Call it Juwan Gary 2.0.
The Gray Collegiate forward went through a big transformation before his junior season. He cut his hair, hit the weight room and spent extensive hours on the basketball court improving his game.
Gary has blossomed into one of the top prospects in the state and country. On Friday, he hopes to lead the War Eagles to their first state championship against Carvers Bay.
“He is in that weight room and you can see that. He has worked on his jump shot and worked on his handles,” Gray Collegiate assistant coach Brandon Wallace said. “The scary part is he has a long way to go, but his work ethic is something else. Just to be a part of it for two years, it is really special to see how he is developed.”
Gray Collegiate coach Dion Bethea credits Wallace, who played at South Carolina and later in the NBA and overseas for seven seasons, with a big part of Gray’s development. Wallace has helped Gary improve his jump shot this season. He is shooting 52 percent from the field -- 63 percent on his two-point field goals.
Gary also has been around guys such as former USC great Devan Downey and current NBA player Brice Johnson, who have talked with Gary about things on and off the court.
Bethea said one of his first moves was to get Gary to trim his bushy hairstyle to a cleaner look.
“When you look at our staff and guys like Brandon Wallace who is clean cut. Brandon spent a lot of time with those kids,” Bethea said. “Him and Juwan have had great conversations on what the next level is like and how hard you got to work to be a pro and changing that image up. He has done that. Juwan wanted to get his body right and focus on helping us win a state championship.”
Gary has been at the forefront in helping Gray qualify for its first state championship game. The 6-foot-6 forward is averaging a career-best 20.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game and was named the Class 2A Player of the Year.
Gary also has taken on more vocal role on the floor after the departure of SC Gatorade Player of the Year Jalek Felton.
“This year there isn’t that many seniors. I had to push my team on the court, in practice and be a coach on the court,” Gary said.
ESPN ranks Gary as the 32nd ranked prospect in the Class of 2019 and he was invited to Next Generation Sunday Program on Final Four weekend. The event has 24 of the top prospects in the Class of 2019 and is put on by NCAA and USA Basketball.
Gary has offers from Clemson and South Carolina and also is hearing from Connecticut, North Carolina State, Virginia and Texas A&M among others.
State championship schedule
The 2018 South Carolina high school basketball state championship games will be played at Colonial Life Arena.
Class 2A Girls
▪ 3:30 p.m.: Keenan vs. Mullins
Class 2A Boys
▪ 5 p.m.: Gray Collegiate vs. Carvers Bay
Class 5A Girls
▪ 7 p.m.: Wade Hampton vs. Spring Valley
Class 5A Boys
▪ 8:30 p.m.: Dorman vs. Irmo
Class 1A Girls
▪ 10:30 a.m.: Timmonsville vs. East Clarendon
Class 1A Boys
▪ Noon: Ridge-Spring Monetta vs. Hemingway
Class 3A Girls
▪ 2 p.m.: Ridgeland-Hardeeville vs. Newberry
Class 3A Boys
▪ 3:30 p.m.: Ridgeland-Hardeeville vs. Southside
Class 4A Girls
▪ 5:30 p.m.: Wilson vs. North Augusta
Class 4A Boys
▪ 7 p.m.: Ridge View vs. Wilson