A lot has changed for Donovan Gregory in a few months.
Last February, he played in the N.C. Independent Schools 2A state championship as a freshman at Northside Christian. He was the Knights’ first player off the bench and averaged six points per game.
After the season, Knights coach Byron Dinkins left Northside to take the head boys basketball job at Carmel Christian in southeast Charlotte. Gregory and his family decided to follow Dinkins there. At Carmel, the team was going to be much younger, and Gregory was asked to play a much bigger role.
“Last year was so much different,” Gregory said after Carmel fell to nationally ranked Sunrise (KS) Christian at the Hoodies House National High School hoops showcase Wednesday. “There’s just such a big change between being a sixth man and a starter.”
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Gregory, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, had 25 points and 11 rebounds in his first game at Carmel in November. In is second game, he had 22 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in an 88-65 victory over Calvary Baptist to win the Calvary Baptist tip-off tournament. Gregory, who carries a 3.5 GPA, has followed that up with a string of 20-point performances to lead Carmel to a 9-3 record.
For the season, Gregory is averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
“It’s the makeup of the team,” Dinkins’ said of Gregory’s ascension. “But it’s not like we’re asking him to do that. He has to do more than he did as a freshman. He was going to be counted on, but you cannot put pressure on a sophomore who didn’t play a lot as a freshman. Basically, we told him, ‘Your role will be bigger, and what you do in that role is up to you.’”
Gregory said he has offers from Appalachian State and Winthrop and is being recruited by Charlotte, Davidson, Tennessee and Wofford. Against a much bigger Sunrise Christian team Wednesday, Gregory struggled to get his game going. But he did show off the powerful jumping ability that’s becoming a calling card, throwing down a wicked two-handed dunk in the second half and finishing with eight points, four rebounds and three assists.
“I’m just trying to work hard on my game,” Gregory said. “I’m still trying to get better. I’ve got to get better on my ball handling and my jump shot. I didn’t think I could there this fast. Not at all. But I’ve got a long way to go.”
Dinkins said he’s not surprised that Gregory’s had such a brilliant start to his sophomore season, but he’s more interested in how he’s going to finish it. And the two years after that.
“You can’t project anybody’s ceiling,” Dinkins said, “but you can look at his numbers now and say, ‘Well, his ceiling is this,’ but you’ve still got 2 ½ years to be whatever you’re going to be. There’s so many variables, but I like what he could become.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
Wednesday’s first round
Charlotte Country Day 66, Concord 51
York Prep 65, Charlotte Catholic 59
Ryken (Md.) St. Mary’s 57, Huntsville (Ala.) Lee 48
Sunrise (Kan.) Christian 66, Carmel Christian 43
Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha 74, Asheville Christian 54
Providence Day 53, Seffner (Fla.) Christian 47
Thursday’s second round
Huntsville (Ala.) Lee vs. Carmel Christian, 10:30 a.m.
Asheville Christian vs. Seffner (Fla.) Christian, 12:15
York Prep vs. Charlotte Country Day, 2
Concord vs. Charlotte Catholic, 3:45
Sunrise (Kan.) vs. Ryken (Md.) St. Mary’s, 5:30
Providence Day vs. Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic, 7:15