The Hangar was the scene on Monday afternoon for the celebration of six Sandhills Community College basketball players receiving scholarships to continue their academic and athletic careers at four-year colleges.
Donnie Haith is headed for Newberry College, an NCAA Division II college in Newberry, SC. Calvin Ahoume and Chase Morrisette-Barnett have committed to Chowan University, also Division II, in Murfreesboro, NC.
Damauri Sexton, Parrish Stevons and Xavier Grissett, signed to join the team at Bluefield College, a National Christian Athletic Association program in Bluefield, VA.
About 40 family members, coaches, teammates, friends and faculty members were on hand for the introductions by Basketball Coach and Athletic Director Mike Apple. A 25-9 season included Region X and District VII titles, and a fifth place finish at the national tournament.
"I think this is the first time we celebrated six guys moving on and they all kind of made their decisions at about the same time," Apple said. "I think all of the colleges they are going to have guys they can build around and they've gotten guys that are reliable and practice hard every day. I'm excited about the future for all of them."
Haith is Newberry-Bound
Haith, a 5-foot-10 guard, and a product of Pinecrest High School, was the Region X Freshmen of the Year in 2018. He led the Flyers in scoring this past season, at 14.9 per game, with career highs of 29 points in the district championship win over Prince George's (VA) and 26 in the victory over No. 1 nationally ranked Suffolk County (NY) in the fifth place game of the NJCAA Division III National Championship.
"The way Donnie plays and the way Newberry plays fits like a glove," Apple said.
Among a large group of family and friends joining Haith for the occasion were his father Donnie Haith and his mother Melissa Thompson.
"It feels really good to have an opportunity to play at an even higher level of basketball than it was here," Haith said. "I still have goals to finish up."
Next Stop for Morrisette-Barnett, Ahoume - Chowan
Morrisette-Barnett and Ahoume join a Chowan program that recently joined Conference Carolinas.
A graduate of Butler High School, Morrisette-Barnett averaged 13.6 points per game last season and was an all-region first-team selection. He received a team award as the Flyers' Defensive Player of the Year.
The 6-3 guard scored a college career-high 29 points as a freshman in the Flyers' Region X Championship victory over Davidson.
"I liked the competition in the conference and I liked the coaching staff," he said about some of the things he found attractive about Chowan. "I feel I fit perfectly with how they play offensively and defensively, and I won't miss a beat from where I left off here."
Ahoume, who is from Bamenda, Cameroon, played at St. Andrews in Laurinburg as a freshman. The 6-7 forward was averaging nearly a double-double, and leading the nation in blocked shots, when he suffered a severe hand injury in early December. He returned to action in late January and went on to average 8.3 points and led the team in rebounds (6.8) and blocked shots (1.6) per game.
"It's been a great experience here – more than I expected, and I'm excited about the future," he said. "I met really nice people and really nice coaches, and lived in a good community."
Bluefield Signs Three
When Sexton and Grissett decided to attend a tryout at Bluefield, they persuaded Stevons, who had earned all-region honors as a member of the Flyers the year before, to go with them.
Assistant Coach Ryan Moody was on hand representing the Bluefield team that finished 20-14 last season. The Rams are members of the Appalachian Athletic Conference and the National Christian College Athletic Asociation. Michael Collins, who was a member of the Flyers' 2012 National Championship squad, led the Virginia college in three-point baskets as a senior in the 2014-15 season.
Apple described the 6-6 Sexton, who averaged 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds last season, as one of his most explosive offensive players and the 6-6 rim-protecting Grissett, a Lumberton High School grad, as a player who got better each year and has a high ceiling.
At Sandhills, Stevons, a 6-1 guard from Anson High School, earned a reputation as a hard-nosed player who was usually assigned to guard the opponent's best offensive player. He averaged 13.1 points per game for the 2017-18 squad that finished with a record of 27-6.
"They told me that I didn't look like I took a year off at all," he recalled about the workout in front of the Bluefield coaches. "They said that they liked my game and offered me the chance to play."
Sexton, a Rocky River High School grad, got the feeling from the visit that there will be a lot of support behind the team at Bluefield just like there was at Sandhills.
"I like that we are taking three strong pieces from a successful team to a team that should be pretty strong already,"he said. "They seem like they have good coaches and a good support system."
Prior to the introductions, Haith's father talked about his son's journey in organized basketball that began when he was five years old. Also a standout in football as a youth, his son made the decision to focus on basketball in the eighth grade.
"Donnie has had the big support system that everyone needs," the senior Haith said. "I think he can be an inspiration to others who see what he's accomplishing through hard work and determination."