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McKie-led Sandlappers will try to continue mastery over Tar Heels

CHS coach tabbed as coach of South Carolina all-star team

Posted: February 23, 2012 1:53 p.m.
Updated: February 24, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Ron McKie knows that high school all-star games can bring out the best or, sometimes the worst, in a basketball player.
McKie, who completed his 10th season as the head boys’ basketball coach at Camden High School, was selected to coach the South Carolina team against their North Carolina counterparts in the Carolinas All-Star Classic on Saturday, March 17 at Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach.
This will be the third all-star coaching job for McKie. In 2010, he was the head coach of the South squad in the North-South All-Star Game. That came five years after he was an assistant to former Wilson head coach Tommy Wilson for the South entry in that game.
It was that first experience with Wilson in which McKie saw what can go wrong in an all-star contest when a player tries to improve his stock and attempts to use the game as his showcase.
“The first year I did it,” McKie said of his 2005 experience, “we had a kid who tried to take over the game and it was really horrible. He looked really, really bad. We had to take him out of the game, sit him down and tell him that ‘All these other kids are playing team ball. You’re out there forcing shots, picking up silly fouls and throwing the ball all over the place.’ We tried to tell him that he shouldn’t be doing that.
“We know that he was out there trying to impress some schools and trying to get a scholarship. But it can backfire on you if you try to force things, which is what he did. I just tell them to go out and play hard, play good defense and play like you are trying to impress people like that instead of trying to force your shots.”
While coaching in the North-South contest, McKie was left to choose the best remaining seniors in the Lower State, after the top 10 seniors were scooped up to play in the pairing with North Carolina. McKie, who led Camden High to the 2008-09 AAA state title, said coaching what might best be termed the Palmetto State’s elite squad is an honor.
“To have an opportunity to coach in the South Carolina- North Carolina game is a big thrill for me,” he said, “because I get to coach the best of the best that we have in South Carolina.”
McKie learned of the announcement during the Bulldogs’ season. He and assistant coach Dwayne Hartsoe, from Fort Mill High School, had little time to waste in trying to identify the 10 best players in the state.
“I was notified toward the middle of our season so, I looked through papers and contacted some coaches to try and get a feel for which players were out there,” McKie said. “I don’t know a lot of the players from the Upstate or the Lower State, but I have a lot of friends and I started e-mailing them to get some names of players. I had some names already because I keep up with high schools but I’m not familiar with all the classifications so, I had to make some calls.”
Many a coach sent videos of their players to McKie once they learned that he would be coaching the all-star contest. In addition to that, McKie made calls to his coaching colleagues to get feedback on some of the players he and Hartsoe were considering. He said the response they received from was a big help in picking the chosen 10.
“I’ve had some coaches send me DVDs to watch but really, it’s been word-of-mouth to see who did well last year, who was coming back and see who had signed D-I scholarships; that helped,” he said. “We’ve already had a couple players who have signed with ACC programs, so we selected those players.”
Two of the players who signed with ACC schools, Brice Johnson from Edisto (North Carolina) and Irmo guard Jordan Roper (Clemson) were easy choices. But for the most part, McKie said, there was plenty of hand-wringing involved in trying to bring the 10 best players in the state together. At least one player declined the invite.
“Only being able to select 10 was tough because there are so many good kids out there,” McKie said. “Every school can submit a list of nominees which we have to go through. It took us a couple hours to go through those. We (Harstoe and McKie) got on the phones and did the best that we could.”
The 6-foot-9 Johnson was one of the first players chosen by the two coaches. For a state which does not have many true centers, height was in short supply. “He’s 6-9 and we need size,” McKie said of Johnson. “A lot of the kids whose names were submitted were guards, so he was one of our first selections.”
The South Carolina team will have at least three players in the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-6 range. But for the most part the roster will be heavy on guards as the Palmetto Staters will rely on their quickness against a North Carolina team which, traditionally, has been the larger of the two sides in this game.
“We tried to get some big kids,” McKie said. “There were just so many guards to choose from and so few big men that we decided to choose the big men first because it would be easy to pick the guards.
“I know Josh (former CHS standout Robert Council) played in this game a couple years ago (in 2010) and we went down to see him play and couldn’t believe just how big North Carolina was. South Carolina did end up winning the game, but I remember saying to myself, ‘North Carolina is huge.’ We didn’t have a lot of size.”
Size aside, McKie said he and Hartsoe did their homework on the players in trying to make sure they would not have any problems once the team convened for practice in the three days along the Grand Strand.
“The most important part is making sure that you pick good kids,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough in the past to have goods kids who behaved and weren’t going to give you any trouble and who played well together. I told them, ‘This is a game for y’all, not for us.’”
McKie said that in all-star games, more coaching takes place during the game than does in the two days of practice. Once the ball is tipped and things start to shake themselves out, the coaching staff needs to find out where they have an advantage and will try to make adjustments to take advantage of a particular match-up.
“We noticed some match-up problems so, we said, ‘Let’s get the ball to him,’” McKie said of his past all-star coaching jobs and his approach to the game.
“It’s not so much the preparation as it is getting a feel for the game and seeing who’s hot and who’s not.”
McKie said he hopes his team will be able to stay in their comfort zone and play withim themselves in this type of setting.
“I just tell the kids that if you go out and play for yourself, you start forcing passes and taking bad shots; you look bad,” he said. “You don’t want to look bad in front of all these people and in front of all these good players. Just let the game come to you and go out and have a good time, play hard and take the shots when they are there.’
There is more pressure on coaching in this particular game than in a North-South All-Star contest, said McKie who has had two of his former players --- brothers Sterling and Robert Council --- selected to the South Carolina squad. He said when you have the name South Carolina on the front of the uniform, there is more at stake for the players and the coaches.
When he was chosen for this post, the coaches association was quick to remind McKie that the Palmetto State team has had the upper hand recently. McKie said he wants to keep the run intact for one more year. This has come in spite of the fact that the Tar Heel State has been known for producing a bevy of hoops talent.
“In the North-South game,” he said, “you keep it inside the state. (The coaches association) told me South Carolina has won the last three and they want to keep it going. We don’t want to be the ones to stop the streak.
“North Carolina has always been the basketball state and we’re the football state. I always enjoy coaching these games because I get to see kids who I normally wouldn’t see, who are good kids and good players. It’s nice when you have good players, who have a good time because practices are competitive. I’ve enjoyed my last two (all-star games) and I’m going to enjoy this one, too.”

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