Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Best high school athletes you've seen?

Chris Leak was an amazing high school quarterback at Independence High before he became a national champion at Florida.


Observer prep reporter Cliff Mehrtens lists the six best high school athletes he's seen in person -- and before they became famous. But even Cliff admits he can't be everywhere.

Cliff's list:

6. Allison Feaster, Chester (S.C.) – Best girls’ basketball player in state history. Just about the smartest, too. As an interview, she was insightful, funny and honest. And she was 16. Used words – correctly – that would send me scurrying for definitions. Bypassed college basketball powers to go to Harvard. Brains, beauty and a jumper.

5. Nick Maddox, Kannapolis Brown – Running back with amazing speed, cutting ability and drive. Intense, but didn’t show up his less-talented teammates. Best story I heard was he came back to the huddle one time, and told his blockers to take care of nine (defenders) and he’d handle the other two.


4. Will Clark – When I was in college in New Orleans, we went to a Jesuit High game to see this sophomore getting a lot of press. He was skinny, we thought, until he hit a pitch about 425 feet that caromed off a light tower about 40 feet up. In right-centerfield. He remained brash, became a millionaire the day he signed with the Giants, then hit a home run in his first big-league at-bat. Against Nolan Ryan.

3. Jason Parker, West Charlotte – He’d peel off the basketball warm-up suit, and you’d think “which skinny opponent is going to handle this 6-foot-8, 260-pound force?” Hardly any ever did. Twice he was the N.C. player of the year…Never had gaudy statistics because when the Lions got up by 30 or so, he was rested. A dancer’s footwork wrapped around a defensive end’s build.

2. Peyton Manning, Newman – I worked for the New Orleans newspaper, and back then he was known as “Archie’s kid” and “Cooper’s little brother.”… He was the biggest kid on a 2A team, and made defenses look silly. Newman would spread 4-5 receivers, and Manning would often have 300 yards before halftime.

1. Chris Leak, Independence High quarterback – Threw passes that some college quarterbacks didn’t even attempt. The best was watching opposing players sneak peeks at him during warm-ups, usually a mundane part of the game. Incredible arm, vision and poise. The top three passing seasons in N.C. history – Leak (5,193 yards), Leak (4,529) and Leak (4,521).


Did you see a great athlete before they became a household name? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

Michael Irvin...(St.Thomas Aquinas, HS) Fort Lauderdale. Was probably a better basketball player than football at that time. I don't have his numbers, but I was there to witness an athlete with explosive leaping ability, combined with grace. And we all know what he can do as a receiver. All State selection at both sports!

Anonymous said...

Great article. I also watched Chris Leak and Nick Maddox. What amazing talents. I would also put Heath Schuler in my mix. Saw him play in the 1990 1-A state championship game. Didn't take long to see that he was a stud. Still amazed that he did not have a long pro career.

Anonymous said...

JULIUS PEPPERS, WENT TO SCHOOL WITH AND HAD A GYM CLASS WITH HIM...SOUTHERN NASH SENIOR HIGH, 1998...WAS ALWAYS A FREAK OF AN ATHLETE, BUT LAID BACK AT THE SAME TIME, GUESS IT TRANSLATES ON THE FIELD!

Anonymous said...

these are all great but i have to say ivory latta was by far the best high school athlete i have ever seen. teams triple teamed her and she still scored 50 most nights. she was in her range when she crossed midcourt. she hit teammates with unbelievable passes. she was the pete maravich of womens basketball in hi school.

Anonymous said...

I played against Jason Parker in middle school, he was at Cochran I was at Albemarle Road. I remember he was a BEAST! To be that big he had a surprisingly soft touch around the basket. We had two guys that were 6-4ish and he just dwarfed them. You would think he should be awkward at that age and size but his footwork was tremendous. He should have made it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wertz has unfortunately forgotten some other sports. I had to spend my four years of high school golf competing against Corey Nagy, and I remember him being covered in the paper. He dominated golf in Charlotte for four years.

Anonymous said...

OJ Mayo when he played for Huntington High in WV.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone here remember Quan Fletcher? He was the QB and punt returner for North Meck from 1999-2002. Also played PG for the b-ball team. He was lighting quick and had a cannon for an arm....

Anonymous said...

Omar Gaither. Was a man-child as a freshman.

Anonymous said...

I was on my way once to see the last HS game of Vince Carter but the Inerstate Highway was backed up for miles! No big deal though...I went on to see him in the same city 3 years later!

Drew Deal said...

Great picks, however, Mr. Nick Maddox never played great agaisnt arch-rival Concord High - he was an amazing high school athlete, though... I'd have to say the best I've ever seen was Jay Graham of Concord High '89-'92. Jay went on to become a great running back at Tennessee and played with Peyton Manning. Jay is still listed as the 6th All-Time Running Back at UT.

NO QUESTION said...

good article btw...

Felipe Lopez, Rafer Alston & Stephon Marbury all in high school! (can u tell I'm from NY?)

Thogh Lopez didnt much of a career, Marbury is a pain and Alston is solid...these were 3 of the BADDEST players in high school! Lopez was 6'6" but played like a PG, Marbury was the faster player you ever saw with basketball and Alston (aka Skip to my Lou) made the ball look like a toy the way he could pass and dribble so effortlessly...

Anonymous said...

Antawn Jamison at Providence High. He was a man among kids. I was home on break from college my freshman year when I saw him. Then he went to the Tarheels & the rest is history! I will never forget it. Kenny Moore a Butler grad was also a beast. He didn't get much coverage because of Chris Leak getting all the press at the time. But he is a Panther now!!

Anonymous said...

Theres so many it's ridiculous.Just a few Chris Leak,Joe Cox who will be the starting QB at Georgia a GREAT high school Qb.Hakeem Nicks i played with him he is very humble and a man amongst boys.Hakeem will be drafted first round in a few months.

Anonymous said...

When talking about athletes I think of multi sport participants.

Mark Maye was all state in three sports (fb, bb, and baseball). The first Parade AA footballer from Charlotte which seems hard to believe it took over twenty years for a Charlotte player to make it.

Mike Eppley of Harding excelled in football and basketball at Clemson starting on both squads. Considering qb and point guard are probably two of the most complex positions to master in their sports it makes it even more impressive.

Spencer Adams Clemson recruit in football. All American and national leader in the hurdles.

There are more...

Anonymous said...

Natrone Means
Unbelievable size, speed and power. He was literally a man amoung boys.

dlhart said...

chris "poke" cobb, poke cobb was a beast of a man on the football field in clover, sc during the mid 70's, perhaps the best football player clover, sc has ever and will see in this lifetime, also he holds just about all of the football records at eastern Illinois university, Rest In Peace My Brother!!

Doc said...

I played football at West Charlotte High and the best athelete I ever saw/played with was running back Brian Knuckles. He was an insane athlete. Too bad he didn't take it to the next level.

Anonymous said...

I second the Natrone Means nomination. Naturally gifted, he had the speed to run around you, but he would much rather run over you.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Davis of Spartanburg HS. Gatorade national HS offensive player of the year and Shrine Bowl MVP his senior season. Unstoppable. A pretty fair NFL running back too.

Anonymous said...

Man oh Man although I am younger and have not had the years that some of you other guys have had... I have seen a couple freakish athletes from my hometown of Shelby, NC. By the way NICK MADDOX was from Shelby originally before his mom moved to Kannapolis for a job. Man that would have been one heck of a backfield with him, Norris Hopper, and there was another kid that transfered to Dorman and ended up playing college ball at Temple. But back to the freakish athletes one was def. Norris Hopper, kid was silky smooth with the football in his hands, he seemed to make moves in mid-air to get away from defenders and heck was a great baseball player to considering he made it to play with the REDS. The second is Brandon Spikes the middle linebacker for FL. He is unreal, he played football like he was on a mission and he was always around the ball. Like I said before I am alot younger but those two are special and I think the fact that one made it to MLB and the other is going to the NFL soon.

Anonymous said...

Giving my age away, but the first high school basketball game I saw was between Crest and Burns in February of 1971. We had been away due to dad's military service and was way behind the curve on this stuff. I had heard of this "Thompson" guy, but this was my first time seeing him. OMG! Still haven't seen some of the stuff he did that night duplicated. He bounced off the floor like it was a trampoline while it was just a regular floor for everyone else. Folks nowadays try to debunk how high he could really jump, all I've got to say is seeing is believing. I've seen Percy Harvin and Alonzo Mourning play their HS ball up here in Virginia where I live now but David Thompson is still the most astounding high school athlete I ever saw in person and I doubt that will ever change.

Elliott said...

Best I have ever seen...Steve Shipp and Ramondo North. I attended West Charlotte between the years of 95-98. To see both of them at the same time was magical. Ramondo had world class speed in High School. He was clocked one time with a 10 flat 100 while in HIGH SCHOOL. Steve Shipp had the best hands I have ever seen. If he touched it, he caught it. Great Route runner. Those two are the best I have ever seen in the area.

Anonymous said...

to keep it in the area...i'd say the best i've seen in person was Maurice Staley of West charlotte back in 1993 ...he had the greatest balance and hands i've ever seen on a Wide Receiver...he was scary good

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Wilmington, NC back in the 50s and 60s. The best high school athlete I have even seen was none other than Meadowlark Lemmon, who played at Williston High School. To me, he is still the greatest basketball player to ever come out of NC, including Jordan.

Anonymous said...

I saw David Thompson, Tommy Burleson, Sleepy Floyd and James Worthy all play in high school. They were all fantastic, but to see Burleson lumber down the court at 7'3" in his senior year was quite a sight. The best football player I remember watching in high school was Junior Hall, who went on to a not so great career at Clemson.

Anonymous said...

I played against Gaither of Myers Park his freshman year and yes, he was a man, and only got bigger and better. That WC team with Shipp, North, and Keith Matkins at QB was ridiculous.

But for the best athlete, it goes to Nick Maddox. he wore that #20 and I swear it was a green and white Barry Sanders. He certainly juked me out of my shoes, lol.

Anonymous said...

One of the best i saw was Chris Hill. Football, Baseball player for Harding in the late seventies. Big, fast and made it look easy out there playing.

Anonymous said...

I'll give you one that you're going to hear a lot about over the next few years...Porter Ridge golfer Courtney Gunter. Recently signed with UNC, I saw her hitting a tee shot 225-250 yards as a freshman. During her freshman year at the state tournament, she came to the driving range to warm up and started hitting bombs that made her opponents put their clubs back in their bag. She had a bad second day on the greens that day and finished 7th. Then, her sophomore year, she came from six strokes back on the second day of the NCHSAA state tournament to beat Concord's Cydney Clanton, the favorite to win the state that year. She won two more titles to go with that one. Look for her on the LPGA!

Anonymous said...

Kobe Bryant, you could tell how good he was going to be in high school. Had the pleasure of watching he and Rip Hamilton duke it out in the state playoffs. Still the best basketball game I've seen live.

Anonymous said...

WOW, some great talent all around, but how about that South Meck team that won it all, Kay White QB, Steve Griffin HB, Kevin Croomes FB, Roman Phifer TE and LB, Dwayne Isreal,Tony Lindsey and Charles Holland...This team was the BOMB, Watching them I knew I had to play the game.......

Anonymous said...

Ken Dowdle of Mye3rs Park ran a 4:08 mile in 1980, the year before I saw an Independence high jumper go 7 foot, the first in state history to do it, and he was just a soph! Neither went on to great things.

Anonymous said...

I played with Jerry Stackhouse in high school. He was unstoppable in basketball for Kinston High School. He's one of the greatest athletes ever from North Carolina!!!

Anonymous said...

Charles Briggs was a freakish athlete from Lincolnton...any one who ever played against him will remember him I'm sure...360 dunks in middle school...enough said.

paulmac said...

Norris Hopper from Shelby High School. He was unbelievable on the football field and even better on the baseball field. He took Shelby to the 97 2A Football State Championship but lost to Willie Parker and Clinton High School. He was unstoppable. He was Michael Vick before Michael Vick was known. As mentioned, he was incredible on the baseball field too. He currently plays for the Cincinnati Reds.

Anonymous said...

Michael Beasley from Oak Hill.

Anonymous said...

The biggest bust to play High School sports here and go out of state to play was Steve Shipp. OVER-RATED!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

btango and TR DON'T know as much as they think about High School sports!!

Anonymous said...

Shipp must have burnt you in highschool or you never played because he was so good.Steve Shipp was a great receiver and a great coach now get a life.

Anonymous said...

It has to be #1 David Thompson before games at Crest HS someone would take a ladder and put a quarter on top of the backboard, He would jump from standstill and flick the quarter off the backboard with his finger. Greatest college basketball player to ever play the game. Not much in the pros. Best HS ever.

Anonymous said...

I have seen my share of great athletes through my years watching high school sports.Leon Johnson was one of the best athletes i have ever seen.He was an all star in track,basketball,football and baseball.i heard he once played in a baseball game and track meet in the same day.He was drafted by the Giants in baseball but decided to go to UNC instead.Norris Hooper was another amazing athlete i remember seeing play.He could fly.

Anonymous said...

Ralph Roberts, Cherryville high school. 3 sport standout. played baseball at UNC and in the Braves organization.

Anonymous said...

I noticed most people picked guys, what about Andrea Stinson and Neese Gray? North Meck, 1986 basketball state champions 26-0. These two female atletics not only dominated in basketball, but Neese Gray was a beast in track and could also play softball. Andrea Stinson was beasting on the softball field and could also run track. You gotta give them their props.

Anonymous said...

Allen Iverson Bethel High School, As an 11th grader took his football and basketball team to state championships. I witnessed him have seven interceptions in the regional playoff game. That wasn't even his best sport. Best High school athlete ever!!! hands down

Anonymous said...

There is a senior at Northwestern HS in Rock Hill this spring playing soccer named Enzo Martinez. As a junior, he set the SC all time goal scoring record. This year he'll just put the record way out of reach before he goes on to UNC in the fall. I've never seen soccer dominated the way this kid does it.

Anonymous said...

Saudia Roundtree-Westside HS, Anderson, SC. SHE packed gyms, and nearly avg. a triple-double for 3 yrs.Went on to be JUCO National Player of the year, as well as NCAA Player of the year at Georgia.

Anonymous said...

In 1996 there was a QB at Garinger HS named Eric Hamilton, he was 6'2" 210 and could run and throw, he led the Garinger offense to 330 yards IN THE FIRST HALF against a powerhouse WC team. he never had the athletes to complement him.

He also played CB/SS and shut down Steve Shipp in that same game. He went on to win the National HS Quarterback Challenge, but never really had good grades. he ended up playing minor league ball for a while.

Anonymous said...

No Demarco Johnson of North Meck?

Anonymous said...

Michael Waddell from Richmond County in the late 90's was a man among boys as well. I went to West Charlotte and it seemed like he beat us by himself.

Scary fast and agile.

Skip said...

David Waymer was freakish, broke the city record in the 110 hurdles in gym class his soph year at North Meck. Was captain at Notre Dame and went on to have a 10 year career in the NFL.

Anonymous said...

Ivory Latta was a greater female basketball player than Allison Feaster. How many jerseys has she retired?

Anonymous said...

Steve Shipp set some school records at NC A&T after transferring from Florida. I think his most receiving yards in a game catch still stands.

I mentioned Maye and Eppley above. One that I saw on the gridiron but was also strong on the hardwood was Ronald Curry of Hampton (VA) HS. He was unreal returning punts, passing, rushing, and defending (safety). Did not list him because he is not a Meck area guy but he was special.

It was Reynard Sanders that high jumped seven feet at Indy in '79. Ramondo North would go seven feet and one quarter in 1995. He never came close to 10.0 for 100 meters (maybe 100 yards).

In 1966 Jeff Howser was one of the top leading high school 110 high hurdler in the nation (120 yards then). His time would not be bettered until Robert Boulware came along at Vance in 2001.

btango

Anonymous said...

Rock Hill's South Pointe's Stephon Gilmore.He dominated as a junior and then just completely annihilated the competition his senior year,2008, taking his school to the state championship in only its 3rd year of existence.Then took home just about every award the state had to offer.Exceptional accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

Raymond Felton and Allison Feaster (her husband was a freak too, Danny Strong). Played against Shawn Crawford, was a terrible football player given his ability, but I think we all know what happened to him. Played with Sheldon Brown, saw him turn unassisted triple play in a legion game from shortstop.

Anonymous said...

Gotta give it to Natrone Means(Central Cabarrus)...Power, speed, finesse...if he didn't shake your jock, he would lend a lingering headache...I might add, he played in a conference with 2 other professional athletes: Jimmy Hitchcock (Concord), Mike Morton (Kannapolis)...I miss the "Glory Days"...kidzplay9

bubbadawg said...

Saw Mercury Morris back in the 60's in Pittsburgh. Also saw Ralph Sampson play as a senior in high school

Anonymous said...

Kenny Moore... hands down,can't believe he's not on the list. Butler Highschool graduate, then went on to Wake Forest and is now a Carolina Panthers player. Too bad Chris Leak got all the attention. Kenny has a huge fan base in Charlotte.

Ryan said...

Without a doubt Dan Kendra is the greatest I've ever seen. He was a 6'3 260 pound QB - in High School! He would sometimes carry 3 or 4 guys ten yards at a time and everyone in the stands would be shaking their heads. He could also throw a football over 80 yards.

He was the High School Player of the Year and went to Florida State and then blew out his knee right before he was supposed to be their starter. Chris Weinke took his place and the rest is history. Who knows what could've been - he was Tim Tebow before there was Tim Tebow...

Anonymous said...

Although the dude never ran a full season at Myers Park track team, Reshard Alexander, ran a 4:40 mile in the 7th grade at Spaugh Middle and then broke it running a 4:30 in the 8th grade. If he would have kept running in high school, he would be in the Olympics or something. I think he is in law school at West Virginia University. Myers Park seemed to have a bunch of athletes that never panned out for whatever reason, but some of the best were: Jacob Robinson (played minor league ball for the Yankees), Barrett Wright (yankees also), Larry White (QB,PG - played for NC A&T), Reggie White (was shot and killed in the 11th grade, ranked 3rd in the nation in the high jump, 7th in the long jump, also great in hurdles, and a star wide reciever), Robert Simpson (PF - went to Alabama and dropped out for whatever reason), Furman Smith (QB/WR/KR - smallest guy with the largest arm), and Abraham Smith (RB/LB - shot and killed in 10th grade while at Kate's skating ring). Also Chris Leak and his brother C.J. both were supposed to go to Myers Park, but there father sent them to Independence after the coach refused to start C.J. (a ninth grader) over Larry White (a senior quaterback). The rest is history. Oh yeah, Ramondo North was great, but if Chris Wylie could catch or hold unto the ball, he could smoke anyone on the field.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, the dude's name was Reggie Land not Reggie White. R.I.P.

Anonymous said...

Someone metioned Enzo Martinez, soccer player, well the best I ever saw and dominate the sport was Nicolas Sosa. The guy went pro out of HS at 17 years old. The guy was sick!

Anonymous said...

Natrone Re-Fried Means!! haha

wcu_13 said...

All of the athletes mentioned were great but none were as great or as dominant as Independence's Chris Leak.He was like our state's version of Tiger Woods.He dominated night in and night out.His performances set the tone for what has become a NCHSAA dynasty.Three-year starter with one loss.Broke and set every passing record in the state and ranked nationally in every statistical category.The only person on the list who shattered everything not in green and gold.Kenny Moore was really good but not nearly good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Chris Leak.Two-time all-american,two-time gatorade national player of the year,172 career passing tds(in 3 seasons),14259 career passing yards(in 3 seasons)..single season record of 5193 passing yards.He was incredible.A prolific passer,with all the accuracy,and arm strength needed to be one of the country's greatest qbs of all time..lets not forget that he was the MVP of the Army All-American game that some of the NFL's premiere players today played in(adrian peterson..etc.)..at florida he could have won the heisman if not for the coaching change his junior year..he was a four-year starter and a national champion and BCS championship game MVP...Is there any athlete in the state's history with a resume' that even equals his.He is hands down North Carolina's greatest athlete(all sports included) of all time....

Anonymous said...

What about Lebron James from akron st vincent st marys high school he as a freshman,sophmore, and senior led them to a state title and he wasn't only a great basketball player he was great at football he said if he played football he woulda went to ohio state university and if he went to college for basketball he was heavily recruited by UNC. You could also throw in oscar robertson he averaged a triple double every game in high school college and the pros

Anonymous said...

The best athlete I recall was Andre "Silky" Crawford from Harding High School. I've seen Mike Eppley, Mark Maye, Steve Griffin, Roman Pfiffer, Haywood Workman, James Dowdle (basically everyone from the late 70's to early 80's Charlotte high school scene) do their things, but Andre always just amazed me. His nickname was accurate, just silky smooth.

Anonymous said...

Best high school athletes. I went to East Burke High School and played against Neon Leon Johnson @ Freedom. He was just bad-ass. He juked me so bad one time I had him lined up for a square tackle and a second later he was 10 feet from me and turning the corner for a 50 yard TD. He was a mix of Steve McNair as a passer and had an open-field running style that reminded me of OJ Simpson.
Still the Tar Heel all-time leading rusher if I'm not mistaken. Had a full-ride to run the wish-bone @ OKLAHOMA but decided to stay close to where home. State 300 meter hurdle champion if I recall. He was solid in basketball .. absolutely leap out the gym. Decent baseball player too. I heard the SF Giants offered him something as well. Incredible athlete. Drafted by the NY Jets and played a brief NFL career.

Anonymous said...

Former Asheville High standout MikeHill. Played receiver and safety in the early 80's...never had big stars but was a pure athelete with great ball skills...was highly heralded as a baseball player.