Saturday’s N.C. High School Athletics Association basketball championships will mean more for Voyager Academy’s father-son duo of Mike and Jay Huff than just another tournament game.
The NCHSAA 1A boys final – pitting Voyager (31-4) against Winston-Salem Prep (22-7) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Carmichael Arena – will mark the last time that Mike Huff will coach his son Jay in a high school game.
“We’ve talked about me coaching him and him playing for me since he was a little kid,” Mike Huff said. “The opportunity to do that has been a dream come true. To finalize that with an appearance in the state championship game, it can’t get any better than that.”
The two have been together in sporting competitions since Jay was in grade school. Mike coached his son on a fifth-grade baseball club, and since then has watched him grow into a 6-foot 11-inch blue-chip basketball recruit who is signed to play next year at Virginia.
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“As a dad, he’d like for me to stay young forever and never leave,” Jay Huff said. “But he’s excited for me to have the opportunity I have, and he wants me to go.”
Mike Huff coached the Voyager junior varsity in 2013 and 2014 before stepping into the head coaching role for the varsity, while his son has played all four of his high school seasons with the varsity, helping the Vikings improve each year: 16-10 in his freshman year, 20-10 as a sophomore, 29-3 last year and 31-4 so far this year. The Vikings haven’t lost a conference game since 2014, and haven’t lost to a North Carolina 1A team this year.
Yet both Huffs are uncommonly calm about what would be appear to be a championship game fraught with extra emotion.
“We’ve talked about it a little,” Jay Huff said before a practice this week. “What we’ve talked more about is that this is the last game for the 11 seniors on the team. This is it.”
For his part, Mike Huff said, “I never want to coach a team with 11 seniors again,” even if one is his son. The top-heavy lineup made it problematic for the coach to distribute playing time, and their departure will mean “building from scratch next year; we’ll be losing two-thirds, three-quarters of the team.”
Winston-Salem Prep Coach Andre Gould noted that Voyagers’ first five – point guard Chance Green, two-guard Nelson White, forwards Collin Faucette and China Jones, and Huff at center – each drew all-conference honors in the North Central Athletics Conference.
“They’re a talented team. ... They’ve got a good roster, kids who fill out that team and fill their roles,” Gould said, but the centerpiece of that success is “Coach Huff and his son. You don’t see many (6-11) kids like him who can bring the ball up the court, play as a ‘point forward,’ shoot the ball or distribute it at at the same time.
Winston-Salem has been in the 1A final five times before, winning in 2008 and then three straight years, 2012-13-14, before losing to East Carteret 63-60 last year in Carmichael Area.
It’s that last game that the Phoenix keep thinking about, not the four previous titles.
“The last time I was in Carmichael, I lost,” Gould said. “I want to change that.
“We’ve been through it before. Our preparation this week will be the same, but the kids know what’s at hand and what’s at stake.”
Coach Huff feels much the same, even though Voyager will be making its first appearance in a state championship basketball game.
“With (Winston-Salem) being there so many times, you’d think that’s an advantage, but we’ve been in some events, holiday tournaments and big games, that have prepared us competition-wise and atmosphere-wise,” Huff said.
He’s also prepared for coaching his son for the last time.
“We’ve taken it as far as we can take it,” Mike Huff said. “I’m just looking forward to enjoying the experience, not only with him but with all the other guys, because when you coach, you’ve got a lot of sons. Obviously this will be special with him. I just hope he can play up to his potential and enjoy the experience.”
Saturday’s NCHSAA 1A championship
Voyager Academy (31-4) Vikings
Coach: Mike Huff, 2nd year
- Is making its first appearance in a NCHSAA basketball final
- Has won 16 straight games
- Averages 76.1 ppg, holding opponents to 50.6 ppg
- Finished 16-0 in North Central Athletics Conference games for 2nd straight year
- Has five senior starters who were named all-conference: 5-9 point guard Chance Green (14.9 ppg, 5.8 apg, 2.2 spg); 6-2 guard Nelson White (4VL, 6.9 ppg, 2.5 spg), 6-3 forward Collin Faucette (9.7 ppg, 3 rpg); 6-6 forward China Jones (9.5 ppg, 6 rpg); 6-11 center Jay Huff (4VL, NCAC player of the year, 16.4 ppg, 10 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.2 bpg).
Winston Salem Prep (22-7) Phoenix
Coach: Andre Gould, 6th year
- Is making its fifth straight appearance in 1A final, and its 6th in 9 years
- Won the 1A boys championship in 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014
- Lost in last year’s final 63-60 to East Carteret, the team it defeated 72-71 in the 2014 state championship game
- Has won 14 straight games
- Averages 70.1 ppg, holding opponents to 53.4 ppg
- Most of WSP’s losses this year were to 4A schools
- Doesn’t have a senior in its starting lineup: 6-0 sophomore point guard Justice Goodloe (9.8 ppg, 4.7 apg, 2.1 spg); 5-11 sophomore guard Daivien Williamson (12.1 ppg); 5-11 freshman forward Chaz Gwynn (11.6 ppg, 2.1 spg; hit game-winning 3-pointer in West Region final); 6-7 junior forward Zaire Williams (13.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2 bpg); 6-4 junior center/forward Levon McCullum (4.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1 bpg).
Fathers coaching sons
Father-son coach-player relationships are not uncommon in sports, especially in high school basketball, and even at the NCAA level. Some of the most famous include:
- Broughton alum “Pistol Pete” Maravich played 1969-71 at LSU for his dad, Press Maravich, after the father left N.C. State’s staff for Louisiana State.
- More recently, Bob McKillop coached two sons, Brendan and Matt, at Davidson, spanning 2002 to 2011. Matt recently joined the Davidson staff as an assistant.
- Tubby Smith coached his son G.G. at Georgia, 1995-1997, and coached son Saul at Kentucky, 1997-2001.
- Joey Meyer was captain of father Ray’s worst team ever (going 8-17 in 1971), but succeeded his father as the Blue Demons’ head coach. His brothers Bobby and Tommy also played for their Hall of Fame dad at DePaul.
- John Thompson III (Princeton ’88) didn’t play for John Thompson II at Georgetown but has followed him as the Hoyas’ head coach.
- Steve Alford’s son Kory played for his dad at New Mexico and transferred with him to UCLA. Son Bryce currently plays for Alford at UCLA.