Chivalry the code that the No. 2 Knights swear by

Feb. 27, 2014 @ 09:48 PM

Northern coach Ronnie Russell is in charge of some guys who very likely learned all the needed to know about good manners while they were in kindergarten.

But they found out what it means to share the basketball last summer during a basketball camp at N.C. State University.

“That’s where it started,” Russell said.

The Knights, with a No. 2 seed in the 4-A state playoffs, will look to play nice with the ball tonight at 7 when they host No. 7 Apex (19-7) in the East Regional quarterfinals, the Sweet 16.

Since rival Jordan beat Northern 76-69 on Jan. 24, the Knights haven’t lost, securing the regular-season title in the PAC-6 before winning the league tournament.

Northern (26-2) has two 6-5 guys in senior Ricky Council II and junior Kentrell Barkley who can get it done on the floor.

Council averages 24.6 points per game, Barkley 18.9. They could score more, but Council and Barkley are getting the basketball in their hands and — rather than merely catching and shooting — they’re moving it.

“That’s one of our strengths,” Russell said. “We move the ball probably better than I’ve see us move it in a long time of any team that I’ve coached here.”

Hillside coach Crasten Davis gave props to Northern's passing after the Knights put it on his Hornets to win the PAC-6 Tourament.

Council and Barkley are averaging 4.1 and 3.5 assists per game, respectively.

“We don’t care who’s scoring, and it’s nothing selfish,” Council said. “So we’re just giving the ball up and scoring the ball — that’s what we do.”

That basketball camp at N.C. State really did something good for the Knights, Russell said. They bunked together, woke up together, ate together, Barkley said.

“It really set the tone for us,” Barkley said.

Barkley’s situation is a bit unique because he doesn’t go to school at Northern. He’s a student at J.D. Clement Early College High School, an affiliate of Durham Public Schools that is housed on the campus of N.C. Central University.

No sports are offered at Clement. Barkley said the potential for higher learning is what attracted him to that lineup.

“I can earn up to two years of college credit, and it’s a good, accelerated high school,” Barkley said. “You take all honors classes, and you take college classes.”

Barkley’s base school is Northern, so that’s why he plays for the Knights, DPS athletics director Larry McDonald said.

Similarly, students at DPS’ City of Medicine Academy, which doesn’t offer sports, are allowed to participate in athletics at the schools they would normally attend, McDonald said. That cuts out the funny business of indirect recruiting that could be used to stack sports teams, he said.

Council has talked about being the big man on campus at Northern, where everybody knows his name and shows him love throughout the day.

It’s different for Barkley, being one of Northern’s top players yet on another campus all day.

“I get the love I need from here and at my school,” Barkley said in Northern’s gym after the Knights beat Middle Creek 72-62 on Wednesday. “They keep up with me in the newspaper, and stuff like that.”

Council said it sort of feels like Barkley actually is enrolled at Northern.

“We’ve known each other since middle school,” Council said.

The Knights are tight like that.

Winning has helped strengthen the bond, Barkley said.