High School Sports

1A/private schools boys’ basketball preview: Northside Christian seeks 6th straight final appearance

rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Northside Christian boys’ basketball coach Byron Dinkins said his biggest goal isn’t to make it to the state championship game each year, despite having led the Knights to five consecutive N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A finals.

“My goal is to get these seniors ready for college, whether they play ball (in college) or not,” Dinkins said. “If they are good enough and come together as a team, all that stuff will take care of itself, the winning, the state championships, all of that.”

It has been a successful formula for Dinkins, a former Charlotte 49ers star point guard who is 141-14 as he begins his sixth season. His teams have three state championship rings. The team he’s preparing to possibly win a fourth is talented, he said, but it’s also young and inexperienced.

“We’ll treat it like any other year,” he said. “They come in and hopefully they will do what they are supposed to do, and we’ll try to fit the new guys into what we do as a team. And, hopefully, nothing will be different.”

After losing 56-49 to Concord First Assembly in the 2015 state final, Northside Christian ended its season 24-6. Gone are all-state stars Rayjon Tucker and Lysander Bracey. Also gone are two players who might have started this season: Ty-Shon Alexander, a Creighton recruit, transferred to Oak Hill (Va.) Academy before last season. Shortly afterward, Ray Kowalski, a Southeast Missouri State recruit, transferred to Concord.

Northside Christian returns four players who played varsity basketball last season. Among them, 6-foot-2 senior Colton Cashaw is the only starter. Promising 6-4 freshman Donovan Gregory was a junior varsity star in eighth grade. He’s moving up to varsity. Northside Christian also got several transfers , including 6-8 senior James Lewis (Gaston Day); 6-5 sophomore Nate Hinton (Gaston Day); and 5-9 junior Chris Martin (Victory Christian).

That trio will team with Cashaw, Gregory and 6-3 senior Coleman Blankenship to form the nucleus of Dinkins’ team.

“I am a little surprised at the early success we’ve had,” Dinkins said. “I was saying, ‘Give me three to five years and we’d get it going.’ But it happened the first year (reaching the state final) and we had nowhere to go but down.

“We’ve done a good job of getting the program to where it’s selling itself and people want to be a part of it, and we’ve been fortunate to have a good run. It’s just our time. Someday, it’ll be somebody else’s time.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr

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