By Darryl E. Owens
Ahead of its entrance into the United States Collegiate Athletic Association this fall, the Beacon College basketball program is soaring to new “heights” with the recent signing of a Georgia high school star, the college’s first-ever sports recruit.
Men’s basketball coach Sam Vincent signed 6-foot-9 big man Caleb Whitlock, a combo power forward/center, who played for the Central High Lions in Carrollton, Georgia.
“I’m very honored to [get to] play ball with coach Sam Vincent, and I’m excited to help grow the basketball program at Beacon,” said Whitlock, who sees signing with Beacon as “an opportunity to continue to play basketball after high school and a great way to keep learning on and off the court.”
Whitlock is the product of a Central High School program that during his four years compiled a record that included 78 wins, three consecutive state playoffs, a Sweet 16 appearance and regional championship, a Hilburn Patterson Basketball Invitational Tournament championship while producing nine collegiate players and team GPA of 3.68.
Yet, Vincent, a former NBA star and coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, said Whitlock wasn’t on the Amateur Athletic Union radar – a prime pipeline for basketballers into college sports and the NBA. Timing played a role in Beacon landing Whitlock. His high school coach, Kenny Edwards, contacted Vincent after receiving an email about an upcoming Beacon webinar.
Vincent said Edwards described Whitlock as “‘a kid who would potentially fit into the model of what you’re trying to do at Beacon.’ He is the kind of ideal prospect we’re looking for: someone who wants to play the sport, who has been playing at a high school or junior high level, has a bit of a learning challenge and needs to have that extra care on the academic side, but also wants to pursue it on the sports side,” Vincent said. “So, he [was] someone that was obviously a perfect fit for Beacon College.”
Edwards also shared the email with Whitlock’s parents. They recognized the opportunity that Beacon — America’s first accredited baccalaureate institution dedicated to educating neurodivergent students with learning and attention issues — presented their son.
Indeed, a recent study, “I Know I Can Learn: The Perceptions of NCAA Division I Football College Athletes with Learning Disabilities” in the “Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics,” found that “while 11% of all college students are reported to have a learning disability that percentage may be considerably higher when looking at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I college athletes. (One researcher) reported as many as 54% of athletes on three revenue-producing teams at one institution had documented learning disabilities.”
Against that backdrop, “[I thought] this is an amazing opportunity for Caleb to get to play for coach Vincent, improve his basketball skills, and get the support he needs in the classroom to grow academically and pursue his business degree,” said Kelli Whitlock, his mother. “Caleb is incredibly smart, but he struggles with attention in the classroom.”
During his senior season, Whitlock averaged 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and three blocks per game.
Vincent said he brings size and much more to Beacon’s maturing squad.
“He’s a kid that is motivated to play basketball — he wants to play, so he’s working out now, and he’ll be working out all the way until he gets here. But more importantly he’s the profile we can go after going forward: the competitive kid who wants to see how far the sport can take him. Someone that comes in here with a little bit of a competitive edge, who wants to win, who wants to play at a higher level. He’ll attract more likeminded LD students. I’m excited to get him into the program because he’ll add to the team next year, but also help how we build and add more players to the team.”
Whitlock, the student-athlete, is also eager to lace ‘em up and get on the hardwood – and into the classroom.
“I am excited about getting my business degree and continuing to grow on the basketball court,” he said.