Rising up

Former Henderson Collegiate basketball player Javonte Waverly, pictured, has carved out a significant role as a sixth man in his first year at UNC Pembroke. Through 12 games, UNC Pembroke maintains an 11-1 record, with Waverly averaging 17.1 minutes, 5.5 points and 2.2 rebounds.

HENDERSON — Success has been a part of Javonte Waverly’s life at every level of basketball.

Only two years after helping Henderson Collegiate bring home the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A championship, Waverly finds himself as a major contributor for a UNC Pembroke program that currently sits 11-1 on the season.

While Waverly has only occasionally cracked UNC Pembroke’s starting lineup, he has grown comfortable with his new environment and cherished the opportunity to showcase the traits that made him a dynamic playmaker at Henderson Collegiate.

“Everything is going well,” Waverly said. “I really like the system. Even though I’m basically the sixth man coming off the bench, it’s really fun. College basketball is supposed to be fun and that’s what UNC Pembroke has given me.”

Playing in Henderson Collegiate’s up-tempo, selfless style of basketball under head coach George Marshall helped prepare Waverly for the demands of the collegiate level.

Waverly gradually became a more well-rounded player in each season under Marshall when it came to scoring and generating offense. By the time he graduated from Henderson Collegiate last summer, he had scored 1,562 career points, grabbed 483 rebounds and set a Henderson Collegiate assists record with 340.

Marshall saw the natural talent Waverly possessed when he first arrived at Henderson Collegiate during his freshman year. He said Waverly’s determination to get better was crucial towards him obtaining all of his accomplishments and becoming a vital part of the basketball team’s culture.

“Like any player, we tried to acknowledge the areas where [Javonte] excelled and needed to improve on,” Marshall said. “There were a lot of times when we were alone in the gym and he would go above and beyond to improve his shooting or a certain move. He’s been a part of everything Henderson Collegiate has accomplished and I think he is one of the most decorated players in our school’s history.”

Marshall knew that Waverly would fit right in at UNC Pembroke under head coach Drew Richards, who like Marshall also embraces a system that encourages players to attack the rim and quickly move the ball up and down the court.

Waverly said he approaches every game with a winning mentality and never sees UNC Pembroke as an underdog, an idea he said aligns well with the principles Richards and his staff instill into their players.

“Coach Drew is a dog,” Waverly said. “He wants the best out of everybody and makes sure that everyone performs at their potential. [He and the other coaches] have taught me that it’s not all about talent but rather who applies the most pressure and who can facilitate the offense. A talented team is not always a well-rounded team that knows how to play together.”

Through the first 12 games, Waverly has become a more trusted member of the UNC Pembroke rotation. He currently averages 17.1 minutes a night to go along with 5.5 points per game, with his career high to date being a 14-point performance in 105-76 victory over King on Dec. 4.

The first part of the season was an adjustment period for Waverly but he has since embraced being the sixth man of UNC Pembroke’s rotation for his freshman year and feels more confident about contributing on both ends of the floor as he continues to see an increase in minutes.

Being a sixth man “gives me time to see what the opposing team is running,” Waverly said. “When I get into the game, I can adjust, make plays and call out the offense so I don’t get confused. There was some confusion at first with the faster pace in college, but now things are more calming and adjustable.”

Waverly has high expectations for the remainder of UNC Pembroke’s season and is ready to do whatever is necessary to ensure that he and his teammates lead the program to a Conference Carolinas tournament championship in their first season of affiliation.

For Marshall, he is proud of the hard work Waverly continues to put in at UNC Pembroke, and has every reason to believe he will excel long after the conclusion of his basketball career as long as he keeps emphasizing the importance of academics and his loved ones.

“This is a testament to his work ethic and humility,” Marshall said. “His parents Tina and Jerry have done an awesome job with him by emphasizing academics first and helping build all the habits he needs to be successful in life. He’s always had a great support system, but to see him perform this well in college shows that everything has come full circle for Javonte.”

Marshall envisions that the basketball knowledge Waverly possesses will one day result in the sort of consistent triple-double performances that were a common occurrence at Henderson Collegiate during its state-championship runs.

Waverly has every intention to deliver multiple NCAA Division II titles to UNC Pembroke before he graduates, and plans to accomplish that by leaning on Richards for advice and embodying the characteristics that allowed him and his former Henderson Collegiate teammates to celebrate a championship back in 2020.

“I want to be the best point guard I can be,” Waverly said. “I need to score the ball, keep a hard nose and to not be an underdog. Coming from Henderson, it’s always been a dream to play college basketball and Pembroke has given me everything I can ask for. I love it here.”

Waverly is set to hit the court later today when UNC Pembroke travels to Central, South Carolina to face Southern Wesleyan at 2 p.m.

Contact Brandon White at bwhite@henderson dispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2840

Contact Brandon White at bwhite@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2840

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