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Former Smithfield-Selma High basketball player Anthony Council is still reaping the rewards of his final season for the Spartans.
The Fayetteville State University recruit went out with a bang on the court in 2018-19, having some of the best performances of anyone in the state to end his time as a Spartan.
“My last year, it was a big year,” Council said on Friday. “It was the biggest year I had out of all four. You could see as I came in as a senior, my goal was to have the best season I had and just believe in what I can do.”
After all the hard work in his red-hot season, Council will cap off his high school career next week, taking the floor for the East team in the 71st annual North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game for boys basketball.
Representing SSS won’t be just an individual accomplishment for Council. When he plays at the Greensboro Coliseum on July 15 at 8:30 p.m., he will become the first Spartan to participate in the boys basketball game since before he was even born. Kyle Stephenson in 1998 was the last SSS boys basketball player to appear in the midsummer exhibition and Reggie Barnes in 1985 is the only other Spartan so honored.
“It’s just a big accomplishment, this game right here,” Council said. “Me being from Smithfield-Selma and getting selected to play in a big event like the East-West game, it’s a big moment.”
Council’s selection to the East-West game brought his journey full circle after plenty of hard work in the gym. Coming into his senior season, the undersized 5-foot-9 guard had no college offers, but he put up eye-popping performances all season to earn the recognition.
After averaging just under 16 points per game in his sophomore and junior seasons, Council made a big jump to average 26.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game in 22 games his senior year.
Council’s biggest game of the season came on Jan. 11 in the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference opener against West Johnston. On 19-for-28 shooting, Council dropped 51 points and set a new career high.
From then on, his season was destined to stand out. At season’s end, only one player in 3-A basketball averaged more points than Council, per Maxpreps.com.
“Last season was just a culmination of how hard he’s worked over four years,” SSS head coach Matt Cuddington said. “He had probably one of the best basketball years of a SSS basketball player in a long time. Statistically wise, probably since the ‘90s. He had a heck of a year.”
But after numbers that jump off the page and memorable performances that won’t soon be forgotten by Spartan basketball fans, Council said the moments he’ll remember most from his time as a Spartan came off the court.
“My favorite moment playing basketball at Smithfield-Selma was really just bonding with all the players and having great relationships with everybody,” he said.
Even without his teammates there around him, Council will have one last shot to represent the gold and navy. He plans to enjoy the experience, and make the most of the competition he’ll be facing.
“I just want to have a great time, meet new players and just go at each other and play hard,” Council said.
Council will be joined on the East roster by Southern Nash’s Darius Edmundson, Greene Central product and UNC Wilmington signee Imajae Dodd and Philip Burwell of Millbrook. To round out the group, Jace McKenney of South Brunswick; Brion McLaurin of Fayetteville Seventy-First; Skykeim Phillips of Winterville South Central; Raleigh Wakefield’s Trae Smith, Raleigh Broughton’s DJ Thomas and Dharyus Thomas of Southwest Onslow will also play alongside Council.
The East Team will be coached by Southern Nash’s Robbie Kennedy and Pamlico’s Earl Sadler.
After the game, Council will fully commit to preparing for competition at the next level, though he’s already made the transition to college life in Fayetteville this summer.
While participating in the Broncos’ summer workouts, he’s on campus taking summer school classes in English and political science to get ahead.
“I enjoyed the transition,” said Council, who plans to study sports medicine. “It’s a little different, but nothing I can’t handle.”
Cuddington said after working so hard in high school to gain recognition, he expects Council to continue to prove people wrong in NCAA Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association play.
“He’s going to be undersized but he’s always been undersized,” Cuddington said. “One thing about him is he can find a way to put the ball in the basket. He’s very crafty. I’m expecting him to go down to Fayetteville State and do some big things.”