Before he goes to play at Appalachian State next year, Carmel Christian senior Donovan Gregory said he believes this basketball season will be the best of his high school career.
And for a guy who’s been all-state and played in three state championship games, that’s saying something.
Carmel Christian is ranked in the top 25 of several national preseason polls and features five players who have committed to Division I colleges. The Cougars have another four who are receiving Division I interest. One of them is Gregory’s younger brother, Jeremy, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward.
“This year is going to be special,” Donovan Gregory, 17, said. “It’s my senior year and I get to finish high school playing with my younger brother on the same team as me and show him everything I’ve learned in my four years. It’s a big opportunity.”
Gregory, a 6-foot-4 wing, and Carmel Christian begin a new season Friday at the Carmel Christian Tip-Off. It’ll be the first tournament in the state to feature the use of a 30-second shot clock. The tournament will also bring together a collection of top-ranked recruits and teams, including Oak Hill (Va.) Academy and point guard Cole Anthony, perhaps the nation’s best high school player.
Carmel Christian plays Fayetteville Northwood Temple and Louisville commit Josh Nickelberry Friday at 9. On Saturday, the Cougars play Concord Cannon and freshman point guard Jaden Bradley, who has multiple Power 5 (conference) scholarship offers and recently attended USA Basketball Development Camp.
Donovan Gregory can’t wait to get going.
“My first game with Jeremy,” he said. “Man, that’s going to be something.”
Jeremy Gregory, who turns 15 Sunday, believes his team is poised to repeat as a state champion.
“This is a huge step up from junior varsity and middle school,” he said. “I get to play with my brother and all of his teammates that I grew up playing around when I was a little kid. I fit in with them.”
New Carmel coach Joe Badgett is a former Cougars assistant taking over after Byron Dinkins left for a college job on the Charlotte 49ers’ staff. Badgett has known Donovan Gregory since he was 3. Badgett’s family and the Gregorys attended the same church. Badgett remembers when Jeremy Gregory was born.
He never imagined he would coach both brothers at the same time.
“I tell people all the time that Donovan’s basketball game is good, but I’m more impressed with his character,” Badgett said. “He’s always been a great student. I’ve never had any calls about him in terms of discipline. He gets it. He takes care of what he’s supposed to take care of and his reward is what’s happening with his basketball right now.”
Donovan thinks his brother - gifted with soft hands, good footwork and what Badgett calls “an innate understanding of the game” - will one day be better than him. And Gregory is a near-consensus top 150 national talent.
“With Jeremy,” Badgett said, “it’s trying to get him to understand he’s good and not just Donovan’s little brother. We’re trying to grow him into that mindset. Because the sky’s the limit with that kid. I mean, really. He could be one of the best big guys to ever come out of (Mecklenburg) county.”
If you’re going
The Carmel Christian Tip-Off Classic is Friday and Saturday at Carmel Christian School, 1145 Pineville-Matthews Rd., Matthews.
Friday’s schedule: Hickory Grove vs. Asheville Christian, 6 p..m.; Arden Christ School vs. Concord First Assembly, 7:30; Carmel Christian vs Fayetteville Northwood Temple, 9
Saturday’s schedule: Asheville Christian vs. Providence Day, 2; Northwood Temple vs. LIberty Heights, 3:30; Dunk contest, 5; Moravian Prep vs. Oak Hill (Va), 6; Carmel Christian vs. Concord Cannon, 7:30
Tickets: $10 Friday, $15 Saturday. Kids 8-under, free
Players to watch: Gabe Wiznitzer, 6-10, Christ School, Soph; Marten Maide, 6-4, Carmel Christian (Liberty), Sr.; Josh Nickelberry, 6-5, Northwood Temple (Louisville), Sr.; Juwan Gary, 6-6, Liberty Heights (Alabama), Sr.; Cole Anthony, 6-3, Oak Hill, Sr.; Jaden Bradley, 6-2, Cannon School, Sr.; Kofi Cockburn, 6-10, Oak Hill, Sr.