Kinston (N.C.) High School is heading into what promises to be one of the more memorable men's varsity basketball seasons in school history.
In preparation to go after its second state championship in three years, the Vikings are playing a demanding schedule of non-conference games this season that will take them all over the country.
"Once football winds down the basketball program will be traveling to Honolulu to play in the Iolani Classic, which is December 15-24," said Kinston head coach Wells Gulledge."We return back from Honolulu and play in the Glaxo-Smith-Kline (Holiday Tournament) in Raleigh starting on December 28. We'll play three games there, come home and play a couple conference games."
After the first of the year the Vikings, led by All-State standout, North Carolina signee and potential McDonalds All-American candidate Reggie Bullock, will play fellow future Tar Heel P.J. Hairston and Greensboro (N.C.) Dudley.
Bullock and Hairston, who have become good friends over the past year, will get to play each other in a game for the first time in their future home arena when the Vikings and Panthers meet in Chapel Hill in early January.
"January 9 we'll be playing Dudley in the Smith Center---it's on a Saturday night at 7:00 pm," said Coach Gulledge.
From there the Vikings turn around and head to Massachusetts, where they'll play in the 'Spalding Hoophall Classic,' featuring several high school programs from around the country playing in the same town as the Basketball Hall of Fame.
"We turn around Martin Luther King (Holiday) weekend and we'll fly up to Springfield, Mass. to play in the Hall of Fame game (January 16). We'll actually be staying on the complex of the Basketball Hall of Fame," said Coach Gulledge. "I think the Basketball Hall of Fame experience, especially with the new (Michael) Jordan exhibit they have there. I think the kids will be very, very excited to be there."
"There's a lot of exciting things that we're going to be able to do---very educational, Pearl Harbor, aquarium, zoos. We're going to visit a volcano while we're in Hawaii---so there's a lot of teaching that's going to go along with the game of basketball, so we're just very excited about it," Gulledge added.
Bullock knows how privileged he is to be on a high school program that is getting such a tremendous opportunity to travel and play against some top competition.
"It's going to be one of the biggest times I've ever had in my life, actually going to Hawaii and experiencing how it is out there," he said. "That's one of the things I'm really looking forward to, along with working hard in the gym getting ready for it."
As he works through his senior season, Bullock is looking to improve in several key areas to help get himself ready for North Carolina and his upcoming collegiate career.
"(I'll be working on my) mid-range game, leading my team---having better leading capabilities---and basically just being a hard worker," Bullock said.
After playing on a Kinston team that lost in the state title game to Concord his freshman season of 2007, Bullock was one of the heroes in Kinston's run to the 2008 NCHSAA 3-A state title as a sophomore.
Bullock came very close to leading the Vikings to a second straight title run last season, but they were beaten in the East Regional final by a Northern Guilford program that was later stripped of its title for multiple NCHSAA infractions.
"It seems like to me its bad luck, because we lost my freshman year, won my sophomore year, and lost out my junior year, so I feel good about winning it this year. We've just got to go out, work hard in practice, and lead our team to a state championship," Bullock said.
This year the Vikings have moved down in size, going from a 3-A school to 2-A.
While certainly Kinston has obstacles in its past to the state title, the Vikings' demanding non-conference schedule should greatly prepare them as they go after another championship this coming spring.
KINSTON (N.C.) 2009-2010 SCHEDULE
12.4.09 7:30 A @ Farmville Central
12.8.09 7:30 A @ North Lenoir
12.11.09 7:30 H Southwest Edgecombe
12.14.09 8:30 H Beddingfield
12.17.09 TBD A Iolani Classic, Honolulu, Hawaii
12.19.09 TBD A Iolani Classic, Honolulu, Hawaii
12.21.09 TBD A Iolani Classic, Honolulu, Hawaii
12.22.09 TBD A Iolani Classic, Honolulu, Hawaii
12.28.09 TBD A Glaxo Smith Kline, Raleigh, NC
12.29.09 TBD A Glaxo Smith Kline, Raleigh, NC
12.30.09 TBD A Glaxo Smith Kline, Raleigh, NC
1.5.10 7:30 A @ Tarboro
1.6.10 7:30 A @ Greene Central
1.9.10 7:00 A Dudley, Chapel Hill, NC
1.16.10 3:00 A Hall of Fame Classic, Springfield, Mass
1.19.10 7:30 H North Pitt
1.22.10 7:30 A @ Southwest Edgecombe
1.26.10 8:30 A @ Beddingfield
1.29.10 7:30 H Farmville Central
2.2.10 7:30 H Tarboro
1.5.10 7:30 H Greene Central
2.12.10 7:30 A @ North Pitt