Next steps in former Owen High School basketball player's career take him to Arden
Ben Craig’s dream sounds simple; play basketball for a NCAA Division I program when he finishes his high school career.
Exactly how the gifted guard accomplishes that goal remains to be seen. But his next steps will take the former Owen High School standout to Arden, where he’ll be attending Christ School in the fall.
Craig is coming off the best season of his high school career. Having scored his 1,000th point for the Warhorses as a junior last school year, he led the 23-6 Warhorses in scoring (20 points per game) and assists (an average of more than 5 per contest). He was named to The Asheville Citizen-Times All-WNC team.
The decision to transfer wasn’t an easy one, according to Craig.
“I love Owen High School, and I love this community,” he said. “I feel like this (transferring to Christ School) is what’s best for me to reach my goal of becoming a collegiate basketball player.”
Since 2007 Christ School has produced nearly 100 college athletes, including Miles and Mason Plumlee, both members of the 2010 Duke University national championship basketball team. Marshall, the younger brother of Miles and Mason, also played for the Christ School Greenies before winning a national championship with the Blue Devils in 2015. Each of the three Plumlee brothers is currently on an NBA roster.
Christ School’s track record of taking talented athletes and producing polished products isn’t the only way Craig will benefit from the move, according to Anthony Barringer, head coach of the men’s basketball team at Warren Wilson College. Barringer has been training Craig privately for several years.
“The exposure piece is huge,” Barringer said. “Christ School plays a national schedule.They have (NCAA) Division I guys in their program, so when they go play in tournaments and play (acclaimed programs) Oak Hill Academy (Virginia) or Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point), there will be college coaches there.”
That exposure is crucial for athletes hoping to go to an elite collegiate program, according to Barringer, but the level of talent that Craig will face daily in practice will also help him get to the next level.
“They (Christ School) have got guys like Damon Harge, Jr., a YouTube sensation who is one of the best point guards in the country,” Barringer said. “They’ve got a guard coming from New York who is one of the best two guards in the country. They’ve got players that coaches want to see.”
If iron sharpens iron, then simply practicing with the Greenies will give Craig the chance to refine his skills to a razor’s edge.
“This will be the first time in his basketball career where he is not the best, or one of the top three players on his team,” Barringer said. “For him this is a challenge and an entirely new journey.”
Scott Willard, the athletic director and head coach of the boy’s basketball program at Christ School, believes Craig brings much more to the campus than his skills on the court.
“(Ben) is a high-character, high-academic and highly athletic kid from a great family," Willard said. "There is a basketball component to this (transfer) without questions, but there is also a community role. We're looking for Ben to come in and be a leader in many areas."
Craig's work ethic has long been one of his strongest character traits, according to Barringer, and the resources of Christ School give him the necessary tools to get the most out of his effort.
"He fits what we do in the basketball program because he really wants to work and be a good teammate," Willard said. "We'll see what his role is when we get into the fall. We have some high-caliber kids coming in and some high-caliber kids returning."
Craig intends to reclassify at Christ School, which will allow him to begin the next school year as a junior. That gives him two more years of eligibility to play basketball for the school.
In a sense, the transfer is like the beginning of a second basketball career for Craig, according to Barringer.
"He understands that 1,000 points is a great milestone. But now it's on to 'whatever else I have to do to be the best I can be,'" Barringer said. "Because in the grand scheme of things, he doesn't have any (college) offers after the season he had last year, and he wants to play Division I basketball."
For Craig, who will live on campus five days a week, it's a chance for him to "show what I'm made of," he said.
"I can focus on basketball, and being right there will help me focus fully," he said.
Craig's devotion to the game makes it likely he will take advantage of the resources Christ School offers.
"Here, there is no excuse - if you want to work, (the opportunity) is all around you and at your disposal," Willard said. "Our coaching staff has four former head coaches, and we are built to work kids out and help them get better every single day.
"For a kid like Ben Craig who wants to be pushed, we're going to embrace that and work our butts off to make him better and help take him to another level."