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Convinced he belonged on an NCAA Division I basketball roster, Fike High product Samson Strickland was willing to take the long road for such an opportunity.
Coming out of his senior season with the Golden Demons in 2016-17, Strickland’s 4.03 grade-point average would have been more than adequate to begin a college academic career. But, his basketball opportunities at the next level weren’t where he wanted them to be.
Thus, Strickland opted to go the prep school route for a year, enrolling at Washington Academy in Greenville, the school founded by now defunct Charis Prep founder Carlos Peralta.
That extra year has ostensibly given him the proving chance he seeks.
Fike assistant coach Larry Jackson indicated in an email last week that Strickland, at 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds as a Fike senior, has been invited to join the East Carolina University men’s basketball team as a preferred walk-on after Strickland and his high school coaches met with first-year head coach Joe Dooley and staff.
“I had played with some people that I’ve seen go Division I,” Strickland said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon. “I felt like I was just as good as them, and the schools that I was getting interest from, as far as the junior colleges, Division II and Division III schools, I wasn’t able to get a full athletic scholarship.”
Strickland, who averaged a double-double of 19.1 points per game and 11.1 rebounds during his senior year at Fike to go along with 3.5 blocks, won’t see any athletic aid immediately at ECU. But he’s convinced his work ethic will land a scholarship in due time.
Strickland considered options at Colgate, Maryland Eastern Shore, Denver and La Salle and attempted to remain in state, if possible. He initiated contact with the Pirates and assistant coach Ken Potosnak. After meeting, the Pirates called Strickland back and invited him to walk-on to the roster.
“I just made up my mind to go talk to the coaches at ECU,” Strickland said. “I was like, if I could walk-on somewhere, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble just working my way to get a scholarship when it becomes available.”
Indeed, the lack of Division I attention is something that continues to fuel Strickland, an intended engineering major.
“I plan on going out there and playing with a chip on my shoulder,” he assured. “Especially considering how everything has been going the last few years.”