Baylor, McCallie star seniors remain best friends despite hoops rivalry

Red Raiders' Haynie, Blue Tornado's Claridy have been tight since they were toddlers

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Baylor's Evan Haynie, right, guards McCallie's Kollin Claridy during the Best of Preps title game on Dec. 30 at Chattanooga State. Claridy and Haynie, both seniors, have been best friends since they were toddlers despite being on opposing basketball teams for much of that time. Their schools will meet again Friday night in a Division II-AA East Region game at McCallie.

"Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything." — Muhammad Ali

Kollin Claridy and Evan Haynie have been best friends as long as they can remember, staying close through the years despite playing against each other as rivals for the past decade on the basketball court.

Now high school seniors, they'll be on opposing teams again Friday, when Haynie's Baylor Red Raiders visit Claridy's McCallie Blue Tornado for a 7:30 p.m. matchup between Division II-AA East Region programs.

But in a telling sign of their seemingly unbreakable bond despite attending rival schools in Chattanooga, Claridy was at Baylor's national signing day celebration Wednesday evening, wearing a black-and-orange Princeton University hoodie to support Haynie, who is bound for the Ivy League school as a football recruit.

"Our families are super close and have been since we were toddlers," Claridy said. "We met in preschool and have remained best friends. However, when we are on the court it's straight competition. Some people ask us how are we still even friends after the games. Our friendship is way bigger than this game or the McCallie-Baylor rivalry."

The homegrown talents even duked it out against one another in elementary school as Claridy played for the Bright School and Haynie with St. Peter's. There was a time when Haynie drove past Claridy for a last-second layup to win an elementary school championship game. And yet from ages 8-14, they attended basketball camps at Duke together.

"As soon as we met, we became boys," Haynie said. "We have spent a lot of time together over the years and even go on family trips together. We have been able to look past being rivals because our friendship has gone on for so long. We may not be best friends on the basketball court for those 32 minutes, but after we are always going to go back to how we are."

Each contributed for his team in their most recent meeting, a 54-52 home win for Baylor two weeks ago. Claridy made five 3-pointers, and Haynie helped spur a strong fourth-quarter run for the hosts with a steal and a three-point play. The Red Raiders also defeated the Blue Tornado in late December, 45-35, to win the Times Free Best of Preps tournament at Chattanooga State.

With the regular season entering its final two weeks, this is the last scheduled meeting between Baylor and McCallie, which means it could also be the last basketball matchup featuring the old friends -- and Claridy wants to repay the favor against Haynie with a home win for the Blue Tornado.

  photo  Photo contributed by Karlene Claridy / Kollin Claridy, left, and Evan Haynie pose for a photo as third graders. Their families have been close since they were toddlers, and the two remain best friends now as high school seniors despite Claridy being at McCallie and Haynie being at Baylor.


Their friendship has motivated both to be great.

"When we were growing up, I always thought Evan was going to be a basketball player, but as he started to get in the weight room, he really took off and became a star in football," Claridy said. "He inspired me to get in the weight room. A lot of people peak at an early age and stop working, but Evan just kept working. Obviously it helped him because he ended up with 30 college football offers and is now signed to Princeton. I am really proud of him."

Haynie was a go-to leader on Baylor's DII-AAA state championship football team last fall.

The Best of Preps first-team defensive back had 35 total tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions and two blocked kicks last season, and he made a crucial fumble recovery in the 38-34 state title victory over Montgomery Bell Academy. He also had three touchdowns on offense last season for the Red Raiders, who outscored their competition 502-289 and went 11-2 in Eric Kimrey's first year as head coach.

"I remember going crazy when Evan blocked an extra point and recovered that fumble in the state championship game at Finley Stadium," Claridy said. "It was Baylor's time to get a ring. Evan was a big part to them getting that ring."

Likewise, Haynie has a great deal of admiration for Claridy's game.

The 6-foot-3 McCallie guard has led one of the area's top 3-point shooting teams, with the Blue Tornado making 18 3-pointers in Best of Preps tournament victory last month, and he can also play above the rim with an impressive jumping ability.

"When we were younger, I was always the bigger one," said the 6-foot Haynie. "But Kollin hit a big growth spurt and can now take me in the post. He is very quick and elusive. So every time I guard him I have to be alert, because if I am not, it's either going to be a 3-pointer in my face or he is going to drive by me."

  photo  Photo contributed by Karlene Claridy / Evan Haynie, left, and Kollin Claridy pose for a photo in their YMCA basketball jerseys at age 5.


Claridy and Haynie were both taught the importance of academics first over athletics at a young age by their parents. Each has followed through, with Haynie headed for the Ivy League and Claridy carrying a 3.8 GPA with dreams of playing college basketball.

In their spare time they like to trash talk each other when playing "Madden" or "NBA 2K" video games against one another.

With their prep careers nearing a close, both are grateful for the opportunities they have been provided by their parents and schools.

"I feel like a lot of younger kids look up to us," Haynie said. "Especially us being two African American kids who are attending two prestigious high schools in Chattanooga. For us to be big pieces on our athletic teams and to stand out in the classroom shows we don't prioritize one over the other. I think others look up to that, and we are so thankful our parents gave us these platforms to shine. We both come from great families."

Now the two will go at each other again for possibly the last time on the hardwood.

"We are definitely going to get them back on our court," Claridy said. "No matter the outcome, though, we are going to be best friends still once it's all said and done."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at