College basketball: Baxter named Catawba’s women’s coach

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

By Mike London

SALISBURY — As a basketball player at  Pfeiffer, Terrence Baxter was the perfect point guard, directing his teammates, steering an unstoppable offense and relentless defense.

Now Baxter, 40, is getting his first chance to orchestrate a program as a college head coach. Catawba has announced the elevation of Baxter to lead the women’s program. He’s been the program’s associate head coach for the past three seasons, waiting patiently and working diligently. Now it’s his time.

“You hope when you’re the associate head coach that you’ll eventually get a chance,” Baxter said. “It doesn’t always work out that way, but in this case it did. I’m thankful and I’m grateful.”

Baxter expressed gratitude to Catawba president Brien Lewis and AD Larry Leckonby for their trust. He’s proven his knowledge and work ethic as an assistant for a long time, but he hasn’t been a head coach since he was guiding middle schoolers in New London. That was a while back.

“Terrence has been an integral part of our women’s basketball program for the past five years and has been involved in all aspects of the program,” Leckonby said. “He was a Hall of Fame player and now is an outstanding recruiter, coach and mentor. He is a perfect fit to lead this program in 2018-19 and into the future.”

Baxter follows Angie Morton, who added Baxter to her staff in 2013 and put the wheels in motion for Baxter to eventually succeed her. Morton, who had major success at Pfeiffer before making the move to Catawba, was head coach of the Indians for 15 seasons. Under her leadership, Catawba was rarely great, but almost always was good. Catawba’s last regional appearance was in 2015 and the last South Atlantic Conference championship was in 2003-04. Morton had two 20-win seasons and 13 winning seasons. Her 238 career victories make her the winningest coach in program history.

Beyond the wins and losses, Morton had an excellent track record as far as graduation rates.

“I am forever indebted to Angie Morton because I would never have been in this position without her.” Baxter said. “I’ve got some ideas. We’ll tweak a few things here and there, and I want us to play a little faster than we have in the past. But most of what we’ll do is going to be based on the system Angie put in.”

The transition to Baxter’s leadership figures to be routine for Catawba’s returning players. They know what he expects.

The team will be practically starting over as far as building an identity, after losing flagship players Terri Rogers and Serena Brown.

The only senior listed on the roster is Elizabeth Webb, a streak-shooting reserve guard. The only juniors are Madison Hallman, a talented combo guard who has battled injuries, and guard Kaitlin Stevenson, who hasn’t played much. So Baxter’s first team is going to be sophomore-heavy. Fortunately, that’s a big, talented class, so Catawba has a chance to compete in the SAC.

“We’ll be young, but we’ll be energetic,” Baxter said.

Success has followed Baxter around.

He enjoyed a storied, three-sport career at Thomasville High, as a basketball point guard, football receiver and baseball second baseman. His senior year (1995-96), Thomasville was a 2A state champ in football and runner-up in basketball.

Still, he was 5-foot-8 and the limited recruiting interest that he attracted was mostly for baseball.

His mother took him to Pfeiffer two weeks before school started, and Dave Davis, who was coaching the Falcons men’s basketball team then, gave him a chance. Baxter gradually rose from being deep on the bench to being a superstar on juggernaut teams. Pfeiffer went 26-5 overall and 18-0 in league play in 1999-2000 and reached the Sweet Sixteen of the D-II NCAA tournament. He was a 1,000-point scorer and ranks second in Pfeiffer history in assists and third in steals. Baxter, who graduated in 2001, was inducted into the Pfeiffer Hall of Fame in 2017.

He didn’t plunge into the coaching ranks right away after graduation, working as a counselor for troubled youngsters for several years.

Jamie Mabry, who had been a soccer player at Pfeiffer when Baxter was playing basketball there, talked him into coaching the boys team at North Stanly Middle School. Baxter’s team went 11-2, finished second, and he was hooked on coaching.

By the 2005-06 season, Baxter was on Davis’ bench as a Pfeiffer assistant. His first recruit — Thomasville’s Chris Woods — turned out to be one of the best in Pfeiffer history.

When Shannon Reid, who had starred on Morton’s teams at Pfeiffer, was hired as women’s head coach at Brevard College in 2008, she asked Baxter to be her assistant.

“I’d never thought about coaching women, but that’s where it all started,” Baxter said. “From that first practice at Brevard, I knew that’s what I needed to be doing.”

Brevard led to an assistant post at Queens. Baxter’s work at Queens brought him to Catawba.

And now he’s calling the shots, putting a staff together. Catawba will be hiring a full-time assistant to help him.

Baxter is a family guy as well as a basketball aficianado. He’s married and has four children.

“My wife, my family and my friends have made a lot of sacrifices to make this dream possible.” he said.