Almost eight years ago, Tramaine Pride came off the bench for the Sandhills Community College basketball team to convert two putbacks in a row that put his team in front for good in the championship game of the 2012 NJCAA National Tournament against Cedar Valley (TX).
"That year really made me want to coach," the now Pfeiffer University assistant coach said as the Falcon junior varsity squad he leads warmed up for Monday's game against Sandhills in Meisenheimer.
The national title came in Mike Apple's first season as the coach of the Flyers. A rugged 6-foot-3 forward, Pride scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in 10 minutes of action on that afternoon in Loch Sheldrake, NY. Apple also coached Pride for three years at Pinecrest High School.
"What have you taken as a coach from your years playing for Coach Apple"?, he was asked.
"Everything," he replied. "We pretty much focus on fast-paced basketball, defensive principles, playing the passing lanes, playing as a unit - just consistently playing hard. A player should play for four or five minutes and be exhausted.
"I try to build those principals. You put it all out there and it brings guys together. It's a beautiful thing to see. It works – it translates."
The hustling, but undersized Falcons remained within striking distance for most of the first half on Monday before the No. 1 ranked in NJCAA Division III Flyers pulled away to gain their 26th victory of the season.
Before enrolling at Sandhills at the age of 24, Pride played one year at UNC-Charlotte and later received his degree there. Leading up to the opportunity that opened up at Pfeiffer last summer, he was an assistant coach for the Cox Mill High School team that made it to the semi-finals of the 2019 3A state tournament and finished with a record of 28-3.
"I talked to our guys about Tramaine yesterday, about how he's such a hard worker and so unselfish," Apple said at the end of the game. "And about how he's very trustworthy. You can count on him bringing it to practice every single day.
"I'm proud of that man and what he's become. I think if he wants to stay in this business he's going to have a bright future."
Pride lives in Charlotte with his wife Aysha and three children. He is enjoying being a part of the Falcon varsity team that took a record of 11-11 into this week. He also watched the current Flyers play earlier in the season at The Hangar. He was asked if he sees some similarities between this team and the one in 2012.
"We loved each other," he said of the title squad that finished with a record of 30-6. "We had a goal and came together and focused on that goal. These guys are very focused as well, especially at the defensive end. They play exactly the way Coach Apple wants you to play defensively.
"It's a beautiful game of basketball. They don't have the shooters like we did – or a seven-footer (referring to 6-10 Louis Craft). He has so many guys and they get to play because they all put it out there. We'll see how far they can take it."
by Charlie Bergman