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With 63.2 percent of its scoring lost to graduation, the assumption might be that the Greenfield School varsity boys basketball team is rebuilding this season.
The Knights reached the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A championship game behind the leadership of Coby White and Elijah McCadden — now in their freshman seasons at North Carolina and Georgia Southern, respectively. But Greenfield returns five players who saw significant minutes last season and added three newcomers expected to contribute right away, keeping the Knights as a 1-A contender.
“The expectations are the same,” head coach Rob Salter said. “I’m really excited. We had a lot of youth last year with experience and it’s their time to lead and it’s their time to shine. Obviously, losing Coby and Elijah, a lot of people think that we’ll be down but we’re not. I’m really excited about this year’s team. The guys who are returning have really taken Elijah’s and Coby’s work ethic and run with it. They’ve worked so hard in the preseason and in conditioning and the new guys who’ve come in have just jumped right in and are pushing the guys who were here. It’s a really good group that’s got some talent and it’s a different type of team but I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
The Greenfield girls also lost just two players from a team that won an NCISAA playoff game for the first time since 2011. With three key upperclassmen back for head coach Bruce Wall, the Lady Knights look to build on that success in 2018-19.
“We still don’t have the numbers I’d like to have, but hopefully this year I’ll have my first five and some of the ones coming off the bench will have more experience than I’ve had in the past,” he said.
The Knights tip off their season at home Thursday against the Raleigh Hawks homeschool team while the Lady Knights get going Tuesday, Nov. 13, at Wilson Christian.
A core of five returning players, including the Knights’ lone senior, Bryson Baker, combined for 28.6 of Greenfield’s points per game last season. Expect that figure to rise significantly.
Dji Bailey, a 6-foot-5 junior guard who has grown three inches since last fall, led that group with 9.5 points per game. One of the main ball handlers, Bailey is going to have to be more assertive this year, Salter said.
Jacari Outlaw, a 6-4 junior guard, put up 9.0 points per game despite being limited for much of the last two months of the season. Junior forward Trey Pittman has added muscle to his 6-6 frame.
“He’s being more aggressive on the glass. He’s looking to score more than he did,” Salter said.
Jahmi Foster, a 6-7 junior forward, could surprise a lot of people inside.
Among the new faces are 6-1 junior guard Creighton Lebo, the son of former East Carolina University head coach Jeff Lebo, a standout point guard at North Carolina in the 1980s.
“Creighton’s come in and he can flat shoot it but he can do so many things. He brings toughness,” Salter said of the transfer from Rose High in Greenville.
Junior guards Collin Guilford and Jordan Lynch will help Bailey with the ball handling duties while sophomores Justin Holland and Nathan Woodard are expected to contribute.
Salter labels defending NCISAA 1-A champion Fayetteville Trinity Christian as “still the team to beat,” while Charlotte United Faith and Northwood Temple Christian of Fayetteville as potential contenders. While Greenfield, which finished 25-10, came up short against Trinity Christian in the state final last season, Salter said, “We just didn’t play good enough to win that day but we’ll have a chance to do it again, hopefully.”
MORE THAN SIX
With just six players last season, the Lady Knights went 10-11 and reached the second round of the NCISAA 1-A playoffs. With leading scorer Kaelyn Wall, a 5-10 junior, back along with junior Carolina Stone and Sumer Hassan, the only senior, Greenfield has justifiable expectations of more.
Wall, who led the Lady Knights in just about every major statistical category, can be used in a variety of spots by her father, the head coach.
“Kaelyn is who they all look to to be our leader on the court. She can play any position I put her in,” he said.
Hassan and Stone are both multi-sport athletes like Wall while senior Avery Vester, Greenfield’s No. 1 singles tennis player, returns to basketball.
Eighth-grader Jeallen Holland was one of the top junior varsity players last season while Bruce Wall has high hopes for seventh-grader Serenity McNair. Freshman Tatum Godwin and senior Teresa Hadley should also see action as the Lady Knights currently have eight players on the roster.