Every member of coach Anthony McKissic’s Sandy Creek basketball’s Class of 2016 is headed to college on a scholarship, whether it is (L to R) AJ Freeman (Atlanta Metropolitan), Javon Jackson (Duke for football), Keith Heard Jr. (Lees-McRae), Christian Turner (Gardner-Webb), or David Evans (Paul Quinn). Even Will Harper, who was a member of the team before graduating early, has a football scholarship at Tulane University. (Special Photo)

by Russell Cooks

When head basketball coach Anthony McKissic first arrived at Sandy Creek, he declared that one of his goals was to make sure that all of his seniors received scholarship offers. Check that off the list as all five have accepted offers to play at the next level. Christian Turner is playing basketball at Gardner-Webb University, Keith Heard, Jr. signed with Lees-McRae, David Evans signed with Paul Quinn, and AJ Freeman signed with Atlanta Metropolitan. Two won’t be playing hoops in college, but they still got their scholarships. Javon Jackson has signed with Duke University, and Will Harper is off to Tulane, both for football.
“Every year that I coach that goal remains consistent and concrete,” said Coach McKissic. “My first goal is always to make my players better young men and or women on and off the court. The second goal is for them to earn a scholarship. Some don’t always take the offers because not all offers come with the bells and whistles of a Duke or Georgia Tech. Some may be lesser known schools like Azusa Pacific or Embry Riddle. However, in four years the student athlete will have gotten an opportunity to earn a college degree at a discounted price doing what they love and would do for free.”
It’s a goal that McKissic doesn’t take lightly, and he’s attacked it with passion.
“This is my tenth year in a row going into my eleventh year coaching and teaching. I like to say I am undefeated at this point. To me, that is the only record that counts.”
The Class of 2016 made plenty of easy selling points when colleges came calling.
“They were all humble and hungry. They bought into what I was selling,” said McKissic. “They had been well-groomed and coached by Willie Reese (the previous coach), so it made my job a lot easier. They also saw years of success from Chip Walker and the football signings, so it was easy to convince them that they too could be on that stage. These guys all followed what I like to call ‘the plan,’ and they didn’t stray from it, even when they felt it may not be working in their favor.”
Christian Turner said, “It feels great to be apart of this amazing accomplishment with my teammates. It’s really a blessing to be able to grow and reach goals with these guys.”
Keith Heard added, “It’s feel great to be a part of a class that was one of the best at SCHS. It feels like we changed the program around completely.”
“It is a good feeling to know that my teammates and their families won’t have to pay for their educations and are able to continue playing the sport they love at the next level,” said AJ Freeman.
The players have plenty of goals of their own left to reach for.
Turner has his sights set on winning Freshman of the Year for his conference and leading it in assists.
Heard wants to win the Conference Carolinas.
“As a team as always the goal is to win and be in the hunt for a championship and a ring to wear on my finger,” said Freeman.
Heard said, “My personal goals are to help my team in the areas I do best, as well as add more to my game which I have been working on this summer, and not be an average freshman but a player that the coaches look at like a junior or senior.”
“Being on the JUCO level, I am trying to have a good season or two to better my chances to go to the next level, and I am very confident that I can reach that goal,” added Freeman.
“I believe that all six of us will do great at the next level,” said Heard. “What made this class so special was everyone was great at what they did so when it combined together it made a complete team.”
Freeman added, “I know that all my teammates will stay focused and work hard, and, because of that, I can’t see them having anything but success at their schools.”
McKissic knows this is just the beginning of the greatness this class will achieve.
“I think they all have potential to be game changers within their programs,” he said. “They are all men of valor and will be leaders in the locker room. They are from good ground and good stock so leadership is inevitable. “
This won’t be the last special group for Sandy Creek hoops.
“I have no doubt that we will reach this feat again. Sports is a part of my ministry and my calling. I am here to help kids get an opportunity similar to what was afforded to me,” said McKissic. “I am honored to work with the students and that their parents trust me with the kid’s future. Sandy Creek is an amazing place to work and live. The administration, parents, and community are very welcoming. I am looking forward to my sophomore campaign as a Patriot.”