Legend: South Rowan’s Argrett to enter Pfeiffer Hall
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2016
By Mike London
MOORESVILLE — Damien Argrett was only 21 miles from home, but he was so homesick his first year with Pfeiffer’s basketball program that he called home every day.
The shy, silent boy eventually blossomed into a confident, outgoing man and became an unstoppable, rim-shaking All-American. On Friday, Argrett, a 34-year-old South Rowan graduate, will be inducted into the Pfeiffer Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s still kind of hard to believe it all happened the way it did,” Argrett said. “Coming out of high school, I was pretty naive.”
Argrett was a kid who loved basketball, but as a junior in high school he wasn’t on South Rowan’s varsity team. He wasn’t even the best guy in his P.E. class.
When his father died, Argrett accepted more family responsibilities and had less time to dream about being a basketball hero, but then a startling thing happened. Argrett grew 10 inches in a matter of months prior to his senior year. Instead of being 5-foot-10, he’d sprouted to 6-foot-8. South coach John Davis had a new star on his hands because Argrett, a little man all his life, had ballhandling and shooting skills to complement his sudden growth spurt.
“We played against great competition that season — Scooter Sherrill and Donte Minter at West Rowan, Bryan McCullough at North Rowan, and that’s not to mention the guys we were playing against every week in the 4A Central Piedmont Conference,” Argrett said. “But I found myself holding my own against outstanding players, guys going to D-I schools and guys with a lot of offers on the table.”
A complete unknown prior to his senior season at South in 2000, Argrett averaged 15.4 points per game. There was a night he pulled down 22 rebounds and dropped 40 points on Northwest Cabarrus, an outing that still ties him for the school scoring record.
While Argrett bloomed too late to be courted by Division I schools, John Davis took him to the local Division II colleges for workouts, along with South guard Drew King.
“The funny thing is my workout at Catawba might have been the best ball I’ve ever played,” Argrett said. “Coach (Jim) Baker liked me, but he wanted me to go to a junior college first, get more experience, and then come back to Catawba.”
John Davis also took Argrett and King over to Pfeiffer, where Dave Davis (no relation to John) was the head coach and Rob Perron (now Catawba’s coach) was a key assistant.
“My workout for Pfeiffer was sub-par, at best, but they liked me enough to want me in the program,” Argrett said. “Coach Perron told me they couldn’t give me any money, but he told me if I worked as hard as I could, I’d have a home there.”
Argrett enrolled at Pfeiffer and was a redshirt during the 2000-01 season.
Shy and painfully homesick, he barely made it through that year, but his mindset and approach gradually changed.
“I thought I was working hard on my game, but I found out at Pfeiffer I could work harder,” Argrett said. “My work ethic improved, and when I really started putting in the work, that’s when I took flight.”
As the buckets started to drop, his teammates also saw a personality change. They saw Argrett smile more. They even saw him laugh. As the years went by, he had a wave and a hello for everyone he passed on campus. By the time he graduated, he was the most popular guy on campus.
It wasn’t easy for Pfeiffer individuals to pile up stats because Dave Davis’ system called for waves of 15 players to attack the opposition frantically for 40 minutes.
But Argrett was second team all-conference as a junior and made the first plane flight of his life when Pfeiffer traveled to California to play in the Elite Eight.
Then his senior year, he shot 60 percent from the field while scoring 20.1 points per game. He averaged a point per minute. He was all-conference first team and MVP of the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference Tournament, a league that would become Conference Carolinas. He was voted to All-America teams.
“You like to see players improve 100 percent during their college careers,” Dave Davis said. “Damien improved 100 percent for four straight years.”
Argrett scored 1,545 career points for the Falcons (11th all-time), while shooting 61.7 percent from the field. He pulled down 680 rebounds, which also ranks 11th in Pfeiffer history.
He fought back tears on his first flight across the Atlantic, but he followed up his time at Pfeiffer with a successful pro career overseas. He spent time in England, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland and Finland. He lived in countries where he rarely heard English and in cities where he was the only African-American among hundreds of thousands of residents.
He achieved all-star status with a breakthrough season in Romania, but his greatest success on the court came with the Usti nad Labem team in the Czech Republic. He was the MVP of the Czech National Basketball League in 2007, shooting 65.7 percent from the floor and averaging 20.2 points and 7.4 rebounds.
He played pro ball for five seasons, providing a lot of financial assistance for his family back home.
“I could’ve played longer than I did, but the economy was a factor,” Argrett said. “At first, I was making $9,000 to $10,000 a month in the Czech Republic, but even after being the MVP, they were offering $5,000 per month for the next year. I wanted to stay with it because I had my dreams of the NBA, but that time came when it was time to bow out gracefully and come back to the states.”
If he’d gotten in the right camp at the right time, Argrett had a good enough offensive game to make an NBA roster, but he admits his defense probably was short of NBA standards.
Argrett lives a double life now as a social worker and basketball trainer. In both capacities, he works with kids and reaches kids.
His passion is the Best of Both Worlds basketball training school in Huntersville where he and his partner Rico Grier, the high-scoring guard from Charlotte who was Argrett’s teammate at Pfeiffer and in the Czech Republic, are the founders and co-directors.
They provide expert hoops instruction, but they also teach the life lessons they learned from their own coaches.
Dave Davis coaches Newberry now and when Newberry traveled to play the Charlotte 49ers recently he had Argrett and Grier on his bench and in his locker room as honorary assistant coaches.
“Now that was a great experience,” Argrett said. “Being one of Coach Davis’ assistants is a little easier than being one of his players.”
Argrett has worked on his Hall of Fame speech, has delivered it in front of the mirror a dozen times, and will share his inspiring story with a live audience at the Stokes Student Center on Friday.
Other inductees into the Pfeiffer Sports Hall of Fame will be Tony Causby (baseball), Dacia Ijames (softball), Jim Keever (golf) and the 1979 women’s basketball team.