He’s a small player at a small school, but Darius McGhee’s scoring is as big as it gets.
The 5-foot-9 springy and smooth-shooting junior at Roxboro Community, a charter school 30 miles north of Durham, is the third-leading scorer in the nation (36.7 per game) and eight points away from scoring 1,000 points in a season.
McGhee is sitting on 992 points and already the all-time N.C. High School Athletic Association single-season scoring record holder. For much of the season, he was tops in the nation in scoring.
“At first I thought something was off, there’s no way he could be averaging that many points,” Roxboro coach Justin Bettendorf said, “and if he was, surely there would be someone out there who was averaging more.”
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There was no typo.
McGhee gets his shot to break that barrier Tuesday night in the first round of the NCHSAA 1A boys basketball playoffs when the Bulldogs meet Chatham Central at Voyager Academy’s middle school in Durham (Roxboro’s home gym of Helena Elementary is booked).
In a town like Roxboro where everybody knows each other, people have memories of McGhee when the 5-year-old dominated youth leagues with his speed.
McGhee remembers it more vividly. He would often get a steal but stick the ball underneath the basket between the rim and the backboard on the layup attempt. So his uncle started backing him away from the basket, and the rest was history.
Now he tosses in 25-footers with ease.
His uncle also told him to do calf raises, and that paid off too.
When he was in eighth grade, and just 5-foot-6, he slammed in a putback during a pick-up game for his first dunk, stunning the people he was playing with.
He doesn’t pad stats against struggling 1A teams. Against three 4A teams, he posted totals of 50, 46 and 31 in back-to-back-to-back nights.
Teams have tried everything to stop him, but he does what he has to do to keep the 15-13 Bulldogs afloat.
“There’s definitely time where I’d like him to be (more selfish), but right now I’d say Darius McGhee is perfect,” Betterdorf said.
A season-ending broken arm as a sophomore may have taken way his shot at breaking the mark set by Eastern Alamance grad JamesOn Curry (3,307). But McGhee (2,027 points) could break into the top three, currently rounded out by Southern Lee 2009 grad Akeem Richmond (2,846) and Lawrence “Cotton” Clayton (2,758), a 1959 grad of now-defunct former Zebulon Vance High in southern Vance County.
But perhaps what endears him most to the town is his loyalty. He’s been enrolled in Roxboro Community, which has a middle school and high school, since the sixth grade and calls it his family.
“Darius has put his trust in us and stayed with us,” Bettendorf said.
McGhee has gotten more offers to change schools than to play on scholarship in college (High Point is the only one so far), but he’s turned them down to keep playing with the friends he grew up with and calls family.
“I don’t worry about (records). We have eight juniors and no seniors, so my mind is set on getting the younger players getting used to playing on this level,” McGhee said.
Kelly Snow contributed.
Darius McGhee by the numbers
36.7: scoring average*
992: points this season*
2,027: points in his career
14: 3-pointers made in one game*
9: number of the 14 3s were in the first half*
1: game missed this year
25: 20-point games this season
21: 30-point games this season*
12: 40-point games this season
4: 50-point games this season*
* NCHSAA records