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Jayce Wolfe and the Smokey Mountain Tar Heels

Believe it or not, I had a great time watching middle school basketball last night. It was championship night. I got to see an extraordinary young player, a Cherokee by the name of Jayce Wolfe. The kid is a magician.

But first, let me describe the scene. It was a game between the Smokey Mountain Tar Heels, from Cherokee; and the Fairview Eagles, from Sylva. Just about all the players on Smokey Mountain’s team are Cherokees, while just about all of the players for Fairview are what we might call Anglo-Americans. The Cherokees wear their hair long (with the exception of the kid with a Mohawk dyed blond), while the Fairview boys wear theirs closely cropped (possibly a team rule). As they warmed up, the Fairview Eagles ran highly disciplined drills, while the Tar Heels leisurely ran a lay-up drill.

Then the game started. Right away it was evident that Jayce Wolfe is not an ordinary player. He wears his bangs over his eyes, so his opponents never know where he’s looking. It doesn’t matter. He never looks where he’s passing anyway. It seems though that his teammates have been playing with him long enough to know to expect the ball. He started the game darting into the lane, drawing the defense toward him, then dishing (no-look, of course) to a big guy for an easy lay-up.

Another ploy that he likes is to lull the defense (which is afraid of his drives into the lane) and then casually (always without looking) flip the ball over to Ledford (who is probably not even five feet tall) for an open look at a three. The threat of a drive and the no-look give Ledford the extra split second he needs to get the three off.

Wolfe relentlessly pushes the ball up the court. He reminds you of a young Allen Iverson. He toys with the opposition, which can’t figure out if he’s going to drive or pass. And when he does pass, they never know where it’s going, because he’s always looking somewhere else when he delivers the ball.

There was a scary moment. On an inbound play from under the basket, they ran an alley-oop, but it looked to me like Wolfe was undercut as he was way up in the air for the ball. He came crashing down on his side and was obviously in pain. For the rest of the game, whenever the ball was not in play, he held his left elbow. But when the ball was in play, it was as if nothing at all had happened.

When the Cherokee kids warm up, they don’t look especially impressive, but when they get on the court, it’s obvious that they have a skill that is rare in kids their age: open court vision and the ability to move the move the ball up the court quickly, on the dribble or with the pass.

The Tar Heels jumped out to an early lead, and never looked back, in spite of the fact that, in general, the Fairview boys were bigger and stronger. But they just didn’t have an answer for Jayce Wolfe, who was far quicker and far more skilled than anybody else on the court (with the exception of Maurice, the referee).

Smokey Mountain came out of halftime on Cherokee time, late. No matter, they proceeded with the smack-down in the second half.

When Wolfe develops a consistent jumper he will have the complete package. His ball handling, passing, and defense are already superior. Plus he has a je ne sais quoi that special players have, an instinct for the game.

I have to mention that the racial element lent a special interest to the game. I feel like some Fairview fans and perhaps the coaches and players too, were not at all happy about getting shellacked by a bunch of long-haired Indians. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Jayce Wolfe and his team can ball.

Wolfe at the line last night



I agree with your take of the game :)

And yes once Jayce get's his jump shot off a little higher and with more rotation, he will be un-stopable. That will come over the next year or two.



He doesn't need it now, but against quicker, stronger, faster players in the future it will really help!

I look forward to seeing him play again.

December 2018



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