Athens Men’s basketball team competes in the exclusive John Wall Invitational

Adam Shefet, Sports Editor

Each holiday season, John Wall, five-time NBA All-star, holds a tournament at Broughton High School in his hometown of Raleigh for high schools across the East Coast. The tournament is partnered with the Triangle Educational Advancement Foundation and the Athens Drive men’s basketball team participated in the 2018 event.

Coming into the tournament, Athens Drive had a record of 7-1 and was lead by senior guard and Northern Kentucky University commit, DJ Robertson who averaged 19 points, three assists and four rebounds per game.

On opening day, Athens Drive played South Central High from Winterville, NC. After a slow start to the first quarter, scoring only five points, Athens Drive bounced back with a 19 point second quarter to go into halftime trailing by seven. Despite 20 points from Robertson, South Central’s large scoring output in the fourth quarter helped them edge past, 65-52.

“It was a good test for us to start off the tournament. Athens Drive did a good job of coming back at us and I think we did a great job of maintaining our composure, and really closing the game strong. This was the first time a team has punched back,” said Chris Cherry, South Central head coach to 247 Sports.

Day two of the tournament saw Athens Drive take on Trinity Academy of Raleigh. Both teams were equally matched in the first half with frequent lead changes. After halftime, Athens Drive pulled ahead thanks to a career high 32 points from senior shooting guard, Chase Graham. Graham was 6/11 from three-point range and 10/12 from the free throw line. The high volume shooting in the second half lead Athens Drive past Trinity Academy, 77-68.

“We lost the first game so we had to come out and get the win. We’re just trying to have some fun, get some wins and we’re going into conference play looking sharp,” said Graham.

Athens Drive played their last game against conference opponents, Panther Creek. After an explosive start to the game, Athens Drive limited Panther Creek to seven points in the second quarter. A game-high 28 point performance from Robertson, however, was not enough to beat Panther Creek’s efficient shooting in the second half as Athens fell, 63-56.

Due to his 17 points per game average, Robertson was selected to the 2018 John Wall Holiday Invitational TJ Warren bracket all-tournament team. The top five players from each of the two tournament brackets are chosen for all-tournament honors.

“Me and my teammates have been talking about playing in this tournament since we were in middle school. We would come here and watch it and watch people who are in the NBA play in this tournament. It feels special that we got invited to come play and compete against the competition here in front of the whole city where we’re all from,” said Robertson.