Former North Carolina All-ACC player Jeff McInnis was at a local Wal-mart Sunday afternoon, when a shopper walked up to him and started talking about Providence Day sophomore Devon Dotson, who McInnis coaches on his travel team in the summer.
It definitely caught McInnis off guard, but so far in this still young high school basketball season, Dotson appears to be one of the most talked about high school players in the Charlotte region. A 6-foot-2 point guard, Dotson, the Observer’s overall Player of the Week, averages 18.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and four assists for the Chargers, the No. 1 ranked team in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll.
“He’s definitely getting a lot of hype,” said McInnis, who played 10 years in the NBA with seven teams, “and he’s one of the best high school kids I’ve coached at his age group. His game is way above his grade level.”
Last Friday, Providence Day beat Raleigh Word of God, then ranked No. 22 in USA Today’s national poll, at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge. Saturday, the Chargers beat High Point Christian, ranked No. 12 by USA Today. Both teams feature national player of the year candidates: Word of God’s Rawle Alkins and High Point’s Bam Adebayo.
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Dotson had 23 points and five assists in an 84-66 win against Word of God. In the 76-66 win against High Point Christian, he had 18 points and five assists. In both games, Dotson had zero turnovers, despite being the Chargers’ primary ball handler. Dotson has already taken an unofficial visit to Kentucky, and he’s got offers from Charlotte, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Hampton, Rutgers, Tennessee and Winthrop.
No wonder people are talking.
“I think he’s incredibly talented and he’s had to play against some of the top guards in the country these first few games,” Providence Day coach Brian Field said, “and I feel like he’s at least matched their performance if not outplayed just about every one. No one seems to be able to contain him. His decision-making and feel for his teammates is getting better. The first couple of games, he would beat his guy and didn’t have a great feel of where we would be and how to give the ball up, but he’s starting to get it.”
Field’s team has five players who have Division I offers, and he’s challenged them with arguably the toughest schedule any Mecklenburg County team has attempted. In its first six games, Providence Day has played three teams ranked in USA Today’s national top 25, including No. 3 Oak Hill, plus national powers High Point Wesleyan, the former home of UNC guard Theo Pinson and Duke recruit Harry Giles, and Mountain Mission (VA).
The Chargers have also played four of the 50 Naismith national player of the year candidates and will face an unbeaten Greensboro Day team (8-0) at home Tuesday. Greensboro Day, ranked No. 19 in MaxPreps’ national poll, is coached by Freddy Johnson, who has more than 900 career wins, more than any boys’ high school basketball coach in N.C. History. His Bengals are reigning N.C. 3A private schools state champs and played in the mythical DICKS’ national championship last spring in New York.
Through it all, Field said his point guard has not flinched.
“He’s absolutely fearless,” Field said. “Devon is not intimidated by anyone or any situation.”
McInnis said he sees the same thing.
“I haven’t seen anybody stay in front of him since the summer,” McInnis said. “A true point guard, the way he plays the game is hard to come by, a guy who is good on offense and is as good on defense. You don’t find that much in today’s game.”
Dotson, 16, moved to Charlotte from Chicago with his family in sixth grade. He grew up a huge Derrick Rose fan and would often watch Rose play and run home and simulate his moves. Like his favorite player, Dotson wears No. 1. He started as a freshman at Providence High and spent the summer working hard on his game. In his garage, he has a machine called a Vertimax, which is used for vertical jump and speed training. He spends an hour on it four times a week.
“A year ago, I couldn’t really do a one-handed dunk,” Dotson said. “Now, I can do a two-handed (dunk) and it’s helped me finishing around the basket and getting rebounds more. It’s been great.”
Over the summer, Dotson helped McInnis’ team win a national championship in the Under Armour travel circuit, starting as a rising sophomore on a team of mostly rising seniors. He also decided to leave Providence High for Providence Day, a private school in southeast Charlotte that was 25-5 last season and reached the N.C. Independent Schools semifinals before losing to Greensboro Day.
“I felt like I would get more exposure and I felt like it was the right fit,” Dotson said. “All the pieces there felt good. They have a really good power forward (Tennessee recruit) Grant Williams, and (all-state senior) Josh Howard and (6-4 sophomore guard) Trey (Wertz) can really shoot it. He was the knock-down shooter I felt I can really play with, so I felt like PD had all the right pieces and I felt like it was the best chance for me to win a state championship.”
Field said Dotson has unlimited potential if he continues to work at his game.
“I think he’s definitely a high-major (college) kid,” Field said. “But every one of the (college coaches) has told me, including Carolina and Kentucky, that he’s got to continue to get better. So a lot of it how hard he continues to push himself and improve.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr