When Mason Harrell heads for home with a Sandhills Community College diploma in hand on Saturday he will have checked off a lot of boxes during his two years as a student and as a member of the basketball program.
The 6-foot-8 forward was recently named to the NJCAA Division III All-American team as an honorable mention selection. He has also been picked to play in the NJCAA All-Star game on May 19 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The product of East Wake High School was an All-Region X first team selection this year for a 27-6 Flyers squad that won the conference tournament title before losing to Montgomery College in District VII play. He went in to final exams last week with a cumulative GPA of 3.195.
Also making the trip to Las Vegas, where a team made up of Division I All-Stars will face a combined team of Division II and III All-Stars, will be his mother Tia, a sister Marie and Coach Mike Apple.
"I think it was very well-deserved," Apple said of the All-American honors and the invitation to the all-star game. "Mason came very close to being the player of the year in our conference. We were really pleased with the year he had. The all-star game nomination is just another feather in his cap."
Harrell averaged 12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocked shots per game, and made 62.4 per cent of his shots from the field this past season. He recorded nine double-doubles to finish with 18 in his Sandhills career.
"Mason has been willing to put in the time," his coach said. "He likes to work on his game. The biggest development is in his body. He doesn't look like he did when he arrived here. He's got some decisions he still has to make."
Harrell has gained strength and his coach estimates he's carrying 20 to 25 pounds more on his frame than when he arrived at Sandhills in 2016. He has scholarship offers from Division II programs at Winston-Salem State and Lees McRae College. He has also been offered an opportunity to walk-on at Division I North Carolina Central with the possibility of earning a scholarship later.
"I'm pretty excited," Harrell said of the all-star showcase. "I'm going to be facing some of the best talent in JUCO basketball.
"One of the best things about my time at Sandhills is that I feel tougher and more aggressive than I was in high school. Sometimes in high school I would take a back seat to other players. Here Coach Apple gave me more confidence to feel like I'm one of the better players."
Harrell is the fourth Flyers basketball player to earn All-American honors. Germann Bostic, Markell Lotharp and Jeremias Easterling, a teammate on last season's squad, are the others.
The last two years produced a combined record of 53-12 with the rebounding of Harrell and Easterling being one of the team's strengths. The Flyers were first in Division III in total rebounds in both seasons. Easterling went on to play at St. Andrews University.
"I've been blessed the last three years having both Mason and Jeremias," Apple said. "These guys were double-double machines. "Jeremias was a guy who really got after rebounds and Mason is the same way."
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford