High Schools

Stevens: Readers disagree on the top high school athletes

tstevens@newsobserver.comSeptember 9, 2012 

There was, not surprisingly, some difference of opinion with my selections last week as the best, most famous, or best known high school athletes at several area schools.

Most of the comments were from readers who wondered why I didn’t pick an all-time athlete from every high school in the state, or at least at every school in Eastern North Carolina.

Picking the athletes from the schools I know best was hard enough and a few people insisted I didn’t do a very good job.

Perhaps the best case was made for Neil Chance at Harnett Central over my pick, Brian Taylor, who was a four-year letterman in three sports and a two-time pick as The News & Observer male high school athlete of the year.

After recounting the numerous accomplishments of Chance, the emailer said my pick was “embarrassing and untrue.”

“How do I know? Because I’m Neil Chance,” he wrote.

The 1991 Harnett Central graduate played basketball and ran track and went to N.C. State on a track scholarship. He won the 1992 World Junior Championship in the long jump in Seoul, South Korea, won the Atlantic Coast Conference long jump championship three times and holds the Wolfpack indoors and outdoors long jump records.

He also qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1992 and 1996.

He graduated from State in 1996 and would have been a better pick.

67 points

Another writer said my choice of Travis Stephenson as Clayton’s best was equally flawed. Stephenson was a football, basketball and track standout at Clayton, played on the University of North Carolina’s national championship basketball team and was an all-around great athlete.

But all that may have been overshadowed by Bob Poole scoring 67 points in an 88-27 boys basketball victory over Corinth Holders in 1950. No N.C. High School Athletic Association player has ever matched that total.

Ricky Brummit, a three-sport standout at South Granville and later a punter at Duke, got support as South Granville’s finest, but Texas Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison was a solid pick for the Vikings.

Dewayne Washington, a former football standout who was my pick from Northern Durham, wrote to note that he played 12 seasons in the NFL (1994 through 2005), not 11.

“It’s really a big deal to me ... because my 12th year was the toughest for me,” Washington said. “It was the first time in my career that I wasn’t a starter (and I) truly had to fight every play every day for a spot on the team.

“I pushed my mind and body to lengths I couldn’t imagine to make the 53-man roster in Kansas City. So when someone forgets that year I’m quick to remind that this year in (my) mind stands out just as much as my first year in Minnesota as the youngest player in the league and winning Rookie of the Year honors.”

Vote for Scotty

Perhaps the most argument-proof comments came from a caller who was bewildered that I picked former NBA all-star David West as Garner’s most famous.

“Not even close,” the caller said. “Garner’s most famous athlete, and the most famous high school athlete in the world, was baseball pitcher Scotty McCreery.”

The 2011 American Idol champion is a little bit better known for his singing than for his pitching.

STEVENS: 919-829-8910

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