Player of the Year: C.J. Ray, South Johnston
20.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game
Ray was a stud for the Trojans from the opening tip of the season, when he dropped 24 against Midway. The junior big man kept up that production all season long and saved some his best moments for the big games, like his 27 points in the home rivalry game against Triton, or his 32 points in the Greater Neuse Conference Tournament Final — scoring 26 in the second half on East Wake’s court to beat the Warriors and take home the trophy.
“I felt really confident after my sophomore year when I started dunking,” Ray said. “That’s when I realized I could have a special year this year, but I don’t know if I ever expected to be player of the year.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Ray is a complete player, commanding both the ability to both dominate the paint as well as drain shots from the outside. The fact that he’s the only non-senior to make the All-Record team is a testament to the hard work and dedication he’s put in on the court. In addition to being named Record player of the year, Ray was also named the Greater Neuse Conference player of the year.
“I just want to thank my coaches and my teammates,” Ray said. “They really helped me become a better player. I’m going to miss the guys that are graduating, but I’m excited to play my senior year. I think we’re going to have another really good team.’
E.J. Bethea, Cape Fear Christian Academy
16.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1 assist per game
Bethea was a strong runner-up choice for Record player of the year. An Erwin native, he had a strong start to his senior season with four-straight 20-plus-point games, and dropped 30 points (tied for his season high) in a November win over Heritage IJN. He matched that outing with 30 points in a big win over Fayetteville Christian.
Bethea is as talented of a guard as you’ll find around the Dunn area. The 6-foot-2 senior has received offers from Lees-McRae, Fayetteville Tech, Ferrum University and Bridgewater College.
Tre Richardson, Western Harnett
15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3 steals per game
Richardson had some up and down games early in the year but really turned it on during Tri-County Conference play, averaging over 20 points per game in those contests. He had 27 in an overtime victory over Triton at home, and capped off his high school career with a career-high 36 points in the Tri-County Conference Tournament semi-final against Harnett Central, which the Eagles lost in heart-breaking fashion on a free throw with six seconds left in the game.
Still, it was a season to remember for Richardson, who proved himself to be one of the most explosive guards in the entire area. He’s more than deserving of All-Record status.
JaQuain Smith, South Johnston
14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game
Smith was an integral member of the most successful Record team this season. A seasoned floor general, Smith came up clutch for South time after time, whether it was hitting a game-tying shot in the final seconds at Triton to send the game to overtime, or knocking down clutch free throws in the Greater Neuse Conference Tournament to seal the game.
Smith may have been the second fiddle to Ray most of the season, but he proved his explosiveness when he had a career-high 34 points against Harnett Central in December. He may have the fastest legs and the fastest hands on defense among all Record players. South coach Brody Massengill will certainly miss his presence next season.
Derreon Burnett, Triton
14.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game
Burnett didn’t play much on the varsity level prior to his senior season, but he was certainly a key player for the Hawks. Burnett came out the gates with a then career-high 17 points in a double-overtime win against Western Harnett, and from there on out became Triton’s go-to scorer. He set a new career mark with 26 points against Fuquay-Varina, and topped that a couple weeks later with 27 in a huge win over Wake Forest.
Burnett was definitely undersized to be Triton’s main post player, but he did a great job of using his quickness and his leaping ability to his advantage. Teams began to key in on him in the second half of the season, but he still put up strong numbers.
Lexuus Fasce (senior), Overhills
Cinque Lemon (sophomore), Overhills
Chase Mullins (senior), Harnett Central
Jordan Pearsall (junior), Hobbton
Kasey Perkins (senior), Harnett Central
Jacob Thornton (senior), South Johnston
Riley Adams (senior), Cape Fear Christian Academy
Tobias Dillard (senior), Western Harnett
Bryson Core (senior), Midway
Kalil Hodges (senior), Triton