The road has been a long, sometimes difficult, one. But Jamal Wheeler’s recruiting path now has a destination.

The Polk County senior has decided to play basketball next season at Catawba Valley Community College, joining a Red Hawks program coming off a 23-9 season.

“It’s been a long journey,” Wheeler said.

The Western Highlands Conference player of the year in basketball and WHC athlete of the year in football, Wheeler had interest from recruiters in both sports. But as his senior season progressed, Wheeler found his attention turning more toward the basketball court.

Wheeler averaged 21.7 points per game and earned all-Western North Carolina honors from the Asheville Citizen-Times. He was named to the Blue-White All-Star Game and wowed the crowd there with an assortment of dunks and 3-pointers.

“I thought about it a long time,” Wheeler said. “College is a job for any sport, and if you don’t love it, there’s no need to do it, no need to let your teammates down.

“I like the way (CVCC) helps take care of academics and make sure you stick to your schedule. And I like the offense, definitely.”

Under veteran coach Bryan Garmroth, named the Region X coach of the year, CVCC averaged 81.1 points per game last season in reaching the Region X/District VI tournament championship. The Red Hawks must replace their top four scorers from last season.

Garmroth has won more than 200 games in a coaching career that includes head coaching stints at UNC Pembroke and Spartanburg Methodist. He has sent numerous players on to four-year colleges and a dozen to professional careers overseas.

“(Garmroth) told me that no one is promised playing time. You’ve got to earn it,” Wheeler said. “The people who give the best effort in the classroom and on the court earn their spot.

“I’m ready to go. He sent me workouts to start this weekend. I’ve got to start getting back in the gym. I’m getting fat.”

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