At the moment, Elijah Wilson and Joe Harris find themselves at the opposite ends of their basketball careers.
Wilson said Saturday he is close to signing a deal to play professionally overseas, while Harris recently hung up his high-tops, graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy and began working as a sheriff’s patrol deputy out of the Georgetown County Sheriff’s department.
While the two former Coastal Carolina standouts are traveling very different paths now, part of their journeys to get to this point was celebrated Thursday night.
Wilson, a native of Wilmington, N.C., and Harris, a native of Lejeune, N.C., were among 11 players inducted as the inaugural class of the Flight 22 Basketball hall of fame. Flight 22 is an AAU squad in North Carolina coached by Nathan Faulk, the former high school coach at Laney High in Wilmington.
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While Wilson never played for Faulk at Laney as he graduated the year before Faulk took over, the former Chanticleer enjoyed three years playing for the coach with Flight 22.
He believes his time there helped him to a standout career at CCU in which he ended as one of the university’s top three scorers.
“It played a big, tremendous part,” said Wilson, who added that he’s in serious contract discussions with teams from Austria and Germany. “Coach Faulk is one of the best coaches I ever played for. … He’s always had a helping heart. He’ll do anything he can to help any player out, and that’s what he did with me.”
For Harris, who grew up in a military family, the AAU program helped open his eyes to the competition that was out there.
“When I was growing up I never really played outside the military base,” Harris said. “It was actually the first time I played like on a high school team that actually left the state of North Carolina. I got to play different people and saw different places. I was able to get some experience and it showed me that there was a whole lot more basketball out there.”
It also helped propel him to finishing his collegiate career as the leading rebounder in both CCU and Big South Conference history with 1,152 rebounds, and also as the CCU leader with 134 games played and a .562 field goal percentage. He’s second in CCU history with 142 blocked shots and 205 steals.
“The major thing that I learned was there were so many good players out there,” Harris said. “It showed me that I needed to work harder, get better if I wanted to compete with these guys and play in college. Second, it showed me that [you needed] to play as a team. Everybody was good, but if you played as a team your chances to win were a lot higher.”
During the ceremony held in downtown Wilmington, each player was given an opportunity to give a speech about what the program meant to them. It also allowed the players to catch up with some familiar faces.
“Any time you get to achieve an award like that it’s good,” said Wilson, who finished his CCU career with 1881 points. “I just enjoyed every moment of that night.”
According to the Flight 22 website, the criteria for being eligible for the hall of fame includes playing at least one full season with Flight 22, receiving an athletic scholarship to play basketball at a four-year university, being actively involved with the program in some fashion and receiving a degree from the school in which the athlete played (unless they left early to go pro).
Other inductees included Stilman White, Zack Honeycutt, Seneca Redwood-Sawyerr, Tim Pope, Glenn Patterson Jr., Deon Boyce, Bryant Edwards, Lee Jones and Cedric Simmons.
“It was kind of like a family reunion,” Harris said. “Even though some of those guys played before me or after me, I’d heard of them, saw them play, I knew of them or had talked to them before, that was my first time getting to sit down and talk with them, hear about the experiences they had. It was like a big reunion, like [talking about] where you’ve been, where I’ve been. … It was nice to get to do that.”