CREEDMOOR, N.C. (BVM) — Jake Wohlfeil is the South Granville High School boys basketball head coach, and he knows talent. His basketball background includes a career in the Division I ranks as a four-year player at Campbell University, and a graduate assistant at Liberty. He played against guys like Rajon Rondo, and has been coaching the Vikings since the 2011-12 season.
And after all of that, Wohlfeil says he is just now observing the best talent he’s ever seen, at any level. Bobby Pettiford, the No. 95 recruit on ESPN’s Top 100 list for the class of 2021, is the star point guard for the Vikings, and Wohlfeil was nothing but complimentary of his top player.
“He is better than any player I’ve ever played with, whether that was the four years at Campbell or all of those players when I was a graduate assistant at Liberty. All of them were very good players, that’s not to disrespect them,” Wohlfeil said. “Obviously, there’s a difference when a kid is going to a Louisville versus a Campbell or Liberty.”
If Wohlfeil’s opinion doesn’t make you believe, how about future NBA Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul’s? Pettiford has been playing AAU basketball for Team CP3 the past five years, meaning he’s been coached by and worked out with Paul himself. His judgment of Pettiford matches up with Wohlfeil’s.
“Coming from Chris Paul, he has NBA potential. He still has a long way to go, he’s not a one-and-done type kid yet,” Wohfeil said. “But he’s that kind of kid that his ceiling has not even been scratched yet. His physical gifts are unlimited.”
How Pettiford ended up in Wohfeil’s program was luck of the draw, but it worked out for both parties. South Granville gets its high school students primarily from Hawley Middle School, and every year they get around six to seven kids from Butner-Stem Middle School, based off of where they live.
Pettiford was one of those six or seven students who ended up at South Granville from Butner-Stem, and his gift for playing the game of basketball was identified right away. In the summer entering his freshman year, the now-Louisville commit came with the varsity team to a jamboree. It was in that first experience together that Wohlfeil knew Pettiford would be special.
“The first time I laid eyes on him I thought ‘Wow, that’s an impressive looking freshman,’” Wohfeil said. “After 30 seconds of game time I realized this kid was going to be special.”
He’s been a four-year starter for the Vikings, stuffing the stat sheet with a little bit of everything. For a 6-foot-1 point guard, Pettiford is able to grab boards and play tough defense at a rate that most his size cannot. So far this season he’s averaging 19.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.7 steals a night, respectively.
He’s been making the game look easy since he was 14 years old, but Wohlfeil and staff had to work on Pettiford’s confidence. He was so humble that he just wouldn’t assert himself enough. They needed him to be the player they knew he could be.
“From his freshman year every year, everyone knew who he was, and that didn’t go to his head,” Wohfeil said. “We had to encourage him to play with a little more of a chip on his shoulder and walk around like he is a big deal.”
Now four years later, Pettiford has evolved into the stud player they all thought he was. Wohlfeil says that he’s a leader by way of example, and verbally through encouragement and by challenging his teammates. He has a strong build and a high motor, with skills that make opponents look silly. He’s the truest form of an all-around player.
“In terms of his game, he has insane control of the ball, his first step, his quickness, his shiftiness, his body control. He looks like an NFL middle linebacker from the waist down, he has huge Saquon Barkley-type legs,” Wohlfeil said. “He has very good vision, he’s a very good passer, and can finish around the basket or above the rim.”
To put the cherry on top of that laundry list of abilities, the Vikings head coach said that Pettiford even took a step forward with his jump shot. The days of teams packing the paint and hoping Pettiford’s shot wouldn’t fall are long gone.
“He can shoot the piss out of it now. He always had a very nice looking shot, good lift, good form, great rotation, but he wasn’t a great outside shooter,” Wohfeil said. “Now he can really, really stroke the ball.”
While his transformation to a bonafide star was taking place, though, his humbleness was not forgotten. Wohlfeil says that Pettiford is friends with band members, JROTC members and athletes from other sports teams. He’s a down-to-earth guy who can strike up a conversation with just about anyone.
“When you have talented kids, they often come with a little something extra, or their parents do, but the Pettiford household is different in a very good way,” Wohfeil said. “They are humble, special, just thankful for his (Bobby) talent level and ability to play. It’s been an absolute joy being a part of what they are doing.”
Now Pettiford will look to reach another level in his game when he gets to Louisville under Chris Mack. While he was torn on this decision, he believed that Mack and staff were the most genuine and honest, giving him the chance to come in and earn everything he’s given. He wants to be pushed to new heights.
That bodes well for his NBA aspirations.