Khalil Macklin and Garrison Vick began their high schools careers as semi-rivals, two freshmen starting at shortstop for opposing schools.
They’ll leave as friends, three-year teammates, and after the two attend Chowan University next year as members of the baseball team, they’ll be roommates as well.
“We’re moving away from home, and that’s a big transition in itself,” Vick said. “But we’re taking a bit of home with us because we’re such good friends.”
Vick, who transferred to Nash Central after his freshman year at Southern Nash, chose Chowan because of his desire to play at the next level. Macklin received offers from Wake Tech and Guilford Tech before deciding on a scholarship with the Braves.
Going together wasn’t in the forefront of the decision for either player, it just kind of happened after Vick made a visit to the school.
“Baseball has brought us pretty close,” Macklin said.
Having each other likely will help them during the transition from high school to college. Nash Central coach Tony Guzzo believes both still have their best baseball ahead of them.
“We haven’t had that many guys in the past that have gone on to play baseball from here,” he said. “Obviously, it’s exciting for our program. Hopefully, with the success that they’ll have, it will open the door for other guys in the future. ... In different ways, I think both of them still have their best baseball ahead of him.”
Guzzo said Vick is a player who will benefit from the extra time to work on baseball. The NCHSAA prohibits the amount of time players can practice with their coaches.
Macklin on the other hand, has shown flashes of incredible skill in the past, and Guzzo said that focusing exclusively on baseball should help him harness that ability more consistently.
Southern Nash senior Jacoby Benjamin put in extra work this past year in an effort to improve his technique on the wrestling mat and earn a scholarship.
After a runner-up finish at the NCHSAA 3-A state tournament and a scholarship to Northern Iowa Area Community College, he accomplished both of those goals.
“Even though I made it to states and the finals, I’m hungry for more,” Benjamin said. “This is nothing compared to what I want to become.
“If I keep my dedication up and stay in the wrestling room, there’s no limit to what I can do. ... You’ve got to set a goal for yourself. Right now, the sky’s the limit.”
Benjamin, who wrestled at 160 pounds this year, will be training alongside a pair of national champions from last season at 149 and 157 pounds.
Southern Nash coach Eddie Coble, who said Benjamin is the sixth wrestler from the school to wrestle in college and the first since 2006, believes that Benjamin can take the next step while competing with some of the better wrestlers in the country.
“Even in my wrestling room, Jacoby was just so much stronger than everybody else and so much quicker, that nobody really gave him a good match in practice,” said Coble, whose team has made the state playoffs in back-to-back seasons. “He never really had anybody to get in there and push him in practice.”
Benjamin recognizes that he’ll be a long way from home, but he said that competing in a wrestling hotbed was a major factor that took him a time zone away from home.
“I feel like there are a lot of opportunities for me. I’ll be able to get the right people to look at me,” he said. “I figured I’d take the chance, go out there and explore.”
Rocky Mount forward Dante Battle and Northern Nash guard Alexus Hill have been chosen to be a part of the NCHSAA East-West All-Star Game in July in Greensboro.
Battle, who accepted a scholarship to Wallace State Community College last week, averaged 16 points and 11.3 rebounds per game during his senior season.
He was named MVP of the NCHSAA 3-A state championship game two years ago and has been a focal point of the Gryphons for the past three seasons.
Hill will play basketball at Gardner-Webb next season after averaging 18 points per game during her senior season and leading the Knights to the 3-A state quarterfinals.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org