CARY — There’s an unfamiliar buzz in Cary High’s Charlie Adams Gymnasium. The Imps’ boys’ basketball team is off to an undefeated start.
Against Wake Forest on Tuesday night, Cary never trailed and didn’t allow Wake Forest to within singles digits for the final two and a half quarters. Cary won 61-47, thanks to newfound strengths in rebounding, depth and athleticism.
Cary out-rebounded the Cougars 48-28, it spent almost the entire second half with three or more reserves on the court, and it gave the home crowd some high-flying plays on rebounds and transition points.
When 6-foot forward Donte Robinson slammed in a putback dunk in the second quarter, the senior leader didn’t get caught up in the moment – he ran to his spot in the back line of Cary’s press rather than take a few seconds to soak in the fans’ roar.
Nobody would’ve blamed Robinson if he had pointed to the crowd – or at least cracked a wide smile – but Robinson is one of three starters from last season’s 5-21 team. The veteran core has kept the Imps hungry.
“We celebrate after the game,” senior Chris Pulcher-Cord said.
But don’t think the Imps aren’t having fun out there. “We are,” Pulcher-Cord said.
Cary coach Allan Gustafson Jr. has three senior starters to go along with sophomore Cory Gensler (14 points) and freshman Dante Tatum (13 points). Pulcher-Cord (10 points) led the rebounding charge with 11 of his own, including seven in the first quarter.
Gensler and Robinson showcase the flexibility of this year’s roster. Robinson stands 4 inches shorter than Gensler but recorded 10 rebounds and a block to go with six points. Gensler plays on the perimeter and hit two 3-pointers for the Imps (3-0) but also grabbed nine rebounds and handed out three assists.
“We’re a lot more athletic,” Gensler said. “Last year we didn’t really have a lot of experience. This year, the older guys we have experience from last year.”
The quick lineup also fits Gustafson’s fullcourt press.
“I think we’ve got a really nice mix of players,” Gustafson said. “And what’s nice is the camaraderie of the team. They really pull for each other, they support each other well. When one player scores, Cary scores, it’s not that one player. And that’s important.”
Cary has a new assistant that’s a familiar face to southwestern Wake teams. Former Fuquay-Varina boys’ basketball coach Bill Brown, who still coaches girls’ tennis for the Bengals, is on this year’s staff.
“He contacted me before the season started and he offered his services, and I would be crazy to turn down someone with that much coaching experience and someone who knows our league,” Gustafson said.
Wake Forest (0-2) is still learning the ropes under first-year coach Daryl Robinson. Robinson built the Leesville Road boys’ basketball program into a state power in the 1990s and early 2000s during a 14-year stint and was also the head coach at Hillside for four years.
Robinson is replacing the retired Mickey Bissette.
Diantr’e James led Wake Forest with 12 points, and Tashawn Sampson added 10. Junior Jamel McAllister had a team-high eight rebounds to go along with six points. The Cougars trailed Cary 31-15 at halftime.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps