Deloach, Harrell return home for charity basketball game

1 of 3

Huston Rockets player Montrezl Harrell, left, dunks the ball Tuesday during a charity basketball event at the Abundant Life Church gymnasium.


by Josh Walfish
Sports Writer

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

When Moe Deloach graduated from Northern Nash in 2004, there were not many athletic role models from the Twin Counties.

Some 12 years later, six of them filled a basketball court at the Abundant Life Church basketball gym Tuesday night to play the game they love in front of a supportive hometown fan base that adores them. Joining the Italian professional in co-hosting this event was Montrezl Harrell, fresh off his rookie season for the Houston Rockets.

The game served as a great reminder that athletes from this area are continuing to find success at more prestigious levels. Deloach set the trend by playing at Norfolk State and it slowly continued with Trey Sumler at Western Carolina and Harrell at Louisville. And it has continued with the current crop of high school stars with Nash Central senior guard Josh Mullins committing to play at N.C. A&T last week and Rocky Mount Academy star Elijah McCadden garnering interest from several Division I schools.

“When I was in high school, it was only me that went Division I over the last couple of years,” said Deloach, who did not play in the game. ”After that came everyone else. I’m not saying I paved the way, but they saw that it could happen.”

Harrell led a squad that featured three other area players who starred at their high schools: Virginia guard J’Kyra Brown, Rocky Mount High; Sumler, Nash Central; and Monique Hudson, SouthWest Edgecombe. They were opposed by a team that included Deshawn Freeman, who led Rocky Mount Prep to the state championship game in 2013 and now plays at Rutgers. 

The local celebrities found plenty of ways to entertain the crowd from impressive dribbling feats to an impromptu dunk contest between Harrell and Freeman that occurred during the run of play in the middle of the game. The spectators responded in kind with thunderous applause in between a chorus of ”Oohs” and ”Aahs” that followed each move. It was an atmosphere befitting the laid-back nature of the game.

Deloach is coming off arguably the best season of his career overseas, leading second-tier Italian squad Orasi Ravenna with 18.2 points and 4.7 assists per game. 

Although some might see it as proof that Deloach still has plenty of seasons left in the tank, the 30-year-old said he knows his professional career will end soon. He is hopeful the younger professionals from the area will produce events like the one on Tuesday night in the future.

Meanwhile, Harrell’s rookie season contained plenty of ups and downs — almost quite literally. The former Louisville forward was jockeyed between the Rockets and their D-League affiliate — the Rio Grande Valley Vipers — where he averaged 24.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in 12 games. He averaged just 3.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 39 appearances for the Rockets.

It was a role he said he expected particularly given the success Houston had the previous season. 

“I enjoyed being able to wake up and play the game I love and be able to get paid for it,” Harrell said. ”I knew coming into the league and coming into a team that was coming off an appearance in the Western Conference Finals, it was going to be tough for me to play especially as a rookie. But I just went in every day with a positive mindset and tried to get better every time we had a practice or a workout.”

Besides giving the community a chance to salute those that found success athletically, the event highlighted the growth in athletic talent from the Twin Counties. In attendance were McFadden and Rocky Mount High’s Sherrod Greene and Artavious Richardson, both of whom will wind up playing Division I football somewhere in 2017. Combine the talented youth with the two Division I basketball players that were on the court Tuesday night, and Deloach sees an opportunity for more events like this one in the future

“So now that (Harrell) made it and there’s a couple of guys in school, it’s kind of easier for us all coming together,” Deloach said. ”There’s a lot of other kids that are making some noise too, so it’s a great time to be from the area.”

Josh Walfish can be reached 407-9952 or jwalfish@rmtelegram