One of the biggest goals for any high school athlete is to win a state championship. Concord Robinson High’s Lavar Batts Jr. did that last March.
Now, imagine doing it with your father as your coach.
Batts did that, too.
“It’s a blessing to win a state title,” said Batts, a 6-foot-2 senior point guard and the Observer’s No. 1 N.C. high school boys’ basketball recruit for the class of 2017. “But to win it with my dad is even better. Not a lot of people get to do that. I mean, to win a state title with your dad is pretty crazy.”
Last March, Batts had 16 points and the winning assist to teammate Daniel Spencer in a 59-55 N.C. 3A state championship win over Fayetteville’s Terry Sanford High at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
It was the second season that Lavar Batts Sr., a former Barber-Scotia player, had coached his son. The Bulldogs finished 19-7 in the first year, and were 29-3 during the magical state title run when Lavar Jr. averaged 21 points, five assists and four rebounds.
“I would’ve never imagined that was possible,” said Batts Sr. “I knew we had a good core group coming back, and I did think this would be a very good chance to win state, but you know what, it’s different thinking about it and actually doing it. It’s an amazing feeling when it happens. It’s something you dream about.”
Batts Jr. immediately went from leading his father’s team to a state title to leading Chris Paul’s CP3 travel squad through a successful run on the Nike EYBL summer circuit. Along the way, Batts narrowed his college choices to Butler, Clemson, Nebraska and Virginia Commonwealth.
A top 100 national recruit, Batts shocked many scouts by picking VCU, located in Richmond, Va., and coach Will Wade about six weeks ago.
Batts Jr. wants to major in sports medicine and VCU – which has 24,000 students and costs $31,000 annually for out-of-state tuition – has one of the better programs for the major nationally. Before he’s enrolled, he’s already set up a summer internship with the Washington Redskins.
“A lot of people thought that I would take one of the bigger schools,” said Batts Jr., who will turn 18 on Christmas Day. “But what I’m going to school for, (VCU) is top 25 in the country. Second, it felt like home. I felt a vibe from them and my family did as well. Coach Wade is a good dude and he’s building something special and I want to be a part of it.”
Wade was an assistant under Shaka Smart in 2011 when VCU reached the NCAA Final Four. When Smart left for Texas, Wade was hired to replace him in April 2015, leaving a head coaching job at Chattanooga. Last season, Wade’s Rams finished 25-11, the school’s 10th straight season with 24 or more wins, and the Rams won a share of their first Atlantic 10 Conference championship. VCU also made the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight season.
“VCU seemed to be the best fit for him on the floor and off,” Batts Sr. said of his son. “Will Wade followed us all summer and even came to games that Lavar didn’t even play in. It felt great. We went down there on an official (visit) and the guys treated him like brothers. He just enjoyed the whole atmosphere.”
With the college decision out of the way, Batts Jr. said he’s going to concentrate on winning another state championship, on living another dream with his father.
Robinson returns five players. Batts is the only starter back, but Batts Sr. expects 6-4 senior Javonte Misenheimer, 6-3 senior Rhamel Hornsback and 6-3 sophomore Chris Caldwell will be key contributors, as will 6-9 senior Jamari Roberts, who transferred in from Virginia.
“We know it’s going to be a tough year,” Batts Sr. said. “We’ve got a tough conference (the South Piedmont 3A) ... and it’ll be a very interesting new group, but if they get on board, I think we have a good chance.”
Batts Jr., as is his custom, has been up most every weekday at 5:30 a.m. to get shots up and work out at a local YMCA. He also works out with weights after school. He says he works so hard because he wants that state championship feeling again, the hug with his father when it’s all over.
“We just want to continue to do what we did last year, but even more of it,” Batts Jr. said. “We’ve also got to change it up a little this year. A lot of people will target us, coming for me and my team. We’ve got to make sure we are ready for every fight and every situation we’re put in.”
Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr