Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — Sandhills Community College basketball coach Mike Apple was running late, but he adjusted the collar on his blazer, straightened his tie and smiled as he got A.L. Brown’s talented forward Tevin Stark officially signed.
“I think I got behind every school bus in this town,” Apple said with a relieved laugh.
Apple brought a surprise with him from Pinehurst— a black No. 23 Sandhills jersey.
“We wear four different ones — burgundy, red, white and gray, so we’ve got plenty of jerseys,” Apple explained. “But that 23 is yours, Tevin. That was your high school number, and that will be your number at Sandhills. I’m putting you down for it right now. Tevin Stark — 23.”
There aren’t many young baskeball players who wouldn’t give blood to wear the 23. It’s an honor. Stark beamed quietly and nodded politely.
Sandhills won a junior college national championship in 2012 and made a nice run this year, winning a regional title before losing in the district semifinals to finish 25-7.
Almost all of the Sandhills Flyers hail from eastern North Carolina, but Apple expanded his recruiting territory to land Stark, a 6-foot-4 leaper who averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds for a balanced team with four more college prospects in the senior class.
“Sandhills recruited Tevin aggressively,” A.L. Brown coach Shelwyn Klutz said. “They came to watch him practice and they came to watch him again in our Christmas tournament. They saw he had passion for the game.”
That passion started early for Stark.
“When I was a little kid, my brothers played, and you do what your brothers do,” Stark said. “I went on from there and started playing AAU ball.”
Stark had a reputation as a player to watch even before he arrived at A.L. Brown, but he got off to a slow start with the Wonders varsity. He missed the first half of his sophomore season with academic issues.
“After that setback, he really buckled down, and I was proud of the way he turned himself around,” Klutz said. “This past semester, he made the A-B honor roll.”
Stark can grow as a ballhandler and passer, but there aren’t many holes in his game.
He has the ideal basketball body — lean and long — with a sturdy frame that can easily add weight-room muscle.
Stark has 3-point range as a shooter and can finish well above the rim. He has the type of spring that wins dunk contests, and he also plays intensely on the defensive end.
“Explosive is the best word for him,” Klutz said. “He’s the most explosive player we’ve had here in the last 10 years, and he can finish with the best of them. He’s a matchup problem, and he’s got a great basketball I.Q. He knows where to be on offense and defense. His future is limitless.”
Stark will be a wing player at uptempo Sandhills, where 100-point outings are the rule.
“Sandhills runs, and I like that a lot,” Stark said. “I know I’ve got to be ready to run all night and I’m going to work hard to get in great shape.”
Stark averaged 17 points as a junior despite missing nine games with a knee injury and once scored 20-plus points three straight games. As a senior, he missed six games with a concussion, but when he returned to action, his high-elevation act resumed. He repeated on the All-SPC team.
“We’re impressed with Tevin’s athletic and basketball abilities, and we see him being able to play multiple positions for us,” Apple said. “We’re losing three starters, and we believe he can contribute right away.”