Fast breaking through the summer

Ben Craig and the Owen Warhorses aren't interested in taking time off

Fred McCormick

When a fast break happens in the game of basketball fans get a glimpse of the pieces of a team working hard to finish what they have started.

The same can be said for the offseason, particularly in regards to the Owen Warhorses.

Rising junior Ben Craig averaged 14.2 points per game, 5.5 assists per game, 4.4 rebounds per game 1.6 steals per game as a sophomore while carrying a grade point average around 4.8. So when presented with the opportunity to take it easy over the summer, he chose to work harder, according to his longtime trainer Anthony Barringer, head coach of the Warren Wilson Owls.

"I've never met a kid who puts in the work that Ben Craig puts in," said Barringer, who started his basketball skill development training company, 323 Sports Performance in the spring . "I've been around basketball since I was 4-years-old and I've seen thousands of kids play and thousands of kids work out and there's not a single one I've seen that works as hard as Ben. He's special."

One of Craig's distinctive traits is his love for the game, according to Barringer, who has been working with the 16-year-old since the the summer following his eighth-grade-year.

"When Ben was 13-years-old we sat down and started talking after one of his workouts," Barringer said. "We talked for about 45 minutes and I was amazed by his maturity level. Even now he doesn't do what other kids do. If there's a choice between hanging out with his friends and going to work out, he's going to go work out."

And his workouts involve the type of dedication that is frequently associated with successful players. A "light day" for Craig, according to Barringer, involves him making anywhere between 600-1000 shots before leaving the gym.

Ben Craig is spending much of his summer in the gym at Warren Wilson College, where he frequently makes 600-1000 shots before leaving.

"I make him take Wednesdays and Sundays off," Barringer said. "Most days we are in the weight room working on speed, agility, explosiveness and then we go down to the gym and focus on skill development."

Craig's prowess from behind the arc was on full display during his sophomore season for Owen, when he led the team with 44 three-pointers in 27 games played. But his workout regimen is increasing his ability to be a legitimate threat from deep, according to Barringer.

"His range is consistently 25-28 feet," Barringer said. "He just started to get to that point where he's confident to shoot the ball from the range."

Craig, who has also been playing alongside his Owen teammates in tournaments this summer, never considered anything other than improving in the sport that he loves during his break.

"I love everything about basketball," he said. "I love working out and being able to escape from whatever is on my mind to just focus on basketball."

And Craig's commitment to the sport motivates him in the classroom too, where he has managed to keep his grade point average "around 4.8."

"I work hard on the court but I always find time for school work," he said. "I try to take the same competitiveness and drive that I have on the court to the classroom."

That level of maturity has had quite an impact on the rest of the Warhorses, who count Craig, along with Brian Bartlett and Mathew Brown, among their leaders on the court. And according to head coach Chuck Robinson, the entire team is committed to improving upon their 16-11 record last season.

"They're all very excited about what is possible next season," Robinson said. "Their goal is that they want to win the entire conference and they also have a goal to make it to the state championship. Those are big goals and each and every player on the team is working hard to achieve those goals."

Several Warhorse players, including Craig, joined the Carolina Flames travel basketball squad to win the 17 and under age group in the Jet Jam tournament in Henderson County in early-June, an encouraging sign for Robinson. The coach was also pleased with his team's performance in a Wilmington tournament held at Laney High School, the alma mater of Michael Jordan, on the week of June 20.

"We ended up beating a couple of 4A teams," he said. "It's great to see the guys all working hard to improve after the season we had last year. I'm impressed."

The Carolina Flames, coached by Roger Brown and Pete Ledford, won their age group at the 2016 Jet Jam tournament in Henderson County.