If you’re a player, you cannot question his resume. He’s one of 40 Wake Forest Players to hit the 1,000-point mark. As a Demon Deacon, he set the record for most 3-pointers in a game with 11. His familiriarty with the program and the school made him an even more perfect fit. Craig Dawson is a Kinston High (NC) alumnus and is taking over as the head basketball coach at Woodberry Forest, replacing departed head man Joel Justus. It’s not often that someone coming from outside of the program can offer continuity and bring his own style to make a new mark, but Dawson happens to be that kind of coach.
“I’ve been good friends with Joel Justus for a long time, worked camps and things and known about the program since he was there,” Dawson said. “He and I talked about the program recently and where it can go.”
During Justus’ tenure, the Tigers saw a handful of players reach the collegiate ranks and their talent level and ability to compete in the Prep League and VISAA Division 1 level grow each season despite the last few years being truly injury marred campaigns.
Dawson comes in from Forysth County Day School in North Carolina just outside of Winston-Salem where we worked his way up to the head coach position and sent that team to a state final four appearance in 2010 for the first time in 26 years. His philosophy coming in is to compete with the fast pace style of the Prep League, albeit in a communal way.
“I like to score a lot of points, I know that,” Dawson said. “I want us to play fast, but toshare the ball, and work on communication.”
To do that is easier said than done, obviously, but for Dawson, having a team that lives together and spends every day together in Woodberry’s boarding system is a bonus. Having grown up in that system, Dawson sees great benefits in team building.
“I think (being at a boarding school) makes a big difference and it influenced my decision,” Dawson said. “Everybody has to be a team at all times, holding each other accountable. That was a draw for me, that they are there with each other being a reinforcement for each other.”
Dawson comes with expectations on raising the program’s profile, but also with a mindset of keeping the school’s strong academic standing intact.
“The sky is the limit right now, there’s no ceiling,” Dawson said. “I just want them to be able to show what they can do, but not by putting them in a box.”
The new coach has a saying, and for all current and future players, the message is simple. Everyone is better than they know, but not yet what where they could be.
“A good coach can make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.”
Dawson hopes to help his athletes climb that mountain.