Viking senior plays up to fill gap left by departures

Brandon Greene didn't expect to be Central Cabarrus' focal point this year.

Deferring to all-conference guards L.C. Cooks and Aaron Johnson, the 5-foot-6 guard thought he'd do that again this season.

But when the rising seniors decided to leave the program after former Viking coach Brian King stepped down, Greene knew that being the only battle-tested senior meant he would have to step up and lead a suddenly inexperienced squad.

"He's really embraced the role of being a leader, being a starting point guard," said first-year coach Chris McDonald. "He had a complete transformation over the summer. When we found out that L.C. and Aaron were gone, I told him that this was his team ... and he just changed himself totally around."

After not getting much playing time last year and being known mainly for his defense, Greene admits he didn't know what to expect this season.

But he's responded well, turning on his offensive production to average nearly 13 points per game, a team high, heading into the seventh annual CMC-Northeast Holiday Classic, which kicks off today at Cox Mill.

"I've been surprised with myself," the 17-year-old said.

Greene, a team captain, said he's focused on playing up to his potential and leading the Vikings in the right direction.

"If I'm on the court, I'm going to play as hard as I can until the whistle blows," he said. "I try to lead by example, so I feel like if I play hard, the guys will play hard too."

McDonald said having Greene, who's also averaged nearly four assists, six rebounds and three steals per game, put in the extra effort has made his job easier.

"He's really been the team's heart and soul," McDonald said. "We can't ask anything more from our point guard."

The coach described Greene's style as under control and laid back.

"But when it's time for him to turn his motor up, he can really get it going," McDonald said.

Greene, who scored a career-high 27 points against Anson earlier this month, credits a lot of his improvement on better decision-making and ball handling.

The senior said he likes to penetrate the paint, where he can shoot a floater or take it to the basket.

From the inside, the self-described pass-first point guard is also able to set up open teammates.

As much as Greene likes his greater offensive involvement, he adds that his favorite part of the game is playing defense.

McDonald said his two point guards, Greene and sophomore back-up A.J. Atkins, who averages eight points a game, have been impressive. The coach added that the duo leads the team in hustle plays.

"The team goes as those two guys go," McDonald said.

Central is also getting help from senior returners DeyQuan Heath, a 6-foot-2 small forward, and Mason Spease, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard.

Heath is second on the team with nearly 12 points per game, while Spease has contributed five points per contest.

Junior wing player Ty Young and sophomore big man Anthony Mullis also have stood out, averaging seven points apiece.

The 6-foot-5 Mullis also leads the Vikings with more than 10 rebounds and three blocks a game.

Greene said he's been impressed with how everyone on the team has responded this season.

"I like this team," he said. "We play together, no one man wants to score all the points."

Starting the season with a 3-6record, including a 1-2 mark in South Piedmont Conference play, McDonald said his Vikings are still working to click together.

"Our goal is to find our identity soon," McDonald said.

McDonald, who took over theprogram after spending the past two seasons as the Vikings' junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coach, said he'll continue to bring the team together and help them to keep improving.

"I can push these guys where other coaches probably would not, having that existing relationship," McDonald said.