Senior unsigned post player Tyrek Coger played against two of Rivals.com's top 14 players in the class of 2013, and combined for 40 points in back-to-back games against them.
The Raleigh Word of God standout had 23 points and nine rebounds in a 70-57 semifinals win over Oxford (N.C.) Webb and UNC signee Isaiah Hicks (No. 14 in the country) on Dec. 28, and he followed with 17 points and eight rebounds in a 58-53 title game victory Dec. 29 over New Hampton (N.H.) Prep and Indiana-bound Noah Vonleh (No. 7 overall) at the Holiday Invitational at Raleigh Broughton High.
Coger snagged MVP honors in the Shavlik Randolph bracket and hopes it will be a springboard in recruiting.
"Going against Isaiah Hicks, a North Carolina signee, I just felt that I wanted to prove something," Coger said. "He's a good guy and a good leaper. I just wanted to show I have a talent too. Noah is a good kid and going to Indiana, and he has a good game. I just felt that I wanted to win the matchup. I've faced Isaiah in the Carolina Challenge, but had never faced Noah."
Coger is essentially starting over in the recruiting process, but is sure to earn a few more looks based on his recent play.
"Villanova, Illinois State and Tennessee Tech, are basically the three," said Coger on who is recruiting him. "I really want to go to NC State and want to throw that out there."
Coger has been a frequent visitor to NC State games to watch his close friend and former prep and traveling team teammate Rodney Purvis, a freshman guard with the Wolfpack.
"If they ever threw a scholarship my way, I'd definitely commit right on the spot," Coger said.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder committed to Missouri on May 7, 2011, but eventually opened his recruitment up Sept. 10, 2011. He also has switched high schools in the last year after playing his first three years at Raleigh Upper Room with Purvis. The school eventually eliminated the high school section, and Coger started off his senior year at Winston-Salem (N.C.) Quality Education Academy.
Word of God lost 80-73 to Coger and QEA on Dec. 1, but he quickly transferred to play for coach Quentin Jackson shortly afterward.
"This kind of blows me away," Coger said. "I'm just glad to be back in Raleigh, my hometown. Going off [to QEA] was a great experience and I learned a lot, but just being back close to home and bringing the championship back to Raleigh is a great experience for me."
Jackson wants to put Coger in position to earn more scholarship offers.
"It's about consistency," said Jackson, who played for NC State and was the Wolfpack's director of operations under former coach Sidney Lowe. "You have to come to practice and work hard. When I first met Tyrek, he was looking for a way out, and I told him, 'Look for a way in to work hard.' If he gets that mentality to work harder, the sky is the limit."
Coger played last year in the Holiday Invitational with Upper Room, but was thrilled to win the coveted title in his hometown. He finished the three games averaging 16.3 points and 7.7 rebounds and shooting 19 of 24 from the field en route to MVP honors.
"I haven't even come out of the first round [at the tourney before]," Coger said. "This was a great experience. It's an honor, but at the end of the day, it's a team thing. I want to say thank you to the ones that gave me MVP. It's only going to make you better as a player.
"We aren't going to settle for this and want to keep winning and be the best in the state."
Coger used to hang out on the bench during middle school when Word of God featured John Wall of the Washington Wizards and C.J. Leslie of NC State. He knows the program's standards.
"Those were the two greatest guys along with Bishop Daniels and [Maryland sophomore] Dezmine Wells," Coger said. "I always looked up to them. I always dreamed of playing for a program like Word of God. Being around them was a great experience and I learned how to be a winner."
Ironically, Word of God and Upper Room never played each other despite being just minutes away.
"I've been wanting to play against Word of God ever since I was in the eighth grade," Coger said. "I wanted to play against C.J. Leslie, just to get the experience, but we could never play them in a game. Playing for Word of God is probably the best decision I've ever made."