Dec 20, 2011
It speaks volumes about Kinston and its proud basketball tradition that two of the 11 men honored by the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational in its first Hall of Fame class are Vikings.
Cedric Maxwell, who played in the first Holiday Invitational in 1972, and Jerry Stackhouse, who appeared in the 1991 tourney, are part of the 10 players and one media member in the inaugural class.
“I guarantee you (Maxwell and Stackhouse) have some great memories about playing in the Holiday Invitational,” Kinston 11th-year head coach Wells Gulledge said. “It’s an honor they deserve and it’s an honor for the whole Kinston basketball program for them to be recognized this way.”
One of the stars on the current Vikings roster has multiple familial ties to the Holiday Invitational – Josh Dawson is related to both Stackhouse and former Wake Forest and Kinston star Craig Dawson, who made the all-tournament team in both his appearances in 1996 and 1997.
The younger Dawson is an uber-competitive 6-foot junior who is considered one of the top point guards in North Carolina in the Class of 2013. He’s been on the Kinston varsity all three seasons at the Lenoir County school and was a valuable player off the bench for the Reggie Bullock-led Vikings in their run to the NCHSAA 2A title in 2010.
“Josh is mature beyond his years, especially mentally knowing the game,” Gulledge said. “There are a lot of times Josh throws passes that people aren’t ready for. His ball-handling has improved and his outside shot has become a lot more consistent. To see his maturation from where he’s come to his junior year, I’m awfully proud of what he’s accomplished.
In the early weeks of this season, a pair of brothers – 6-foot-6 junior Denzel Keyes and 6-foot-3 forward Angelo Keyes – sparked the Vikings to a strong start. Both starred on Kinston’s football team that advanced to the NCHSAA 2AA championship game and have made significant contributions to the hoops squad, as well.
In particular, Denzel has become a double-double machine, leading the Vikings and scoring (17 points) and rebounding (13 boards).
“Those kids are two great athletes,” Gulledge said. “Once they got in here off the football field, it only took a small amount of time for them to get back into the groove. They play hard and are very talented.”
Other players to watch from Kinston are senior guards Chris Hall and C.J. Bradshaw, the latter the starting quarterback on the football team.
And there’s another familiar name coming off the bench for Vikings, too – 6-foot-6 freshman guard/forward Brandon Ingram, the younger brother of Bo Ingram, who played in the Holiday Invitational three years (2006-08) and is now an All-American candidate at Texas-Arlington.
“Brandon is only 14 years old and his shelf is unlimited right now,” Gulledge said. “Physically, he’s got some growing to do, but he’s a very good shooter. He’s going to be a major contributor for us and he’s going to be fun to watch over the next four years.”
Kinston, one of the inaugural eight teams in the 1972 Holiday Invitational, is making its 19th overall appearance in the tournament, including its seventh straight. Only Raleigh Broughton has been in it more times (23), while only Raleigh Enloe (12 straight from 1972-83), Raleigh Sanderson (nine, 1972-80), Broughton (eight, 1972-79) and Garner (eight, 1991-98) have had more consecutive appearances than this seventh straight year for Kinston.
Gulledge said he knows one reason tournament director Bill Sewell and the selection committee invite the Vikings back year after year: the way Kinston fans turn out for the Holiday Invitational.
“There have been games where there are more Kinston fans here than some Wake County schools,” Gulledge said. “With our fan support and our tradition, it means a lot to our community to be a part of this tournament.
“It means a lot to our kids, too; the first thing they do when our schedule comes out is ask when we’re heading to Raleigh to play in the Holiday Invitational. We’re very blessed to be invited every year.”
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