Basketball can be a brutal game of fighting through adversity and obstacles, more than simply competing on the hardwood. Though most might not realize, Henderson Collegiate has been dealt one of the roughest hands over the few years. In order to appreciate and understand the Pride’s unfortunate circumstances, one must start by looking at their devastating loss in the NCHSAA 1A State Championship back in 2019. They fell at the hands of a scrappy, unexpected, ninth-seeded Bishop McGuinness squad by a single point. What came across as shocking to most people is how the one-point finish didn’t ultimately favor the 30-3 squad, given that they were such heavy favorites.
Fast-forward a few months and the various pieces of the Pride roster opt to remain with the Royal Knights travel program. An underrated/underappreciated wrinkle about this situation is how seamlessly the transition took place from Coach George Marshall to Coach Stanley Yarborough (and then back to Marshall). It’s so much more common to see high school coaches genuinely despise whoever guides their players in the summer season, so their balanced relationship ultimately did a lot of positive for these prospects. That being said, the Kalib Matthews-Javonte Waverly-Nick Green-AK Holden core was special and regularly proved their ability to compete with any program in the state. While each of the aforementioned group received an uptick in recruitment, Matthews and Waverly really began to take off with college coaches.
The primary domino to fall was Matthews’ commitment to Queens College just two weeks after receiving his firstscholarship offer. Anyone with knowledge of Division II basketball should already know that the Royals’ program is better than a large percentage of Division I schools, so kudos to them for netting yet another incredible piece. While Waverly’s Elon and UNCG offers would come a few months later, this group was already busy preparing for an absolute bloodbath schedule.
With the season underway, folks reamplified their expectations of the previous NCHSAA 1A runner-up and expected nothing short of a state championship. After all, it would be difficult to imagine the Pride losing many games between their talent, coaches, and sheer chemistry. Well, leave it to Coach Marshall to put forth an incredibly challenging, 36-game schedule (arguably the toughest across the entire state). That being said, this group always rose to the occasion. It didn’t matter if they were playing Teay’s Valley and an entire roster of Division I prospects or their local conference opponent, each game was approached with a unique amount of determination.
They finished the regular season with a 21-10 record after playing probably one of the toughest 1A schedules in state history. Henderson Collegiate enters the playoffs and did what was expected of them, winning every game en route to the championship by double-digits. However, they were robbed of redemption and the perfect storm due to Covid. The Pride were set to play Winston-Salem Prep (in what would’ve ultimately been Andre Gould’s last game with the program), but the game got cancelled. We can only speculate about what would’ve happened, but everything came together at the right time for this group—which really just puts a somber feeling over the entire journey.
Furthermore, let’s look at the nightly averages for the aforementioned core group…
- Matthews: 19 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.9 APG, 2.3 SPG, 1.3 BPG with 57/40/66 shooting splits.
- Waverly: 16.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.9 SPG with 50/32/76 shooting splits.
- Holden: 12.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.6 BPG with 65% FG
- Green: 9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 SPG.
Following the season, Matthews departed for Queens and Green was forced to relocate due to unforeseen circumstances, leaving Waverly and Holden to keep the ship afloat. Well, the veteran duo has done an excellent job of maintaining their success through their first few games. Both Waverly and Holden have improved their numbers across the board while not being particularly selfish. The team is currently 3-1, but their sights are set on returning to the state championship for a third consecutive season—something widely unprecedented over the last few decades for 1A programs. This roster is deserving of more love from college coaches, as they’ve arguably worked harder than most to get to this position.