Christian Brown enjoyed his return to Columbia a little more than Juwan Gary but the two top prospects were glad to be back in their hometown Saturday afternoon.
Both Columbia natives were back in the Midlands with their new teams at the Bojangles’ Bash which wrapped up Saturday at Ridge View High School. Brown’s Oak Hill squad, the No. 3 ranked team in the nation, cruised to an 85-51 victory over Gary’s Liberty Heights team.
“It was really fun, looking at the crowd, seeing people I know, doing goofy handshakes, talking to everyone and taking pictures with people who look up to me,” Brown said. “It was a great experience being back here.”
Several kids waited for Brown by the Oak Hill locker room wanting to take pictures with him.
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Brown and Gary grew up playing against one another and guarded each other on several occasions. Brown had a couple high-flying dunks and shared team-high honors with 16 points, while Gary ended up nine points but just one after halftime.
“I have known him ever since middle school so it was fun going against him one last time,” Gary said. “It was good seeing him and him progressing to the player he knows he could be. Oak Hill was big move for him.”
Both Brown and Gary decided in the summer to play their seasons away from Columbia. Brown was going to McEachern (Ga.) but announced in September he would head to Oak Hill, one of the premier high school programs in the country.
Brown played at A.C. Flora and Lower Richland before going to Oak Hill. He had been thinking about going to Oak Hill for a few years but one of the sticking points was Brown having to cut his dreadlocks.
Brown still has the dreadlocks but they are a lot shorter now.
“I have grown a lot, everyone teaching me something new every day. It helps me as a person and player,” Brown said. “It has been a great experience.”
On the court, Brown gets to play for Hall of Fame coach Steve Smith and doesn’t have to worry about being the top option. Oak Hill’s roster is filled with eight Division I prospects including Cole Anthony and Kofi Cockburn. Anthony is the No. 3 ranked prospect in the country and top combo guard.
Smith said Brown has fit right in to his new team.
“He is doing great, very unselfish and great attitude. He doesn’t have to have shots to be happy like some of my guys,” Smith said. “He plays defense and rebounds. He can really play … and his best days are in front of him.”
Off the court, Brown said it is a little adjustment. There are only 150 students at Oak Hill, located in the mountains of Virginia. There also is the element of travel. Oak Hill plays a national schedule and has games in six states this season.
“I think the discipline is good for him,” Smith said. “All kids need discipline at his age. He likes the school and being up there. It finally worked out this year to be there.”
Brown said his recruiting his wide open. He has taken visits to UNLV, Clemson and Georgia. He also has interest from N.C. State and St. John’s. NC State and Georgia coaches were at the game Saturday.
Gary, who led Gray Collegiate to the Class 2A championship last year, said he started to think about leaving after playing in the Peach Jam AAU event in July. One of Gary’s AAU coaches is an assistant at Liberty Heights, so there is some familiarity there.
Liberty Heights is a charter school in Charlotte, N.C. and kids attend classes at different schools. Gary attends classes at West Charlotte High School.
“I have been in Columbia all my life, born and raised in South Carolina. It was a hard decision,” Gary said. “Charlotte is a good environment for me. I got coaches working me out and have a personal trainer getting me ready for college. It was a hard decision but a good move.”
Gary, who signed with Alabama last month, leads the team in scoring with 25 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots per game. He also has put on 20 pounds since the summer.
Gary said it has been adjustment with his new teammates but it is getting better. He took Saturday’s loss pretty hard and vowed to improve.
“It was a good feeling to come back but it wasn’t a good performance,” Gary said. “I took a lot of bad shots and made some bad decisions. It wasn’t my best performance. I just have to get back in the gym. It is a game I never will forget for the whole season.”
Gary will get another chance to play in front of the home folks next week at the Phenom Hoops event at Ben Lippen High School.
OH: Christian Brown 16, Kofi Cockburn 14, Cole Anthony 14, Johnson 7, Cam Thomas 16, Roberson 2, Scott 2, Cardwell 4, Jones 8, Mack 2. LH: Gary 9, Boykin 9, Khari Rogers 10, I. Bivens 13, Francis 2, Edwards 8
Bojangles Bash Results
Cardinal Newman 77, Gray Collegiate 65
Chico Carter scored 39 points and the Cardinals used a hot-shooting second half to defeat Gray Collegiate for their first victory in the event.
Cardinal Newman shot 85 percent from the field in the second half and outscored the War Eagles 51-34 in the second half. Carter’s 39 points were one shy of Tevin Mack’s single-game scoring record for the event.
Jalil Robinson led Gray with 16 points.
GC: Corbitt 5, McDuffie 4, Tommy Bruner 12, Khalil Robinson 11, Jalil Robinson 16, Jalen DeLoach 14, Rhone 3. CN: Tucker 8, Earle 5, Chico Carter 39, Joshua Beadle 14, Flemming 8, Tyler 3.
Ridge View 85, Lower Richland 47
Wayln Napper scored 18 points and Crosby James had 16 in the Blazers’ win. All but one of the RV players scored in the victory.
LR: Smith 6, Hicks 3, Richardson 4, Quentin Flood 10, Townsend 6, Kinney 3, Taylor 2, Cheeseboro 3, Archie 2, Rivers 6, Thorne 2. RV: Crosby James 16, Walyn Napper 18, Bynum 5, Rice 2, McKie 4, McKenney 8, Anderson 5, Scott 5, Ja’Von Benson 10, Parrott 4, Greene 2, Wilson 2, Major 4.
Cox Mill (NC) 81, Trinity Christian 78
CM: Baruti 6, Wendall Moore 16, Cody Cline 10, Khalid Davis 15, Caleb Stone-Carrawell 23, Sedergren 2, Morgan 7, Propst 2. TC: Burt 9, Greg Gantt 18, Damrieae Horne 15, Talton Jones 15, Marshall 8, Ginyard 9, Wright 4.
Huntington Prep (WV) 72, Aspire Academy (Ky.) 56
HP: Brakefield 9, Quinn Slazinski 16, Thor 8, Tribble 4, Hoggard 9, Gatwch 5, Emmanuel Okpomo 17, Wuor 4. AA: Ahmard Harvey 15, Westbrook 6, Outten 2, Eduardo Ramirez 15, Toney 9, Newton 7, Obidiebube 2
North Mecklenburg (NC) 80, Nation Ford 50
NF: Smith 6, Ben Burham 10, Alston 6, Malik Bryant 15, Heckaman 2, Zeb Graham 9, Heath 2. NM: Givens 6, Chris Ford 16, Anderson 8, Artis 2, Tristan Maxwell 28, Williams 6, Waters 3, Dagon Stewart 11.
Dorman 57, York Prep 53
YP: Turner 3, Roman Bowie 11, Timmons 6, Isiah Benjamin 13, Deuce Dean 12, McCullough 3, Barksdale 5. D: Kamal Desor 20, Pilgrim 2, Cooper 9, Myles Tate 17, Renwick 5, Long 2, Atkins 2.