Excel Christian Academy basketball player Darius Thrower left his mark on his high school program, setting the career and single-game scoring records for the Eagles.
Thrower is now ready to leave his mark on his college program as he signed to play for Truett-McConnell College during a ceremony Monday at Excel.
“It feels very good,” Thrower said of signing. “It was getting close to the end of the year, but I’m glad I came to a good decision. It’s a great coach, a great atmosphere up there. I’m glad I chose Truett-McConnell.”
“It’s a pretty special day here around Excel,” Excel head coach Matt Sanders said. “Anytime we can get kids to be able to take something they love, their passion, and turn it into something great and to be able to pay for their academics at the next level, that’s definitely something that should be celebrated.
“It couldn’t happen to a better kid than Darius. His work ethic, his character, his skills all are worthy of getting this honor and this privilege to play ball at the next level.”
Thrower scored nearly 2,000 points in his career. He was a four-time Daily Tribune News all-county selection after spending his freshman year at Cass High and was a three-time all-region selection at Excel, including placing second in the voting for subregion player of the year his junior season. He averaged 21.4 points per game that year and 19.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists as a senior.
“He was our go-to guy. He was our bread and butter,” Sanders said of Thrower. “Whenever we needed something special, a shot made or a defensive stop, Darius was our horse.
“He holds career and single game [scoring records] which are great accomplishments, but the scoring is not Darius in a nutshell. He’s an overall great player and he’s improved dramatically. I couldn’t be prouder of him, his family and the school, which he can set great examples for all the other student-athletes here at Excel.”
Thrower broke his own school record for most points in a game when he scored 37, 30 in the second half, in a win his senior year over Mount Zion. He also scored 30 points in Excel’s biggest region win of the season against Christian Heritage, and hit the buzzer-beating game winner against Class 6A North Paulding as a senior. He also caught and dunked an alley-oop that game, which he said is his favorite memory of his high school career.
“I’m just blessed by God to have this talent to play basketball,” Thrower said of the Excel records he holds. “It feels good to leave a mark, and hopefully, I’ll have kids that look up to me. I hope that they will strive to break records and be great here.”
Thrower said he also considered Toccoa Falls, Dalton State and Emmanuel College, but felt Truett-McConnell was the right fit. He was offered the scholarship May 4 and accepted it the next day.
“I actually met [Truett-McConnell head coach John Yeh] for the first time earlier this year around fall. I went for just a tour of the campus to look at the school, without even knowing him at first. I met him later on. ... I’ve been recruited two times to go out there and do tryouts. This past Wednesday, they offered me officially,” Thrower said. “I was actually up there and they told me face to face. I said, ‘Thank you so much. Thank you so much.’ ... It took me just a day. I prayed over it and it was my only full ride to college anywhere. I said, ‘Lord, let it be narrowed down to just one.’ And it just seemed like that happened and everything worked out. So I’m super excited.”
Truett-McConnell College, located in Cleveland, is an NAIA program in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
“His mom and him actually came up on a visit in the fall, ... but I got a good impression from meeting him that first day and his mom,” Yeh said of recruiting Thrower. “At the end of the season, we got back in touch. About six weeks ago, he came up and visited and played and did a nice job. So we certainly picked things up after that.”
Yeh said there will be a chance for Thrower to earn playing time as a freshman.
“We lose six of our top eight guys this year to graduation and other things. So we need guys who can come in and score the basketball,” Yeh said of Thrower. “That’s what really jumps off the page at you, but there’s many other qualities that we look for. Darius really met those from being a Christian School graduate to being a fine, outstanding young man and having a great family. So we really appreciate all those, too.
“We do a lot of four-out, a lot of drive and kick outs. I think Darius is really adept at spotting up and shooting the basketball. So we have some point guards that are coming in and can drive and kick out. I think Darius can handle the ball a little bit as well if we get into a pinch. So he’s a very well-rounded combo guard for us.”
Thrower also hit 80 3-pointers as a junior and scored over 500 points as a senior. Sanders believes Thrower’s scoring and shooting abilities will translate to the college level.
“I think it’s going to be a real good fit for him. Coach John Yeh, he’s going to be real good for him in terms of the academic and social transition period from here at Excel to Truett-McConnell,” Sanders said. “He should have a chance to come in and be effective immediately. With his work ethic, there’s no reason he can’t come in there and take someone’s spot and put his imprint on the program right away.
“I tell them all the time, ‘If you can shoot the basketball, you can play for any team in the country.’”