Top Cat: Sutherland finishes head of his class at Starr’s Mill

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Camden Sutherland puts his heart into every pursuit, and it pays off. 

The Starr’s Mill High basketball player finished his senior year atop the mountain as the school’s valedictorian. 

“When I first found out that I was officially the valedictorian, I felt a rush of pride and happiness,” said Sutherland. “All my hard work and dedication over the four years of high school had finally paid off. I had reached my goal, and I was proud.”

In a school renowned for academic excellence, he battled to stand out as the best of the best. 

“I’m very intrinsically motivated,” he said. “I push myself to achieve, and I set very high standards for myself. I know I’m capable of accomplishing great things, so my mindset is to be the very best I can be.”

His parents are proud but not surprised by his success. They’ve always known he could be exceptional. 

“From a very young age, we knew he was a sharp boy. As he got older, we realized that he not only had intelligence and an amazing memory, but he worked hard at school,” said his father, Bruce. “He is a hard worker and enjoys the satisfaction of looking back at the work it took to achieve goals.”

“I honestly felt very proud of him. Over his school career, I have always told him to do your best, that’s all you can do. When you have done your best you can always be proud of yourself no matter what the situation is,” said his mother, Jensine. “I would be proud of him no matter what his class rank was because I saw how hard he worked and knew the effort he put in. Whether he was first or last, I am most proud of the fact that he did his best all the time.”

Camden didn’t shy away from a challenge either, taking on a full load of difficult courses and extracurricular activities. 

“Time management is absolutely key for me. When you’re juggling multiple AP classes, a varsity sport, numerous clubs, and more, you have to be able to manage your time,” he said. “I kept a schedule of what I wanted to do each day and how much time I had to do it. I would have to work around practice, games, club meetings, and more. It was stressful at times, but I never lost sight of my goals. I would prioritize what classes I needed to study for the most and do those first, then, if I had extra time, I could tackle less pressing matters.”

“Camden was very good at time-management and organization. He would bring school work to weekend basketball tournaments and sit in the car and do homework in between games if need be,” said Jensine. “Camden was good at keeping balance in his life. He budgeted his time between friends, school, and basketball. He never let any one of those dominate his time too much.”

Sutherland molded himself key cog in the Panther basketball program. Not blessed with prototypical size, he carved out a role with guts and determination and a never-quit attitude. 

He thrives when the chips are down.

“Even from a very young age, Camden would set goals for himself, and then he would go after achieving them. Whether it was schoolwork or sports, he always had a goal and worked hard to achieve it,” said Jensine. “I remember when he was in the seventh grade, he didn’t make the middle school basketball team. He said to me he was going to make the team the following year. Once he achieved that goal, he set another goal of starting for his school team,

“He never gave up on his goals. His ultimate goal was to start for his high school basketball team, and he did. He has had plenty of setbacks and been discouraged, but he never gives up.

“He is a hard worker and enjoys the satisfaction of looking back at the work it took to achieve goals,” said Bruce.

Sutherland earned a spot on the team at Starr’s Mill High, and his junior year he was a part of history. 

“Winning the region championship in 2018 for the first time in school history was definitely one of my favorite moments in Starr’s Mill basketball,” Camden said. “It was an amazing feeling to make history like that with such a great team.”

In his lone season as a varsity starter Sutherland blossomed, averaging 11.3 points a night for the Panthers. (Photo by Christopher Dunn)

Two key returning players from the region championship squad bailed on the team, but the returning core stayed tight and played tough. Though the final record did not reflect the outcome they expected, the team fought tooth and nail in every game. Stepping into a starting role, Sutherland was a key reason no one wanted to tangle with the Panthers. 

“Cam really earned his spot this year. He went from playing JV his junior year to starting on varsity his senior year,” said Starr’s Mill coach Josh Reeves. “Cam was a tenacious player. When I first met him, he was quiet and always worked extremely hard. He played hard and always seemed to be the guy that was willing to out-hustle everyone on the court. He was sneaky athletic and creative with the basketball. I think the word would be crafty, and he could always seem to get a shot off in tough spots.”  

Jumping all the way form JV to varsity, Sutherland pounced on the opportunity to lead his team. He blossomed as a starter, averaging 11.3 points a night and earning All-County Honorable Mention recognition for his play. 

“He was really clutch, and, if you look back at some of the close games we had with McIntosh, Whitewater, and Riverdale, Cam was the guy taking and making a lot of the important shots for us,” said Reeves. “He worked hard everyday and clearly took care of business in the classroom as well. I told him after our last game that it’s rare for the valedictorian to start on a varsity basketball game and even more rare for the valedictorian to be a leading offensive and defensive player on the team. I really enjoyed coaching him.”

Sutherland got to finish his last hoops campaign but soon after his senior year came to an expedited end due to COVID-19. 

“When I got the news that school was officially closed for the remainder of the school year, I was in shock at first. I didn’t really know how to process it., then I began to feel pretty miserable and angry,” Camden remembered. “I most likely wouldn’t be able to make all the end-of-year memories that seniors get to make. I was mad at first, but then I realized that we truly would be a class like no other, and we would be able to have our own unique set of experiences.”

He stayed focused on finishing the year strong and staying in touch with his friends and pushed through to the finish line. 

Next for Sutherland is Athens where he will attend the University of Georgia as part of the Honors program. He will major in Finance or Economics with plans to attend either graduate school for a MBA or law school.

“I want to have a career in business or law, although I am not sure exactly what that career will be.”

Whatever his life destination will be, he will put his heart and soul into getting to the top. 

“Manage your time wisely and stay organized,” he advised. “It may feel overwhelming at times, but, with the right plan and a good work ethic, you can achieve more than you ever thought you could.”

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