Players come and go and schemes are tweaked and manipulated, but one thing remains constant at Rocky Mount High School.
The boys’ basketball team will travel to Fayetteville at least once a year.
Because amid all that change, as the Gryphons head to Fayetteville for tonight’s NCHSAA 3-A Eastern Regional semifinal against West Craven, some things never change.
“We keep it simple,” Rocky Mount High coach Mike Gainey said. “We don’t try to do a whole lot of crazy things. We just try to keep it simple and build on discipline. We don’t do a lot of fancy things. We just stick with what I’ve been coaching for years and years. The kids pretty much know it. ... We just stay with one simple thing. We move off that.”
For years, Gainey hasn’t changed much at Rocky Mount (25-2).
Sure, four years ago behind Tashawn Mabry, the Gryphons were a power interior team. Then last year, Terrill Hilliard led an outside shooting-and-slashing team.
This year, while the No. 1 Gryphons have plenty of size, it’s an athleticism inside that has pushed them to the Eastern Regional semifinals for the fourth straight season.
It’s that and a basic offensive concept.
“We are based around one certain offense, and that’s transition,” said Gainey, who guessed that his players from 10 or 15 years ago could still play in the system. “Everything else comes from there.”
His team has varying opinions on where the talent goes from that point.
Forwards M.J. Gainey and Dante Battle pointed to the team’s elite focus late in the season. Starting point guard Mason Hines said it’s the Gryphons’ heart.
Shooting guard Michael Hines said that hard work keeps Rocky Mount in the conversation for a 3-A state title year after year.
“That’s mostly coaching,” Mason Hines said. “From Day 1, after (Coach Gainey) tells us we made the team, he tells us it’s going to be about business. We are a winning team. ... We are a winning program. It’s basically standards.”
Rocky Mount stands three wins away from its third state championship in four years. The first game, tonight against No. 3 West Craven (25-4), is just another hurdle that the Gryphons always seem to find their .
“We just try to keep them humble,” Gainey said. Just let them understand that they have to focus now.”
Near the eastern edge of the Twin Counties rests Tarboro High School, where the Vikings have made five straight football state championship games – winning three.
The focus level at both schools is similar, as is the work ethic. In fact, there aren’t many differences in the programs.
“It’s just like that, except it’s just basketball,” Michael Hines said.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com