Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Rock Jumping Into National Spotlight

The Rock's Darius Days entered this season without generating the same buzz, lofty aspirations, and regal rankings as other formidable class of 2018 players in Florida.

Shouldering the weight of leader on both sides of the floor and barreling to the rim like a train, it's clear to say the perception of Days has changed.

The 6-foot-6 Days, known for bulldozing strength and an explosive vertical, has installed a funky cock-back jumper to his arsenal of offensive tools.

The improved touch on Days, which gives him a bird's eye view of the rim, has been instrumental in The Rock's 18-1 start this season. While developing a consistent shot from 18-feet out, he's also become more adept at creating his own shot and scoring effectively in the one-on-one game. It's a surprisingly soft touch which he can get off without difficulty, despite the fact that he's still evolving as a shooter.

"His shot has continued to progress and what Darius needs to do is continue to understand he can score on all three levels," said The Rock head coach Justin Hardin, who is constantly holding Days to a high standard.

"He can post up at times, he can knock down the mid-range, which is probably his best shot. His 3-point shooting has improved tremendously as he's now leading our team in 3-pointers made and percentage."

Days has offers from Virginia, Virginia Tech, VCU, UAB, and most recently Southern California have plunked down scholarship offers. Florida, which is in The Rock's backyard, Maryland, Wake Forest, Tennessee, and Georgia appear to be waiting in the wings.

The Rock returned arguably the league's top point guard in Duquesne-bound Jamari Wheeler. The catalyst in The Rock's 69-62 over Conrad Academy (which features the backcourt of Luguentz Dort and David Sloan), Wheeler shredded through the teeth of the defense for 22 points. During an 83-63 win against Oldsmar Christian, Wheeler finished with 12 points.

The emergence of Wheeler's younger brother, Antrell Charlton, has been pivotal. According to Hardin, the junior guard has improved drastically from his sophomore to junior year.

"I'd say Antrell is the most improved on our team, even if you include the growth of Darius and Jamari, I think he's come along the furthest," Hardin explained.

"Last year, he could barely dunk. This year's he's got about seven or eight in-game dunks. He had a monster one on an alley oop against Oldsmar. He's just made that extra push in his game. Against Conrad on Tuesday, he had about eight points. But hey, he knocked down a big 3-pointer in the second half and a couple key transition layups."

Hardin continued, "He's just a really active player at all times, just like his brother."

Little brother played to the level of big brother in The Rock's aforementioned win over Oldsmar, submitting a team-best 17 points. He authored a personal 7-0 run at one point and bagged three 3-pointers.

"I think everybody is starting to see how good he is and his name's getting out there more," said Wheeler of Charlton. "He feels like he should be one of the hottest wings in his class in Florida. As a team, we feel we're underrated so we always got that chip on our shoulder."

Also working in The Rock's favor is the return of Daniel Mading. The towering, long presence of Mading has helped The Rock jump into America's top 50 (they're now at no.46) nationally.

A wiry inside-outside threat with guard capabilities, Mading is being recruited by Pittsburgh, Cal, Texas Tech, Providence, Georgetown, Iowa State, and Butler.