Three years ago, Henderson Collegiate didn’t have a varsity basketball team. Saturday, it plays for the 1A title

Henderson Collegiate head coach George Marshall talks 1A championship appearance

It’s been a quick climb for Henderson Collegiate, a team that didn’t even have a varsity three years ago.
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It’s been a quick climb for Henderson Collegiate, a team that didn’t even have a varsity three years ago.

Henderson Collegiate has six seniors on its basketball roster.

The six seniors, the first senior class at the 9-year-old school, have seen the program’s highs, leading the Pride to its first ever 1A state title game this Saturday against Bishop McGuinness. But the seniors on George Marshall’s roster have also seen the lowest of the lows on the basketball court.

Back when they were in the seventh grade, the current Henderson Collegiate seniors took to the court when the charter school located in Vance County was in its basketball infancy.

Marshall can remember that group going out on the floor in makeshift uniforms: T-shirts with numbers on the back, black shorts, black sneakers. That team lost every game it played by at least 30 points.

Fast forward to now, and the same group that played in Henderson Collegiate’s first basketball game on any level are now one game away from a state title.

“It’s been ridiculous,” Marshall said of the journey.

That group had to build a junior-varsity program, find a little success and move on to varsity. In just their second year fielding a varsity team, the Pride went 31-2 overall this season and a perfect 14-0 in the North Central 1A conference.

The rise from barely fielding a program to playing for a state title in two years happened a lot faster than even Marshall imagined. Marshall looked at his group before the season and had a feeling this was the team that could roll to the title game. He admits some of the players gave him a “are you serious?” look.

The experience this year -- conference title, a regional championship -- is all new for everyone involved. As Marshall likes to put it “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

“There are things we have to learn along the way that we don’t know,” Marshall said.

From home game regulations, to who does the public service announcements at home games, the Pride learned everything on the fly.

“Literally every single detail,” Marshall said. “I’ll be the first to admit we bumped our heads last year and we bumped our heads this year and we will continue to bump our heads until we are a fully established program, not just in basketball, but in all sports. But it’s been an awesome journey.”

The Pride play in a conference that features a team that won a state title recently (Voyager Academy in 2016). They hope to be the next against Bishop McGuinness (23-8). It would be a good way to put their name on the state map, which is needed because Marshall still gets asked all the time where Henderson Collegiate is.

“We use that as motivation,” Marshall said. “Nobody knows anything about our school because we are so new. But it’s been awesome because kids hate when nobody knows where their school is. They want to be put on the map and recognized in a positive light. Not only for them, Henderson and the Vance County community, but for the state as well. They’ve worked hard to be well known.”

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