South Charlotte

Charlotte Christian shows balanced attack

Last year, the Charlotte Christian basketball team's game plan was simple: get Anthony Gill the ball. Gill, now a freshman forward on the South Carolina basketball team, averaged 19.3 points per game last year, nine more than the next closest Knight.

This year, it's more complicated.

Charlotte Christian boys' basketball returns seven players from last year's team, but not one was a full-time starter last year. And with no dominant post presence, the Knights have had to look to other players.

Seniors Ben Richter and Ryan Potocnik, junior Patrick Rooks and sophomore Matthew Fisher-Davis are each averaging more than 10 points for a team that is trying to get to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A state championship game for the third year in a row.

Rooks, 17, a Clemson commit, is the team's top scorer, averaging 13.7 points per game. He's a slasher who can get to the rim or pull up for a jump shot.

Potocnik, 18, is the team's post presence, averaging 10.8 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. He's also a good passer when the defense collapses in on him, averaging 2.2 assists a game.

Richter, 18, is an athletic guard that is averaging 12.6 points per game and Fisher-Davis, 15, is one of the team's best three-point shooters, averaging 11.8 points per game.

"Teams can't really key on one person," said Fisher-Davis, who transferred from Butler last year and whose sister, Jaymee, still plays for the Bulldogs. "The best defender may guard Pat (Rooks), but you've still got me, Ben and Ryan over here."

With a smaller lineup this year - Potocnik is the tallest starter at 6-foot-7 - the Knights are relying on guard play and scoring in transition. Coach Shonn Brown said the biggest hurdle for this team so far has been building chemistry.

"We have a good mix of kids and they've been trying to figure out who can do what," he said. "Chemistry for us is coming along."

The Knights (15-6 through Jan. 26) had tough early season losses to some of the top private school teams in the state: High Point Christian Academy, Greensboro Day and Ravenscroft.

"All of those teams we've lost to are really good basketball teams and it can only help us," said Brown. "You learn a lot more from a loss than you do from a victory."

They've also had wins that have shown how good the team can be, including a 106-68 win over Queen's Grant.

"Queen's Grant was one of those games where we really just had it flowing, moving, running, everybody just trying to make one another better," said Brown.

One loss, by 31 points to Mentor (Ohio) in the Arby's Classic holiday tournament in Tennessee, stood out for the Christian players.

"When we lost to them, that was really hard on us because we didn't really expect to lose, to really lose that bad," said Rooks. "It humbled us as a team because we just felt like we were unstoppable. When we got back to Charlotte, it was definitely hard work in practice, pushing each other more, communicating more and getting better as a team."

Now the Knights are focused on conference play. Brown said he wants the team to have an "impeccable conference record." So far the Knights have done that, beating Cannon School, Charlotte Country Day and Charlotte Latin.

"I think we've gotten a lot better since the start of the season," said Potocnik. "I think we're starting to develop more chemistry and starting to work well together."

Working together and sharing the ball has been key for the Knights this year.

"I think we're all just unselfish," said Fisher-Davis. "If one person's hot, we'll keep feeding him the ball."

That player changes almost every game. Junior Eric Lynch led the team with 18 points in the win over Country Day. In the game before that, Richter had 17 against Latin and before that Potocnik and Rooks had 18 against Cannon.

"When you have three or four good shooters on your team, as long as they're taking good shots and they're handling the basketball well, it seems like you can always have a chance," said Brown.

Christian has lost in the last two NCISAA championship games to Christ School. The players, especially the seniors, hope to finally win the title this year. Teamwork, according to Brown, is the only way for the Knights to win it.

"No one guy makes up this team," said Brown. "A team is a group of individuals who have now come together and given up their individual agenda for the agenda of the team. That's the camaraderie. That's the team spirit."