MOC coaches share "inside scoop" about respective teams
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 10, 2012 1:48 PM
Three voices delivered the same message.
Mount Olive College is a jewel slowly transforming into a sparkling diamond in southern Wayne County. The tiny campus is a close-knit community where you know everyone by name.
There are no barstools to saddle up and share stories with anyone within earshot. But there are plenty of venues and opportunities to watch quality athletes compete on a regional and national stage.
"Any time I get to talk about not only our (men's basketball) program, but our outstanding institution, it really means a lot to me," MOC alum Joey Higginbotham said to the Goldsboro Rotary Club on Tuesday afternoon. "The college is what the people make it ... the county, everything. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
Higginbotham, veteran baseball coach Carl Lancaster and women's head volleyball coach Sarah Lusk provided insight not only into their respective programs, but how those teams contribute to the community.
A military veteran who did two tours in Iraq, Lusk had the team sew baby blankets last season and present them to staff members on campus who just had a baby, and military families. The team plans to do a Thanksgiving box to assist a family that may not be able to enjoy the holiday.
Lusk said the team will also work with a Girl Scouts troop to help them earn their "hobby" badge. Several team members will serve as volunteer coaches in the newly-formed Eastern Elite Volleyball Club.
"We're all about community involvement and service," Lusk said.
Higginbotham shared a few "nuggets" about the Trojan men's basketball program. The annual Pickle Classic is the second-longest running Classic only to the Maui Invitational.
Six of the last nine years, Mount Olive has advanced to the NCAA Division II tournament. Over the past nine years, the Trojans are the third-winningest four-year institution -- in all divisions -- in North Carolina behind Duke and North Carolina.
But Higginbotham is most proud of the program's graduation rate and the annual trip his team makes to the Free Will Baptist Children's Home in Middlesex. The group visited the home for abandoned, abused and orphaned children on Monday.
The late Dr. W. Burkette Raper, former president of MOC, grew up in the home.
"It shows we're helping others, but showing us how fortunate we are to be part of Mount Olive College and playing college athletics," Higginbotham said.
A native of Wayne County who has cultivated numerous relationships over the year, Lancaster revisited the days when the Trojans played in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The transition to Division II in the mid-1990s wasn't always smooth, but the progress the school has made -- academically and athletically -- is immeasurable.
That jewel is definitely starting to sparkle.
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