Varsity boys to rely on Maddox
By Brian Pitts
The Davie varsity boys basketball team has a chance to climb into rarefied air in 2021.
Coach Mike Absher’s team has pulled off three straight winning seasons. This is his 19th year at Davie, and a fourth consecutive winning season would be a first during Absher’s tenure.
The War Eagles coulda/shoulda done it seven years ago. They went 19-6, 23-7 and 21-6 during the Martin years from 2010-11 through 2012-13. But Cody and Caleb decided to spend their senior year at Oak Hill Academy and Davie face-planted in 2013-14, going 4-21.
The latest bid began in 2017-18, when Davie went 18-9. Then came the winningest season ever, 24-3. And last year Davie made it three straight winning records at 15-10.
The last time Davie achieved a string of four was during the Jim Young years – 1998-99 through 2001-02, when Davie went 15-10, 21-6, 15-10 and 16-9.
Absher is more than ready for his 29th year as a varsity head coach. “It’s been the longest preseason in the history of high school basketball,” he said.
Davie’s key graduation losses from last year were Brooks Johnson, the No. 1 scorer at 14.3, and James Reid (8.1). Davie also lost Iverson King, who transferred after averaging 6.3 points as a freshman.
The unquestioned face of the program now is junior point guard Za’Haree Maddox. He’s a sensational athlete, a college prospect. He’s a penetrating-and-dishing marvel. He was the No. 2 scorer as a sophomore at 13.4. Among his biggest offensive games were nights with 22, 19, 24, 19 and 18 points. One game he poured in 28 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists.
“He’s such a good creator with his ability to get in the paint,” Absher said. “Everybody focusses on him and he’s very unselfish, so he distributes the ball to people around him. Yeah, he’ll be the piston that gets the offense going. We want to play up-tempo as much as we possibly can, and he’s a good guy to be doing that. He’s an improved shooter – midrange and 3s. That obviously is important because people will stay between him and the basket, and he has to be a threat to make jump shots – and he’s definitely that player.”
There are six varsity returners, including seniors Luke Williams, Avery Taylor and Justus Tatum and juniors Alex Summers and Zymere Hudson.
Williams (4.6) showed flashes of offensive potential last year with five games in which he put up between 12 and 22 points. He could be a consistent double-figure producer as a senior.
“He has worked so hard – so hard,” Absher said. “He really is a good shooter. He’s a really, really good finisher with his left hand. He’ll step right in there and will be able to handle what we’re asking him to do.”
Absher said he’s seen significant improvement from Tatum, Taylor and Hudson.
“Through this long offseason, Justus and Avery are both much improved,” he said. “They played enough last year that they know what it’s all about. Zymere had some (varsity) experience as a sophomore. He’s grown physically and gotten stronger. He’s going to be a big part. His shooting and his ability to get in the paint and create has improved. He can be a really good on-the-ball defender. You can put some lineups out there that defensively have a chance to create some havoc, and Zymere would be one of those people.”
Summers is a threat from 3-point territory. Couple that with his defensive improvement and he could see a bigger role as a junior.
“I think he’s picked up and grasped the defense,” he said. “He’s a very cerebral player on defense. He understands positioning and that kind of stuff. He played just enough as a sophomore to be able to step in games this year and hopefully be able to contribute at a higher level.”
Eight juniors were a part of a 15-5 junior varsity in 2019-20. Blake Walser (13.8) and Jake Powers (11.8) were the 1-2 scorers for that JV, and savvy point guard Owen Byers was next at 5.8. The other five: Ryan Walton, Luke McCormick, Caleb Earnhardt, Max Junker and JT Bumgarner.
“Blake practiced with the varsity for the first month of the season last year,” Absher said. “So far so good with him. He’s worked really, really hard.
“Jake can be a streaky shooter. We’ve talked to him about doing things other than making shots, and he’s become a better rebounder – and that’ll help us.”
The program has two newcomers – senior Zy’Mier Lewis and junior Tate Carney. A raging talent in football, Carney hasn’t played hoops since middle school.
That’s four seniors and 12 juniors. The battle for playing time is fierce.
“There’s a lot of guys who are similar perimeter players, so it’s a matter of who can adjust quicker to playing on the varsity,” Absher said. “It does make practice very fun, though, because there’s a great competitive edge with the whole group. That’s obviously a good thing.
“I’m excited. I think it’ll be fun.”
Last year the War Eagles finished third in a joyfully unpredictable Central Piedmont Conference race. Reynolds captured the regular-season title with room to spare, going 9-1. (It marked the Demons’ first regular-season crown since 2007.) But there was heavy congestion among the other five, with Glenn at 6-4, Davie 5-5, West Forsyth 4-6, East Forsyth 3-7 and Reagan 3-7.
Reynolds figures to be the class of the league again, but anything could happen from second through sixth.
“We played Reynolds in a fall league, and they’ve got a really good point guard and a good kid inside that seems like has been there for 10 years,” Absher said. “They’ll be tough. I think Reynolds is a notch above some people, but overall you can throw a blanket over everybody. I think each night will be very competitive. I think everybody’s got a chance to be successful.”
Notes: The program’s all-time winningest coach, Absher brings a 237-222 Davie record into 2021. … The varsity staff has not changed. Absher’s assistants are Bruce Wallace and Shane Nixon.