There were a couple of things that stood out to Heritage boys’ basketball coach Tilden Brill in his Huskies’ season opener on Tuesday night.
He liked the pride they took in their man coverage against the visiting Rolesville, and he was also glad to see their unselfishness with the basketball.
Sophomore guard Jarren McAllister fit the mold for both shining factors in Heritage’s 67-49 victory over the Rams.
Heritage opened its year with 14 assists, led by McAllister with six, and scored off of several forced turnovers.
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McAllister, a 6-foot-3 guard who is the only Cap-8 Conference boys’ basketball player with an ACC offer in Virginia Tech, said the Huskies’ style of basketball fits his game.
“I really like it,” said McAllister, emphasizing his satisfaction for the pressure defense. “It helps with my game because it helps me talk more, especially when my teammate’s man beats him, then I can be able to help. Just getting stops on defense (gets me going) and making sure my man doesn’t score.”
McAllister contributed 12 points behind sophomore forward Jayden Gardner’s 22 (8-of-12) and junior guard Colton Reed’s 15 (6-of-7).
Early on, McAllister focused on defending and distributing, often finding Gardner down low to pull away from a troublesome Rams team in the first half. Rolesville trailed 40-31 at halftime.
“That just shows the unselfishness of our team,” Brill said. “There are going to be nights where Jarren will be the leading scorer. I give him credit. He has really fit in. He started to slow down a bit, and he allowed the game to come to him. We always forget that Jarren and Jayden are only sophomores and sometimes it’s easy for us to get caught up in the talent.”
The young duo play AAU basketball together, so Gardner and McAllister already had some chemistry coming into the season.
Heritage broke 50 on Tuesday night after Gardner finished a spin move on a pass from McAllister. The outside-in game worked well for the pair, which saw their lead grow to 18 points in the third quarter after a close first half.
“We do individual things together like work on post feeds,” said McAllister, who used his athleticism on the other end of the court to disrupt Rolesville’s passing. With 5:22 left to play and a 62-44 lead in hand, the young Husky leaped into a steal.
McAllister also didn’t mind diving for loose balls and suffocating his man throughout the night.
“I really challenged him at the beginning of the season,” Brill said. “I told him I thought he could be the best defender in the conference if he really put his mind to it because of his athletic ability and his length. I think he showed you tonight just with getting his hands on the basketball, just with getting some deflections and just kind of being a pest that he’s up to that challenge.”
Last year, McAllister’s first on varsity as a freshman, came with a unique challenge.
His older brother, Jamel, played at Heritage’s rival Wake Forest High School. With his brother gone off to college now, Jarren playfully suggested it will be at least easier to beat the Cougars this year.
Jamel helped Jarren with the transition into high school basketball.
“Last season, it was kind of tough for me to adjust because the game, the atmosphere was so wild,” Jarren McAllister said. “I just had to get into the groove. (My brother and I) talk a lot, and he still helps me out.”
But according to Brill, it’s McAllister’s dedication that has helped him attract ACC schools.
“I think he’s tremendously talented and he has a work ethic that is second to none,” Brill said of his standout guard. “When you put those two things together, it’s a very dangerous combination. I think he’s just scratching the surface and realizing his ability. He’s a team-first guy, and he’s one of our hardest workers.
“When you put that together, that’s a recipe for success.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan