A pair of talented underclassmen take top honors as the Lowcountry’s best high school basketball players for the 2015-16 season.
Goose Creek junior point guard Mariah Linney and Porter-Gaud sophomore guard Aaron Nesmith are the The Post and Courier’s players of the year and head the girls and boys All-Lowcountry teams.
Northwood Academy’s Presley Singleton is the Lowcountry girls coach of the year, while Porter-Gaud’s John Pearson is the boys coach of the year. Both coaches guided their respective teams to SCISA Class AAA state championships this past season.
For Linney, being a basketball player was determined even before she was born. Her father, O.J. Linney, is a former three-year starting forward at Charleston Southern. Mariah was born during her father’s time at CSU, and she was holding a basketball in her hands before she could walk.
“My mom said I was imitating my dad’s shooting when I was in a stroller at the games watching him play, so basketball has basically been a part of my life since I was born,” she said. “I always knew growing up I would be a basketball player. I’ve loved the game forever and my dad has been a big influence on me.”
Linney has been a full-time starter for the last three seasons and was the team’s first player off the bench before breaking her leg during her eighth-grade season. As a junior, she averaged 13.6 points, 4.8 assists and 4.9 steals per game. She shot nearly 50 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free-throw line.
More importantly, said Goose Creek coach Tim Baldwin, is Linney’s desire to win. Goose Creek is 68-13 over the last three seasons with Linney at point guard.
“She’s a complete player,” Baldwin says. “She is a true student of the game and she really knows the game. She has a really high basketball I.Q., and that comes from her dad. She really appreciates the game and she knows how hard she has to work to be successful at the game.
“Mariah could easily score more than she does, but she does a great job in our system. She distributes the ball, plays defense and makes every player on the floor a better player.”
Nesmith was the best player on the area’s best boys team and guided the Cyclones to their first state title since 2005. The 6-5 wing averaged 18.4 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 74 percent from the free-throw line.
Former Porter-Gaud star Khris Middleton, now enjoying great success in the NBA, is perhaps the best player in Porter-Gaud history. Nesmith patterns his game after the former Cyclones star.
“Khris has been a big influence on me,” said Nesmith, who received his first college offer from Charleston Southern a few weeks ago. “He’s here all during the summer, and I have been able to talk to him about what I can do to keep getting better. He always provides me good guidance, and he’s always told me that anything is possible if I work hard enough.”
Pearson said hard work comes easily for Nesmith.
“He attacks everything he does — on the court and in the classroom,” Pearson said. “He’s an extremely hard worker, along with being very talented. This is a kid that was the third-best player on our JV team as an eighth-grader to being the leading scorer on the varsity team as a freshman.”
Pearson says Middleton blossomed later in his prep career and said two years into high school, Nesmith is better overall.
“No question, after the sophomore year, Aaron is ahead of where Khris was,” the coach said.
“At the same age, Aaron is a better player and a better athlete. Khris jumped levels after his junior year and has continued to improve. Aaron’s ceiling is very high. He certainly has a chance to be a very good and highly recruited player before he’s done.”
Nesmith says his goal this summer is to improve his ball-handling skills while continuing to work on his shooting. Improvement in every area remains the goal.
“I know I’m not as good a player as I can be, so every day it’s focus on getting better,” he said.
ALL-LOWCOUNTRY BASKETBALL TEAMGirls
Mariah Linney, junior, Goose Creek
Shamaria Myers, sophomore, Ashley Ridge
Rhetta Moore, junior, Bishop England
Katelyn Powell, senior, Northwood Academy
Kamirah Jenkins, junior, Burke
Dee Heath, senior, Northwood Academy
Jo Jo Tompkins, senior, Bishop England
Haliyah Sumter, sophomore, West Ashley
Jonai Grant, junior, First Baptist
Claire McTighe, junior, Wando
Shayla Nelson, Goose Creek; Jordan Sprueill, Summerville; Garis Grant, Porter-Gaud; Beau Faith, Porter-Gaud; Angel Middleton, Northwood; Jayla Ravenell, Cross; Zelphair Grant, Cross; Rayvn Mitchell, Garrett Tech; Brinley Frank, Charleston Collegiate; Ashley Planter, First Baptist; Skylar Blackstock, Wando; Lindsey Ellington, Palmetto Christian; Tati Robinson, Pinewood Prep; Nicole Crum, Pinewood Prep; Shelley McDonald, Colleton Prep; Simaya Scott, Timberland; McKayla Landreth, Ashley Ridge; Patricia Mallory, Fort Dorchester; Maggie Cochrane, Porter-Gaud; Zeniyah Lawrence, Wando; Victoria Carroll, Garrett Tech; Hannah Corbett, Bishop England; Caroline McQueeney, Bishop England; Essence Kinloch, West Ashley
Aaron Nesmith, sophomore, Porter-Gaud
David Hodije, senior, West Ashley
Vince Cole, junior, James Island
Dailyn McKinney, senior, Timberland
Brendan McHale, junior, Bishop England
Adonicas Sanders, junior, Fort Dorchester
Jamal Edmonson, freshman, Northwood Academy
Kegan Boone, junior, Charleston Collegiate
Terrelle Bowens, senior, Summerville
Allen Robinson, senior, Goose Creek
Stanton Levine, North Charleston; Devin Ramsey, Northwood; Jalen Slawson, Pinewood Prep; Michael Wright, Pinewood Prep; Keiontae Dubose, Hanahan; Mason Snype, Fort Dorchester; Isaiah Holloway, Burke; Sidney Robinson, Burke; Jake Lanford, Porter-Gaud; Josiah James, Porter-Gaud; Jordan Coakley, Wando; Shelton Robinson, West Ashley; Jordan McDaniel, James Island; Maurice Hardiman, James Island; Devin McCoy, Stall; Chris Ross, Goose Creek; Nolan Knox, Charleston Collegiate; Trushaun Moorer, Summerville; Mikey Smith, Ridge Christian; Greg Archie, Cathedral; Travon Hamilton, Cathedral; Brandon Kinloch, First Baptist; Kenny Jones, Garrett Tech; Thomas Michel, Palmetto Christian; Jonathan Feagin, Faith Christian; Daiquan Bamberg, Charleston Charter; Tawon Buie, Charleston Charter; Nate Grampus, Lincoln; Tyrel Washington, Charleston Charter; Deon Joyner, Fort Dorchester.