Winter preview: Word of God reloaded with talent

In the wake of former Rams stars like John Wall and C.J. Leslie, players are flooding in from other area schools.

Staff writerNovember 21, 2010 

Word of God has put together an all-star team that might be among the best in the country.

Juniors Anthony Warren, the leading scorer at Durham Riverside in 2009-10, and Torian Graham, the top basketball player at Durham Hillside, now play with the Rams. Sophomore Josh Newkirk, the former point guard of the future at Southeast Raleigh, also is at Word of God.

But new coach Quentin Jackson would be loaded without them.

The team also includes Atlantic Coast Conference recruits 6-foot-9 Joe Uchebo from Oak Ridge Military Academy (N.C. State) and Word of God veteran Bishop Daniels (Miami).

Add in senior transfers 6-10 Yemi Makanjuola from Nigeria via Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill, 6-7 Abdul Kasim from Durham Mount Zion and 6-3 Harvey McMurray from Durham Academy, and you've got a huge influx of talent.

None of the top players at Word of God began his high school career at the school, but in the wake of John Wall (an NBA No. 1 pick after one year at Kentucky) and C.J. Leslie (a McDonald's All-American now at N.C. State), players are flooding in.

Now Jackson needs to build a team.

"I have been in the same place as these players," said Jackson, who starred at Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha before playing at N.C. State. "At DeMatha, I had to learn to play with people like Danny Ferry. At State, I came in with Vinny Del Negro, Nate McMillan and Chris Washburn. I learned how you have to focus on what you do and let the other players do what they do best."

Word of God, which has two players back from last year's club, is the most visible example of the rise of private school basketball in North Carolina.

Thirteen of the top 14 high school senior basketball players in the state, according to, are in private schools. Ten of the top 15 juniors are as well.

A list of the top 10 players in the area might include players from only three schools, Word of God, Ravenscroft and Upper Room Christian, where 6-3 junior point guard Rodney Purvis is attracting national recruiting attention and averaging 34.6 points per game.

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