A look back: Lake Norman’s best athletes

by Cliff Mehrtens

North Carolina has long been known as a basketball hotbed.

So, it figures that the most storied athletes to pass through The Herald Weekly’s area during the publication’s first decade were basketball players.  Our area has produced dozens of college players since the newspaper began 2002, and one skinny collegian who advanced to become an NBA starter.

Yet, as much as basketball grips the area, we’ve been rich in every sport.

Here’s a list of the top 10 Herald Weekly-area athletes in the past decade:

1. Stephen Curry,

Davidson College basketball

Curry, then a sophomore, became a national folk hero in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The country’s obsession with “March Madness” on television led to many asking “What’s Davidson?”, “Where’s Davidson?” and “Who’s the boney guy scoring a ton of points?”

Curry, who starred at Charlotte Christian in high school, led Davidson to its first NCAA tournament victories since 1969. He did it in dizzying, dazzling fashion – 40 points (including eight 3-pointers) in a win against Gonzaga; 30 points in a win against Georgetown; 33 points in a win against Wisconsin, with NBA star LeBron James in attendance; and 25 points in the tournament-ending loss to Kansas.

Curry led the nation in scoring as a junior (28.6 scoring average), and left as the school’s career scoring leader (2,488 points). He bypassed his senior year and was drafted in the first round (No. 7 overall) of the NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. Curry, in his third NBA season, has an 18-point scoring average as a professional.

2. Jamie Skeen, North

Mecklenburg High basketball

Skeen was a big man with a dancer’s feet. He was a 6-foot-9 terror around the basket for the Vikings, but it wasn’t brute strength. Skeen’s game relied as much on quickness as anything.

As a junior in 2005, Skeen won the N.C. Mr. Basketball award as the state’s top player. He averaged 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds as North Mecklenburg won the N.C. 4A championship. A year later, Skeen and the Vikings again reached the 4A state final, but lost to Raleigh Wakefield.

After two seasons at Wake Forest, Skeen transferred to Virginia Commonwealth. He, like Curry, exploded into the national spotlight when VCU advanced to the Final Four in 2011. Skeen was VCU’s leading scorer, including 26 points in an upset against Kansas. He currently plays professionally in Lyon, France.

3. and 4. Shaina and Miranda Ervin, Hopewell High softball

The twins shouldn’t be separated because each was integral in putting Hopewell on the state’s sports radar. The Titans, with Shaina pitching and Miranda catching, won the N.C. 4A softball championship in the school’s first year (2002). Then to prove it wasn’t a fluke, Hopewell won the title again in 2003.

The Ervin twins signed to play at N.C. State together.’

5. Brandyn Curry, Hopewell High basketball

He’s a combination of brains and a jump shot. Curry was a two-time all-state player for the Titans (2008 and 2009), and had a 4.6 grade point average as a senior. That helped land him at Harvard, where as a junior he’s a starting guard and leads the Crimson in assists (4.9 average).

Curry twice was the MECA 7 4A conference player of the year at Hopewell, twice and as a senior averaged 15 points and seven assists.

6. Sarah Mooney, North Mecklenburg High softball

She hit the ball hard, often and everywhere. Mooney, a catcher, set a N.C. High School Athletic Association season record with a .779 batting average in 2011.

That’s 60 hits in 77 at-bats. Mooney also had 55 RBIs, and her 19 home runs tied the state single-season record.

Mooney, who signed with James Madison University, set the state record with 37 career home runs. Mooney’s .566 career batting average is the fourth-highest in state history. She was named to the Louisville Slugger All-America teams twice.

7. Kimberly Spano, North Mecklenburg High cross country and track

Spano was a three-time N.C. 4A cross country champion (2007-09). She won the 1,600-meter track state title, and 3,200 state titles in the indoor and outdoor competitions. Also, she was the 1-mile indoor state champion, 2-mile outdoor state champion and indoor and outdoor national finalist.

8. Daryl Vereen, North Mecklenburg football

Vereen rushed for 2,603 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior in 2006, and soon signed to play collegiately with Tennessee. As a junior, he rushed for 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns before injuries caused him to miss four games. Vereen used a potent combination of speed, strength and vision. He was a three-time all-conference pick, and was a starter on North Mecklenburg’s basketball team that won the 2005 N.C. 4A championship.

9. Jenny Falcone, Davidson Day tennis

Falcone won two N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A singles state championships and one doubles state championship (2008-10). After sweeping through her senior season in which she was undefeated and lost only three games, Falcone signed with College of Charleston.

10. Hannah Early, Hopewell High basketball and volleyball

Early was the 2010 I-MECK 4A Conference Player of the Year in volleyball and the I-MECK 4A Player of the Year in basketball in 2010-11. She helped the Titans win basketball conference titles as a junior and senior, and reach the N.C. 4A Western Regional. Early signed to play basketball at Davidson.