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For recent Fike High graduate Samson Strickland, the chance to play basketball one last time as a high school player represents one more opportunity to realize his dream.
When Strickland suits up for the East in the North Carolina Coaches Association 69th annual East-West All-Star Game on Monday, July 17, he hopes he will attract the type of recruiting attention he’s been chasing.
“I feel that the more exposure I can get to a bigger audience and more coaches, I can get more attention,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Strickland has had his share of offers to play college basketball from “just about every junior college in the state and lots of (NCAA) Division III (schools),” he said.
But the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder who was a repeat selection to both The Wilson Times All-Area and 3-A All-Big East Conference teams after his senior season wants to play either at the Div. I or II level. Those kinds of offers have not been forthcoming, which perplexes Strickland somewhat.
“I’m actually not sure,” he said. “I’ve been adding more skills to my repertoire here lately. I think a lot of it has to do with exposure. I didn’t really start playing AAU until last year and really only played a full season this year.”
Strickland said that he’s been playing for the Rocky Mount Golden Knights AAU team this summer. He also allowed that, as a 6-5 post player, he would be considered undersized at that position even at the Div. II level.
The lack of attention from Div. I or II recruiters has nothing to do with his production at Fike, where he average 19.1 points and 11.1 rebounds in leading the Golden Demons to an 18-9 mark this past season. He was named the recipient of the Harvey Reid Jr. Memorial MVP of the boys tournament in leading Fike to the Farris & Farris Holiday Tournament crown last December.
In the classroom, Strickland is just as successful, earning Thomas Law Attorneys Academic All-Area acclaim as a senior.
Strickland said that he has considered going the junior college route, citing the success of Jeremy Atkinson, Fike’s all-time leading scorer, who was a juco All-American at Louisburg before having two outstanding seasons at Div. I UNC Asheville. But spending two of his four years of eligibility in junior college is what Strickland hopes to avoid. Thus he is “leaning toward” attending Washington Academy, a Greenville prep school where the head coach is Carlos Peralta, who operated the successful Charis Prep Academy in Wilson for several years.
“You go there for one year and from what I hear they’re pretty good about getting guys recruited to Division I and II programs,” Strickland said.
He is thankful for the chance to play in the East-West game, becoming the 13th Fike boys basketball player to do so and joining a list that includes such names as Thomas Blue, Charles Howard, John McNeil, Kevin Hines and Jamie Watson.
“I’m actually excited about it,” he said. “I know that not that many people get to play in the game and I’m honored to get a chance to play in it.”
This will be his second all-star game, having played in the Carolina Orthopedics All-Star Class in the spring at West Craven High in Vanceboro. He scored 19 points in that game.
Strickland said he’s taking some inspiration from his father, Melvis, who played football and basketball at Fike in the 1980s. Strickland said his father told him that he had attracted collegiate attention in football but he wanted to play college basketball. That never panned out for the elder Strickland but the fact that he nevertheless chased his dream has resonated with his son.
“I look at a lot of the guys that are playing collegiate and professional basketball and you hear a lot of stories about the people who pushed them to what they are today,” Samson Strickland said.
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