WENDELL — Chris Davis coached his Corinth Holders team to within one game of a conference title and to the second round of the state playoffs last season.
And this time the Pirates no longer have any built-in disadvantages in boys’ basketball or any other sport. As a third-year school, Corinth Holders now has seniors.
The Pirates (20-8 last season) have been playing with the same nucleus for the last two seasons, and this time their goal is nothing less than a Northern Carolina 2A championship and a long run in the state tournament.
“Experience like that never hurts as long as we continue to grow,” Davis said. “If they progress as much from last year to this year as they did during the first two, it’s an advantage. They’ve really bought into the program and the concepts more and more and more. Whenever you go to a new place there’s a building time, and this wasn’t my first rodeo.”
The 12th-year head coach, the former Louisburg and South Granville mentor, is also a former assistant at both Clayton and South Johnston.
The Pirates were supposed to open against Princeton – coached by Chris’ brother Jeff – on Tuesday night before the Bulldogs postponed it because of their surprisingly long run in the state 1A football playoffs. Instead, Corinth Holders will debut at future Two Rivers 3A foe Smithfield-Selma on Nov. 30.
Davis said he thinks his team could be special this time around.
“We were going seven deep last year, and I think we should be able to go about 10 deep this time,” Davis said.
“I had four guys average between 12 and 15 points, and all of them got at least 22 points in one game.”
Three seniors and two juniors will start, in what Davis calls a five-guard setup that can be augmented with bigger players off the bench.
Senior 6-3 shooting guard Kenneth Collins averaged 15 points per game, while 6-2 junior Klilah Cox averaged 14.8 and 11.5 rebounds. Ki-yon Walden, a 6-foot junior, averaged 12.8 points and 5-10 point guard Kahlil Larry 12.3 points and 7.2 assists.
“Collins can shoot better than any player I’ve ever coached, and I think he can play college ball somewhere,” Davis said. “And Kahlil would be a Division I player if he were 6-1. Those 7.2 assists would translate into a ton at the college level, because in high school some of those plays don’t get finished. His assist-to-turnover ratio was ridiculous.”
Larry said he thinks the steady nucleus will pay off in a big way.
“We’re more experienced this time,” Larry said. “We play harder and we’re vocal. With all the seniors knowing it’s their last year we try to go as hard as we can in every practice. We just need to pick it up in practice, listen to everything coach has to say and be more mature as a team. This is the seniors’ last year and we need to play like it.”
Guard Hampton Smith is the team’s defensive stopper, Coach Davis said.
Off the bench
One key reserve is 5-10 senior Butler Collins, who missed all but the end of last season after an operation to repair a torn labrum from a fall car accident. Tori Carmichael, a 5-7 junior, is a second point guard and the team’s best on-ball defender who will sometimes play together with Larry to get the taller guard better shooting opportunities, the coach said.
Ethan Kersat, a 6-5, 230-pound senior, will likely be the first big man off the bench. Senior Adrian Price (6-3, 250) is an offensive tackle on the football team who will add beef to the lineup, and 6-7 junior Zack Wright brings the height.
Davis said one of his team’s best assets last season was its poise under pressure, and there is no reason it shouldn’t continue.
“Our poise was good in close games, but we made games closer than they should have been sometimes,” he said. “We did a great job protecting the lead – handling the basketball and milking clock. We can milk it until you give us a layup.”