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Northside Christian heavy favorite to three-peat, but approaching season humbly

By Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com
1030prepbasketball
Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
Two-time defending state champ Northside Christian is loaded with D-I recruits. They are (from left): James Demery, Keyshawn Woods, Davon Bell and Desean Murray.

When Byron Dinkins took the Northside Christian job three years ago, he asked the school’s administration for a few years to get the program going.

It didn’t take anywhere near as long as Dinkins imagined.

Northside lost in the state championship game in Dinkins’ first season. The Knights have won the N.C. 2A Independent Schools’ state championship in the two seasons since. And Northside enters the 2013-14 season – which kicks off this week – as heavy favorites to three-peat, thanks to four senior Division I recruits: 6-foot-6 wing James Demery (St. Joseph’s), 6-5 wing Keyshawn Woods (Charlotte), 6-4 forward Desean Murray (Presbyterian) and 5-10 gaurd Davon Bell (Presbyterian).

“I didn’t think it would happen this quickly,” said Dinkins, a former star at East Mecklenburg High and with the Charlotte 49ers. “I just told (the adminstration) to give me a lot more time. We got to the championship the first year and everything changed. From there, it happened pretty quickly. We had to adjust on the fly. That’s the big challenge that you have.”

Northside Christian was 26-3 in Dinkins’ first year and is 63-3 in the two years since.

This year, two starters return – Demery and Woods – but six players with heavy experience, including Bell, are back. Murray, who was an all-conference star at East Gaston, transferred during the summer. A power forward, he averaged 22 points and 11.1 rebounds last season in a public school league that featured nationally ranked and unbeaten N.C. 4A state champion Olympic.

Last season, Demery led Northside in scoring at 16.8 points per game, just ahead of Woods (14.9). Demery had 22 points in a 84-63 win against Concord’s First Assembly in the state championship game last February at Providence Day.

While expectations are high for Demery and the Knights to three-peat, Dinkins won’t start thinking that far ahead.

“We take it as it comes,” he said. “We’re not big, but every year is different and we’ll see what unfolds. We’ll modify how we play but we won’t change. You see what kind of team you have every year and you go from there.”

Dinkins said he never figured he could go from being a game opponents thought they had in the bag to becoming every team’s “Super Bowl” in just three years, but he admits that’s what has happened.

“We’re just looking at getting these guys ready each season and getting the guys who are going to college ready for college,” he said. “But it’s good what has happened. I’m sure our game is marked on a lot of schedules, but we just continue to do what we do and continue to play hard, and play together and play for each other.”

And win championships, too.

Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr Facebook.com/queencitypreps
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