GREENSBORO, N.C. – Greensboro (N.C.) Day School guard Cam Hayes dominated the competition on the summer circuit with Team CP3 (N.C.), earning a reputation as one of the top underclassmen in the country and multiple offers from high major Division I schools. Durham (N.C.) Academy shooting guard Marquise Rice did the same, providing the highlights for multiple videos of him dunking on different players and even leaving his mark at the uber-prestigious USA Basketball minicamp in Colorado Springs, Colo., in October, and Independence High School (Charlotte, N.C.) guard A.J. McKee was Most Outstanding Player after leading the Patriots to the state title last season.
All those accolades did nothing but earn the three players the proverbial bull’s-eye on Saturday at the Phenom High School Jamboree.
“People aren’t intimidated, they more want to prove that they’re better,” Hayes said. “This is the first event where we’re playing against other schools and so we want to show them that everything they’ve seen and heard about us is real. I want them to scared to play us.”
That was the consensus among elite players in attendance, who were laser-focused on planting a seed of fear that they feel could help them later in the season.
“You want the team you’re playing to remember how tough you were,” Rice said. “This is the perfect place to send the message you want to send.”
Not just because it’s the first impression, also because of the audience.
Unlike regular high school games, teams, waiting to play or sticking around after they play, post up courtside taking mental notes all day.
“You see them over there watching and it’s a chance to show them what you can do,” Rice said. “At the same time, it makes competitive teams want to take their shot at you too. You’ve gotta be ready for everything.”
With enough state title rings to fit on all 10 fingers, Greensboro Day coach Freddy Johnson is no stranger to the bull’s-eye; he said that, more than anything, he used the Phenom Jamboree as a test to see which players would step up to fill the void missing from John Newman’s and Will Dillard’s defensive intensity.
Newman is a freshman at Clemson and Dillard is a freshman at Georgia Southern.
“Those are two of the best defensive players we’ve ever had at the school,” Johnson said. “I think my three guards did a great job stepping up. We wanted to establish ourselves inside because we’ve got strong guards and I feel good about what we did there. This is all about establishing what we’re trying to do this season.”
Rice and the Cavaliers don’t have the reputation as a national power the way the Bengals do, but Rice wants to change that in his first year at the varsity level.
“Whenever I step on the court I feel like I have something to prove,” Rice said. “None of the things I did before matter to me, it’s about right now. I want to prove I’m the best and my team is the best. We have what it takes to win a state title, we just have to show the rest of the state so that’s what we’re doing now.”
Hayes can relate from the perspective of being a newcomer, playing in his first season with the Bengals. His primary goal, aside from sending a message, is to continue to build a chemistry with his teammates.
“That’s where you win and lose games,” Hayes said. “We have a lot of talent and we play well together, but it’s always different when you’re playing real games. Here at Greensboro Day we only talk about winning state titles. That’s the only goal here so we have to do the little things to win our third-straight. It starts here.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY