Compared from last year to this year, it was a night-and-day difference for Orange men’s basketball. The Panthers had its most successful campaign in six years and the freshman that spearheaded the revival was awarded by the North Carolina High School Basketball Coaches Association.
Freshman Coleman Cloer was named first-team All-District 6 by the NCHSBCA. District 6 is comprised of all public schools in Orange, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Person, Rockingham, Vance, Warren and Caswell Counties. It’s a quirky wrinkle for Orange and Person since the other two counties represented in the Central Carolina Conference, Alamance and Chatham, aren’t included in District 6.
From the time Orange coach Derryl Britt started his summer tournament last June, it was clear the Orange freshmen would be the focus of the 2022-2023 season. Cloer and Kai Wade started all three of the games in the Black Session of the summer tournament, which Orange won after beating Chapel Hill.
By the time the regular season started against East Chapel Hill on November 18, Orange’s starting lineup consisted of Cloer, Wade and another freshman in Mason Robinson, along with Ryan Honeycutt and sophomore Xandrell Pennix. Cloer led Orange with 17 points in his first varsity game, which started a pattern that spanned the whole season.
For much of his five-year stint at Orange, Britt has lacked a post player. He has had several guards with considerable shooting range, the most recent being Jerec Thompson, who graduated in 2022 with over 1,000 points. In Cloer, Britt got the best of both worlds: a 6-6 forward that could fire in 3-pointers from 30-feet regularly.
Cloer also got used to clutch situations early. On November 29, Cloer sank two free throws with :7.2 seconds remaining for the game-winning points as Orange won at Franklinton 67-66. Cloer finished with 22 points against the Rams, who would go on to reach the state quarterfinals against Northwood.
Cloer had 14 games where he scored 20 points or more this season. His only game where he was held below double-figures came against Northwood on December 14, when he was held to nine.
Cloer’s season-high was 35 points against Person on January 6. He had eight double-doubles on the year. His first came against Franklinton, when he amassed 22 points and eleven rebounds. He had 13 points and ten rebounds against Riverside on December 2, which was Orange’s first win over the Pirates in ten years.
Against Walter Williams on December 16 in Burlington, Cloer had 27 points and ten rebounds. He scored 28 points against Eastern Alamance on January 11 in Mebane.
Cloer assisted on Orange’s final 3-pointer of the season, knocked down by Thomas Loch, against West Carterret in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs on February 21 in Morehead City. It was Orange’s first playoff game since 2017, when they faced Northern Guilford in the 3A State Quarterfinals.
Cloer played in all 27 of Orange’s games and totaled 542 points, which is believed to be a school record for a freshman. It was the most wins by an Orange team since the 2016-17 season, when Orange was led by former Richmond Spider Connor Crabtree.
Cloer is the younger brother of Garrett Cloer, the quarterback for some of the most successful Orange football teams in history from 2012-2015. Garrett Cloer went on to help Orange reach the state playoffs several times with wide receivers Patrick Pettiford and Bryse Wilson, along with running back Tay Jones. Garrett Cloer was also a basketball and baseball player for Orange.
This season, Orange finished third in the Central Carolina Conference behind only Northwood, who won the 3A Eastern Regional Championship, and Person. If Orange’s unit can remain intact for next year, the Panthers could be the favorite to win the CCC. Cloer, Wade, Pennix, Honeycutt, Robinson, Malachi Holt, Freddy Sneed, Jackson Barreto and Ryan Moss are all slated to return.