Clayton Massey is used to standing above his competition.
When he was in sixth grade, he was already six-feet tall. When he got to Myers Park High, he was 6-foot-4.
Now Massey, 17, a junior, stands nearly 6-foot-8 "with shoes on," he says as he enters the postseason of his junior year as the Mustangs' two-time all-Southwestern 4A center.
While he still hopes to grow an inch or two, Massey is more focused on growing his game
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"I've always been taller than most guys my age," Massey said.
"But that doesn't mean you're good. I've got to keep working on all aspects of my game to try and get better at everything and become a more complete player."
Last year he led the team with 9.5 points and six rebounds (tied with Tyler Powell) per contest for a team (16-10, 10-4) that finished second-place in the SW4A before losing to Grimsley in the opening round of the playoffs.
This season, Massey and the Mustangs challenged for the conference title before finishing second behind South Mecklenburg and were again 16-10 overall, 10-4 in conference play going into the postseason.
Massey has been a big part of that success, averaging 10.5 points (shooting 54 percent), 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, joining senior Patrick Wallace (16.9 ppg), Major Thomas (8 ppg, 8 rpg) and Jaray Walker as the core of this year's team.
"I've made some progression this year, but honestly I haven't done everything I wanted to do," Massey said.
"I haven't gotten as many offensive touches as I would like. But my main focus right now is on winning and going as far (in the playoffs) as we can and I feel like everything else will come."
Massey has been consistent on both ends of the floor with 15 double-digit scoring outputs in 26 games and has become a force on the boards and as a shot blocker. After recording only 26 blocks last year, Massey already has more than doubled his output this season with 66.
He had eight blocks versus Independence and seven against Butler.
Massey has been like the "goaltender" of the defense, according to Hepler.
"I just feel like I try to get to the right place defensively at the right times," Massey said of his shot blocking.
"Usually, I see plays coming, especially on help-side defensive and I just slide over and try to affect the shot."
Hepler, who was the Myers Park girls' basketball coach and moved over to the boys' program this year replacing now athletic director, Rick Lewis, says Massey has become a complete player.
Massey "does just about everything well from offense to defense," Hepler said. "He's very athletic for a big guy, in the mold of a (North Carolina's) Tyler Zeller. I think as he continues to work, he is only going to get better."
Massey, who played with the Charlotte Nets last year with guys like Harding's Jarvis Haywood, is currently looking for a new AAU team, where he can prove he is a Division I college forward or center.
Right now, Hepler said he is getting looks from Elon, Presbyterian and Western Carolina, but many other schools have contacted the coach and are closely monitoring his games and his growth.
"A lot of schools are very interested if he grows to 6-foot-9 or 6-foot-10," Hepler said.
"College basketball is all about size. I think they want to know if he is going to be a forward and have to play some of the perimeter or if he can get bigger and play in the post."
When he isn't working with his Myers Park teammates, Massey can be found at Accelerate Basketball in Fort Mill working on his game with Brandon Payne and his staff as well as teammates like Patrick Wallace.
Massey, who can bench 240 pounds right now, works on everything from strength and agility to his shot. He tries to get up around 400 shots per day, all with the future in mind.
"I definitely want to play college basketball really bad," Massey said.
"Not just for basketball, but also because it can help you get connected in the real world and be a great experience that you can use and remember for the rest of your life."