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Looking Sharpe: Sand Rock senior guard claims county boys basketball MVP

Sand Rock senior guard Garyn Sharpe goes in for a layup during the Cherokee Invitational last December. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

SAND ROCK – Given the choice between a crowd-wowing dunk, sinking a 3-pointer, or connecting on a mid-range jumper to win a game, Sand Rock senior guard Garyn Sharpe said it doesn’t matter to him.

“Whatever shot we need to win,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe’s response defines him in nutshell. Above all else, he’s about the team’s success. It’s that businesslike approach to the game that has served the Wildcats well the past two seasons.

Back-to-back Cherokee County basketball tournament titles.

Back-to-back area championships.

Back-to-back Northeast Regional appearances, including the regional runner-up this year.

For being such a crucial cog in the Wildcats’ court success, the Cherokee County basketball coaches felt Sharpe should be recognized for his hard work. They selected him as their Most Valuable Player for the 2020-21 season.

“I work hard every day to be the best,” Sharpe said. “The ultimate goal is to be the best player you can be, and I just try to do my best every day.”

It’s that kind of attitude Sand Rock coach John Blackwell has seen out of Sharpe for years. He felt Sharpe could be something special by the end of his sophomore year.

“We were going into an area tournament game against Asbury at Collinsville, and we decided to feature Garyn a little bit in that game because of the way he developed. He had 20 points in that game. He had a really good game,” Blackwell said.

Sharpe also said that game was a turning point in his varsity career.

“I hadn’t really scored a lot on varsity that year. My confidence wasn’t that good, but after that game I felt like I could score on anybody,” Sharpe said.

And score he has.

Last season, Sharpe averaged 16.7 points per game to go along with 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals for the Wildcats (24-6). Along the way, Sharpe surpassed 1,000 points for his career.

“As I look back at his career now, I think that (Asbury game) got him to thinking ‘I can be really good at this game,’” Blackwell said. “That led into last year, and he did real well last year, and that led into this year. He had a super senior year. He had the type year every senior would love to have. I think all of our senior class had that. You finish your senior year narrowly losing to the state champion (Midfield) with an opportunity to have won it. What a dream to be able to finish your high school career that way.”

Sharpe is the second straight Sand Rock boys basketball player to earn county MVP. His teammate, senior point guard Cade Ballenger, claimed the honor following the 2019-20 season.

One of the first people Sharpe credited for helping him earn this year’s award was Ballenger.

“Ever since I can remember I’ve been friends with Cade. It’s just like playing with my brother on the court,” Sharpe said. “Cade can pass the ball very well. It allows me to get open and get to the rim easier or create my own shot.”

Blackwell found some irony in which teammate Sharpe mentioned first for his success.

“I remember a year ago, Cade was sitting in that chair (in Blackwell’s office), and I remember Cade making the comment ‘I don’t think I deserve this. I think Garyn should be MVP.’ One year removed, Garyn is sitting in that chair, and the first person Garyn brags on is Cade,” Blackwell said. “Neither one of them heard the other’s conversation. I think that is a true testament of what kind of character these guys have. Each one of them sitting in that chair a year apart, the first thing they do is mention each other.

“That’s a blessing to me to basically have the best seat in the house to watch what those two have done the past two or three years.”

Joining Sharpe on the all-county boys team from Sand Rock is Ballenger, sophomore guard Jacob St. Clair, senior center Xander Bradley, and sophomore forward Kaden Justice.

Representing Spring Garden (19-11) is senior guard/forward Weston Kirk, junior point guard Cooper Austin, and junior guard Chaz Pope.

The Cherokee County Warriors also have three selections in senior guards Slade Alexander and Connor Elrod, and senior forward Nas Diamond.

Senior guard Anbre Leek and sophomore point guard Bucky Leek were chosen from Cedar Bluff. Sophomore forward Keylon Higgins from Gaylesville rounds out the all-county boys basketball selections.

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