Holiday Invitational

Word of God reigns supreme for 2nd time

Rams squad matches 2007 title won by Wall and Co.

CorrespondentDecember 30, 2012 

— Quentin Jackson, the point guard on N.C. State’s 1987 ACC champions, knows a thing or two about championships. Saturday night at the Holiday Invitational, he added another title to his resume.

Jackson’s Word of God team, led by seniors Tyrek Coger and Josh Newkirk, defeated New Hampton (N.H.) 58-53 to capture the championship of the Shavlik Randolph bracket at the prestigious tournament.

The Rams, playing in their sixth straight Invitational, joined the 2007 Word of God team that included John Wall and C.J. Leslie as champions in the event.

“We’re excited about the win and it’s good to keep it local,” Jackson said. “It’s good to go out there and compete with local teams (Apex and Oxford Webb) that we played in the first two rounds and on a national level the team that we played in the championship.

“It removes the stigma that we were playing on the reputation of John Wall and C.J. Leslie. It gives these guys their own stake in the ground. It gives the program credibility. That is what we strive to do is to make Word of God one of the premier programs in the country.”

The Rams (10-1) were Invitational runners-up during 2008 and 2009 but had lost in the first round the past two seasons.

“This means a lot because the last two years I hadn’t gotten out of the first round,” said Newkirk, a guard who has signed with Pittsburgh. “Winning this is real big.”

Coger, an explosive 6-foot-7 player, was named bracket most valuable player after scoring 17 points against New Hampton. Newkirk had 11 points.

“My mentality was no one is going to stop me from helping my team win,” Coger said. “If I’m the underdog, so be it. But my attitude was that no one is going to beat my team.”

Coger said he has received scholarship offers from Villanova, Texas Tech and Illinois State.

“I really want to go to (N.C.) State,” Coger said. “They are showing a little bit of interest. That would be my dream choice.”

The Rams, who play a mix of in-state independent schools and national teams, hope to use the tournament title as a springboard to a big season.

“We’re not going to settle for this,” Coger said. “We want to keep winning and be the best in the state.”

St. Joseph’s(N.J.) junior Karl Towns Jr., the No. 3-rated player in the Class of 2014 by ESPN.com, has committed to Kentucky. He was recruited heavily by the three Triangle schools, but said Saturday night that his college choice was not about basketball.

“Duke really wanted me to come and N.C. State really wanted me to come,” said Towns, a 6-11 player with 3-point range. “I can’t say enough good things about Duke. N.C. State was definitely in the top four, but at the end of the day it came down to what I wanted to do in life. Kentucky offered me what I wanted to do as a major in life.

“I wanted to be a kinesiologist and I think (Kentucky is) one of the best in the country at it. It was never about the basketball part, never about how many times I was going to shoot the ball. It was about what I was going to in life after the ball stops dribbling.”

Towns, a sophomore, is in the process of advancing a grade level. He is a 4.3-point student, St. Joseph’s coach Dave Turco said. It is a matter of completing the paperwork to make him a member of the Class of 2014.

St. Joseph’s finished second in the Summit Hospitality bracket. Towns went 3-for-6 from 3-point range during the championship game against DeSoto (Texas), which took the title with a 45-42 victory.

“I’ve always worked on my jump shot,” Towns said. “This is the first game all year that I have taken more 3s than 2s (Towns was 1-for-5 on two-point attempts). Today I was in foul trouble. I stayed outside more so I would be less susceptible to getting fouls.”

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