Big weekend for North Charleston

LEFT: North Charleston basketball coach Blake Hall is in his first season. RIGHT: James Brown may miss today’s game against Woodland but should return for the Burke game.

North Charleston’s Blake Hall is in his first year as a head high school basketball coach, and he is well aware that athletics, academics and discipline are key ingredients to running a successful program.

After all, his resume includes a stint as a graduate assistant at The Citadel under Ed Conroy.

He also was influenced by SCISA basketball icon Pat Eidson, who coached Hall at Pinewood Prep and later hired him as an assistant.

“It’s very different to be a head coach,” said the 29-year-old Hall, who graduated from Coker College in 2005. “You have to be more than a basketball coach. You have to wear many hats. You get to see if a kid is really serious about playing basketball and academics. I’m a teacher too, and I tell my players that grades are more important than basketball.

“I’m a teacher first and foremost, and I teach lessons in life as well.”

Hall is the third coach at North Charleston in three years. He replaced Jacob Smith, who

resigned the North Charleston job after leading the Cougars to a 21-7 record and a berth in the Class AA Lower State championship game against Mullins last winter. Smith, who succeeded Tony Eady, left after one year to take the job at Denmark-Olar.

“This is a totally different team than last year,” Hall said. “We still have some outstanding individuals, but we don’t have that big senior class like we did last year. We need that leadership. When we play defense and rebound, we are tough to beat. I don’t care who we play. If we get the job done, we can win.”

The Cougars are 10-4 heading into what could be their biggest weekend of the season. They travel to Woodland tonight in a key Region 6-AA showdown and host Burke on Saturday night.

The Cougars might be without the services of James Brown tonight. He recently broke his nose and was scheduled to have it reset today. He should be ready for Burke. He is averaging 11 points and 3 assists per game.

Bernard Samuel might be the best of the bunch. The 6-5 senior averages 16 points, 4 steals and 2 rebounds per game, and has a nice touch from just about anywhere on the court. He was named to the Piggly Wiggly Classic all-tournament team last month.

“He is one of the best in the state,” Hall said. He’s one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the Lowcountry. He’s a Division I player if he makes the grade.”

Senior center Anthony Williams also averages 16 points and leads the team with 8 rebounds per contest.

The showdown against Burke will mark the second time the rivals have played this season.

On Dec. 10, North Charleston overcame a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Burke, 44-42, denying Bulldogs coach Earl Brown his 700th career win.

James Brown led North Charleston with 14 points, while Samuel added 13.

“It seem like every time the two schools play, it’s always a tight game,” Hall said. “It a game that’s good for the schools. It’s good for the communities.”