By Ariel Smith
East Chapel Hill High men’s basketball has always had the reputation of being a strong and disciplined team. The dependability of every individual player is viewed as instrumental for the team’s success. This group mentality made losing nine seniors last year a difficult challenge to surmount.
The team has stayed positive despite this enormous setback, rising to the challenge it presented. New leaders have emerged among the seniors and juniors to create a mindset where winning is the only option. Cameron Smith and Michael Newton, both seniors, named each other as team leaders, among a group of others.
Underclassmen have also proved important to the team this year, with two sophomores on the varsity team.
“Jack Hankins will be really important for the team this year,” Smith said, naming a sophomore who plays small forward.
The team is slightly apprehensive about only one thing—playing their biggest rival. A debate arose over who exactly this would be. Jordan was mentioned, but the players settled on Chapel Hill, a team that beat them once last year during the regular season, and with whom they’re looking to settle a score.
The squad has also benefitted from newcomers. Shikie White, who starts on varsity as a point guard, transferred to East for his senior year from Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore, Maryland.
“I love playing with these guys,” White said. “We’re disciplined and coachable, and we’re looking good. It’s going to be a fun year.”
However, the season is getting off to a slow start for the team, which currently holds a 1-2 record. The season opener against Carrboro was a close loss at 51-54. The men came out strong, but Carrboro pulled forward in the third quarter and catching up proved impossible. A 10-point loss to Rocky Mount four days later was mainly due to excessive turnovers and the impressive speed of the Wildcats’ opponents.
The team’s one victory against Wilson Fike—64-61 in overtime—juxtaposes the men’s first loss and allows fans to believe that the Rocky Mount game was merely a fluke. The Wildcats were down by four with one and a half minutes left on the clock. They tied the game, went into overtime, and scored most of their goals within the first minute.
The Wildcats will next face rival Chapel Hill on December second. However, they remain hopeful that their dedication to practice will pay off during the game, even if it is extremely hard to win.
“We all have heart,” said Justen Best, a junior on varsity. “We’re a good team.”
Hopefully for the Wildcats, this will prove to be true for an unpredictable and much-anticipated season.