MINT HILL After watching 6-foot-4 forward Deion Lane play for a few years, Independence boys basketball coach Preston Davis was convinced that Lane could play in college.
There was one problem: Lane would spend his summers in Kansas visiting his father instead of playing on an AAU team. Davis figured Lane needed some summer exposure.
I sat him and his mom down last spring, said Davis, whose team will play a second-round game against Greensboro Smith on Wednesday. Shes hard on him about his academics, about making sure hes on point. I said, Ms. Lane, he has a chance to play college ball and go to school for free, but hell never go if the colleges dont see him.
Lane and his mother decided to join the Charlotte Nets AAU team and he had a big summer and has continued this winter. He leads Independence (17-10) in scoring (17 points) and rebounding (9.8). He led the Patriots to the Southwestern 4A regular-season championship after a tough start.
Independence expected to return team MVP Marcus Graves this season, but Graves father, Fred, a former Carolina Panthers assistant coach, got a job with the Chargers in San Diego. Suddenly, Independence had a big hole, and Davis still had a tough schedule put together to showcase a team he thought would have five seniors.
The Patriots started 2-3 and suffered a three-game losing streak in late December, falling to 6-9. Since then, with Lane leading the way with a constant stream of games with double figures in scoring and rebounding the Patriots have won 11 of 12 games.
Now, they are two wins away from the N.C. 4A Western Regionals.
Deion was third-team all-district last year, Davis said, but playing AAU summer ball really helped him break out.
Lane carries a 3.5 GPA and has a 1,570 SAT score. Hes got offers from Belmont Abbey and Queens and interest from Hampton, USC Upstate, Erskine, Chowan and Campbell.
Things have really worked out for Deion, Davis said. When Marcus left, I asked him to step up. We knew we had a void to fill if we were to have any success. We have a lot new younger guys but our seniors have led by example. Theyre stepping up and playing hard. We go as they go, and Deion, absolutely, is a huge part of that.
Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
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