By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports Sports
Though the high school hoops season is still two months away, Waxahachie senior CJ Noland made quite the splash on Tuesday.
Noland took to Twitter to officially announce his top-seven potential Division-I destinations, knocking out a host of suitors across the country. Texas A&M University, University of Oklahoma, Kansas State University, Texas Christian University, Oklahoma State University, Troy and Vanderbilt Universities all made the cut.
Let’s get it 🙏🏽 #lucky7 pic.twitter.com/WXg1rY8Pmu
— TheCJNoland©️ (@CjNoland1) September 1, 2020
Troy was one of the first DI programs to offer Noland and is — thanks to COVID-19 — the only university that he’s taken an official visit. The Trojans are led by former TCU assistant coach and University of Texas at Arlington head coach, Scott Cross. Noland and Cross have remained close throughout the recruitment process.
Noland’s father, Belvis Noland, appeared in 61 games for Kansas State from 1993-95 and averaged 9.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.3 assists per game. His mother, Nicole Noland, is also an alumnus of Kansas State.
HOW HE GOT HERE
The 6-foot-4 combo guard is a three-star recruit on Rivals, 247Sports and Prep Hoops. He plays for TAZ Elite during the AAU seasons.
Noland averaged an Ellis County-best 20.0 points per game to go with his team-best 7.3 boards, 1.6 deflections, 2.0 steals and 2.7 assists as a junior.
Noland shot 54.2% from the field, which included 62.2% inside the arc and 30.8% from three-point land during that 2019-20 campaign. He also converted on 73.7% of his 5.9 free throw attempts per game.
The offensive output ultimately netted Noland the Ellis County Sports Sports All-Ellis County Player of the Year nod and landed him on the Ellis County Sports Sports All-Ellis County first team and selection as the District 7-6A Offensive MVP. He was also selected to the TABC 6A All-Region I team and DMN Sportsday All-Area second team.
All of which is sure to be a precursor of what’s to come during the 2020-21 high school hoops season.
DI HACHIE HOOPS HISTORY
Not to add any additional pressure, but to fully understand the magnitude of Noland’s impending decision, we must appreciate the pantheon of Runnin’ Indian lore that he will soon hope to climb.
Noland and fellow backcourt running mate Jalen Lake will eventually become the latest Division-I signees since Larry Wise inked his NLI with the University of North Texas in 2018. That’s a fact that is all but inevitable.
After missing all of his freshman season battling migraines, Wise appeared in 14 games and averaged 1.3 points per as a redshirt freshman.
Wise played alongside Qua Grant and Tre Gipson while at Waxahachie High. The three led the Runnin’ Indians to the 5A Region II championship in 2017 and then back to the postseason with the No. 1-ranking in Class 5A in 2018.
Grant would’ve likely been named a finalist as the Division-II Player of the Year had the 2019-20 season not been cut short. The sophomore guard was named the Lone Star Conference Player of the Year following the top-ranked Buffs’ 32-1 regular season. Grant averaged 20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game en route to his recognitions.
Gipson, on the other hand, is now enrolled at newly-DI Tarleton State University and will play under head coach Billy Gillespie. He became the first-ever DI-signee for TSU in April, having played for Midland College and Ranger College, both JUCO programs.
Prior to those three, Jamison Sterns was the last Waxahachie basketball player to commit to a DI program. However, Sterns ultimately decided against a collegiate basketball career at UTEP and, instead, took the field for the WTAMU football team.
Sterns’ father, James, led the Runnin’ Indians to the 1980 and ’81 state tournament and then starred at Baylor University and on the Harlem Globetrotters, and later as a Pensacola Tornado. He even once defeated 14-year NBA veteran Shawn Kemp in an invitation-only slam dunk contest hosted by the Dallas Mavericks between his Baylor days and time with the Tornados.
And that slam dunk contest reference brings us to Waxahachie’s most decorated basketball talent: Desmond “DT” Mason, a 6-foot-7 combo guard who could jump through most gymnasium ceilings.
Mason was selected 17th overall by the Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder) in the 2000 NBA Draft following a stellar collegiate career at Oklahoma State University. The DI program is also found on Noland’s final-seven list.
Mason went on to win the 2001 NBA Rising Stars Slam Dunk Contest and then finished second in 2002 — though his score is still questioned to this day. The 1996 Waxahachie graduate ultimately played for 10 seasons in the NBA for the Supersonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City Hornets and Thunder.
Mason averaged 12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per contest over his 643 games in the NBA. He also totaled $37.64 million in salary during his NBA career (2000-10).
And those are just a few highlighted names. The tradition of excellence for Waxahachie hoops is not new — far from it, in fact. Social media is just finally helping highlight a program built on high character, skill and leadership, and Noland is the perfect transition into the program’s latest run in the spotlight.
The countdown to tip-off and National Signing Day is on.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith