Who’s the best high school boys’ basketball team ever from North Carolina?
Yeah, sure it’s a barbershop debate and no one can ever be right. It can also get very regional. In the eastern part of the state, you might say it had to be Dominique Wilkins’ teams from the late 1970s from Washington. Folks in Rowan County will forever talk about West Rowan’s 61-0 run from 2001-03 as being the best.
The Observer asked 10 longtime coaches and media members for their thoughts. The panel included longtime Raleigh News & Observer reporter Tim Stevens, who covered high school athletics for nearly 50 years, and Greensboro Day coach Freddy Johnson, who has won more than 1,000 games in 41 seasons.
So here’s another list of 10 for the barbershop, in alphabetical order. And let the debate begin.
Greensboro Day, 2017: The Bengals finished with a Top 25 USA Today national ranking and appearance in the DICKS’ national championship, winning their second state title in three years. The team was led by JP Moorman (now at Temple), 6-foot-1 guard Will Dillard (signed to Georgia Southern) and current 6-6 senior John Newman, who signed with Clemson. At the DICKS’ tournament in New York, Greensboro Day upset national power IMG (Fla.) Academy and future Duke starter Trevon Duval.
Greensboro Dudley, 1996: Led by N.C. Associated Press Player of the Year Vincent Whitt, who averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, the Panthers (29-2) beat Richmond Senior 76-68 in overtime to win a state title. Dudley rallied from nine points down in the fourth quarter. Whitt, who played at Clemson, was joined on the team by future North Carolina center Brendan Haywood and sophomore Braxton Williams, who scored 24 in the championship final and was named most outstanding player of the final. Haywood led the state in 1996 with 186 blocks.
Greensboro Page, 1983: Led by All-American Danny Manning, the team rolled to a 73-55 win over Goldsboro in the state final. Manning moved with his family to Kansas before his senior year of high school and eventually played at Kansas, where his father, Ed, later became an assistant for the Jayhawks and coach Larry Brown. Ed Manning played for four NBA and two ABA teams. In 1983, Danny Manning averaged 18.9 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for a 26-0 team that also featured future NFL star Haywood Jeffries
North Mecklenburg, 2005: Led by junior All-American Jamie Skeen, the Vikings held 17 opponents to 50 points or less and finished with a 20-game win streak and a No. 15 national ranking. After starting No. 1 in the Sweet 16 in 2004 and 2005, the Vikings - who won by an average of 23 points - finally brought home the school's first Sweet 16 and state championship. North finished 31-1.
Providence Day, 2016: The Chargers, who finished with a top 20 national ranking and a spot in the DICKS’ national field in New York, won a private schools 3A state title that MaxPreps said was one of the five toughest nationally to get. Providence Day beat future NBA lottery pick Bam Adebayo’s High Point Christian team in the finals. Three Chargers play in college now: Josh Howard, son of Michigan “Fab 5” star Juwan Howard, at Brown; Isaac Johnson at Appalachian State; and Grant Williams, a potential SEC player of the year, at Tennessee. Current seniors Devon Dotson (McDonald’s All-American signed with Kansas) and Trey Wertz (McDonald’s All-American nominee signed with Santa Clara) were starters. Both are multiple all-state performers recently named to the Esmark High School All-American team.
South Mecklenburg, 1972: Sabres coach Dave Price was born on Christmas Day 1929 and grew up wanting to be a football coach. His Sabres’ teams dominated the ’70s, winning titles in 1970, 71, 72 and ’76. In 1969, the Sabres won Price his first conference championship and the team lost in the playoffs to Greensboro Smith and future NBA and North Carolina star Bob McAdoo. In 1970, senior Bobby Jones developed into the state's best player and the Sabres (26-2) beat Wilmington Hoggard 59-58 for the state title. But in 1971 and '72, the Sabres lost one game, in 1971 to Hickory. The ’72 team went unbeaten at 26-0.
Washington, 1979: The PamPack had five Division I recruits, including a McDonald’s All-American named Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins was in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” for a game that year when he had 48 points, 27 rebounds, nine dunks and eight blocks. Wilkens and future Wake Forest All-ACC star Alvis Rogers led Washington to the 1978 state title. In ’79, Wilkins returned to help the PamPack polish off a run of 56 straight wins and a second straight state title.
West Charlotte, 1999: All-American Jason Parker won back-to-back N.C. Associated Press Player of the Year awards. . His ’99 team was deep, with so much Division I college talent coming off the bench that two future college stars -- Justin Gray (Wake Forest) and Curtis Withers (Charlotte 49ers) - had to stay on junior varsity . Eight years ago, Withers was voted one of the Observer's top players of the Sweet 16 era, which started in 1984-85. Parker had the flu the week of the state finals but finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and five dunks in an 84-67 win over Wilmington Laney. The Lions finished 30-2, losing to national powers Durham Mount Zion and Oak Hill Academy (Va.), and had a top 10 USA Today national ranking.
Wilmington New Hanover, 1962: The last of three straight state championship teams beat Rocky Mount 42-40 in the 1962 state final. The previous two teams, coached by the legendary Leon Brogden, won by 12 (66-54 over Myers Park in 1961) and 34. New Hanover dominated the state in the ’60s. The Wildcats lost to Ashley in the 1967 state finals and beat West Charlotte 61-58 in the ’68 championship round.
Winston-Salem Reynolds, 2001: The school won three consecutive state titles from 2000-2002 under legendary coach Howard West. I think the 2001 team was the best of the bunch. It finished 28-3, led by Charlotte 49ers recruit Mitchell Baldwin. In 2001, Baldwin was runner-up to Raleigh Broughton's Shavlik Randolph for N.C. Associated Press Player of the Year. Reynolds beat Raleigh Leesville Road 94-73 in the state final.
Other Notable Teams
Arden Christ School 3A Private (2007-11 state champs); Durham High (1938-42, won five Class A state titles, produced multiple N.C. Sports Hall of Famers); Durham Jordan 3A (1968 state champion); Greensboro Day 3A Private (1996 state champion); High Point Wesleyan, 3A Private (2014 state champion); Kinston, 3A (1963-64 and 1964-65, repeat 3A state champion); Olympic, 4A (unbeaten 2013 state champ); Rocky Mount 4A (1978 state champion); West Charlotte 4A (1986, unbeaten state champion; and 1966, 19-1 state champion); West Rowan 3A (2002 and ‘03 state champs)