Greer’s Nasier Gayle (3), left, and Justin Carter (34) fight for a loose ball with Travelers Rest’s Andrew Van Norden (4) Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at Travelers Rest High.
TRAVELERS REST – Andrew Van Norden played a year of junior varsity basketball for Travelers Rest and saw limited action with the varsity on last year’s Peach Blossom AAA Region championship team.
“Then this year, we’ve thrown him to the wolves,” said TR coach Josh Mills.
Van Norden, a 6-foot-4 junior, can handle himself out in the wild, although at this stage, it still takes a little prodding. He had six points and 10 rebounds in the Devildogs’ 67-53 win over Greer Tuesday night at Joe Small Gymnasium.
Mills said Van Norden had been slow in coming out of his shell and “almost too good of a teammate,” so Mills challenged him Monday in practice and then noticed Van Norden had an extra jump in his step against the Yellow Jackets.
“I thought in the first half especially he played really good,” Mills said. “There was one rebound he got about two feet above the rim. And then, of course, getting in transition and just playing good basketball.”
Third-ranked Travelers Rest led 26-15 at halftime. Then with Andrew Brown leading a third-quarter barrage, the Devildogs (16-3, 9-0) opened up a 27-point advantage.
Brown finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Caleb Vaughn had 15 points, and Jason Crumley had 11 points and nine rebounds.
Brown’s graduation will leave a void next season, and Mills said the hope is that Van Norden can help to fill it.
“It’s been one of those things where he’s trying to figure out when he’s supposed to do it and when he’s not,” Mills said. “From a scoring standpoint, he’s not doing a ton of that, but he does everything else. He’s a ridiculous athlete, and he’s long. The length is unreal.”
He’s been one of the many reasons the Devildogs have managed to hang on to sole possession of first place in the region.
Greer (7-12, 3-6) had won three out of four games before becoming TR’s latest victim.
“We didn’t play as well as we’ve been playing,” Greer coach Jeff Neely said. “I know they’re good, I know they’re number one, I know they’re undefeated, but we expected to play better, so it’s disappointing.”
Justin Carter scored 13 points and Eddie Ballenger 11 points for the Yellow Jackets.