Oct 31, 2012
Person High School's boys basketball team enters this season with high expectations.
Last season, the Rockets won the PAC 6 4-A Conference regular season title, made a run to the third round of the state playoffs, and they return nine players, including their star player – Tyrone Outlaw, Jr.
"We've got the core group back, so there are a lot of high expectations for this team," Person coach Charles Dacus said. "We're going to try to live up to those expectations, the guys have worked really hard in the off season to live up to these."
Outlaw said he welcomes the high expectations.
"It's motivation really. If everybody is expecting me to do big things, then I'm just going to work that much harder not to let them down," he said.
Those expectations come from many sources. Members of the media expect big things from Outlaw and the Rockets, the fans in Roxboro have high expectations, and so does the team itself. Despite the team's comfort with the preseason hype, it's something the team hasn't been used to of late.
"We've been the hunter so to speak the last few years. We've been kind of hunting and chasing the people at the top of the conference, top in the state," said Dacus. "We got a pretty good run last year, we finished strong... So now everybody knows that they've got to beat Person."
"My coach said that they're gunning for me, I told him I'm gunning right back at them," Outlaw responded. "When I step out on the floor I've got no fear, I'm playing my hardest because the best man is going to come out victorious."
Outlaw is the reining PAC 6 Player of the Year, he's committed to play college basketball at UNC-Greensboro, and he's a big reason the Rockets are expected to do so well. But he brings more to the team than points and rebounds.
"The biggest thing he brings is leadership. He's an unbelievable leader," Dacus said. "He knows what I want as a team, and as a coach, so he does a great job of relaying that to the players."
That motivation to become a true leader comes from an experience early in his high school career. Outlaw said the team won just six games his freshman year, and he attributed that to the lack of senior leadership.
"As we had better team leadership I saw we won more games... so that's my main focus. Before we step on the court we're brothers in the locker room... We're not going to win every game, we want to, but if we lose some we don't want to break down."
Outlaw has had a great mentor too. His father, Tyrone Outlaw, Sr., was a star basketball player at Person High School in the early 1990's. The older Outlaw committed to NC State, but after finding himself in trouble, he never enrolled.
"I feel like I'm the son of an NBA superstar because everybody knows him, everybody says he could have been big in the NBA if he would have went," the younger Outlaw said. "of course he got into some trouble. He tells me, 'Don't make this mistake. Don't do this.' He tells me to stay focused, really he guides me."
Outlaw says he has always been able to count on his dad for advice.
"Anything he can do to help because he knows he blew his chance, but as a father he wants to make sure I don't," he said.
Person High School will play in the 2012 HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational this season. Outlaw, Sr., was on the last Person team to play in the tournament. In fact, three players on this year's Person team have fathers that played in the Holiday Invitational.
Outlaw believes the tournament could be a launching pad for a special season.
"If you're going to aim for something, aim for the best. I"m going for the state championship. I'm going to work my tail off until I do," he said.