Greenville County takes pride in its basketball, and when it comes to players, Eastside High’s Davaris McGowens said the county has a group that stacks up nicely.
“The best of the best,” he said.
And where the recently completed season is concerned, the county’s coaches have McGowens and J.L. Mann’s Angel McGowan at the top of that heady list.
McGowens is the Greenville County Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the second year in a row after leading Eastside to a 25-4 record and the Class AAA state championship game.
“It’s just great knowing I got it back-to-back,” said McGowens, who will continue his career at High Point (N.C.) University.
As a senior, McGowens averaged 20.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He had 28 points and 19 rebounds in Eastside’s 65-62 overtime loss to Hartsville in the state final.
After playing his freshman year at Greenville High, McGowens played three seasons for the Eagles and led them to a pair of Peach Blossom AAA region championships and an overall record of 67-12.
“He scored over 1,500 points in his career at Eastside,” Eagles coach Tom Chamness said. “He played for a state championship. The kid’s incredibly humble. You couldn’t ask for much more, other than that game (against Hartsville) to go our way.”
Chamness said McGowens’ size is an obvious disadvantage for opponents, but his ability to handle the ball in the open floor is what makes him such a matchup problem.
“Hartsville’s giving everybody fits with their press, but all we had to do was flip it back to him, and you’ve got a big trying to guard him going down the floor, and they’re not going to be able to do that,” Chamness said. “Even if your guards get up on him, he’s liable to go by them, too.
“He’s got quickness and agility, and he’s 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. That’s a locomotive, and you don’t want to get in the way of that.”
Mann’s McGowan is similarly versatile, just as apt to take on the opponent’s best inside player as she is to go nose-to-nose with its speedy point guard.
The 5-8 McGowan, Greenville County’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year and a Georgia Southern University recruit, averaged 18.6 points, six assists, six steals and five rebounds as the point guard for the 19-6 Patriots.
“I’ve really played her at every position on that court, and every position we asked her to play, she handled it masterfully,” Mann coach Darah Huffman said.
Even when her senior season took a turn for the worse, McGowan handled it with aplomb.
On Feb. 5, against Greenwood, McGowan stretched the tibial and medial collateral ligaments in her left knee and missed the last five games.
“When a player like Angel gets hurt, you feel like other players can step up and fill the stats,” Huffman said. “But Angel’s leadership is what really drove the team.
“A lot of her character showed when she was hurt. She went right into coaching. She was talking to her teammates and giving them real good advice.”
“I was the leader on the floor, and I didn’t want them to see me down, so I just tried to help, because the season wasn’t over yet,” said McGowan, who plans to play in the North Carolina-South Carolina all-star game March 23.
“It was hard, but I got through it because I know I have other seasons to look forward to at Georgia Southern.”
“We’ve had her guard the quickest guards we’ve played against and the biggest posts we’ve played against,” said Huffman. “I think she’ll conquer at the next level.”
* Chamness is the Greenville County Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
Eric Burrow, who in his first season as Wade Hampton’s coach guided the Generals to a 24-4 mark and the upper-state championship game after making the move from Class AAA to AAAA, is the Greenville County Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.