When coach Daniel Jenkins needs to point out an example of a positive attitude and strong work ethic to the younger players in his program, he needn't look past his current lot of players.
No one associated with the Northwest Cabarrus boys basketball team has a better story to tell about perseverance than starting varsity guard Tyler Honeycutt. Once at the end of the junior varsity bench, the 6-foot-4 Honeycutt blossomed into an all-conference player in just a couple of years.
Now a senior, Honeycutt's leadership is one reason the Trojans have overcome the loss of almost half its roster to be in playoff contention by the end of the season.
A product of the Odell Recreation leagues, Honeycutt once hit a three-pointer from half court to help his team win a four overtime thriller as a sixth-grader.
Admitting he "didn't play a whole lot" at Northwest Cabarrus Middle School, Honeycutt's playing time status didn't change much when he reached high school. He was one of the three freshmen who played for a few minutes at the end of the junior varsity games when the team had a leading score.
Honeycutt became a JV starter his sophomore year when the team won its conference championship. After the season, Jenkins took notice of Honeycutt's improved outside shooting and thought there might be the makings of a solid varsity player.
"In his early years, his confidence was never low," said Jenkins. "But just to see him pick out his weaknesses without anyone saying anything to him, that's what you want to see. He used his strengths to cover up his weaknesses, and that spoke to his basketball IQ and his intelligence as a person."
Neither Honeycutt nor Jenkins had specific expectations for him going into his junior year. Honeycutt thought he'd like to start by the middle part of the season, but that milestone came much earlier in the season.
By December, Honeycutt had emerged as a rising star. At the Cabarrus County Christmas tournament, he scored 20 points in a win over Jay M. Robinson and 22 against West Stanly in the championship game, and he was named the tourney's most valuable player.
In Northwest's first game after the holiday break, Honeycutt lit up North Iredell for eight three-pointers and a season-high 31 points.
At the season's conclusion, Honeycutt averaged 14.2 points per game. He was named to the all-North Piedmont 3A team, all-Cabarrus County and was one selection away from earning all-district honors, which included teams from Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties.
Some season highlights have included beating South Rowan on a three-point buzzer beater and scoring more than 20 points in four games, including a season best 24 points against Hickory Ridge on Jan. 5.
Through 18 games, the Trojans were 10-8 overall and 6-5 in the SPC, a solid third place in the South Piedmont 3A Conference.
According to Jenkins, Honeycutt (averaging 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds) is sought after by a couple of Division II programs, and UNC Charlotte has expressed an interest in Honeycutt possibly playing as a walk-on.