Voyager stars have something to prove at Pro-Am
Little 1-A basketball programs can bring it, too, Voyager Academy coach Patrick Walton said.
The S.J.G. Greater NC Pro-Am has turned into Voyager’s proving ground, with three of Walton’s student-athletes participating in the summer league at Durham School of the Arts that includes both college and professional players.
“My goal is to break the stereotype that 1-A schools cannot compete with larger schools,” Walton said.
Walton has been the coach at Voyager since the academy’s high school opened in 2010, from its days as a squad that went 2-19 in its first season to a team that is coming off of a Carolina 12 Conference tournament championship and an appearance in the state playoffs.
Voyager’s Jay Huff, Diante Parker and Gary Ford II are getting valuable experience both running with and bumping against the older, more experienced players in the summer league, Walton said.
Boys learn poise and develop confidence when they play against men, Walton said.
“It’s about not being afraid,” Walton said.
It’s about Parker recently getting a dunk during a summer-league game. Parker said he threw one down during his high school season, but slamming in the pro-am is a different matter.
“That just brought it to another level,” Parker said.
Parker is just learning to dunk and only can do it when he gets the ball at certain spots on the court, Walton said. The coach doesn’t begrudge the athleticism but instead has been trying to get his guard to develop the explosion that will allow him to rise up from anywhere on the floor.
Parker, 17, will be a junior at Voyager, where he earned a starting role toward the end of the season.
Huff (6-6½, 155) is entering his sophomore season and has a chance to start, Walton said, but needs to learn to catch and shoot until he can develop the strength to create his own looks.
On Tuesday at the Pro-Am, Huff had it dialed in from behind the 3-point line and showed his mid-range game with a fluid baseline jumper.
“He shoots the ball very well,” Walton said.
Ford, 15 and a rising junior, will have the ball in his hands as Voyager’s starting point guard, Walton said.
“I’ve been mistaken for a 12-year-old by the announcer,” Ford said, talking about the colorful commentary from the Pro-Am’s Bill Murphy.
Ford said he is learning even when he’s on the bench by being around the older players.
On the court, Ford recalled a foul that he picked up for pushing a guy whose physical style was frustrating him. He said N.C. State transfer Trevor Lacey showed him a swim technique to keep the guy away.
Ford walked off the court Tuesday evening frustrated with himself for losing the basketball. But NBA free agent Nolan Smith, who played at Duke, was on the bench as a coach to offer some encouragement.
Voyager finished 16-10 during the 2012-13 last season, but the Vikings must stay hungry and never forget that 2-19 season, Walton said.
“There’s still something for Voyager basketball to prove,” Ford said.
“We’re not just a small team,” Parker said. “We can play.”