WOLFEBORO, N.H. -- Fred Quartlebaum had this game circled on his schedule.
The North Carolina assistant coach flew into Manchester Airport and drove out to Brewster Academy for New Hampton vs. Brewster -- signed Tar Heel Rashad McCants paying a visit to intriguing center prospect Damion Grant.
Grant made his presence felt in the opening minutes, hitting a jumper from the top of the key and scoring on two low-post feeds.
"That's something I've been working on," Grant said postgame, in reference to his shooting touch. "I felt more comfortable out there today. I wasn't rushing anything."
Grant was also making his presence felt on defense, swatting four first-half shots.
"His positioning was a lot better tonight, with blocked shots and help-side defense," Brewster head coach Jason Smith said.
McCants, meanwhile, missed two threes at the outset and proceeded to take a backseat to his team's offensive plans. He did his work on the boards, with several offensive rebounds and putbacks, and on the defensive end, with physical coverage of Brewster swingman Jamaal Caterina.
McCants and Grant met head-on in one instance in the first half. Running the break, McCants saw Grant waiting for him under the basket. The 6-3 wing took it right to the 7-1, 245-pound center, but Grant was able to stifle him with his long arms.
New Hampton held Brewster at bay up until mid-way through the second half. When Brewster cut the lead to five, McCants ignored his recently turned ankle and took over. On two-straight possessions, he set up on the low blocks and powered his way for three-point plays. Those six points put the game out of reach.
"He's a great player," Grant commented. "Obviously he was struggling a little tonight, but I've seen him play before."
Grant and McCants guarded each other for a short stretch in the second half, and while the din of the gym made their conversations inaudible, Grant spent much of the time laughing.
"Rashad's a funny guy," Grant said, unwilling to disclose the specifics of McCants' trash-talking. "I like Rashad. He's a cool cat."
McCants' unofficial stat totals were 14 points (5-9 FG) and six rebounds. Grant posted 16 points (6-10 FG, 4-4 FT), nine rebounds and six blocks.
"I think I played better than I have previously," he said. "Everyday I notice myself getting better."
Grant nearly punctuated his strong performance with a breakaway dunk. In the final minutes, he stole an inbounds pass at half court and took off for the basket, but a defender spoiled what would have brought the small, crowded gym to its feet.
"It would have been a highlight," Grant said laughing. "Maybe next time."
With that, Grant ducked under the doorway and headed back to his dorm room.
As the lights were turned off in Rogers Gym and those that remained inside were ushered out into the blustery New England evening, Quartlebaum headed to the aiport. He'd be needed on the Tar Heel bench in Chapel Hill in 16 hours.
Stay tuned over the next few days for more on Grant: a Q&A, a full scouting report with several expert opinions and a photo gallery. And, later this month, we'll have video clips of Grant in action.
(Adam Tuchinsky was the official IC stat keeper.)