If you have the opportunity to watch the Western Carolina men's basketball team live or on television this coming season, look for a 6-foot guard wearing No. 23.
That will be former Sandhills Community College student/athlete Malik McCrimmon who was a member of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 Flyer squads that compiled a two-year record of 53-12 and finished No. 8 in the nation both seasons.
Upon arriving at the college located in Cullowhee last summer, McCrimmon attended walk-on tryouts that led to the opportunity to be one of the team's student managers under first-year Head Coach Mark Prosser.
"I wanted to be a part of the team," the rising junior recreational therapy major said before attending a summer class at Sandhills last week. "I was also a part of the scout team at basketball practices and was able to get to know the players."
Prosser is the son of Skip Prosser who took the teams he coached at Loyola (MD), Xavier and Wake Forest to eight NCAA tournaments before passing away from a heart attack in 2007.
Late last season, the former North Moore High School basketball and football standout remembers Prosser telling him that if everything went smoothly he would have a jersey waiting for him next season.
"Malik was very hungry and very excited about the opportunity," the Catamount head coach recalled when reached by phone on Thursday. "He would stay late after practice and had a great rapport with the players.
"He's a great kid and will be a great help to us in practice. It was a no-brainer."
In addition to his ability as a basketball player, McCrimmon checks a lot of blocks.
As a Flyer sophomore he received The Best Teammate Award at the season-ending banquet. In his last semester at Sandhills he made the President's List after posting a 4.0 GPA.
He will be part of a Catamount squad that was honored by the National Basketball Coaches Association for a 3.285 team GPA last season. He heads into his second-year at Western Carolina with a 3.3 GPA.
"Malik is an example of what determination and desire can do," Flyers' Coach Mike Apple said. "As a part of a Division I basketball program, he's going to have so many exposures and life memories. I'm really excited for him."
McCrimmon is the son of Nelson and Gwen McCrimmon. His sister, Alexus is a freshman member of the Lady Flyers volleyball team. An older brother, Antwain, also excelled in sports at North Moore.
"Antwain is someone I learned a lot from," he said. "I believe he is more excited about this than I am. Everybody in the family is really excited."
A contributor to successful basketball programs as an assistant coach throughout a 15-year college coaching career, Prosser will be looking for his team to improve on a 7-25 season (4-14 Southern Conference).
He recalled being impressed with the Hangar when he scouted an NJCAA Division I Region X Tournament hosted by Sandhills a couple of years ago.
The 2019-20 schedule is not available yet, but last season's slate included dates at Wake Forest and NC State. There will be a game at UNC-Greensboro one of the Catamounts' Southern Conference opponents.
"My dream was to become a Division I player and to have that come true is really exciting," said McCrimmon, who will leave for Cullowhee on August 16. "Coach Prosser is a great guy who always sticks to his word and is very positive with his players.
"People are always asking me how I feel about it and it really hasn't hit me yet. I'm just very grateful for the opportunity. We had a season last year that wasn't what we wanted so we have a lot to prove this year."
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford