Prep sports have an unmistakable relationship with each other, often overlapping and sharing athletes throughout the school year.

Sometimes one sport interrupts another, such as when a long basketball playoff run keeps baseball and softball players who also played basketball away from the diamond for the first few weeks of practice. Take Havelock, for instance. On the 11-person boys basketball roster from last year – this year’s roster hasn’t been posted yet – seven also play for the football program.

Sports often correlate to other sports as well with two-sport football players favoring lacrosse later in the school year or girls basketball players favoring soccer in the spring.

One correlation that has stood the test of time is football players also playing basketball in the winter. Multi-sport athletes are all too common, and many basketball players also play football in the fall.

That pattern holds true at Croatan, where the basketball roster includes four football players – Andrew Mendolia, Dustin Hayden, Major Hawkins and J.J. Pritchett. Those four missed the first week or two of practice when the football program hosted the first round of the 2AA state playoffs after going 9-2 in the regular season.

But while the football-to-basketball pattern holds true at Croatan, the same can’t be said for West Carteret and East Carteret this season. As strange as it is, there are only three total football players on those two rosters, compared to four at East last year and three at West. In 2017-2018, it was nine at East and five at West.

It should also be noted that many of the projected statistical standouts this winter are single-sport athletes. Caleb Hymon and Perry Austin at East are both solely focused on basketball, as are West’s J.J. Williams, Jaylen Bradberry and Gavin Gillikin at West.

So, if the football-to-baseball pattern doesn’t hold at East and West, is there another sport-to-sport route evident? Indeed there is, and strangely, it’s baseball.

It’s not totally unusual to see basketball players also play baseball, but it is unusual to have two basketball programs in which the second most-played sport from its roster is stickball.

Over at East, the only football player on the basketball roster is Qualik Nolon, while Bennie Brooks, Erik Jernigan, Mason Rose, Thomas Wallace and Tyler Williford are all expected to play baseball in the spring.

It’s a similar story at West, where only Kel Jones and Israel Long came over from the football team. Only sophomore Jaxon Ellingsworth is currently projected to play baseball in the spring, but senior Jalani Jones played as a freshman and sophomore, while junior Kel Jones played jayvee last season.

Track and field is always a possibility for standout athletes from fall and winter sports, especially for those who have no other primary spring sport, so maybe that roster will end up getting the most second- and third-sport attention by the year’s end. For now, though, the relationship between basketball and football at West and East is a little unusual.  

(Send comments or questions to zack@thenewstimes.com or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)

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