By: Chris Long
Coming off of their most successful season in school history, Husky basketball has lots to look forward to this season. Last year, the Huskies had a school record of 21 wins, including the program’s first state playoff win. While the season ended prematurely at home against conference rival, Leesville Road, in the second round of the playoffs, players and coaches are eager to return to the court for the 2016-17 season. “I’m looking forward to the challenge to taking a new group of guys and hopefully building on the momentum that we had from last season,” said head coach Triden Brill. “We hit a lot of firsts last season and we just want to build off of that, and I think we have a group of guys that are ready to take the next step.”
The team returns four out of five starters, including Virginia Tech commit Jarren McAllister, and the school’s all-time leading scorer Jayden Gardner. The team also boasts many seniors including point guard Thayer Thomas, shooting guard Colton Reed, and forward Ian Hinkley. That senior leadership also leads to the hope expressed by coach Brill. “We have a lot of seniors and they have been here before, they know what to expect and I’m hoping that they can set a great example,” said Brill.
Gardner and McAllister still have two full seasons of varsity basketball left apiece, yet have already made names for themselves. Gardner is a dominant post presence who hasn’t scored less than 10 points in a game since he was a freshman. McAllister is a long and super athletic guard who is solid in every part of the game.
Reed broke out last season as a top threat from outside. He set the school record for 3 point field goals with 48. Hinkley, the so-called “Glue Guy”, plays like a guard in a forward’s body and is a difficult matchup for any high school player at the 4 position.
In total, the starting lineup will be very tall, with Gardner at 6’7, Hinkley at 6’5, McAllister at 6’4, Reed at 6’3, and Thayer Thomas who is 6’0. They will also see bench contributions from 6’8 Eric Swanson, 6’4 Hunter Dickerson, and 6’0 Bryon Thorpe.
Thomas, who is probably the most versatile athlete in all of Wake County, will not be available for at least the first week of the season as he fulfills his pass-catching duties with the football team. An unnamed young guard will start in his place.
Heritage will have one of, if not the, most talented team in the Cap-8, which they hope will help push them to the cusp of a conference championship. “We want to win a conference championship,” said coach Brill. “Hopefully that will get us ready to make a run at the state championship.”
Games to watch:
December 27-29 versus TBA (John Wall Holiday Invitational). Previously known as the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational, and before that the Glaxo, this annual holiday-time tournament in Raleigh has become a marquee event nationwide. The tourney is expected to have the same luster this season as in years past with a prestigious lineup of private and public schools alike. This year, Heritage gets its opportunity to make some noise on the national scene. Although we don’t yet know who exactly the Huskies will play the brackets are expected to be released soon.
Both games against Millbrook (1/6 at Millbrook, 2/3 at home). Last year both regular season games against Millbrook were some of the most exciting in program history. The Huskies beat then undefeated Millbrook in January at home, setting off pandemonium inside the gym. In the second match up with the Wildcats the Huskies had a large lead in the second half, but Millbrook came back to win in the final few minutes. This year Millbrook again looks like they will be a force to be reckoned with. Both matchups will likely be hyped up and there will be two showdowns.
Both games against Leesville Road (12/29 At Leesville and 1/20 at home): Who can forget all three games against Leesville last year? The first matchup went into triple overtime and was won by the Huskies. The next game at Leesville was won by the Pride, but minus a slow first quarter by the Huskies, the game was nearly equal. The final matchup between the two teams was the second round of the playoffs when freshman phenom, Jalen Benjamin, silenced the Heritage gym when he sunk the game winner with less then a second remaining. While the memories against Leesville aren’t the happiest, they are definitely fresh in the minds of players and coaches. Leesville is again a contender, and Jalen Benjamin will be back. Both games against Leesville should be good ones, and fun to watch.
The season begins on Thursday, November 17 at Rolesville. The Huskies then open up the home season on November 22, also against the Rams.
11/17 @ Rolesville
11/22 vs. Rolesville
12/1 vs. Holly Springs
12/5 vs. Jordan
12/7 vs. Corinth Holders
12/9 @ Leesville Road
12/13 vs. Sanderson*
12/16 @ Enloe*
12/20 vs. Wake Forest*
12/27 TBA (John Wall Holiday Invitational – Broughton HS)
12/28 TBA (John Wall Holiday Invitational – Broughton HS)
12/29 TBA (John Wall Holiday Invitational – Broughton HS)
1/3 @ Knightdale
1/6 @ Millbrook*
1/10 vs. Wakefield*
1/13 @ Broughton*
1/16 vs. Apex (MLK Invitational – Athens Drive HS)
1/20 vs. Leesville Road*
1/24 @ Sanderson*
1/26 vs. Enloe*
1/31 @ Wake Forest*
2/3 vs. Millbrook*
2/7 @ Wakefield*
2/10 vs. Broughton*
2/13 Conference Tournament Begins
2/21 State Playoffs Begin
* – Cap 8 conference game