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Council makes the most of East-West experience

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GREENSBORO — Checking in at 5-foot-9 with teammates who towered nearly a foot over him, Anthony Council was the shortest player to take the floor in the 71st annual North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game for boys basketball.

But that didn’t mean the former Smithfield-Selma High guard, now enrolled at Fayetteville State University, didn’t belong on the Greensboro Coliseum court July 15.

Council, selected to represent the East team in recognition of his stellar senior season, did plenty to leave his mark.

Council worked hard his final year to get to where he is now, entering the summer before he’ll be on scholarship to continue his basketball career. When it came to the East-West game, he just wanted to soak in every moment.

“The best part of the week for me was just practicing, bonding with all the players, getting to meet new players from all around,” Council said after the East’s 119-80 loss to the West. “Everybody going to college, it was just a lot of fun.”

After averaging 25.8 points, 3.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game his senior season, Council’s numbers stand up to others chosen to participate in the summer tradition. Council dropped a career-high 51 points against West Johnston on Jan. 11, and finished his career with 1,380 points.

Just by checking into the game at the 5 minute, 23 second mark in the first quarter, Council became the first player from his school to play in the boys basketball tradition since 1998, before he was born. Kyle Stephenson was the last player to be honored in the game that year, while Reggie Barnes in 1985 is the only other Spartan player to be selected.

Playing on the court painted with a UNC Greensboro logo and in front of a crowd of 2,176 including his parents, cousins, an aunt and coaches, he was also the lone player representing Johnston County.

But Council’s night did not stop there. Less than 30 seconds after coming into the game, Council received a pass and drove to the bucket, dodging defenders in the paint to lay it in for the score.

With his first points, he gave West defenders a taste of what his 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference opponents saw for years, while cutting into what was, at the time, a delicate 17-13 lead for the mountain side of the state.

In 11 minutes across the first half, the basket turned out to be his only points before the break. With the West’s Fletcher Abee and Bryson Childress leading the way with 11 points each, the East fell behind 61-28 at the half — falling victim to a hot performance early that decided the game.

“The West team was pretty tough,” Council said after the game. “They had a couple of shooters.”

Those two West shooters led the team to eight 3-pointers that half, putting the game away, which Council said was a surprise to him.

“I just didn’t expect to lose like that,” Council said. “I thought it would be a close game, I thought we were going to pull it out, but that didn’t happen.”

Despite not having a game that came down to the wire, the East returned after halftime and played better, keeping pace with the West the rest of the way.

During the latter half of the game, Council scored most of his points too.
To close out the game, Council scored six of his team’s final 10 points on back-to-back nothing-but-net 3-pointers. Though his team would eventually lose by 39 points, Council said after the game he did not want to exit the game without taking a few more shots.

“I had to get a couple points,” explained Council, wearing cross earrings after the game. “I didn’t play the way I wanted, so I had to get up a couple shots.”

Council’s two effortless shots brought the deficit into the 30s, where it would eventually stay by the end. After taking the third-most shots on his team, he finished the game with eight points and an assist in 22 minutes, while making the most 3s of anyone on the East.

After the game, Council, who missed summer classes to make the game and left right after to resume his studies the next morning in Fayetteville, said the experience was a good way to transition into a new era of his basketball career with the Broncos.

“Now that I’m done with high school, I’m ready to go to college because I know it’s all about working hard,” Council said. “I’m just ready to compete, play with some older guys.”