Being the lead guard for the Warriors isn't just about how you perform against the current season's competition, it's how you stack up against the names on the wall.
Rod Strickland, Jeff McInnis, Rajon Rondo and Ty Lawson are just a few of the names Nate Britt sees on the red banner every day at practice.
"There's a great line of point guards here," Britt said, pointing to the banner. "I don't want there to be a drop off… I don't want people to say ‘Oak Hill point guards aren't as good as they were in the past.' I just want to keep that legacy going."
Competing against reputations might sound odd, but it's what Britt has been doing most of his basketball career.
z Before making the 355-mile southwest drive from the busy, urban environment of Washington D.C. to the quiet isolation of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Britt was the next star point guard from what locals refer to as the DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia).
Britt grew up wanting to follow in the footsteps of players like Lawson and former Duke guard Nolan Smith. He's only three years younger than former UNC lead guard Kendall Marshall and just two years behind Duke's Quinn Cook. All four players came from the DMV and played college basketball on Tobacco Road.
In fact, all but Marshall starred at Oak Hill.
"I look up to all of those guys," Britt said. "I think being as successful as them is a great challenge for me to take on. What I want to be remembered for is easy – PG (Prince George's) County point guard, Oak Hill point guard, North Carolina point guard. It'll be great to represent those three by playing well and putting on for my area."
Now, just six months before enrolling at UNC, Britt is at Oak Hill to prepare to compete against the most lofty reputations he'll likely face, that of the Carolina point guard.
"I think he'll pick-up things in college very quickly," said Oak Hill coach Steve Smith. "He's very coachable and very smart. That's particularly important when you're going to be the point guard in Coach (Roy) Williams's system."
Through the first third of the season with the Warriors, Britt isn't putting up eye-popping stats. Instead, he's doing exactly what Smith asks him.
"I felt good about Nate after our first scrimmage on Oct. 7," Smith explained. "He knows when to get a guy a shot; he knows when a guy needs a shot. He knows how to keep guys happy. He knows when to run and when not to run. I've had some point guards where I have to coach them every play – but Nate's not like that. He's pretty cerebral."
Britt's smarts and natural ability to run a team are the skills that first attracted the UNC coaching staff. Playing with D.C. Assault on the summer AAU circuit prior to his sophomore year, Britt made a name for himself as, arguably, the top point guard in the class of 2013.
Later in the fall, he received a scholarship offer from the Tar Heels and subsequently took an unofficial visit. His decision had already been made, though not publically. The trip to Chapel Hill simply served as confirmation.
"I always knew I wanted to go to Carolina, since I was a little kid," Britt said. "That's always been the team I've rooted for in college basketball. My father and some of his family are from LaGrange, North Carolina. My dad grew up there and my grandfather still lives there."
During the visit, Britt played pickup with many of the players on UNC's 2011-12 ACC Regular Season Championship team. It was there that Britt said he went from being a fan, to a member of the family.
"They definitely made me feel at home," he said. "Since then, I have a really strong relationship with most of the guys. I talked to P.J. (Hairston) the other day. I know Kendall, Reggie (Bullock), (Tyler) Zeller, the whole team pretty much."
"I like playing pickup and to have all of those guys out there with me, it was easy," he continued. "P.J. was on my team, big John (Henson) was there and he does whatever he wants, so it was good time and I did play well."
"When I heard about the good things they were saying, it was just a joy to my ears to know the players all liked me and wanted me to be a Carolina player."
Check back tomorrow for Part II ...