CORNELIUS – Luke Maye, halfway into his high school basketball career, is among North Carolina’s best. That’s good news for Hough High fans eager to see him for two more seasons and unsettling for opponents plotting to contain the talented sophomore.

Maye, a 6-foot-7 forward, was the centerpiece of a Huskies team that went 23-6 and reached the fourth round of the N.C. 4A playoffs. He averaged 18.9 points, 13.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots, and is the Herald Weekly’s Boy Basketball Player of the Year.

“I liked that we made a great run as a team,” Maye said. “We had a great journey.”

Maye turned heads as a polished freshman, when he became an instant starter and contributor. He turned even more heads this season. The season opener was a 30-point, 19-rebound performance against Independence High.

Maye didn’t have any falloff from there.

He had a 25-rebound game against Providence. He sank five three-pointers in a game against Lake Norman. He consistently topped 20 points.

Then, in a playoff victory against McDowell, Maye became the first Hough player to record a “20-20” game, with 28 points and 21 rebounds. A few days later, Maye put a defensive clamp on West Charlotte All-America center Kennedy Meeks (a North Carolina signee) by limiting him to 12 points and five rebounds in Hough’s 61-52 playoff victory. Maye’s stat line that night: 19 points, 14 rebounds and three assists.

Hough coach Justin Batts said Maye’s improvement came from being able to “stretch the floor,” meaning Maye wasn’t a typical 6-7 high schooler parked beneath the basket.

Maye’s jump shot improved. He led Hough with 44 three-pointers. He got out on the fast break and was fearless driving to the basket.

“He can shoot 25 feet from the basket, but at the same time he can come off cuts, catch and finish with contact,” Batts said.

That skill set is uncommon at the high-school level, which has Maye entrenched on college recruiters’ radar. He’s been to prestigious camps in the off-season, with more on the horizon. The notoriety doesn’t seem to bother him.

“I feel like if I just keep playing hard that’ll settle out,” Maye said. “The best part of the season was how much friendship we had on the team and all the things we did together as a team.”

 

COACH OF THE YEAR

 

Hough High’s Justin Batts endured his program’s growing pains last season and reaped sweet rewards this year.

The third-year Huskies, who won six games a year ago, went 23-6 this season and advanced four rounds into the state playoffs. That makes Batts the Herald Weekly’s Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.

Hough was 13-3 in the I-MECK 4A conference, good for second place in one of the state’s best conferences. Batts’ squad had playoff victories against Vance, McDowell and West Charlotte, the first three in school history. They lost to eventual N.C. 4A champion Olympic High in the regional, but that didn’t dampen Hough’s breakout season.

Batts blended the talents of sophomore forward Luke Maye with point guard Drexler Clark and defensive stopper Sanders Poff to form one of the area’s top teams.