HENDERSON — Vance County High School basketball player Jaylen Fields is set to continue his career by joining Flight 22 Post Grad ahead of the 2021-22 season.
Fields sees Flight 22 as a perfect opportunity for him to expand his knowledge on basketball, and is confident that his time with the program will help him become a key contributor with a college team in the near future.
“I think my hard work has really paid off but I know that I still have a lot to prove,” Fields said. “I’m just going to go in there, do my thing and try to make it to the next level.”
Established in 2001 as the Wilmington Warriors by Nathan Faulk, Flight 22 specializes in helping players who are taking a gap year between high school and college improve on their fundamentals and make connections with college programs.
Among the alumni of Flight 22 are former UNC Chapel Hill basketball player Stillman White and N.C. State standout Cedric Simmons, who ended up being drafted 15th overall by the New Orleans Hornets in the 2006 NBA Draft.
Faulk ended up rebranding his program to Flight 22 to pay tribute to Simmons and his ensuing accomplishments, which include a FIBA International Cup title back in 2013 with Olympiacos.
Fields hopes that he can embark on a journey similar to Simmons, White and other Flight 22 alumni and intends to use what he learned from late Vance County head coach Wilton Baskett and current coach Chad Wilson to help him through his development.
Although Fields only got to play one abbreviated season with Vance County’s varsity team due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that he will always be grateful for everything Baskett, Wilson and his teammates have provided over the last few years.
“Coach Baskett and Coach Wilson have been great mentors,” Fields said. “They taught me how to see the floor and make decisions based off instinct. My game has expanded so much from when I first came over here.”
Wilson said Fields’ improvement has been tremendous from his first game on the Vance County junior varsity team during his sophomore season up until his last with the varsity squad.
Fields “showed me that he can be a great scorer from anywhere on the floor,” Wilson said. “His defense improved and his confidence improved as a result. Jaylen’s overall knowledge of the game has just gotten better and better.”
Wilson added that Fields’ best game with Vance County came against Southern Durham, when he was tasked with defending inside the paint. His succeeded in disrupting Southern Durham’s interior scorers and nearly helped Vance County overcome a double-digit deficit.
With Fields’ talent as both an offensive scorer and a defender, Wilson expects to see him with a college team in the 2022-23 season once he completes his one year at Flight 22 under Faulk’s tutelage and connections.
“I know [he] is going to make the best of things” at Flight 22, Wilson said. “He deserved an extra year after everything that happened this year, so I know he’s going to make it to the next level. [Flight 22] is going to get the best out of him and whoever gets him from there is getting a pretty good player.”
Fields said that a handful of schools have expressed interest about him joining their teams but he plans to keep working hard while with Flight 22 so he can proudly represent Vance County long after his basketball career ends.
“I want to make it as far as I can in [basketball], but I also want to be a great human being,” Fields said. “Everyone at Vance County helped mold me into who I am today, and I want to live knowing that I put my all into everything.”