College Basketball: Patterson is awesome with a capital A.P.
By Nathan Bural
STEPHENVILLE, TX. ó In basketball circles, great players are known only by their initials: A.I. for Allen Iverson, K.G. for Kevin Garnett and M.J. for Michael Jordan.
Around the halls of Tarleton State University, there is a new set of initials ó A.P.
Avery Patterson, a former A.L. Brown star, has gone from playing ball at Iowa Western Junior College through St. John’s and has now found himself as a captain and catalyst for Tarleton.
He led Tarleton to the “Sweet 16” of Division II basketball, where they fell in the final seconds to Central Oklahoma.
Starting his career in Kannapolis, Patterson came from a large family but a small home.
“I have a big family, but it was just me and my dad. He worked all of the time so I could go to school,” said Patterson.
He has five brothers and five sisters who live with his mother in Salisbury.
Avery’s father, Avery Sr., helped A.P. start his career at a young age and has continued to be the driving force behind Patterson’s life every step of the way.
“I got started when I was about five years old,” notes A.P. “It was something I always wanted to do and I had a love for it. My dad told me if I wanted to know how to play he would teach me. He is a hard worker and anything I needed, he got for me.”
“My sophomore year,” he continued, “I got invited to a (basketball) camp, and he provided for me to go to that. He’s very supportive and always there for me whenever I need him. Besides God, he’s the No. 1 inspiration in my life.”
A.P. racked up several awards as a high school athlete such as North Piedmont Conference co-Player of the year All-Region and two-time team MVP.
A.P.’s on-the-court play certainly grabbed the eye of several Division I recruiters, but academic struggles put a quick halt on any dreams he had of playing primetime college basketball.
“I was getting recruited, hard, by the University of South Carolina,” said A.P.. “But I missed the SAT. I tried to take it at the last minute and they wouldn’t let me, so I had to go to a junior college for two years.”
There were a number of junior colleges with serious interest in the Wonder guard, however, one in particular seemed to be the right fit for A.P.
“They found me, in a way,” said A.P.. “My high school coach (Shelwyn Klutz) knew the assistant coach at Iowa Western, so I took a visit and signed with them. It was a good program, and the head coach was a good guy. He knew a lot about basketball. He’s similar to Coach (Lonn) Reisman, here at Tarleton. He gave me the freedom to play and let me do what I do.”
During his time at IWCC, A.P. was named to the NJCCA All-Star team, set a school record for points scored with 771 in two seasons and averaged 20.3 points per game as a sophomore.
When his junior college days were over, A.P. was getting looks from D-I programs such as Wyoming, Cincinnati and Miami (Fla). However, A.P. had his sights set on playing for Bill Self at the University of Kansas.
“My decision was based on Brandon Rush (Kansas University’s starting guard),” he said. “If (Rush) was going to enter the draft, then I was going to go to Kansas. The coach at St. John’s had worked for Coach Self, and he told me that if I didn’t go to Kansas, then St. John’s would be a good fit for me. But basically, I based my decision off of what Rush decided to do.”
Rush decided to remain a Jayhawk for another season, and A.P. was headed to Queens, N.Y. to suit up for St. John’s.
He started 27 of 31 games for the Red Storm in the 2006-07 campaign, and averaged 10.3 points per game. A.P. also set a record for St. John’s by connecting on eight 3-pointers in a victory over North Florida.
A.P. was competing on the same court as some of the current top names in the NBA, such as Texas’ Kevin Durant, when he posted 22 points against the Longhorns in November 2006. A.P. drained 6-of-11 3-pointers against UT in their 77-76 loss.
“I love it (the pressure and the big crowds),” A.P. said. “That’s what people dream about ó taking the last shot or winning the game against a big-time team. When you play against someone who is an NBA prospect, like Durant, I love it.”
A.P.’s love for the game soon took a back seat to the locker-room troubles with his head coach.
“Me and (Norm Roberts) weren’t on the same page about my role on the team,” A.P. said. “It wasn’t really my choice, it was just something where, I guess, the coach had some good freshman coming in and we came to the decision that it would probably be best for me to leave.”
St. John’s loss was Tarleton’s gain.
“I had other D-1 schools looking at me, but I would’ve had to sit out and I didn’t want to do that because it was my last year,” A.P. said. “A lot of people back home knew about this program down here, and I have some buddies who are playing overseas, and they told me about this program. I knew Limar (Wilson) and Jeff (Henfield) before I got here, and we talked over the phone a couple of times and we decided to come here.”
Tarleton landed three Division I players to suit up for the Purple and White this past season. They quickly gelled with the rest of the Texans and have formed a tight relationship away from the hardwood.
“I love the guys, we’re like brothers,” A.P. said. “We all want to win. Nic Cantrell, Dan Eichel and even the freshmen are all good guys. This is probably the best group I’ve played with besides my JUCO group.”
The Texans may have failed to make the Elite Eight in Springfield, MA, but A.P. made the trip. He was selected to the NCAA Division II/NABC All-Star Game last month.
A.P. started for the West squad and posted nine points, grabbed four rebounds and added two steals.
Despite all of his travels, A.P. still maintains a strong relationship with the man who got his career going in the right direction.
“I talk to my dad every day, or every other day,” A.P. said. “But mostly at night because he works. I talk to him mostly about the games, or if I’m in a slump or whatever. We talk about everything and he encourages me. He’s a good dad, he’s like my brother. We have a real good relationship with each other.”
He has maintained a 2.75 GPA at TSU and will finish his degree in Sports Management next December.
“It’s been amazing,” A.P. marveled. “Some people believed I wasn’t going to make it this far. It’s amazing to me, to do some of the things that I did and get some of the awards that I got.
“To go to JUCO, and then to St. John’s and to be back with a winning program, I wouldn’t ask for anything else.”
Nathan Bural is a sophomore at Tarleton State and writes for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.
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