Friday, March 27, 2009

W. Charlotte's Caldwell named state player of year


Christal Caldwell spent a year thinking about making up for a missed chance to lead West Charlotte to a state championship. Now, with that title in hand, Caldwell can also celebrate being considered North Carolina's top player.

The senior guard was named the 2008-09 Associated Press women's prep basketball player of the year for the state on Friday, an honor that comes two weeks after guiding the Lions to the Class 4-A championship.

The Florida signee earned eight of a possible 16 votes from sports writers across the state and was the leading vote-getter on the AP All-State women's team for the second straight season. She easily outdistanced Gastonia Forestview's Shannon Smith, who finished with three votes after averaging 26 points to help her team reach the 3-A final.

Caldwell averaged 19 points and eight rebounds on the season, but upped her play during the playoffs to help West Charlotte win the first North Carolina High School Athletic Association championship in program history. It came one year after the Lions lost in the title game to Fayetteville Westover by just five points.

“At the beginning of the school year, the whole time I was just thinking about when basketball season would start,” Caldwell said. “Then the season started and from then on, that's all me and my teammates were thinking about. We knew if we did what we were supposed to do, we could get there.”

With help from AP All-State second-team performer Nikki Burton, Caldwell upped her averages to 24 points and 10 rebounds per game in the postseason. She finished that run with 19 points in the final, earning MVP honors for guiding the Lions (28-3) past Durham Hillside 78-60.

“She just did anything to help the team win,” West Charlotte coach Reggie Mobley said. “She wants to get better each and every year. She's worked hard on different facets of the game. That work ethic, I had seen it in very few kids. It sort of transferred to the rest of the team.”

The title was the perfect reward for Caldwell, who worked out more and tried to eat better over the past year so she would be better prepared to win that championship.

“I had to step up for my team,” she said. “I had to go harder in practice and do other things outside the gym that I knew would come back and help my team. I just pushed myself a little bit harder so I could be there and do what I had to do.”

WALL NAMED BOYS PLAYER OF THE YEAR

John Wall is regarded as one of the nation's best recruits. It's no surprise then that he's been voted the top player in North Carolina.

The Raleigh Word of God point guard was named the 2008-09 Associated Press men's prep basketball player of the year Friday. The senior earned six of a possible 16 votes from sports writers across the state, edging Kinston junior Reggie Bullock for the honor.

Bullock, a 6-foot-7 guard who has committed to North Carolina, had five votes after averaging 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Winston-Salem Mt.

Tabor's C.J. Harris finished third with three votes; the Wake Forest recruit averaged 23 points per game to lead his team to the Class 4-A championship.

Wall averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for a team that reached the 1-A final of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association playoffs. The 6-4 playmaker is ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the country by both rivals.com and scout.com.

Word of God, a private school with about 250 students, declined to make Wall available for an interview with the AP when notified of his award.

In a recent interview with a local newspaper, Wall said he began to realize how talented he was while playing for a YMCA team as a 10-year-old.

“Everybody said I was cheatin', that I was too old to play against ‘em,” he told The News & Observer of Raleigh in a story published last month.

Wall remains uncommitted on a college choice, though he has been recruited by Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Memphis and North Carolina State among others. He has said he wants to play in a fast-paced offense.

“If you go to a school where you don't get along with the coaches, y'all are having a lot of arguments, you're not going to play, you might take more years than you expect to go to the next level,” he told The News & Observer. “I need a coach to push me to make sure I get to the next level as soon as possible.” -- Observer News Services

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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