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In recent weeks, Wake Forest has been burning the recruiting trail through The Wilson Times readership area, and it’s paid off for the Demon Deacons in the form of two verbal commitments.
Greenfield School junior point guard Dji Bailey tendered his non-binding pledge to the Atlantic Coast Conference school May 6, ostensibly ending a pursuit that included George Mason, Rice and Boston University. However, the combination of Wake Forest’s academic and basketball credentials steered the 17-year-old Bailey towards Winston-Salem. An opportunity to compete for playing time is expected to be available once Bailey steps foot on campus.
“I’ll be coming in 2020 and most of the guards will be leaving and graduating,” Bailey said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I also think it’s a good fit for me and my playing style.”
As a junior at Greenfield, the 6-foot-5 Bailey averaged 11 points, six rebounds and six assists per game in helping the Knights to their first North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A championship since 2006 en route to a 33-4 record. He also bolstered his profile on the AAU circuit with Garner Road West, where he continues to play. The team is backed by former NBA star David West and includes a pair of ACC commits in DayRon Sharpe (North Carolina) and Carson McCorkle (Virginia).
“I was looking for a good education, a family atmosphere and somewhere where I could really fit in and play a lot of minutes,” Bailey said.
The 33 victories were a program record for Greenfield.
Wake Forest is coming off an 11-20 season in 2018-19 that saw it finish 4-14 in the ACC, and in March, the school announced that embattled head coach Danny Manning, the owner of a 65-93 record at the school, would return for a sixth season.
Bailey assured that his spoken word to the Demon Deacons would remain solid.
“Wake is where I want to go,” he said.
COOLEY LOCKS IT DOWN
While one area player plans to toil under the lights of Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, another will head to the hash marks of BB&T Field.
Southern Nash junior running back Quinton Cooley recently put to rest his college recruitment by offering a verbal commitment to the Demon Deacons of head coach Dave Clawson.
Cooley’s physical toughness may be unmatched in the Times coverage area. In his team’s wild 57-56 second-round loss to Eastern Alamance in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs, Cooley amassed a school-record 413 yards on 33 carries and four TDs.
But what makes those numbers stand out even more was the fact that Cooley played most of the contest with a separated shoulder. On multiple occasions, Cooley, after N.C. State freshman Zonovan Knight was lost to an ankle injury, would have to come to the sidelines to have the shoulder popped back into place.
Cooley also had a standing offer from the United States Naval Academy.
“I love Wake because of the facilities and the relationships that I’ve built with Coach (running backs coach John) Hunter,” Cooley said. “When I went there, he was like my middle school coach, I built a relationship with him.”
Cooley recounted the story of Hunter coming to visit Southern Nash on the opening day of a recruiting period. Once Cooley was put through the paces, Wake Forest wasted little time in extending a scholarship offer.
While he won’t be in the vaunted double-wing offense at Wake Forest, it will cost the school a substantial, albeit undisclosed, amount to part with Clawson anytime soon. The coach signed an extension that keeps him in Winston-Salem through the 2026 season after the Demon Deacons won their third straight bowl game last season.
“The first day they were recruiting, they came out to the school and showed me love,” Cooley said. (Hunter) came to the school and did a couple of drills and then he offered me. He said, ‘Now, it’s the first day of recruiting and I’m not going anywhere else except for Southern Nash to recruit you.’”
The verbal is not binding yet, but that doesn’t matter to Cooley.
“Nah, I’m not going anywhere else,” he said. “I love Wake Forest.”
There are worse positions to be in than the spot currently occupied by SouthWest Edgecombe High junior Keishon Porter.
The 6-4 wide receiver, almost by his lonesome, has redefined what is possible on the offensive side of the football in Pinetops.
A traditional wishbone program by trade, the Cougars threw it more with Porter and his quarterback, Jayden Lewis, in 2018, and that’s a trend that is expected to continue into next season.
Porter was a matchup nightmare for defenders last season on his way to a 43-reception showing for 790 yards. However, that includes 16 TDs. That was enough for new Charlotte head coach Will Healy, who extended an offer to Porter in early May for his initial Football Bowl Subdivision offer.
But wait, there’s more. An basketball offer is also on the table from NCAA Division I program Hampton University.
An accomplished two-sports star at SouthWest, Porter and his wiry, high-flying frame on the basketball court has picked up attention during the spring playing for Team Trezz, an AAU team sponsored by former North Edgecombe star Montrezl Harrell, who played at Louisville and is now with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Porter averaged 19.3 points per game and 6.4 rebounds, both team highs, with SouthWest last season on his way to Times All-Area acclaim in both football and basketball. He also led the team in assists as his Division I basketball stock continues to climb.
ODDS AND ENDS
Southern Nash freshman running back/defensive back Jackson Vick picked up an FBS offer from Charlotte, while SouthWest Edgecombe junior lineman Jaquez Powell gave a verbal pledge to East Carolina in April.
Powell has also been offered by other FBS schools, including Charlotte and Georgia State. FCS James Madison has also offered Powell.