BOYS BASKETBALL

Seaforth’s Stevenson ranked among top juniors in entire country

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PITTSBORO — You never know who you might find when walking through the halls of Seaforth High. You might even run into an NBA legend.

That would have been the case if you were on campus last Wednesday, as Georgetown head men’s basketball coach and former New York Knicks star Patrick Ewing was in town to visit Seaforth junior Jarin Stevenson, one of the top recruits nationally in the Class of 2024.

The Hoyas extended Stevenson an offer, one of six current Division-I scholarships on the table currently for the 6-foot-8 power forward. And while he appreciated Georgetown’s interest, the highlight of Ewing’s visit for Stevenson was the chance to chat with one of the best big men to ever play.

“I got to learn a few things about him, and we talked for a little bit while he was here,” Stevenson told the N+R about the visit. “It was just great having him in the gym.”

Nowadays Ewing stands just an inch or two taller than Stevenson, though in the height of his playing days he was a stout 7-foot-flat and 255 pounds. Known as one of the best offensive forwards in NBA history, Ewing averaged over 20.0 points per game for the first 13 years of his career and finished his playing days averaging 21.0 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting over 50% from the field.

While Stevenson — who is ranked as the No. 17 overall player in the Class of 2024 according to 247Sports’ composite rankings — is technically also a forward, there are nuances to his game that differ from the hulking big men like Ewing that dominated in the 80s and 90s. With today’s game featuring a heavy focus on perimeter play, and particular, the 3-point shot, a forward has to be ready to contribute at all three levels offensively, not just under the basket.

Over the offseason, Stevenson has worked on tightening his handle and smoothing out his jumpshot. He hopes the extra work will help him improve his 3-point percentage after shooting 21-of-71 (29.6%) from behind the line as a sophomore. He also expects to be more dynamic with the ball in his hands.

“With my height, it helps with mismatches,” Stevenson said. “If there’s a big on me, I can take him off the dribble, and if there’s a smaller guy, I can just put it in the post and score over him.”

Stevenson believes he’s made the necessary strides to help Seaforth be more competitive this winter. Last season, the Hawks’ first as a varsity program, the team went 12-10 overall and lost in the first round of the state playoffs. There is reason for optimism, though, as after a 1-5 start, Seaforth managed to win nine of its next 10 games and finish second in the Mid-Carolina 1A/2A Conference.

The plan, Stevenson said, is to build on that positive momentum and come out of the gates even stronger in 2022-23.

“It was tough last year because we only had freshmen and sophomores,” Stevenson said. “Over the summer, I feel like we’ve put in a good amount of work, and we’re still putting in work now. I feel like we’re getting better. Last year was tough, but we pushed through and got some wins under our belt. We did what we had to do.”

This season, Stevenson will have to juggle playing with the ongoing saga of his recruitment. After picking up three offers from Georgetown, Virginia and Missouri this week, things should only ramp up for the junior as he continues to rise up recruiting boards.

While the process can be hectic at times, Stevenson said he has enjoyed the interest he has received from some of the top programs in the country.

“Sometimes there’s a lot of calls and a lot of stuff, but it’s a blessing,” Stevenson said. “I like it a lot. It shows that the hard work is paying off. It’s a joy of an experience that I’ve really liked so far.”

One team expected to be in play for Stevenson until the end is UNC, which was the first team to offer him a scholarship back in October 2021. Tar Heels’ head coach Hubert Davis also recently visited Seaforth to see Stevenson work out.

If he decides to join North Carolina, Stevenson will be the second Chatham County commit to do so. Earlier this month, Northwood junior Drake Powell — a former teammate of Stevenson’s — committed to the Tar Heels after receiving an offer from them earlier this offseason.

“Coach Davis said they have a great community over there, and they’re going to try and get me to as many games as possible (this season),” Stevenson said. “I know that there are good people over there. I still haven’t made any decisions yet, but UNC is a great college.”

Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at jeremy@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.

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