Coach, seniors unite to change Rams culture

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CHAPEL HILL — The five-member senior class of Rhaheem Edwards, DonQuez Davis, Torrence Clark, Tyquan Williams and Javon Edwards won’t be known as the quintet that delivered the first North Carolina High School Athletic Association boys basketball championship to Greene Central High.

But in a remarkable four-year turnaround that spanned the entire course of their careers, they did everything else.

It coincided with the arrival of head coach Charles Harris, who wasted little time establishing his imprint and expectations for the program from the very first open gym.

Although Greene Central was denied that coveted state championship here Saturday with a 63-59 loss to Marshville Forest Hills, the optics that now surround the program in Snow Hill are of one that competes for championships, conference and otherwise, on an annual basis. That’s no small feat in a 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference neighborhood that houses high school basketball royalty in Kinston. But in the last two seasons, the Rams hold a 5-2 advantage over the Vikings. The teams split their four meetings in 2017-18, with Greene Central winning the final battle in the third round of the playoffs. Greene Central swept all three of its 2016-17 games with Kinston.

The Vikings will be back. Their pedigree, strewn with high-level NCAA Division I talent and NBA performers, won’t permit anything less. However, simple geography will not allow Kinston and Greene Central to meet for a state championship. These battles, if they aren’t heated enough, will only stand to intensify. Odds are that any conference realignment for the foreseeable future will continue to stick these border rivals in the same league.

Regardless of where the program was before, any team rising up to slug with Kinston on a blow-by-blow basis would be worthy of acclaim. Yet frankly, the Rams rose to the challenge from an abysmal place.

Five head coaches in seven seasons from 2007 until 2014. Losing records in each season. Single-digit victories in most years. No postseason appearances.

Therefore, when Harris arrived in 2014, his presence was naturally met with a healthy degree of skepticism. Rhaheem Edwards, Davis, Clark, Williams and Javon Edwards were all freshmen at the time.

How would Greene Central react to, in Harris’ own words, a “middle-class white guy coming into Snow Hill to take over basketball?”

Judging by the large Greene County contingent that made the trip to the Smith Center, they adapted well. By the time Harris brought his five seniors to the podium in the media room during the toughest hour of their careers, that adaptation had evolved into a full-blown mutual admiration society.

Harris, whether or not he revives the blue blazer that lasted all of two minutes of game action Saturday, is 84-28 in four seasons on the Greene Central bench and will be a strong candidate to hit the 100-win mark sometime next season. As a testament to the revolving door of boys basketball coaches at Greene Central, his tenure is already tied for the third longest in school history.

“When he first got here, I didn’t know too much of him,” Rhaheem Edwards said of Harris. “He was a hard man, an a-hole, whatever you want to call him. But Coach was a good coach. He pushed us, taught us hard work and dedication, and that’s why we’re here.”

Williams cited the increased work ethic required under the Harris regime as freshmen.

“He really just brought work ethic,” Williams said. “Because before him, players didn’t work real hard. So I guess he brought a real hard work ethic. That’s how we really got here.”

Davis concurred.

“Before he came here, we really didn’t have much of a basketball team,” the point guard said. “But these last couple of years, he brought it up. We’re proud of him for that and we played for him.”

However, Harris wasn’t about to take the credit, instead deferring to his senior class in an emotional address.

“It’s not me, it’s them,” Harris assured. “We wouldn’t be standing here if they didn’t buy in. We wouldn’t be standing here if they didn’t put the work in. I could sit there and yell at them all I want to, but the bottom line, these kids changed the culture, they changed the community and they changed the town. Now, I bet you I can ask you guys in this room where Snow Hill is and some of you know. And that’s what they’re going to leave behind.”