PITTSBORO — As talented as Seaforth junior Jarin Stevenson is, even he’s not had a stretch like this before.
Stevenson, a 6-foot-10 forward ranked as the No. 14 overall player and No. 1 player in North Carolina in the Class of 2024 by 247Sports’ composite basketball rankings, entered last week on the cusp of reaching 1,000 career points.
Needing only a modest scoring performance to reach the mark, Stevenson could have taken a more conservative approach to last Wednesday’s game against North Moore, and no one would have batted an eye. Instead, Stevenson managed to pass 1,000 points while checking off another milestone off his personal list: with 19 points, 21 rebounds and a career-high 10 blocks, he also notched his first career triple-double.
“To me, it was just a regular game at first,” Stevenson said. “I just went out there and played hard. It just shows that, over time, things can come true if you put in the work. If you stay grinding, things will come true.”
Seaforth breezed past North Moore, 53-36, on the road Wednesday night, but when the Hawks found themselves in a tighter contest Friday night at home against Cummings, it was again Stevenson who took control.
Down, 62-61, in the closing moments of the game, Seaforth ran a play to set up Stevenson with a one-on-one opportunity against his defender. He drove to the basket and converted a tough bucket, which ended up being the difference in the Hawks’ 63-62 win.
Stevenson finished the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and five blocks. For the season, he leads all Chatham County boys players in points (20.9), rebounds (11.5) and blocks (3.6) per game.
“We went 4 flat for the final play, and I was glad to get a bucket,” Stevenson said. “No one can guard me one on one. I just took it took the basket and got a tough layup, then ran back on defense because I knew there was still time on the clock. We got the stop and then I started celebrating with the fans.”
One might think Stevenson’s dominance is a sheer product of his size. At 6-foot-10, Stevenson is the tallest player in the county, but he is far from overly dependent on his physical attributes to get the job done.
Despite his size, Stevenson is a gifted ball-handler and passer, and Seaforth tends to run best with him initiating the offense. In games where the junior has at least three assists — something that has happened nine times this season — the Hawks are 7-2. When he has two or less, they are 5-3.
Stevenson is also a gifted shooter for his size. Despite going 0-for-9 from 3-point range in his last three games, he has still made 19-of-50 (38%) of his deep attempts this season, a marked improvement after making 21-of-74 (28.4%) of his threes a year ago. And the junior has been completely lethal from inside the 3-point line, making over 68% of his attempts from there this season.
It’s this unique blend of size and skills that have Stevenson among the top recruits in the entire country in the Class of 2024. Already reporting offers from UNC, Virginia, Georgetown and Missouri, among others, the forward figures to be one of the most sought-after prizes of next year’s senior class.
While the recruiting process can be overwhelming at times, Stevenson has done well to keep his focus on the court. At 12-5 overall and 7-0 in Mid-Carolina Conference play, Seaforth still has some business to take care of to put itself in good standing ahead of the 2A state tournament.
The Hawks are five games away from a second straight perfect season in conference play, but the highlight of the team’s remaining schedule comes Saturday, Feb. 11, when Seaforth hosts undefeated Chatham Charter.
The Knights entered this week with a 22-0 record and played in last season’s 1A state championship game. Despite being the smaller of the two schools, Chatham Charter figures to have the edge in the meeting with the Hawks, especially after defeating them 44-23 at home last season.
Stevenson knows his team’s regular season finale will be a challenge, but it should also be beneficial for a Seaforth team with limited experience playing in high-pressure situations.
If Stevenson can channel the performances from this past week when the Hawks meet the Knights, don’t count out Seaforth from pulling off a shocking upset.
“That game (against Chatham Charter) will definitely prepare us for the state playoffs,” Stevenson said. “We just need to play hard and play smart. They apply a lot of pressure, so we just need to stay calm, be careful with our turnovers and be confident out there.”
Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.