Flyers' Lotharp, Craft Sign
Markell Lotharp and Louis Craft are the first members of the national champion Sandhills Community College basketball team to announce that they will continue their academic and athletic careers at four-year schools.
Lotharp decided on Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte, and Craft will take his game to Fayetteville State’s Felton J. Capel Arena. The Flyer teammates will become friendly opponents as both schools compete in the Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA).
Lotharp, the leading scoring for the Div. III NJCAA national champions, has also earned second-team All-America honors and been selected to play in the NJCAA All-Star game in Las Vegas on May 12. Flyer coach Mike Apple has been named co-coach of the Division II-III squad that will meet the Division I team.
The Flyers capped a 30-6 season by winning their final 11 games, including a 101-86 victory over Cedar Valley CC of Texas for the national title at Sullivan County CC in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., on March 17.
The Flyer players, coaches, family members and friends celebrated the accomplishments that included Region X and District 7 tournament titles one more time at a team banquet held at The Dempsey Center on Tuesday. SCC President John Dempsey, athletic director Aaron Denton and Apple were among the speakers.
Lotharp and Craft are still humbled by the reality of what the team accomplished and the opportunities that have followed.
“It was too good to just say we won the championship and it’s over now,” Lotharp said before the banquet. “I’m definitely still riding the wave.”
The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 15.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He joins Germann Bostic (2009, 2010) among Flyers earning All-America honors in basketball. He had five scholarship offers, including one from a Division I school before deciding upon one that was close to Forest Hills High School in Marshville, where he prepped.
“It was close to home,” the Forest Hills graduate and son of Brian and Naomi Lotharp said. “All of the players seemed nice and they were looking for someone to come in and play right away.”
Craft, the son of Lonnie Craft and Deborah Stuckey, also had Johnson C. Smith on his list of possibilities before deciding to become a Bronco.
The 6-10 center averaged 8.6 points per game and led the team in rebounds with 7.7 per game and in blocked shots with 96. One of three Flyers that played at Jack Britt High School, he was an imposing force throughout postseason play.
“It was an opportunity to show myself and my team that anything is possible,” he said. “I just wanted to be a factor and help everybody reach that goal.”
Additional players are expected to make commitments to four-year schools in the near future. The superior team play that carried the Flyers down the stretch continues to pay dividends for the four-year-old basketball program.
“Guys like to be special and be the man,” Apple said. “These guys understood what their roles were and especially in the championship run played those roles. It was beautiful when it happened.
“One of the things you grew up hearing was if you do what you are supposed to do good things will happen. I think the accolades that have come along for this team is a perfect example of that. I’m proud to be a part of it all.”
Team awards presented by the Flyer coach at the banquet included: Offensive Player of the Year — Markell Lotharp; Co-Defensive Players of the Year — Louis Craft and Raheem Jolliffe; Co-Playmakers of the Year — Dre Huntley and Daquain Towns; Most Improved — Erick Ewing; Best Teammate — Trevor Cole; Coaches’ Award — Michael Collins; Ideal Flyer Award (athletic-academic) — Tramaine Pride.
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