UNCW-bound Phillips talks Seahawks, tourney
By Laieke Abebe
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
The 2018-19 season couldn’t have gone any better for South Central senior Shykeim Phillips.
He helped lead a dominant Falcons squad to the Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A conference regular season and tournament championship. In addition to that, they completed one of the great state tournament runs in recent memory.
The Falcons won the state championship for the first time in school history, knocking off West Charlotte, 72-46, to win the 4-A title. After basketball season ended, Phillips’ dream of playing at the collegiate level also became reality.
On May 7, Phillips committed to play basketball at UNC Wilmington next season. It happened right after he made a visit to the school, and he was convinced that the Seahawks were the right school and basketball team for him.
“UNCW wanted me,” he said about his commitment to play for coach C.B. McGrath. “They’ve been recruiting me for a while and I felt the time was right to commit. I loved my visit up there and it was the perfect fit for me and my family.”
He will be teammates with Greene Central senior standout Imajae Dodd at UNCW. They’ll also be on the same team for the upcoming NC Coaches Association East-West all-star game.
“It’s going to be fun teaming with Imajae,” Phillips said about his future teammate. “I’ve been playing against him since 10th grade and he’s a great player. We’re both looking forward to getting a lot of wins at UNCW.”
On Saturday, Phillips was scheduled to play in the Josh Level Classic, a prestigious high school basketball showcase held in Greensboro. However, he hurt his shoulder and wasn’t able to play, though he was still a part of the festivities.
The event honors Josh Level, a high school basketball standout that attended four different high schools around the state but lived in Greensboro.
During his junior year, Level collapsed and died due to a heart condition while playing a game for Greensboro-based New Garden Friends School. Medical examiners determined that myocarditis was the cause of his death on Feb. 19, 2013.
Tournament founder Kanayo Obi-Rapu Jr., a former college basketball player at Longwood and East Tennessee State, created the event as a senior project. Through five years of the Josh Level Classic, 72 Division I athletes played in the event along with six NBA players.
Obi-Rapu, Jake Honeycutt, the director of the event and an assistant coach on the UNC JV basketball team, are among those that chose Phillips for the event. He took in a great message from Josh Level’s father Joseph before the game began.
The sixth-annual classic featured a lot of prospects from around the Greensboro area but also had a couple of prospects from the Triangle and Fayetteville. Phillips being one of the leaders of a state championship-winning team stood out to the people who run the event.
“South Central really stood out to us,” Honeycutt said about choosing Phillips for the event. “Of course, (UNC Commit and South Central junior) Day’ron Sharpe is a monster, but we noticed Shykeim is the engine that made them go, and they just kept winning. After his performance at the Holiday Invitational in Raleigh, our team knew he was somebody we needed in the event.”
Players like Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo, Sacramento Kings forward and former Duke standout Harry Giles III and former N.C. State and current New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. have participated in the event in years past.
“It gave me perspective and I’m very thankful for the invite,” Phillips said about the event. “There are a lot of great players in the state and it’s an honor that they chose me. I wish I could’ve played, but it was great to watch the game with all the talent there.”