Third-year Charlotte Country Day boys basketball coach Dwayne Cherry remembers when the Bucs basketball team was special. During his senior year in the 1992-93 season, Country Day had its best season in eight years, won the private schools regular-season championship and made it to the state semifinals, before losing 78-66 to eventual state champion Charlotte Latin.
Since then, Country Day hasnt had a lot of basketball success. But now in his third season as coach, Cherry wants to take his alma mater back to its glory days.
He said having players like senior point guard Matthew Spears is a big boost to his efforts.
Spears who has offers from Division II Newberry, Pfeiffer and Wingate transferred from Harding before his junior year and is becoming a star as a senior. He leads the Bucs in scoring (17.8 points per game) and assists (6.3). Hes second in rebounding (5.3) and steals (2.8).
Country Day (2-4) plays at Monroes Parkwood High Wednesday night at 7:30.
Matthew is overall just an outstanding basketball player, Cherry said. A lot of times, when you come to Country Day, you dont expect to see a guy like Matthew Spears who can compete against anyone we play against.
Country Day hasnt had an All-Observer first-team star since Eric Polite averaged 23 points per game in the 1992-93 season and eventually signed with Bucknell. The Bucs havent had a winning season since 2007-08, though Cherry has been making steady strides.
Country Day was 5-19 in 2009-10, the year before he took over the program. The Bucs were 13-13 in Cherrys first season and 11-16 in his second. One area Country Day should look to improve on is taking care of its home court. The Bucs are 14-20 at home over the past three seasons.
Cherry whose team has lost two games by a total of four points this year said he caught a little heat for scheduling a home game with perennial state and national private school power Christ School because everyone said (Country Day) would get embarrassed.
Country Day lost 68-55 at home to Christ School Saturday, but trailed 31-30 at halftime and 46-40 at the end of the third quarter. Country Days Hassan Mason had 18 points and four rebounds. Spears had another solid floor game with 15 points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal.
There was no need to worry.
Im more confident over here, Spears said. At Harding, there was more competition and youre fighting for a spot, and if I do make mistakes now, I can play through it. I get to play more freely and play to my strengths.
Spears is a regular at the Ballantyne-area Accelerate Basketball training center and you can find him most mornings at 5 a.m. at a gym near his house. He also runs two miles three times per week, in addition to basketball, to keep his conditioning.
Cherry said all that work is paying off.
We dont have the talent a Harding would have, Cherry said, and now he knows its moreso his team, his show, and he has the green light and the freedom without looking over his shoulder. Hes helping us big time. Last year we played Mallard Creek in a tournament and I heard one of their kids say, Wow, I didnt know they had a kid over here like that. So its important for us to have a player like (Matthew) to showcase and put in the forefront. Were tying to build something over here.
And Spears is helping him do it.