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Boys Athlete of the Week: North Hall's Carson Heinen

Trojan guard scored 80 points over three Big Red Shootout games

POSTED: December 30, 2013 6:52 p.m.

After losing all five starters from last year’s state semifinal basketball team, North Hall’s boys needed a new leader to emerge for the 2013-2014 season. And quickly.

Sophomore Carson Heinen has ascended into that role.

The Trojans’ 6-foot guard, touted as a promising future star during his freshman year, has embraced his new responsibilities as a starter with an average of 22 points per game through the Trojans’ first 11 contests.

Heinen was especially dangerous during Gainesville’s Big Red Shootout last week, amassing 80 points during a three-game span. For his efforts, Heinen is The Times’ Boys Athlete of the Week.

“He’s come a long way in the last year,” Trojans coach Tyler Sanders said. “He’s obviously very talented, but he’s really increased his work ethic and gets better every day. He’s starting to learn and use his brain a little more.”

Heinen opened the tournament with a 31-point performance against Chattahoochee on Thursday. He returned the next day to sink 21 against Gainesville, then concluded the week with another 28 in North Hall’s 78-71 win over Lanier on Saturday.

Lavish numbers, no doubt. But Sanders isn’t totally surprised.

“He’s living up to what he’s capable of,” Sanders said. “It’s always been there, it’s just finally coming out.”

December has been a particularly rewarding month for Heinen. He was named to the Lanierland All-Tournament team after averaging 16 points in three games of the annual Hall County event. In North Hall’s final Lanierland game, a 55-51 win over Flowery Branch, he scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half and was 10 of 13 from the free-throw line.

“It was pretty cool to win it as a sophomore,” Heinen said.

North Hall (3-8, 1-1 Region 7-AAA) hasn’t gotten off to quite the electric start the Trojans’ 2012-2013 team did, when they won a Lanierland title en route to a 28-4 record and spot in the Class AAA state semifinals.

But that team also didn’t have to endure a complete makeover in personnel. Previous head coach Benjie Wood has since departed for Gainesville, prompting Sanders’ promotion from his former assistant position. Last year’s leading scorer, Ebo Smith, departed for the University of North Georgia, while supporting cast members Griffin Olson and Adam Kelly also graduated from the program.

All the while, Heinen was observing.

“It was just fun to see the leadership of all the seniors,” Heinen said. “(Smith) just taught me how to prepare for a game and how hard he worked. He always had a good attitude.”

Heinen has taken the reins of the offense, but he’s not the lone producer on a young North Hall team.

Brock Wingo, one of the few remaining Trojans that saw significant playing time last year, has become the team’s primary ball distributor and, for the most part, has been Heinen’s set-up man at the 3-point line. Heinen is shooting roughly 50 percent from the arc.

“I think it was just help from Brock Wingo passing me the ball and getting a bunch of open shots,” Heinen said, regarding his stellar performance in the Big Red Shootout. “We’ve just been working really hard at practice to shoot a lot of 3s. Brock has been pushing me really hard.”

With holiday tournaments now wrapped up, North Hall turns its attention to a long stretch of Region 7-AAA games throughout January and into February before region tournaments began. It begins with a home contest against White County on Friday.

Trojan opponents will likely begin shifting their defensive focus to the sharpshooting Heinen as the season progresses and he keeps scoring — the next test for what could Hall County’s next basketball star.

“At the beginning of the year, he didn’t score as much,” Sanders said. “Some of the other players and older guys told him, ‘Hey we need you to score. It’s OK if you shoot more than most of us.’ I think that’s really what made a difference for him.”

Region play is also a time Heinen will be tested as the team’s new in-game leader going forward. It’s a skill he’ll be required to develop over the next three years.

“I’m willing to accept the role,” he said.


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