Despite playoff loss, Messier-led Chatham Charter boys had wildly successful season


For the majority of the 2022-23 season, the basketball team to beat in Chatham County was the Chatham Charter boys, who carried an undefeated record all the way into the state playoffs before falling to top-seeded Wilson Prep, 66-64, in the fourth round of the 1A tournament last Tuesday.

The Knights (34-1) were the top scoring team in all of Chatham County this season, averaging 75.4 points per game, while also allowing a county-low 31.6 points to their opponents. Head coach Jason Messier has led his team to at least the fourth round of the state tournament in three of the past four seasons, including a trip to the 2022 1A state title game.

Chatham Charter will graduate several seniors over the offseason, including impact starters Adam Harvey and Aamir Mapp. Harvey is the team’s all-time leading scorer with 1,411 career points, while Mapp totaled 1,100 points across 117 career games.

In the wake of his team’s playoff loss, Messier spoke with the News + Record about the highs and lows of this past season, along with his expectations for the future of his team and Chatham County basketball.

Obviously this season didn’t end the way you or your team hoped, but it was still a very successful year. What was it like going through this season with this group of players?

JASON MESSIER: I think with any team you have, you have those ups and downs. You love them to death, and sometimes you need to coach them real hard to kind of keep them focused and motivated. I think this group was a special bunch. We had three seniors that were actually part of our 2019-20 western regional runner-up team, and then they played for the state championship last year and made it to the Elite Eight this year. I think that’s rare to have young men who have been part of several special teams. Thinking back through this season, it was a pretty good season. As far as expectations, we didn’t really talk about a state championship. We didn’t talk much about those types of things. We took it game by game, and I thought the guys did a really good job staying within themselves to work toward their long-term goals.

Unfortunately, we had a tough draw in the playoffs. We knew going to Wilson Prep would be a tough game. We knew we were battle-tested and were ready to accept that challenge. We played with as much heart as we could have. I don’t think we played our best basketball, but I’m sure Wilson Prep had something to do with that and the environment had something to do with it. They were ready to face us. I thought it was just a really good high school basketball game. We competed. We were down seven points with maybe 1:15 or 1:30 left in the game and we just fought and scrapped to tie it up, and we had a chance at the end to tie or win.

You had two very impactful seniors in the lineup this year in Adam Harvey and Aamir Mapp. What has it been like to watch these two players grow over the past several seasons?

Obviously, Adam has always been the go-to guy. He always plays with a lot of passion and heart, and he leaves it all on the floor for his team. Everything for him is about the team. He’s not much into individual accomplishments, though he’s had many. He’s the first player in school history to win conference player of the year three times. He has well over 1,400 points for his career. And he didn’t play his freshman year. I think he kind of set that tone as we went on that hard work does pay off. You can have a lot of success if you just put your mind to it and try to accomplish team goals instead of individual goals.

Aamir, himself, actually started in that western regional final as a freshman, so he’s developed as a player. His jumpshot has improved tremendously. I think that defensively, he’s gotten better as a player. And to score, through a COVID year, over 1,000 career points. He’s a do-everything guy for us. He can rebound, block shots, shoot jumpers, drive to the basket.

And I think some of those unsung heroes are those reserve seniors we had. Obviously as a starter, we had Jackson Brown, he really bought in to what I asked him. His job has always been to be that defender. In that last game, he was asked to guard their No. 3, who I thought was their best player. He’s typically been tasked with that. And we had three other seniors in Cedric Schwartz, Cameron Turner and Jamir Wright who also grew tremendously. Their freshman year, they all played on our JV team. I think a lot of times people don’t realize their impact. They’re the scout team, the ones that have to push and challenge your main players on a daily basis. If your reserves don’t do those things, it could impact the team in a negative way.

You will bring back a fair amount of talent next year, including Beau Harvey and Brennan Oldham. How excited are you to run things back with a different group of players?

Obviously, I hate to see this group we currently have leaving, but going forward, we do have five players who played significant minutes all returning. After the spring break, once we can start getting in the gym a little bit and get up some shots, we’ll work on individual skill development and things like that. And then, when June comes, it’ll be interesting to see these young men get ready to step up and accept new roles.

Obviously we’ve had the two starters in Beau and Brennan, but they’re going to have to accept new roles as well, as far as, they’re going to have to be the focal points. When another team plays us or when we go places, other teams are going to try and stop Beau and Brennan. And the rest of the players all have new jobs and new roles. But I think we’ve always had success in players accepting their roles and accepting what they need to do in order for the team to be successful. We have some firepower coming back. I’m excited for the challenge.

Obviously, losing some of the caliber of players that we lost hurts, but I think that’s the great thing with high school basketball. You just never know which guys is going to step up and surprise you because he’s put in the work, whether it’s been playing through travel ball or whatever it may be. And a lot of people are going to underestimate what the boys can accomplish next year. I think some people will underestimate who we have returning and their impact they’re going to have on the game and our season.

Three Chatham County teams — the Northwood boys, Chatham Charter girls and Seaforth girls — are all playing for state championships this weekend. What does this say about the rise of basketball in the area? How has the landscape changed?

There are a lot of good players. I think as new developments and new home, and new jobs, move into the area, I think you’re going to start to see that resurgence. For our girls, they have some very crucial seniors on that team, but they also have some young talent coming up from the middle school that’s going to allow them to continue to play at a high level, and knowing the little bit I know about the Seaforth girls, it’s the same thing. I think next year will be Seaforth’s first senior class, and they’re still in their second year right now, obviously. I got the chance to watch them play back when we played the Seaforth boys team. They’re just a really good team and really well-coached.

And obviously, you have Northwood. They’ll lose a bit with some of their seniors, but they still have a crop of talent who are giving them good minutes now, and obviously they have the newly-minted five-star recruit in Drake Powell will be back. I think the landscape is changing. We made it to the Elite Eight, the Central boys made it to the second round, the Central girls made the third, Northwood girls made the second and the Seaforth boys made the second. There’s a lot of good, quality basketball being played in Chatham County.

Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.