During his two seasons at Liberty County High School, basketball player Freddie McSwain averaged 16.5 points and 12 rebounds per game. Not too shabby, considering he didn’t start playing basketball until he was 14 years old.
McSwain will take that still-developing talent to Neosho County Community College after accepting and signing a scholarship. He signed Monday afternoon at the LCHS media center.
“They are giving me a great opportunity ... They looked me up and they came out of nowhere and said I was a great player, and they told me I have a starting spot at the school,” he said.
McSwain, who will study biology at NCCC, wants to use the opportunity as a springboard to reach Division I. He said Neosho has scouts from Wichita State University and the University of Kansas who watch and recruit from their school.
“They have me doing dribbling drills and weight training to get bigger and, more importantly, they plan to have me working hard in class,” he said, adding he owes a great deal to his former Coastal Crew Rebels coach, the late Ernie Walthour.
“I started playing when I was 14, and I wasn’t any good,” he said. “I had to really work hard. I played with the Rebels and coach Ernie, may he rest in peace. He told me to work hard and I could do anything I wanted to do, and look at me now.”
Walthour was killed in July during an alleged armed robbery.
Current Rebels coach David Linderman said it was emotional to see McSwain sign. “He is an outstanding player and always works hard,” Linderman said. “He is very well-disciplined. I can remember that I was in the office when Ernie brought him, and we sat down and Ernie said, ‘You get your act together and I promise you that you will be signing a college scholarship.’ This is our first one without Ernie, and it is real bittersweet that it is Freddie.”
McSwain also excels in the high jump in track and will compete at the boys’ state meet May 8-10 in Jefferson. He said he may compete in track and field for Neosho as well, which was a bonus in signing with them.
His mother, Regina Hampton, said she felt accomplished as a parent and was proud to see her son go off and do everything he wants to do.
“I am a very proud parent right now,” she said, adding she spoke to her son about being so far from home. “I’ve had a talk with him and asked him if he was ready to meet and make new friends, since he won’t have any classmates up there with him, and he said he is ready to make new friends and that he will be OK, so that made me happy because I got the chance to know how he feels about the situation. As for me, I will keep him in my prayers and pray that he will do the right thing.”
McSwain’s family friend and mentor, Telly Savalas Duhart, said he has offered McSwain advice throughout the year, and as he prepares for college, he wants McSwain to keep God in his heart at all times.