Millbrook basketball offense with a one-word name is among the best in the nation

Millbrook basketball coach Chris Davis doesn’t have a catchy slogan or a fancy name for the Wildcats’ fast paced offense.

Davis prefers a style that mimics UNC or Loyola Marymount back when they had the late Hank Gathers. Davis wants his team to go. Whether the opponent makes a basket or misses, Davis yells “go!” to his players.

The offense with the simple name, “Go,”has worked well for the Wildcats (18-0, 6-0), who are averaging 87.0 points per game, good enough for second in the nation according to The team scored slightly below their season average in an 82-67 win over Broughton Wednesday night.

Millbrook has scored 1,561 points this season, topping out with a season-high 115 in a win over Sanderson on Jan. 11.

The Wildcats have scored 100 points or more three times this season, scoring 63 points in the first half versus Enloe on Dec. 20 and 40 points in the first quarter in the same game, both season highs. They have scored 50 points or more in one half eight times this year. Of the nine top scoring games in school history, this team is responsible for three.

Davis feels kids like to play fast, watching teams like Golden State in the NBA, putting up points in bunches.

“We don’t shoot as many 3s as they shoot,” Davis said, “but trying to play at a fast pace where anybody has a chance to push the ball up the court and not just be the “point guard” is kind of how we made it to what we are doing.”

The “Go” offense isn’t for everyone. Teams have to be built a certain way to execute it the way Davis likes. Here are the keys to putting up 87 points per game in eight minute quarters.

Seven seconds or less

Davis sometimes practices with a seven-second shot clock. North Carolina high schools don’t use a shot clock, but Davis implemented the system as a drill to remind his team to keep up a fast pace and maintain a sense of urgency.

Though the seven-second drill is mainly about producing quick offense, it’s also built to make sure guys aren’t put in bad spots during a play.

“When we go seven seconds we are actually trying to get the ball up the floor as quickly as possible and make it not be about you,” Davis explained. “So you may have to sacrifice for the team, to drive to the basket, to draw someone and pass to a wide open guy who has to shoot the ball before the time clock goes off. You can’t be the guy who gets the ball and we are counting, and he passes to a guy and then we are stuck.”

At times in games Davis will shout “seven seconds” to his players, letting them know that he wants a quick possession. Not every offensive possession is seven seconds, but Davis is not opposed to it.

“If we have a good pace and a team is running with us, definitely,” Davis said. “If we don’t have to run the offense, that’s good for us. We can run the offense, we are good in the half court, but I would rather get the chance to play more guys in the game.”

Davis doesn’t have a certain number of points he wants to score. He prefers to break a game down into a series of runs.

“We try to get four 8-2 runs per quarter. We feel like if we do that that’s 32 points,” Davis said. “If we can score 32 points a quarter, we do that twice, you put the numbers together that’s 64 points and that gets us on our way for what we are trying to get to.”

Defense leads to offense

The 87.0 points per game jumps off the page, but Davis feels like people overlook the Wildcats’ defense. The defense is what gets the face-paced offense going.

Millbrook likes to press and trap, and steals and turnovers by the opponent lead to easy baskets. If the Wildcats don’t force turnovers, easy basket are hard to come by.

“We have to defend, we have to guard and we have to get to playing at a pace that wears them (the opponent) down,” Davis said. “Then we can substitute and bring in fresh guys who are going to play just as hard as the guys they replaced to keep the pace going.”

On any given night Davis will play up to 11 guys. It was over the summer that Davis discovered he would have enough talent to play at such a pace and be able to dive deep into his bench and keep the same intensity on both ends.

Davis likes to play a group for four or five minutes at a time, pressing and trapping, then bring in another group with the ability to keep up the pace.

The system has worked. In a game against Wake Forest on Nov. 27, the Wildcats held the Cougars scoreless in the third quarter of an 81-28 win.

Davis has seen high-scoring teams that have to depend on outscoring opponents each night to win, but he wants to play at a high-level on both ends of the floor.

“Our defense is what pushes us, to be honest,” Davis said. “That’s the only way it works. You can’t just go out and outscore people. We’re scoring 87 and we’re going to give up 50, 55.”

Spread the wealth

Millbrook doesn’t have one big scorer. The Wildcats have nine players who have scored 13 or more points in a game this season and seven players are averaging more than 9.0 points per game. Noone averages more than 13.6 ppg.

The leading scorer is senior guard Phillip Burwell, who also leads the team in assists. The second-leading scorer is 6-7 sophomore William Felton, who has scored 437 career points in his short career.

Davis said on any given night a different player can be the scoring leader, making it harder for opposing coaches to scout the offense. Anyone can start the fast break.

“It makes it really easy for us,” Davis said. “Guys know that they can be happy for a guy who has a good night.”

The scary part for opponents -- Millbrook has been without 6-5 point guard Nolan Dorsey since November (concussion). Dorsey, who has offers from Western Carolina and Salem College, is expected to return soon.

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Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.