right buttons to push. Nevertheless, it’s still up to the players to put forth maximum effort and execute the game plan.
Who knows? Perhaps the Phoenix will begin to take winning for granted. Maybe this team won’t be as hungry for victory anymore. Or, it could be that Prep’s upcoming senior basketball class of 2014 will realize that they have an opportunity to continue something that’s very special. They can do their part to add to a growing legacy that few programs around the state have ever achieved. Stay tuned for further developments.
visit our facebook page to see the photo highlights from WS Prep’s championship game vs. Rocky Mount Prep