Back when he was a student at Charlotte Country Day in the early ‘90s, Dwayne Cherry would check out a camera from the school library, film scenes around campus and try turn them into funny skits with his friends.
In college, Cherry began rapping and became good enough to win a freestyle contest at N.C. State and later form a gospel rap group called Second Coming.
Today, at 43, Cherry is still making skits and rapping, uploading his creations to Instagram, and he’s developed quite a following.
“I had been just doing it for fun,” Cherry said, “and one night I was sitting in my car outside of Taco Mac and I said, ‘Let me post one of my raps on Instagram.’ I wasn’t looking for a response, but I stuck with it. Now, I’ll be in the grocery store, and parents will come up to me and say, ‘Coach, I love your Instagram page.’ I didn’t realize how many people look at it. You base it on the likes you get, but I see now that it’s much more than that. It surprised me.”
Cherry actually is a very good rapper. He has a very distinguished voice with clear enunciation, which helps. He sounds a bit like a baptist preacher on a Sunday morning. He comes up with clever lines for his raps and clever skits for his comedy bits, frequently subbing in with his alter ego, Rico.
Cherry, the social media celeb, is also enjoying one of his best seasons as a coach.
Country Day (15-5) moved into the Sweet 16 this week. The Bucs are tied with Charlotte Christian for first place in the CISAA conference and the two county rivals play in the Observer’s game of the week Tuesday night at Christian.
“It’s been a pleasant surprise,” Cherry said. “I felt like we could be good. I just didn’t know how good.”
The Buccaneers lost all-state forward DeAngelo Epps who transferred to nationally ranked Carmel Christian over the summer. Epps’ appeal to have a fifth-year of eligibility at Country Day was denied by league officials. Since 2004, the CISAA has not allowed students who repeat a year of high school after ninth grade to be eligible as a senior. Epps “reclassed” after his sophomore year at West Charlotte.
He played as a sophomore and junior at Country Day before transferring.
Cherry said when Epps didn’t return, a lot of people who follow private school basketball didn’t give Country Day much of a chance to do what it has done.
“I knew we returning a lot of seniors, guys like (Rylan) McLaurin, (Alex) Tabor, Myles (Browning), and the Gillespie twins (Walker and Richard),” Cherry said. “My only concern losing (Epps) was I didn’t know if we had that go-to guy to get the basketball to in crucial moments.”
Tabor, who will walk on at Southern Methodist, is averaging 19 points and four rebounds. McLaurin is averaging 16 points and eight assists, and junior Jackson Krisko is averaging 11 points and seven rebounds. Led by that trio, Country Day has beaten N.C. private school powers, and recent state champions, Greensboro Day and Arden Christ School.
Friday, the Bucs beat another N.C. power, Providence Day, for the first time in six years, ending a 14-game losing streak.
Last season, Country Day was 19-14 and had its first winning season since 2008, the last time the Bucs won a conference title.
This season, Country Day has a real shot at its fourth conference title in 34 years.
The rapping basketball coach seems to have a pretty good handle on what he’s doing.
“Everybody hoped (Epps) would be granted that appeal,” Cherry said, “and then he would come back and we would have high expectations. When that didn’t happen, the guys were upset with the conference decision and now they’re playing with a chip on their shoulders. I think they feel like people kind of wrote them off.”