Winthrop University is no Duke or North Carolina, but in the world of college basketball people in-the-know realize what Winthrop has accomplished big things on the court in recent years.
With hot young coach Greg Marshall at the helm, the Eagles have won four straight Big South Conference crowns and advanced to the NCAA tournament the past four seasons.
That's pretty heady stuff for a relatively small program located in Rock Hill, S.C.
Former Evans High School standout Roger Toxey played on three of those title teams, and the top Winthrop player this season is Tyrone Walker, who played prep ball at North Augusta.
Well, Coach Marshall has been recruiting the local area again, and guess who he's after - a Columbia County star named Marshall.
Greenbrier High School senior Eric Marshall burst on the scene last December with the Wolfpack, and he continued to attract attention on the summer circuit.
However, a recruiting ploy by Winthrop may have backfired.
A few weeks ago, Coach Marshall, who had been pursuing Eric quite vigorously, gave the 6-foot-3 Greenbrier guard an ultimatum - he basically said that Winthrop needed an early signee (during the November signing period) at guard, and was interested in two players.
Coach Marshall added that the other player was ready to sign, and if Eric wanted to play at Winthrop, a decision had to be made.
In the cut-throat business of college recruiting, this is not an uncommon practice.
And, from everything I know, Coach Marshall is a class act.
Still, this pressure ploy was quite obvious - Winthrop wanted to lock Eric in before he stepped on the floor with the Pack for the 2002-03 campaign.
Although Marshall is still an unknown to some recruiters, the more he plays, the more his stock will rise.
I'm not saying Kansas, Duke or North Carolina will be beating down his door, but I do think he has the talent to play in the ACC or SEC, depending on the program.
All things considered, Eric Marshall has made the right decision.
It probably wasn't easy to say thanks, but no thanks, to a guy offering him a free education and a chance to play right away, but it did show some real maturity on his part.
When everything is said and done, this high school senior will have a number of offers to choose from, and don't be surprised if he's playing hoops for a major college program next year.
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