Mike Apple and Sayaun Dent of the Sandhills Community College basketball team will be the first ones to tell you that the national awards they recently received are also team awards.
Apple was the head coach of the Flyer squad that won the NJCAA Division III National Championship in Rochester, Minn., last month and finished the season with a record of 34-2.
The Union Pines High School and Guilford College alum was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) NJCAA Coach of the Year. He also received the honor following the team’s 2012 run to the national title.
“I think whatever awards you receive as a coach are directly related to the guys you have playing for you,” he said. “I am obviously humbled about getting such an award and for the second time is unbelievable.
“I never honestly thought when I got into coaching I would ever get the opportunity to compete on a national level like we have.”
Dent, a 6-3 sophomore, and a product of West Bladen High School in Elizabethtown, led the team in scoring (17.9 ppg.) and rebounds (9.0), finishing with 13 double-doubles.
One of his finest games at Sandhills came in the 93-89 victory over Mohawk Valley CC for the national championship when he made 13 of 16 shots from the field and scored 27 points.
He was named the tournament MVP and earned NJCAA first team All-American honors. He also received NABC NJCAA Division III All-American honors as well as the Region 10 player of the Year. During his two seasons he helped lead the team to two Region 10 and two district titles.
“I think what made Sayaun Dent so special this year was the comfort zone he stayed in,” Apple said. “He worked tremendously hard in the summer on his shooting and ball-handling so that was always a strength. He had the confidence in himself to perform and in his teammates to get him the ball.
“It is hard to develop great chemistry sometimes at our level, but Sayaun and his teammates developed it and I believe that was a big reason why we were so successful.”
Including the national title in 2012, and last year’s fifth-place finish in Rochester, Apple’s teams have made it to the national tournament four times. His nine year record with the Flyers is 232-65. That includes five seasons with 25 or more wins and eight seasons with 20 or more.
Including his five years as the head coach at Western Harnett High School, and seven at Pinecrest High School, he is closing in on 500 career wins.
Apple succeeded Aaron Denton as athletic director in 2018. Honors received this season also included NJCAA Division III Coach of the Year. Regular attendees at Flyer games this season included his parents Lewis and Helen, his wife Dawn and sons Andrew and Will.
The Flyers took over the No. 1 spot in the Division III national poll in late November and remained there with the exception of one week in early January. Their only losses were to ranked Division I teams USC-Salkehatchie and Caldwell Tech.
As the No. 1 seed in the national tournament, they defeated No. 8 Herkimer (N.Y.), No. 4 Rochester Tech and No. 2 Mohawk Valley (N.Y.). Due to scheduling adjustments made because of Coronavirus concerns, the semifinal and championship games were played on the same day.
“This year’s team was one for the ages,” Sandhills President Dr. John Dempsey said of a squad that won its final 18 games. “Not only were we coached by the National Coach of the Year, Mike Apple, but we were led on the court by the National Player of the Year, Sayaun Dent.
“As coach of the Flyers this year, Mike brought the same intensity that has helped him win nearly 500 games at the high school and college levels. And Sayaun — well, I don’t think I ever saw a player with better court sense —somehow, no matter what the circumstance, he seemed always to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Incredible.”
The son of Crystal Rogers, Dent was one of 10 members of last year’s squad that were inspired to return to Minnesota this season to win it all. During a five-game stretch in November, he converted 35 free throws in a row. His free throw percentage of 86.7 was the seventh best in the nation.
“I would like to thank the NJCAA for selecting me for this award,” he was quoted by the NJCAA upon being informed of the national honor. “Nothing would have been accomplished this season without the support of my family, my coaching staff, and the great administration at Sandhills Community College.
“We had a great season with a great bunch of guys. They bought in from day one, worked tremendously hard, and were a true team.”
This article was provided by the SCC athletics department.