RALEIGH — If Broughton is able to capture the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A boys’ basketball championship Saturday night in Chapel Hill, any number of Caps are capable of pulling off a most valuable player performance.
No one would be surprised, though, if senior point guard Devonte Graham leads his team to the trophy. Graham, who is 6-foot-1, has played the biggest role in getting his team to the 7:30 p.m. showdown against undefeated Charlotte Olympic at the Smith Center.
Fellow seniors in 6-6 Chris Brickhouse and 6-5 James Hemphill, who will play at the U.S. Naval Academy next season, do most of the work under the boards, although Hemphill also helps out on the perimeter.
Players filling the outside roles include Chase Johnston, Zach Palmer, Vonshae Lewis, Cameron Gottfried and Jerome Robinson.
Graham, an Appalachian State recruit, leads the Caps (27-5) in scoring with 16 points per game. He has been on the varsity three years and has more than 1,200 points. Against Enloe, in the Cap Eight 4A tournament, he scored the Caps’ first 17 points in the win. But scoring is just a part of his worth, according to coach Jeff Ferrell, whose sees Graham also as the team leader.
“He plays very good defense, has quick hands, awesome hands,” Ferrell said. “He obviously passes the ball very well and is a great leader. He’s very respected by his teammates. Devonte is very good at dictating the pace of the game. He knows what we want to do and when we want to do that. He’s the ultimate coach on the floor.”
While Graham can get to the basket and energize his team and the crowd with a dunk, pull-up jumper or sink a 3-pointer, he might be even better at finding his teammates with the ball.
“I guess I’m a pass-first kind of guy,” Graham said. “I try to be unselfish.”
He also is unselfish in passing out credit.
“Everybody has stepped up,” Graham said. “Cam got injured and we’ve had other injuries and a sophomore, Jerome Robinson, came up and was a tremendous help. Chris Brickhouse has been a muscle in the post. Everybody plays their role and that’s the good thing about this team.”
Late in the season, the Caps dropped back-to-back conference games to Heritage and Wakefield, but Graham would not let his team stay down.
“We just worked harder because we weren’t going to let that drought last,” he said.
“It was just one of those things teams go through,” Ferrell said of the slump. “And it’s what impresses me so much with Olympic, to be able to go undefeated like that.”
Now Graham is hoping he can lead his team to one more win.
“Winning would be huge, now just for us, but also for the community,” Graham said. “The support for us has really been something. I’ve had teachers come up to me and say they haven’t been to a game in years, but they’re going to the championship game. It means a lot to us and all of our supporters.”
Ferrell can see Graham making his mark at Appalachian State, too.
“He’s going to Appalachian, but wherever he decided to go was getting a good deal,” Ferrell said. “Hats off to them for recognizing his ability and talents, whereas I think some other schools might be regretting not pursuing him a little harder.”
But first the Caps have Saturday’s game.
“The ball has to bounce your way sometimes,” Ferrell said, “be lucky sometimes, but more so than that you really have to play together and this team really does that and Devonte leads the way. It starts with his demeanor and it rubs off on his teammates. He’s calm and focused, and as a result, they are, too.”