By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE For the second consecutive year, a Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) basketball player has received a prestigious national honor.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon on the Loch Sheldrake campus, SCCC President Dr. Mamie Howard Golladay told a small crowd of students and administrators that “we are proud to honor one of our student-athletes today.”
SCCC Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Coach Chris DePew then stepped to the podium. He stated that Generals’ sophomore forward Bertram “B.J.” McDowell would be among the 20 players from across the country competing in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) all-star game this weekend in Arizona.
DePew then announced that he had been informed just the day before that McDowell is the 2008 NJCAA Division III Player of the Year.
As everyone cheered loudly, DePew congratulated a totally surprised McDowell.
The 2005 Cornwall High School graduate already knew he would be playing in the NJCAA all-star game, but had no idea that he earned the player of the year award.
Last spring, SCCC’s Jason Johnson won the NJCAA Division III player of the year award. Johnson is now a member of the basketball team at South Carolina State University, an NCAA Division I school.
When he stepped up to the microphone, McDowell thanked his teammates, DePew, athletic department secretary Georgia Lyons, the rest of the athletic staff and administrators.
“I was totally shocked, it’s a great honor,” McDowell said after accepting congratulatory handshakes and hugs from teammates and friends and taking a moment to collect his thoughts. “This is a great feeling.”
McDowell, who was the only returning player from the Generals’ 2006-2007 NJCAA Division III undefeated national championship team, averaged 23.8 points per game during the recently completed season. In addition, he became only the fourth player in SCCC history to score at least 1,000 points. He finished with 1,103 points, which is second most in school history.
McDowell ranked fourth in NJCAA Division III in scoring for the 2007-2008 season; 11th in free-throw percentage (83.7 percent); fourth in field goal percentage (63.3 percent); first in 3-point field goal percentage (79.8 percent); and 45th in steals (2.3 per game average).
Before making the special announcement, DePew listed many of the accolades McDowell has earned during his two years at Sullivan. Among them were being named a 2007-2008 NJCAA Academic All-America, a 2007-2008 Region XV Academic All-America, the Region XV Scholar Athlete of the Year for 2007 and earning the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence in 2007.
McDowell has a 3.84 GPA in Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“If you look up scholar-athlete in the dictionary, there should be a picture of B.J.,” DePew said. “He’s a great kid.”
DePew also praised McDowell’s leadership ability, noting the sophomore led his 14 freshman teammates throughout this past season.
McDowell said he learned about providing good leadership for his younger teammates during the 2007-2008 season from Josh Lott, who was the point guard on the Generals’ undefeated national title team.
DePew noted that by earning the player of the year honor, McDowell will have the opportunity to start in the Sunday’s all-star game. The game allows the 20 top junior college players in the nation to display their talents for NCAA basketball coaches.
McDowell said he wants to continue his basketball career next season at an NCAA school.
While excited about playing with the best NJCAA players at the all-star game, McDowell is also concentrating on continuing to excel in the classroom and graduating next month.
“I’m off to the library now to study for an exam tomorrow,” he said while holding a textbook and a notebook.