High school basketball

Dreher basketball stars won’t let USC-Clemson rivalry deter friendship

ainelson@thestate.comNovember 25, 2013 

Dreher's Makayla Johnson, right, saves the ball from going out of bounds and passes to Kaydra Duckett, left, against Crestwood in the second half at Dreher High School in Feb. 2012.

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Sitting on opposite ends of the stage in the Dreher High auditorium, teammates Kaydra Duckett and Makayla Johnson signed national letters of intent to play basketball at rival colleges.

But, although Duckett is headed to South Carolina and Johnson is bound for Clemson, the teammates did not remain separated for long.

With Johnson decked out in Clemson colors, and Duckett in all-black, the girls posed for pictures together and focused on what they hope to accomplish before they go their separate ways.

“We’re going to get another ring, we have to get it,” said Johnson, who averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds per game after having knee surgery at the start of her junior season.

Duckett, nationally ranked No. 6 at guard, and Johnson, who is ranked 13th at center, have been playing basketball together since seventh grade.

As eighth-graders at Hand, they won the middle school championship. They helped coach Teresa Jones’ Blue Devils to the third round of Class 3A playoffs as freshmen.

As sophomores, they led the Dreher to the state championship. Entering their senior season, the pair has a record of 118-13 with the Blue Devils.

“We both work hard, we both have the same drive, and that propels our friendship,” said Duckett, who led the Blue Devils last year with 17.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

“Kaydra has always pushed me, she’s always that person that motivates me, and I do the same for her,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she began her basketball career hoping to be more like her friend, and was honored to be able to share the stage with Duckett for their mutual milestone.

“The biggest thing that she taught me is just that positive attitude that she has,” Duckett said. “No matter how hard it is, how hard the game is, just always maintain the character that you have when you’re not flustered. Her friendship teaches me that compassion, respect and treating your friends the way you would like to be treated will take you far.”

Coach Jones said Duckett and Johnson “have been an awesome duo.

“No matter who they play for, they’re still just like sisters, and nothing can break that bond,” Jones said.

At the signing ceremony, pitcher Ben Herring took center-stage between the pair as he signed with the Newberry Wolves baseball team. But with the Clemson-Carolina football game happening this weekend, the room was most electric as the split crowd cheered its allegiance to the Tigers or the Gamecocks.

“When Carolina plays Clemson, I think I’m going to have to pull for Newberry,” joked athletics director Mike DuBard.

He said Monday’s ceremony was a momentous occasion. “This is a great moment for Dreher, and one that I will never forget.”

Principal Jeanne Stiglbauer said, “It’s a big day. I don’t know who will win the football games on Saturday, but there are three schools in the state that are winners today, because they got the best we have to offer.”

Dreher baseball coach Pete Guyton described Herring as “a weight-room maniac” and “pure student-athlete” who works as hard in the classroom as he does on the baseball diamond. Herring owns a 4.3 GPA with an AP courseload.

Herring is a six-year letterman for Dreher. He batted .405 with 30 RBIs and seven home runs in his junior season with the Blue Devils

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