Mountaineers land Huntington Prep star
MORGANTOWN - This has been a strange and hilly road Elijah Macon has traveled, one that has all the ups and downs often found on the way to the destination.
He's gone from Columbus, Ohio, to Huntington and today arrives at the doorstep of Division I college basketball.
Macon is a 6 foot-81/2, 240-pound forward who committed to West Virginia after his freshman year at Marion-Franklin High in the Ohio capital city. Some academic concerns and a family decision conspired to have him back away from that pledge a while later.
Macon and his confidants feared if he stuck with WVU that other schools would move on. If he didn't get the right grades to earn admission to West Virginia, those other schools would have awarded their scholarships to others.
Macon and WVU agreed to work together toward a future together.
"My freshman and sophomore years, my grades were messed up," Macon said with a deep voice expanded by his experiences. "I lost a lot of schools that were interested in me at that time, but West Virginia never left me. They were always there. Them doing that and sticking around through my senior year, that showed me a lot."
Macon did his part. He transferred to Huntington Prep over the summer and has scored 32 points in three games for Coach Rob Fulford. Today, Macon's mother will sign and send a National Letter-of-Intent from Columbus to Fulford and Macon will sign it Thursday in a ceremony with three other Division I players at the school.
"My freshman year was basically me going through a learning process," said Macon, who also seriously considered Iowa, Maryland, Kansas State and Louisville. "I committed real early and that probably wasn't a smart move, but at that time, I didn't care what anyone thought. I was young."
He's growing up and has no alternative. He lives with Fulford, who is trying to prepare Macon and all of his players for the hardships and adjustments they will discover in college.
"There's probably one day out of the week he'd rather not come home and I'd probably rather him not come home, either," Fulford said.
"I don't know how to say it," Macon said, "but I'll be prepared for college."
Fulford said the focus now is on academics.
"Everything on our end is going according to plan," Fulford said. "It's not without hurdles and bumps, but everything is going according to plan."
Fulford said Macon came to Huntington Prep with a 2.0 GPA and that Macon needs a 1,010 on his SAT to meet the NCAA's sliding scale for eligibility requirements. If the GPA goes up, Macon won't need to score quite as high on the SAT. If Macon aces the SAT, his GPA doesn't have to be as high.
Huntington Prep students do their academic work at the city's St. Joseph's Central Catholic High and that school has a course that prepares students for the SAT. Fulford said six of Macon's classes are core GPA classes and Macon will probably take one more summer course after he graduates, just in case.
"Sometimes kids just aren't good test takers, so it's our job to get that 2.0 up a little higher in case he does score a little lower on the test," Fulford said. "Sometimes those tests put a lot of pressure on kids."
For now, though, Macon, Indiana shooting guard Eron Harris and North Carolina shooting guard Terry Henderson are all expected to sign and send their letters of intent to WVU today.
The 6-foot-3 Harris is a senior at North Lawrence High, the same school that produced former Ohio State and NBA stars Mike Conley, Jr., and Greg Oden, as well as former North Carolina and NBA center Eric Montross.
Harris considered Dayton, Evansville (Ind.) and Loyola-Chicago. North Lawrence was 11-11 during his junior season and made it to the sectional semifinal in Class 4A. Harris averaged 14 points per game.
Henderson, a 6-5 senior at Raleigh's Neuse Christian Academy, averaged 22 points and shot 47 percent from 3-point range as a junior. He's played varsity ball since eighth grade and has more than 2,300 career points. Neuse Christian Academy has won three North Carolina Christian School Association 3A state championships.
The guards fit WVU needs in the backcourt as Macon does in the frontcourt. WVU loses guard Truck Bryant and forward Kevin Jones to graduation.
Fulford said Macon can run the court and finishes in transition, but also passes well for a forward and can step back and shoot.
Fulford coached WVU forward Deniz Kilicli when Fulford was the coach at Mountain State Academy. He runs a motion offense the Mountaineers use and said Kilicli needed to learn how to play in the system. Macon is learning the same lessons now.
"There are similarities," Fulford said. "When I had Deniz, he was a lot more athletic because they've bulked him up quite a bit. He got in the weight room and that took away some of his athletic ability.
"I think Elijah is different. He's a little more fleet of foot and a little more athletic and quicker than Deniz was. I don't think the added weight will affect Elijah as much as it has Deniz."