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Prep basketball: A.L. Brown’s Phifer signs with DCCC

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
LEXINGTON ó A.L. Brown’s Demarcus Phifer, who answers to “Smoke,” signed with Davidson County Community College on Tuesday.
The 5-foot-11 Phifer isn’t a household name outside Kannapolis because he came out of nowhere last season.
He had a seat near the end of the bench until the second half of his junior year, but he broke out for 451 points as a senior. He averaged 18.8 points a game while primarily playing point guard. He made the All-South Piedmont Conference for a team that finished strong for a 15-9 record.
It could be a productive signing for coach Matt Ridge’s DCCC Storm, a program that puts up points at an alarming rate and provides entertainment similar to that offered by Pfeiffer at the Division II level.
Pfeiffer coach Dave Davis once declared the perfect basketball game was 110-109 with Pfeiffer winning on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. DCCC puts more emphasis on stopping the other guys, but it offers the same cardiac-inducing offense, with 10 guys rotating, running, pressuring and firing 3s.
The DCCC system should be a good fit for “Smoke.”
“I tried out at Pfeiffer, and they told me DCCC would be a good place for me so I came and tried out over here,” Phifer said.
One of Phifer’s new teammates is South Rowan’s 5-9 Hunter Morrison, Rowan County’s leading scorer last season. Morrison and Phifer go way back.
“We were in the eighth grade together for a little while at Kannapolis Middle School,” Phifer said. “I stayed; Hunter left. I didn’t see him again until I’m playing for Brown and he’s playing for South Rowan.”
Morrison, the son of missionaries, departed Kannapolis Middle for a stay in Bangladesh. His game’s made big strides since he came back to the area. A few miles down the road, Phifer’s game grew as well.
“We had some battles last year, but Hunter’s one of the main reasons I signed with DCCC,” Phifer said. “It’s not about me running the show ó it’s about the team winning games. I think we could really work great together. Hunter could free me up for a lot of shots and I make open shots. I like to score.”
There was a game last November that proved that.
South Rowan, fresh off a surprising victory against talented Salisbury, headed to Bullock Gym to play a shell of an A.L. Brown team. The Wonders were still in the football playoffs, taking Xavier Watson, T.J. Johnson, Jacob Newman, Vance Chapman and Zach Massey out of the mix, and leaving Phifer and Jaques Deese to basically play 2-on-5 against the Raiders.
Phifer scored 32 points, a lot of them from the second row of the bleachers. The Wonders won 67-65 when Phifer dished to a jayvee for the clinching bucket. Morrison scored 24 for South ó 11 in the final minute.
In the rematch, South won 89-77. Phifer put up 18 in a hurry before spraining an ankle. Morrison poured in 32 ó an amazing 25 in the fourth quarter.
Now they’ll be wearing the same color uniform, and it should be good for both of them.
Morrison is a pure point with a nice handle and exceptional vision who offers the bonus of an accurate 3-point shot.
Phifer isn’t as good with the ball as the flashy Morrison, but he’s a capable dribbler and passer and gives the ball up to open teammates. He had eight assists in a game against Porter Ridge.
Phifer also is a creative scorer who can put the ball in the hole a dozen different ways. He’s quick and leaps so well he can finish inside. He’s calm under pressure, makes free throws, and despite his height limitations, he can dunk.
Brown assistant James Allen described Phifer as “a load one-on-one.” Brown head coach Shelwyn Klutz ranked Phifer with Avery Patterson and Garrett Sherrill as the best scorers he’s coached in his 12 seasons at the helm of the Wonders.
While Klutz was waiting for the football players last fall, Phifer scored 62 points in Brown’s first two games.
He also enjoyed a four-game SPC stretch in which he scored 102 points. He had 22 points in a playoff loss to West Rowan that ended Brown’s season.
“Demarcus did well in our tryouts,” Ridge said. “He’s a combo guard who is supremely confident on offense. He can shoot, but he can also beat people off the dribble and finish at the rim. He can score in a lot of ways. We’ll challenge him to keep improving on defense.”
A lack of commitment on the defensive end of the floor kept Phifer confined to the bench a long time at Brown, but he got a chance to play against Concord as a junior and poured in 16 quick points.
Phifer had always shown patience and a good attitude, and that successful game got him practicing harder. Once his defensive intensity picked up, he was on his way to being a standout.
Phifer is on the skinny side and smiles a lot, but he’s tougher than he looks. Twenty-four hours after that ankle sprain against South Rowan, the trainer taped him up for an SPC game with Sun Valley. He scored 20. None of his teammates doubted him after that.
No one doubts Phifer can score at the next level. If his defense is decent, he could earn the minutes to make an impact for the Storm as a freshman.

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