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Rich finishes career at Campbell

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
Senior basketball player Maggie Rich knew her GPA was exactly 3.596, but she had several soccer friends who were permanent fixtures on the Dean’s List and didn’t expect to hear her name called at Campbell’s athletic banquet.
When the time came to hand out the the Easley Award to Campbell’s graduating student-athlete with the highest GPA, Rich heard the presenter declare that the worthy honoree had accumulated a 3.6 GPA.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow, I just missed on that,’ ” Rich said. “But then I heard him saying, ‘an education major from Salisbury, North Carolina,’ and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s got to be me.’
“Then I realized they’d rounded my GPA up to 3.6. It was such an honor. My coaches said I had a really surprised look on my face.”
The prestigious award capped a senior year at Campbell that was Rich’s best on the court and off.
“Maggie getting the GPA Award is a great tribute to the lady she is,” Campbell coach Wanda Watkins said. “To play a Division I schedule with all the travel that we have, and still have that kind of GPA, that’s just a super accomplishment.”
Rich left for Campbell in 2004 after a career at East Rowan that looks more amazing as the years roll by.
It can be argued whether or not she was the best player in East history, but there is no argument that she was hands down the most prolific scorer ever.
Rich played on four talented teams with multiple scoring options, and she still averaged 18.1 points every time she stepped on the hardwood. Rowan Hall of Famer Cristy Earnhardt McKinney, who averaged 17.4 points per outing in the 1970s, is the only Mustang in the same neighborhood.
Rich averaged better than 20 points a game twice. McKinney did it once. No one else has done it at East.
Rich scored more points in a game (40), a season (607) and a career (1,917) than anyone in East’s 49 seasons of basketball.
To put Rich’s scoring output in perspective, Ashley Collins has been a terrific player for three seasons, and she would have to average 35 points a game as a senior to challenge Rich’s 1,917.
Rich’s NPC Player of the Year plaque and Rowan County Athlete of the Year trophy meant little once she traveled to Buies Creek to play for the Camels.
She had to start over. Everyone in Division I is the best thing her high school has ever seen. Freshman pay dues, and Rich paid them like everyone else.
The 5-foot-10 small forward played little as a freshman. She worked her way into the rotation her sophomore year and was elevated to key reserve and part-time starter her junior year.
She finally emerged as a team leader as a senior. She was third in scoring (7.3 points a game) and rebounding (4.2) and led the Camels with 34 3-pointers.
“I got a chance to play more,” Rich said. “I was finally healthy and the back trouble and the hamstring trouble that I’d had were mostly behind me. I worked out a lot in the offseason before my senior season and shot as much as I could.”
For Campbell coach Wanda Watkins, it was gratifying to see Rich find success last November.
“You could see Maggie blossoming when the season started, and I felt really good for her because of all the sweat she’s put in and all the injuries she’s gone through,” Watkins said. “You could see things finally falling into place for her a little bit. You could see her growing, and she accepted a leadership role. She was one of the captain. She’d earned the respect of her peers and coaches.”
Rich scored 13 points off the bench in the opener against William & Mary and was in the starting lineup for the next game against Elon. She amassed 12 points and 11 boards against her father’s alma mater.
In an early-season tournament at Longwood, Rich hit seven 3-pointers and scored 35 points in two games against Morgan State and Howard and was voted MVP.
“It was a round robin, so I didn’t even know there would be an MVP,” Rich said. “But it was fun scoring 19 in one game. I hadn’t done anything like that since high school. I just wish I could have saved a few 3s for our conference games.”
Rich started out so hot from the 3-point line that it was a mixed blessing.
“Once we got into the Atlantic Sun schedule, everyone was ready for Maggie,” Watkins said. “Teams knew they couldn’t afford to give up any 3s, and they prepared for her. They had her number a little bit.”
It was frustrating for Rich because it was hard to get an open look. But it was a confidence boost to see that teams respected her ability to shoot the ball.
Rich’s final semester at Campbell grew more hectic when she began her student-teaching requirement in the middle of basketball season. She works with first-grade reading groups at Coats Elementary, just down the road from Campbell.
“A little stressful,” Rich said. “We had 6 a.m. basketball practices, and sometimes I rushed out to teach with my hair still wet. It’s been a good experience, but those first-graders can be a handful.”
Rich will marry former Campbell baseball player Alston Hatch in July, and she’s been hired to teach third grade at Cleveland Elementary in Clayton this fall.
Rich’s third-graders will be envied by everyone.
Besides offering wisdom on the standard subjects, the rookie teacher can show her charges how to shoot 3s.
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Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.

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