02/28/09 — Trojans honored: Easley named men's top player; Prichard, Whitby recognized

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Trojans honored: Easley named men's top player; Prichard, Whitby recognized

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 28, 2009 11:03 PM

Kendrick Easley expected lot of attention.

He wasn't disappointed.

A marked man throughout the season by opposing teams, Easley maintained his motivation and work ethic for Mount Olive College. The junior guard, a preseason All-American candidate, didn't wilt under the pressure of expectations.

Easley performed at his highest level.

The Norfolk, Va., native averaged 21.3 points an outing and shot better than 84 percent from the free throw line as the Trojans earned a share of the Conference Carolinas regular-season championship. In turn, league coaches recognized Easley as the conference player of the year.

"That's a great accomplishment for Kendrick and he worked extremely hard to get it," said MOC head coach Joey Higginbotham. "That shows the respect he's getting in the league. He didn't do this catching people by surprise. He's constantly in the gym working.

"He's done a great job off the court and represented the college with class."

Overall, the Trojans had four all-conference selections. Justin Melton, Mike Holloman and Craig Hayes garnered honorable mention recognition.

Higginbotham was named coach of the year.

"I was surprised," said Higginbotham, an MOC alum. "Usually our league goes by who has the biggest improvement. I thought Jason Taylor did a great job at Anderson and Ron (Lievense) did a great job at Barton.

"The way I think about it is it's a testament of what we have around us -- great kids, great players and a great coaching staff."

Mount Olive (18-8 overall) continues play at home Monday in the quarterfinals of the Conference Carolinas tournament.

On the women's side, senior Tomeka Prichard and JUCO transfer Jasmine Whitby earned first-team recognition. It's the first time in school history that two women's basketball players were named first-team all-conference.

Prichard, the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,308 points, averages 16.1 points per outing. The 5-foot-9 guard ranks sixth in the conference in scoring, fifth in steals and second in blocked shots. Prichard won the league's rookie of the year award in 2005.

Whitby is knocking down 15.8 points a game and ranks third in the conference in steals. The former Louisburg College standout logged the first-ever "30-20" game in MOC history with career highs of 32 points and 20 rebounds at Erskine.

Whitby has seven double-doubles this season.

"I feel that both girls have worked really hard and stepped up in light of injuries that we've had, and they knew they had to do it," said MOC women's head coach Wendy Lee. "They've filled some big shoes, stepped up above and beyond what we've asked them to do.

"You can't get all-conference without your team helping you get it. It's a good reflection of our team, their unselfishness and they have represented us well."

The Trojans begin defense of their Conference Carolinas tournament title at home Tuesday against the winner of today's Limestone-Lees McRae game. Tip-off is 7 p.m. at Kornegay Arena.