KNIGHTDALE, N.C. – Oxford (Ala.) forward Zondrick Garrett doesn’t even start his first full-time varsity season until Oct. 17, yet Saturday he braved Hurricane Matthew’s intense winds and torrential downpour and took the seven-hour car ride to lace ’em up at Knightdale (N.C.) for the GetMeRecruited Southeast All-Freshman Invitational, a premiere showcase event for freshmen all over the southeast.
Garrett was one of 160 girls’ and boys’ players from 12 states in attendance.
“I had been looking at the weather,” Garrett said. “I knew it was gonna be bad, but me and my family felt like it would be OK. We wanted to be safe, but I need the exposure too.”
Garrett’s sentiments were echoed by the players from out of town, who wanted to make an event that’s produced All-Americans such as North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and Kentucky freshman forward Edrice Adebayo.
“The build up for this event has grown every year and, fortunately, it’s viewed as an event that kids and parents feel they have to come to,” GMR founder Lamont Taylor said. “We had kids come from Alabama, New Jersey, Florida, South Carolina, because of the exposure that’s here. Our main priority was the kid’s safety and I felt, after being glued to the Weather Channel all week, that we should keep the event as scheduled. That’s mainly because of all of the kids and parents that reached out saying they were coming no matter what.”
Still, halfway through Saturday’s games, the hurricane knocked out the power in the gym, subsequently suspending games for the day. Jones said games will begin three hours earlier Sunday as a result.
That wasn’t a deterrent for players such as T.L. Hanna (Anderson, S.C.) point guard Maleia Bracone, who said the SEAFI was all about the bigger picture.
“I just want the best chance for the best possible scholarship,” Bracone said. “I know that coming here and playing against the best players in the region helps me with that. A lot of good players come from this area.”
Garrett said the opportunity to play in North Carolina’s recruiting hotbed was too much to pass up.
“You’ve got a lot of great schools right here and those are the schools you want to look at you,” Garrett said. “I like playing against other good players because I’m starting my first season where I’ll be playing varsity all year. Last year I played both varsity and JV. Coming to this will get my name out there and help me get ready for the season. So it was worth coming even with the weather.”