As soon as his team finished the 2015-16 high school basketball season, Gaston Day boys’ basketball coach Trent McCallister thought that he had enough talent coming back to make a big jump into the state’s upper echelon.
That was before 6-foot-7 sophomore Demilade Adelekun transferred from Gastonia’s Highland Tech, and that was before former Gaston Day player Nate Hinton returned after becoming an all-state sophomore at Northside Christian.
All of a sudden, McCallister had a team with three legimiate Division I recruits in Hinton, Quan McCluney and M.J. Armstrong – and a team with a real chance to win Gaston Day’s first state championship in 12 years. Those three, by the way, are all juniors.
“I’m excited about this group,” said McCallister, 31, a former student manager at Charlotte under former 49ers coach Bobby Lutz. “I think we have a really talented group of guys and we have pretty high expectations for ourselves because of that.”
The Gaston Day girls won a state championship in 1975 and have three-repeated as N.C. Independent Schools state champs twice – 1977-79 and 2005-07 – but the boys have only one banner. Devon Seaford scored a game-high 18 points when the Spartans beat Victory Christian 84-80 in the 2004 state final.
Led by its three current stars, Gaston Day will begin the season with high expectations.
Between them, the three have more than 20 Division I offers. McCluney, a 6-foot-6 all-conference forward, averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds. Armstong, a 6-3 guard, averaged 12 points last season and was all-conference. Hinton, a 6-6 forward transitioning to point guard, averaged 18 points, six rebounds and four steals at Northside Christian last season, helping the Knights earn a berth in the N.C. 2A championship game.
Also back is all-conference 6-5 senior Brandon Reeves and Adelekun, who has been impressive in early season scrimmages. McCallister has also added assistant Edward Addie, who runs the adidas-sponsored Team Loaded 704 travel team organization and led Kennedy Charter to a 25-3 season as a head coach in 2012.
“They have three or four guys I love,” said York Prep coach Frank Hamrick, whose team scrimmaged Gaston Day this week. “They don’t have a bench so they have to stay out of foul trouble, but they can shoot the ball and they’re tough and aggressive. Trent’s a heckuva coach and adding Addie on the bench, that’s a winning combination. They really get after it. I feel like they’ll have a good year.”
Gaston Day will open its season at home Tuesday against Christ The King. McCallister said he can’t wait to get started, and he wants his team to embrace its potential.
“We need to have a state championship-level of preparation and commitment every day,” he said. “I know there will be some pretty high expectations around us and if we have that type of commitment every day, we’ll be OK. I hate thinking like ‘state championship or bust.’ A lot of times, we worry about the outcome so much that we don’t respect the process like we should.
“But if we have that state championship-level of commitment and commit to being good teammates, we’ll be in a good place at the end of the season.”
Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr