CHAMPAIGN — Khailieo Terry is accustomed to throwing down big dunks against Centennial.
In just his second high school boys’ basketball matchup versus the Chargers — on Jan. 30, 2018 — the then-Champaign Central freshman took a lob pass from cousin A’Kieon Gill and converted a backboard-shaking alley-oop via a two-handed slam.
For his final year of prep hoops, Terry now will try to perform similar feats against the Maroons. While wearing Centennial blue.
After multiple sources told The News-Gazette that Terry transferred to his former crosstown rival ahead of this basketball season, new Chargers athletic director Kaleb Carter confirmed the move Wednesday morning. Carter also said Terry is cleared to compete for his new squad, adding another wrinkle to the long rivalry between the two Champaign programs.
“It really wasn’t much to it,” Terry said Wednesday afternoon in a text message to The News-Gazette. “I just live by Centennial, so it’s more convenient.”
Chargers coach Tim Lavin said on Wednesday he began hearing “a couple weeks ago” that Terry was Centennial-bound.
“As talented a kid as he is, he definitely would help any team,” said Lavin, who has led the Chargers to 344 victories in 19 seasons at the helm, including a Class 3A state championship in 2009. “He can rebound. He can score. He’s a good passer. ... It’s a little different system from over there, so there’ll be a little bit of a learning curve at the beginning. But certainly if he fits in what we’re trying to do, he’ll be a big help.”
The 6-foot-4 Terry is a two-time News-Gazette All-Area boys’ basketball first-team selection. Though more recognized — at least on social media — for his dunking prowess, Terry was utilized as a point guard last season by Central coach Jeff Finke.
The result, despite Terry missing the campaign’s first nine games, was Terry averaging 16.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a junior. Terry also shot 63.2 percent from the field.
Lavin said he envisions Terry being used both on the perimeter and in the post, adding that Terry’s shooting and driving abilities make this feasible.
During Terry’s final game as the Chargers’ opponent, he scored just four points for the Maroons, who lost 46-41 on Feb. 18 on Centennial’s home floor.
“Teams have seen that for three years, so they definitely have scouted him and have made adjustments,” Lavin said. “Hopefully he’s learned from that as he’s grown and matured. Again, it’s nice not to have to scout against him and play against him.”
Lavin has multiple key roster losses to account for. Among the six outgoing players from his 2019-2020 team are starters Axel Laby — a former N-G All-Area second-team selection who operated largely in the paint — Termarion Howard and Kvion Lott. The Chargers most recently compiled a 17-14 ledger and ended their run in the Class 3A regional semifinal round.
Combining Terry with Centennial returnees Amareon Parker, Jaylen Bryson, David Laby and Travis Makabu, Lavin said, could make for a potent core.
“It’s going to work out actually pretty good — not only for all the guys, but for Khailieo,” Lavin said. “We’ll have the opportunity to put some things in that normally in the fall you can’t do that. That’ll be kind of good for us and good for him to learn some of the ways we do things going into the season.”
The Maroons graduated seven seniors from their 2019-2020 roster, including another All-Area first-team pick in Pryce Punkay. Central went 16-16 in a season that ended during the Class 3A regional semifinals, halting a run of four consecutive regional titles.
Finke told The News-Gazette on Wednesday it’s the Maroons’ policy to direct questions about transfers to the athletic director.
“We are excited to finally get back into the gym with our student-athletes,” Finke said. “The finishing touches are being put on our new gym, and we are working on our fall schedule so we may utilize the new fall contact days that were approved by the IHSA.”
The 2020-21 boys’ basketball season is scheduled to run Nov. 16 through Feb. 13, a layout designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, though each team is allowed up to 20 fall contact days that could begin this past Monday. The first regular-season meeting between Centennial and Central is set for Dec. 15 in the Chargers’ gym.
Terry’s transfer is not a foreign concept to this crosstown boys’ basketball rivalry.
Two of Finke’s sons, Nick and Tim, are among the most recent to make the jump. They did so in 2015, switching from Centennial to Central when Nick was a senior and Tim a sophomore, after the elder Finke became the Maroons’ coach that year.
Nick went on to play college basketball at Army, where he’s currently a senior, while Tim began his own college career at Grand Canyon before transferring to Wright State, where he’s presently a redshirt sophomore.
Kam Reaves transferred from Central to Centennial ahead of his senior campaign in 2016-17, and he’s now playing in college at Florida A&M. Corvon Butler preempted his senior season of 2011-12 by moving from Centennial to Central. He went on to play eight games for North Carolina A&T and another 51 for Alabama State.