WILSON, N.C. – Coby White isn’t one of those players that needs some sort of motivating factor to bring his “A” game.
As the state’s all-time leading scorer, White stays ready to obliterate the competition whether it’s a fellow five-star prospect or the tenth man on the bench.
Joey Baker has the same “stay ready so you don’t have to get ready” approach.
Still, when White’s Greenfield School (Wilson, N.C.) Knights met Baker’s Trinity Christian School (Fayetteville) Crusaders Thursday night, Baker and White both conceded that there was a little more drive to win.
Blame it on Trinity’s game-winning buzzer beater in the first meeting on Jan. 19 or the fact that their last regular season meeting is exactly a week before their future college teams, Duke and North Carolina, meet at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill to continue what most fans deem to be the greatest rivalry in sports.
Baker, a junior forward who is ranked No. 15 overall in the ESPN 60, is committed to Duke, and White, a senior point guard who is ranked No. 19 overall in the ESPN 100, is signed to North Carolina.
“That definitely made it a little more intense,” Baker said. “We’ve been cool way before committing, but we’re rivals now and obviously will be rivals in college, no question.”
In the end, White scored 37 points in front of a capacity crowd to lead the Knights past the Crusaders 78-72.
Baker led Trinity with 27 points.
“Its a great team win, but, yeah, the fact that Joey’s going to Duke made it more fun,” said White, who was recently named to the McDonald’s All American Game. “We’ve been playing against each other since the seventh grade but the Duke-Carolina thing is just another level for us.”
Fans flooded Greenfield’s gym sporting Duke and North Carolina sweatshirts and hats and lined up to snap pics with White and Baker after the game.
One fan even tried to convince Baker to switch his allegiance “from that Duke blue to the powder blue.”
Baker politely declined.
“The rivalry is crazy anywhere but especially being here in North Carolina,” White said. “Whenever I’m out and fans recognize me they have to say something. It’s all in fun.”
When asked if Thursday’s game was a preview of things to come on Feb. 8, White laughed and said, “Oh we’re gonna come back with the W!”
“I’ve got a game that day but I’ll be there right when I’m done,” White said. “I say it’ll be 82-75.”
Naturally, Baker had a different take.
“Nah, I’ve got it going a little different,” Baker said with a laugh. “We’re a high scoring offense so I don’t see them stopping that. I’ve got the score 86-77 us.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY