When Sandhills Community College coach Mike Apple thinks about Donnie Haith as a basketball player the word that comes to mind is "complete".
Around mid-day on Friday the two-time All-Southeastern Conference and All-District 8 selection for Pinecrest High School signed on to continue his basketball career next season with the Flyers.
The 5-foot-9 point guard's parents Donnie Haith and Melissa Thompson were on hand for the occasion held at the school's media center along with Apple, Flyers' assistant coach Darell Yates, Pinecrest coach Ben Snyder and many Patriot teammates and friends.
Haith became a starter for the Patriots late in his sophomore year. He averaged 15 points, 4.5 rebounds, four assists and three steals per game this past season. According to Snyder he led his team in eight of 10 statistical categories.
"Donnie is a very versatile guard," said Apple who was the head coach at Pinecrest from 2003 to 2011 before taking over at Sandhills. "He handles the ball well and he's a good scorer who can get to the basket and finish around the rim.
"It's always good to be able to get kids from the community to play at the local college. Donnie is a great signing for Sandhills not just because he's a good basketball player, but he's also got outstanding character. He's been a leader at Pinecrest for Coach Snyder and he's been very well coached."
Haith, who will major in computer science at Sandhills, recalls playing on a Southern Pines recreation league team when he was six years old. He has been a member of the Moore County Thunder travel team since he was in middle school.
His father has been one of his biggest coaching influences. His favorite basketball player is Kyrie Irving of Duke and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"My dad pushed me very hard to be what I am today," he said.
The Flyers finished 26-6 this past season and were fourth in NJCAA, Division III in scoring with an average 97.6 points per game. The fast pace of play suits the new recruit who considered opportunities with other colleges.
According to Apple, current members of the team that have seen him play, were also hoping he'd come to Sandhills.
"I had some DII offers but I guess I wanted to stay close to home for the first two years and then transfer to a bigger school," Haith said. "They (Flyers) play fast which is pretty much how I play."
The big crowds for rivalry games against conference foes like Richmond Senior, and this past season against Union Pines, are what Haith thinks he is going to miss the most about Pinecrest. And he'll also miss his teammates.
"We go by the model team-first in everything we do," he said. "We put our teammates before ourselves."
The Patriots were a combined 41-13 in his two years as a starter. After graduating five key seniors from the 2015-16 squad, he led this year's team to a record of 21-6.
"Donnie welcomed that challenge," Snyder said. "He was someone who could create his own shot. He wanted the ball at the end of the games."
The Patriot coach is not only going to miss Haith's production on the court, but also a player who never missed a practice or weight-lifting workout in four years as a member of the basketball program.
"Donnie is a gym rat," Snyder said. "He loves being in the gym and he's a very respectful kid. His mom and dad have done a really good job with him. He's really fun to coach.
"I'm kind of excited because I'll get to see him play a lot. Coach Apple does a really great job. Sandhills is a really good fit for Donnie."
by Charlie Bergmann
Photo by Glenn Sides