Opportunity knocks for Wake Tech-bound Haywood, Brandon

May. 15, 2013 @ 09:40 PM

It’s not Carolina. It’s not State. But it is an opportunity.

That’s Northern Vance varsity boys basketball coach Wilton Baskett’s message to Jazmine Haywood, Le’Darius Brandon and any other Viking athlete.

Haywood and Brandon have each signed to play basketball at Wake Tech in the fall.

Both athletes have dreams of playing of playing basketball beyond the two years at Wake Tech. Brandon, especially, has his sights set on Division I.

“I think everybody’s goal is probably Division I,” said Baskett. “I know everybody thinks that there’s nowhere but State, Carolina, ECU, Maryland. I know everybody thinks that, but it’s just so many more things out there. Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than to be a minnow floating out there in the ocean.”

The Wake Tech men lost to Louisburg College in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Region X Tournament final this past season. The Eagles recorded the most wins (24) in the program’s history and were ranked as high as 17th nationally in the DII junior college poll.

“I talked to the coach and he seemed pretty cool,” Brandon said of Van Williams. “And the system was pretty cool. The campus was nice too. That’s what brought me in I guess.”

Brandon played four years of varsity basketball under Baskett, earning all-conference honors twice. He averaged 18.3 points while garnering all-district honors his senior season.

“He’s definitely a shooter, no doubt about it,” said Baskett.

Brandon caught fire at times this season, notably in Northern’s home game with rival J.F. Webb and a holiday tourney at East Lincoln High School.

“The nights that he caught the ball in flow and shot it right away, we were a real good basketball team on those nights,” said Baskett. “Those nights we could play with anybody.”

Baskett added that he hopes Brandon can learn to play with more confidence at the next level.

Baskett also coached Haywood in track. There, she excelled as a sprinter.

Her athleticism translated to the basketball court. Lady Vikings’ coach Randolph Crews thinks she’ll be a good fit at Wake Tech.

“When they get in practice, she’s going to hurt their feelings because she’s going to steal the ball from them,” Crews said. “She’s quicker than what you would think. I expect her to compete for playing time.”

Haywood was twice named honorable mention all-conference at Northern. She said she fit in well with the Wake Tech team on a trip to Raleigh for tryouts.

“Just energy when I’m on the court,” Haywood said of what she tries to bring to the floor. “Make sure that the other girls know where they are supposed to be.”

Haywood is the first Northern girls player to sign with a college team in several years.

“Hopefully it will start some momentum, like dominoes,” said Crews. “She’s a good person to start off with, that’s for sure.”

Baskett was adamant that both players take full advantage of the opportunities in front of them and finish what they start, finish both years at Wake Tech. With strong support systems around them, the Viking coach expects that to happen.

“Le’Darius has his daddy in the gym, working on him,” said Baskett. “Daddy banging with him, showing him he needs to get stronger and that type of thing. And then with Jazmine she’s got Daddy preaching the story and Mama taking her to the gym. They both have strong parental support which in turn may help them go farther.”

On whichever path they decide to take.

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.