LUMBERTON — Three of the best backcourts in the region will have the opportunity to separate themselves in this week’s Robeson County Shootout.
Fairmont, Lumberton and Red Springs are led by explosive guards, with each pair of playmakers set to make their case as the best backcourt in the county.
While there is a mutual respect among the group, Red Springs guard Caleel Mitchell pointed to one stat that will trump all of the others this week.
“Each team has a decent set of guards, but it depends on who shows up that night,” said Mitchell, who is averaging 16 points per game for the Red Devils.
“Anyone can say they have the best guards, but whoever shows up that night and gets the win, that’s who has the best set of guards to me.”
When it comes to winning, no one in the county has been better than Corry Addison and Derrick Arnette. Both players have won multiple conference championships and back-to-back Shootout titles with the Golden Tornadoes.
“I want to continue leading our players in the right direction and continue growing as a leader,” said Addison, who, along with Arnette, is averaging 15 points per game.
“We have seven seniors and all of us have to be leaders. We have to continue to grow and lead in every category as much as possible. I feel like we have the most experience with the deeper runs in the playoffs. The (other guards) are good people and I like the competition.”
Monte’ Wilkerson, who is averaging 15 points per game for the Red Devils, gave a nod to Fairmont and Lumberton. The Pirates are led by senior Steph Lloyd and sophomore Jordan McNeill.
“All three teams have a good backcourt,” Wilkerson said. “I’m not just saying us, but we played against Lumberton, we won (a game) and they won (a game). You know Fairmont is going to have a good backcourt; that’s every year.
“(Caleel and I) have been playing together since the Pamper days. He knows my strengths, I know his strengths.”
The four-day event begins tonight with Lumberton set to host South Robeson, Red Springs hosting Purnell Swett and Fairmont welcoming Lake View to town.
Steph Lloyd, Lumberton’s floor general, is averaging 12 points per contest. Sophomore Jordan McNeill, the lone underclassman among the group of veterans, leads the Pirates at 18 points per outing.
“I feel like me and Jordan (McNeill) can score and distribute the ball. And we’re both good leaders. I feel like that’s a big key for our backcourt,” Lloyd said.
“Most of the guards in the county are pretty slept on. For us to be able to just go at it, giving the crowd a show, hopefully we can bring some college coaches in and they can see what we can do.”
Here are some other storylines to keep an eye on during the Shootout:
STAIRWAY TO SEVEN
While a lot of the talk centers around Fairmont and its chances of becoming the first team to win three consecutive Shootout titles, Lumberton and Purnell Swett are also playing for history. Like the Golden Tornadoes, the Pirates and Rams have a chance to be the first team to win seven Shootout championships. Lumberton is looking for its first title since 2013 and Purnell Swett seeks its first championship since 2006.
RED DEVIL REDEMPTION
One of the main storylines of the high school basketball season will likely draw the spotlight’s attention in the semifinals of the Shootout on Friday at Fairmont. Red Springs is tired of hearing about its losing streak against Fairmont and the Red Devils are off to a hot start this season, sitting atop the Three Rivers Conference. A win over the Golden Tornadoes will lift a huge burden off a team looking to regain its championship pedigree.
FOCUSING ON PAGE
Purnell Swett may very well have the best scorer in the field in junior guard Kyler Page, who is averaging nearly 22 points per game for the Rams this season. Page set a school record earlier this season with a 44-point outing in a loss at Cheraw. If the junior gets hot, the rest of the field could be in trouble — starting with Red Springs tonight.