It’s tough to find highlights that aren’t dunks when you search the Internet for basketball stars Harry Giles and Kwe Parker.
Parker and Giles are part of a loaded junior class at High Point, North Carolina’s Wesleyan Christian Academy. The Trojans are defending state champions of the Tar Heel State and are 18-2 on the season. If you spend any time on YouTube, you might think Parker scored all of Wesleyan Christian’s points on fast break dunks with Giles collecting every assist, but Trojans coach Keith Gatlin insists Parker is a more complete player than his highlight reel shows.
“Please tell the people (Parker) is more than a dunker,” Gatlin said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “It’s a blessing and a curse to be that gifted athletically because everyone wants to see him dunk.”
The big slams come from good defense, fundamentally sound passing and a whole lot of athleticism throughout the lineup.
Defense begins with 6-foot-9 forward Harry Giles, regarded by some as one of the top five basketball recruits in the nation. Giles did not play when Wesleyan Christian took part in the 2014 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions because he was nursing a knee injury. This season, he’s back and making the lane a nightmare for his opponents.
“Harry is honestly a very special player, a great young man,” Gatlin said.
In last year’s Tournament of Champions, Wesleyan Christian suffered an opening loss to White Station of Memphis, Tennessee. The Trojans bounced back with an overtime win over Willard and a consolation final win over Village Christian of Sun Valley, California.
Gatlin called the experience “first class,” even though his team struggled with injuries, including Giles’ knee.
“We were hurt last year, we didn’t have all of our pieces, but when you make the schedule you can’t say you’re hurt, you can’t come,” Gatlin said. “We have been waiting for this opportunity because it’s really tough to play when you’re not healthy.”
The Trojans appear healthy and poised to play behind a junior class that also includes 6-foot-5 guard Jalen Johnson, who is drawing interest from Cincinnati and Old Dominion, and Brandon Childress. The son of former professional player and now Wake Forest assistant coach Randolph Childress.
Brandon Childress committed to play for coach Danning Manning and the Demon Deacons.
“He’s a solid guard; can shoot the ball; really good basketball I.Q.; comes from a great pedigree,” Gatlin said of Childress.
The Trojans like to use turnovers to “get out and run” offensively in transition, which helps account for their high-flying highlight videos. However, Gatlin says they will need to play soundly in the half court in the Tournament of Champions.
Wesleyan Christian has some familiarity in big tournaments, having gone 3-1 in the prestigious City of Palms Classic in December in Fort Myers, Florida. Gatlin says the Tournament of Champions could be every bit as good as the City of Palms, and relishes the chance to play Bentonville, Arkansas Thursday night at JQH Arena.
“Anytime you get on a stage like this you welcome this as a coach and a team,” Gatlin said.
Wesleyan Christian Trojans fast takes
Location: High Point, North Carolina
Colors: Red and gold
Coach: Keith Gatlin
Previous season win/loss record: 24-9, North Carolina state champions
T of C history: 2-1 in 2014
Notable alumni: 2013 American League baseball rookie of the year Wil Myers