Area players savor All-Star experience in West victories

Jul. 23, 2014 @ 01:47 AM

Many of the basketball players on the court knew of each other, but few of them had played together before.

They’d all reached a certain level of play, achieved similar goals – some even had the common bond of winning a state championship.

Click here for photos from Monday's all-star games.

But for a few days area players Briana Burgins of Southwest Guilford and Cameron Nieters of Bishop McGuinness on the girls side and James Stepp of Ragsdale on the boys side joined with their fellow West standouts for the NCCA East-West All-Star Games.

The West won both the girls game, 82-68, and the boys game, 98-86, on Monday in the Greensboro Coliseum. Nieters had a strong second half en route to 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while Burgins had four points and Stepp had six.

“At first, coming in, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Burgins said. “You have a bunch of all-stars who were basically all stars on their own teams. You really have to push through and dig to shine above the rest.

“But getting to know all these girls – you’ve seen them play for long periods of time – it’s really great. You learn stuff from them, they learn stuff from you, and collectively we learn stuff and grow as a team. And it’s great.”

For the last several years, Southwest and Bishop have been among the area’s top girls programs. The Cowgirls won the 4A state championship in 2011, while the Villains have won nine straight 1A titles going back to 2006.

Burgins, a Francis Marion signee, and Nieters, a Harvard signee, were key pieces to their teams’ success. So, to join standouts from schools such as this year’s 4A champion Myers Park and 2A runner-up Bandys was a welcome experience.

“I thought it was a really good game,” Nieters said. “I really enjoyed getting to know these girls over the past few days and getting to play with them. I’ve seen a bunch of them play, and it’s just really nice to come together and play as a team.

“It was really cool. Since we’re all graduated now, high school’s kind of behind us. So, whatever’s happened is behind us. And we’re all excited about our futures. So, we had that in common and just to be able to come together as a team.”

It was an opportunity to also get to know some of the top players from across the state, many of whom have signed to play in college as well, see how their games stack up and perhaps pick up a thing or two as all three prepare to leave for college in mid-to-late August.

“It was thrilling to play with great guys, like Jeremy (Harris, the West MVP), and better my game,” said Stepp, who’s signed with Newberry. “It made me see what I needed to work on and make my talent better. … And it was fun, just chilling with them in the hotel.”