Destiny is on Vikings’ side
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Monday, Nov. 18, 2013

Destiny is on Vikings’ side

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Bill Kiser/bkiser@charlotteobserver.com - Bill Kiser/bkiser@charlotteobserver.com
North Mecklenburg’s Destiny Barrino led the Vikings to a 24-6 record and the 4A Western Regionals last season.
  • FIVE TO WATCH Destiny Barrino North Mecklenburg Sr., Guard-forward, 5-8 The Viking senior does everything well, averaging 13 points, seven rebounds, six steals per game last season on a 24-6 team. Now, Barrino wants to take her game and her team to another level. Getting D-II looks from Armstrong Atlantic, Belmont Abbey and Johnson C. Smith for now. Ezzine Mbamalu Lake Norman Charter Sr., Center, 6-2 Knights’ all-time leading rebounder (1,033) and shot blocker (279) can dominate a game at both ends averaging 13 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks as a junior. Also has 956 points coming into the year; Winthrop University commit. Alex Busch Lake Norman Charter Sr., Guard-forward, 5-10 Rugged guard/forward was the team MVP last season, averaging 15 points, six rebounds per contest on a team that got to the 1A state quarterfinals. Also 956 career points. Coach Bobby Williams says she is one of the most underrated players in the state. Kelsey Dean Hough Sr., Forward, 5-10 Hard-nosed Huskies forward averaged 15 points and six assists on a veteran Hough team that won 18 games and can be a big factor in the MECKA 4A conference race and beyond. Has interest from Mary Washington (Va.), but hopes to earn more looks. Maya Caldwell Davidson Day Fr,, Guard, 6-0 Caldwell earned all-state honors as an eighth-grader last year, averaging 16 points per game while helping her Patriots team to an SPAA conference title and a 17-win season. This year, Caldwell and Co. should be even better.

Destiny Barrino is a “matchup nightmare” to most of her opponents, says North Mecklenburg girls basketball coach Jennifer Baker.

The 5-foot-8 senior can play any position on the floor, from point guard to the wings to center, even, without a problem.

When Barrino is on offense, if teams put a smaller guard on her, she will overpower them with a build that allows her to bench press 200 pounds and squad 245 pounds. And if they put a taller post player on her, Barrino can blow by a defender and take the ball to the basket.

On defense, Barrino averaged six steals per game last season.

This summer, she worked tirelessly on her outside shot and pull-up, mid-range game, making Barrino a complete package.

“You never want to come back the same as the year before,” Baker said. “You always want to be better. She has improved her game a lot. I think people are going to be surprised how much better her offensive game has gotten.”

Barrino feels good about her playing, as well.

“I feel 100 percent better about my game and my shot,” Barrino said. “I really don’t care what position I am playing as long as I am helping my team win games. I actually like to play all the positions at different times.”

Barrino is a constant concern for the opposition, as the reigning I-Meck conference player of the year (now MECKA conference) can do it all, averaging 13 points, seven rebounds, and five steals per game last season.

Barrino has the ability to dominate on both ends of the floor – she had 22 points in a win over Lake Norman last season and 20 points in a victory over West Charlotte; defensively, she had 15 steals in a win over Independence and 10 steals in tight victories over Mallard Creek and Mooresville.

Barrino is always looking to improve and gets regular advice from her cousins, Tiffani Johnson, a former Tennessee and WNBA player, and Ivory Latta, who played at North Carolina before moving on to the WNBA and is now an assistant coach with the Tar Heels.

“I had a good season last year,” Barrino said. “But this year, I think I can be even better. I want to average 20 points a game, but more important, I want to help my team win. To do that, I have be a great role model to all the younger players and make sure I set the tone in everything we do from practice to workouts to games.”

Baker agrees, saying everybody is watching Destiny.

“I’ve told her, ‘as you go, they (teammates) will follow,’ ” Baker said. “She can’t take breaks, because everybody is watching her every move. She has done a great job so far of becoming that leader and a much more vocal person with teammates.”

Barrino says she hopes to replicate everything they did last year, when the Vikings went from 13-12 in 2011-12 to 24-6 last year, including a 13-1 mark in I-Meck 4A conference play to win the league. The Vikings also got to the 4A Western Regional semifinals before losing to Porter Ridge.

While North Meck lost several key players from last year’s team, including Kelly Beasley, Jasmine Bullock, Jasmine Cash and Kelsey Ellison (all graduated), Barrino believes they can be just as good, if not better.

That effort will start with fellow returning seniors Brianna Jones (7.9 ppg), Lindsey Harris, Bria Hill, Pete Kalokola and even sophomore Sha’Nyia Lester.

Baker and Barrino also like their three freshmen in Monell Dunlap, Dynasty Heyward and Lauren Stokes.

“This year means a lot to me because it’s my senior year,” Barrino said. “I feel like we can be even better this year and go farther (in the playoffs).”

Barrino hopes her play will also help her get more interest from college coaches. She currently has interest from Division II schools like Armstrong Atlantic (Ga.), Belmont Abbey and Johnson C. Smith.

“I definitely believe Destiny has the talent to play college basketball,” Baker said. “She is going to be a steal for whoever gets her. She just has to keep working hard.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer for Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com .

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