No Wall

Henderson Collegiate basketball player Kalib Mathews (5) drives to the rim against a defender during a game in the 2019-20 season. Henderson Collegiate was set to make its first appearance in the John Wall Holiday Invitational this year, which has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

HENDERSON — Henderson Collegiate’s opportunity to participate in the prestigious John Wall Holiday Invitational at Broughton High School will have to wait at least one more year, as the event’s been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Henderson Collegiate men’s basketball head coach George Marshall said the decision was inevitable with a recent increase in COVID-19 cases around the state, and affirmed that player safety takes precedence over any high school game.

“It wasn’t surprising based on the trends of where the NCHSAA calendar took us, along with the trends of safety across the country,” Marshall said. “The writing was on the wall, but it was the right decision to make. We’re disappointed that we can’t participate, but we’re going to be fine.”

Currently sponsored by Washington Wizards point guard and Raleigh native John Wall, the event takes place at the end of December and regularly attracts the best high school prospects from around the United States such as incoming UNC player Day’Ron Sharpe and former N.C. State commit Jalen Lecque.

Marshall knew the John Wall Holiday Invitational was going to present an environment that his players had not yet witnessed before, with an exuberant crowd to go with the top-tier players and programs that would test Henderson Collegiate’s style of basketball in every regard.

“This is the best holiday tournament in the country period,” Marshall said. “I can’t think of another event in which you can see the top-ranked player in the entire country for his class or the best team in the entire country, which was Montverde Academy from Florida last year. It’s an electric atmosphere and we were really excited to be a part of it.”

Entering the John Wall Holiday Invitational as the defending NCHSAA 1A co-champion alongside Winston-Salem Prep, Henderson Collegiate would have needed to adapt without Kalib Mathews, who graduated from the school over the summer after averaging 19 points per game and 4.1 rebounds and assists per game.

Despite the loss of Mathews, Marshall said that he felt comfortable about Henderson Collegiate’s chances with the talented senior class on his roster for the 2021 season, which consists of Javonte Waverly, Akhiris Holden and JaQuaveon Venable, among others.

Marshall added that his current roster is more than capable of defending its NCHSAA championship despite some of the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and is looking forward to starting official practices with the team on Dec. 7.

Although Henderson Collegiate will not get to take part in the John Wall Holiday Invitational this year, Marshall considers himself honored that the school was invited to such a prestigious event and he hopes to have another opportunity to return when the pandemic eventually subsides.

“We were really excited to compete with so many great teams and players,” Marshall said. “We weren’t going to the Wall to lose, we were going there to win. We were also going to represent this community at the highest possible level, but we are looking forward to having that chance again and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.”

Henderson Collegiate is set to begin their season on Jan. 4, while organizers of the John Wall Holiday Invitational intend to resume it on their normal December date in 2021.