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SNOW HILL — Even in the beginning stages of changing the culture that once resided around Greene Central High basketball, everyone in the building knew that Friday would come.
Principal Patrick Greene knew it. So did David Bryant, the school’s athletic director.
On Friday, one of the then-freshman that helped transform the Rams from 2-A afterthought to championship chasers signed his National Letter of Intent to compete at the NCAA Division I level as Imajae Dodd ended his recruitment by choosing UNC Wilmington of the Colonial Athletic Association ranks.
Dodd, a 6-foot-7 forward, chose the Seahawks over interest from Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Indiana State, Old Dominion, Tulane, Towson, Georgia Southern and Youngstown State. He enters his senior season, the first under Greene Central legend Theodore “Blue” Edwards as Rams head coach, with 1,144 career points. As a junior, Dodd averaged 14.4 points per contest and pulled down 8.7 rebounds against an imposing schedule, including a stop at the prestigious John Wall Holiday Invitational. Greene Central shared the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference title, went 26-7 overall and came within an eyelash of winning the first North Carolina High School Athletic Association championship in school history in a 63-59 loss to Marshville Forest Hills.
Dodd’s decision to attend UNCW was influenced by his relationship with head coach C.B. McGrath, now in his second season with the Seahawks after a long-time stint at North Carolina as an assistant to Roy Williams.
“Me and the coach had a very good relationship,” Dodd said of McGrath. “When I went there on my official visit, it felt like a family atmosphere.”
Dodd’s relentless motor around the basket makes him a challenging player to guard at the high school level. He’s logged triple doubles along the way as his defensive presence can trigger a flurry of blocked shots.
“To have a 6-6, 240-pound guy that has a high motor, that’s self motivated, that wants to get better and that’s willing to compete certainly has its advantages,” Edwards said. And I plan to use him in that way to make us better. He’s a rim protector, inside scorer who’s now learning to step out and help on the perimeter.”
Dodd, the son of Tonechia Dodd and the late Dallas Suggs of Snow Hill, has been fueled by the passing of his father in 2013. A no-quit mentality was one of the traits passed on from father to son.
“It was very emotional, but he’s been a big inspiration — why I play the game and why I wake up every day, go to practice and work out.” Dodd recalled. “He’s the main reason why I play the game.”
While Dodd will have two coaches in his high school career — Edwards and Charles Harris, now the coach at South Garner, — he’s taking tidbits from both. From Edwards, he’s getting a more refined understanding of the game of basketball. With Harris, the tough-minded taskmaster cultivated Dodd’s voice and turned a soft-spoken individual off the court into a fiery on-court leader.
Harris wasn’t about to miss this day, as he returned to Snow Hill to watch Dodd, who is undecided on a major, put pen to paper.
“This is why you do it,” Harris said of the coaching profession. “For kids like that, this is why you do what you do. Nobody sees the hours you put in or the time that you put in, but for kids like that, this is why you do it — to see him make the next step to his career.”
Edwards, who played at East Carolina and Louisburg College prior to being a first-round NBA draft pick, even joined in on UNCW’s “Wings Up” sign when posing for pictures with Dodd and family members. The Seahawks went 11-21 last season and posted an 8-11 showing in CAA play, one year removed from going to the NCAA tournament under Kevin Keatts, now at N.C. State.
“My input was take your time and visit schools,” Edwards said. “See which school, when you get on campus, connects with your inner spirit. Everything is going to look good, every coach is going to say you’re a great player, we love you. But the right place, you’ll know it when you feel it.”