LUMBERTON — As former Campbell University and West Bladen High School basketball player D.J. Mason imparted some of his keys to success in life to a room filled with top student-athletes, their families and coaches from Robeson, Bladen and Scotland counties on Wednesday, he kept going back to the same key word, “grind.”
Grinding to the rigors of a tough class schedules, busy sports seasons and numerous extracurricular activities is nothing new for the student-athletes who were recognized at the Mountaire Farms/Civitas Media Scholar Athlete of the Year banquet held at Pinecrest Country Club.
“Have respect and confidence, and keep grinding and everything will fall into place,” said Mason, who shared how he, one of 15 children raised by his grandmother, continues to chase his dream of playing professional basketball.
The banquet honored the 10 student-athletes that won the monthly honors and the $1,000 scholarship, as well as recognized the two student-athletes who were named male and female Scholar Athlete of the Year awards. Purnell Swett’s Matthias Carter and East Bladen’s Lacey Suggs earned the individual top honors and the additional $2,500 scholarships.
“I did put in a lot of hard work, especially in my athletics and academics because those are two of the most important things in my life,” Suggs said. “It feels good seeing it all paid off.”
Suggs played basketball, soccer and volleyball at East Bladen High School this year and finished with a 4.6 weighted GPA. She will play basketball at UNC-Wilmington.
She was a three-time Four County Conference Player of the Year in basketball with 2,139 points and was named Four County Conference Player of the Year in volleyball and soccer as a senior as well. She averaged 22.4 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game on the hardwood, tallied 159 kills in volleyball and netted 41 goals on the soccer field in her final season with the Lady Eagles.
“It’s such an honor all these things that are coming through,” Suggs said. “I didn’t think I was going to be getting all these accolades I’ve received in the past few years. It’s just crazy.”
Carter played baseball and basketball at Purnell Swett High School and graduated in the top 20 of his class with a 4.2 weighted GPA. Carter will attend Methodist University and will continue his baseball career as well as major in pre-pharmacy.
Carter was named all-county and all-conference as a junior and senior on the baseball field and led the Rams with .413 batting average and a Southeastern Conference-leading 39 runs scored out of the lea-doff spot. As a senior on the basketball court, Carter was named all-county and all-conference.
He was unable to attend the banquet because he was out of the country on a cruise, and his parents, Melanie and Spencer Carter, accepted the award on his behalf.
Mason’s words were something that Suggs feels can help her take the next step academically and athletically.
“He had a good story and I can relate to how he said all those key things,” she said. “Especially all those things going into college just like he did.”
Monthly winners recognized were: Fairmont’s Courtney McCormick; Lumberton’s Jesse Oliver; Purnell Swett’s Meredith Godwin; Scotland’s Ashlyn Dial; Red Springs’ Caleb McMillian; Lumberton’s Summer Martin; Purnell Swett’s Paige Sweeney; Scotland’s Travis Jackson; and with Carter and Suggs.
The banquet is a collaboration between Mountaire Farms and The Robesonian to honor the top student-athletes across Robeson, Bladen and Scotland counties. Student-athletes are nominated and The Robesonian selections monthly winners who receive a $1,000 scholarship to the school of their choice, and the overall winners are announced at the yearly banquet.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.