Guard grows into leading role for Ragin' Bulls

Always a good student, a little bit of homework Quinton Wimbish did before his freshman year prepared him for the basketball season.

Now a senior, Wimbish says he read enough in the newspapers four years ago to know that high school basketball teams usually didn't fare too well in their inaugural seasons.

So for him and his first-year Hickory Ridge Ragin' Bulls, Wimbish knew "we weren't going to win a state championship" that year.

After a couple of growing pain seasons, Wimbish and the Bulls reached milestones last year that set them up for a breakout year this season.

Through nine games, Hickory Ridge is 7-2 (3-0 in the South Piedmont 3A Conference). Although a medical issue has kept Wimbish from playing several games, he's averaging more than 14 points, putting him well on his way to a second straight all-conference season.

Hickory Ridge coach Robert Machado recalls Wimbish's first workout as a Ragin' Bull. Thankfully for Wimbish, there are second impressions.

Machado recalls Wimbish not performing well the first time the Bulls met during the summer prior to their first season. But something about Wimbish struck Machado, leading him to believe he would turn into a special player.

"You see kids sometime and you know they're basketball players," said Machado. "He was lean, lanky ... you just knew he was a basketball player."

Fortunately for Wimbish, there was room on the varsity team for an undersized freshman that year. He played behind a couple of junior guards on a team that had no seniors.

Hickory Ridge lost 21 of 24 games, but Wimbish says he learned a lot about how much more physical the high school game is compared to his days at C.C. Griffith Middle, and how much more vocal players needed to be on the court.

Wimbish earned a starting position his sophomore year. As a shooting guard, he averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds.

He had a couple of breakout games, scoring 23 in a road win at Parkwood-Union County and 19 in a home loss to Concord. The Bulls finished 6-18, but Machado said 12 of the losses were by five points or less.

The Bulls were ready to turn the corner and Wimbish would be a big part of that. They started the 2009-10 season winning 12 of their first 18 games. A victory against perennial conference champion Concord put Hickory Ridge in the thick of the SPC race.

Attesting that his ability to drive to the basket had improved, Wimbish was stepping to the forefront as a leading scorer. He scored 28 in the Concord win and 25 in a victory against A.L. Brown. He reached his season-high of 28 two more times, including in a loss to Robinson.

In a Christmas tournament at Cherryville, Wimbish connected on seven of 10 three-point attempts against Highland Tech. He scored 28 points, which helped him get named to the all-tournament team.

"That was pretty big for me because I had never earned a big achievement like that before," said Wimbish. "It was a baby step towards earning all-conference."

Hickory Ridge weakened over the final third of the season, losing its final seven games. But the Bulls reached the playoffs for the first time, losing to Harding in the first round.

Wimbish is also a two-year baseball player at Hickory Ridge, and it was a playoff game against Harding in which he had his biggest moment last season. Normally a reserve outfielder, Wimbish connected for his only home run of the season in a Bulls' first-round loss.

Coming off his junior basketball season, in which he averaged 16.9 points per game, the two-year team captain is less than 240 points shy of reaching 1,000 for his career. He has missed three games because of complications from chronic kidney disease that he's had since childhood.

A member of the National Honor Society and Beta Club, Wimbish carries a 4.2 GPA. His goal is to attend UNC Chapel Hill and be a pharmacy major. Even if walking on the men's basketball team doesn't become a reality, he said, he's fine with playing for the junior varsity or even on a college club team.