GREENSBORO – Two outstanding senior Robeson County basketball players can play another game that represents their school – all on one big stage.
Lumberton’s Matt Locklear and St. Pauls’ TJ Eichelberger have each been selected for the East-West All-Star basketball game to be played on July 19 at Greensboro Coliseum.
“It’s a really great honor for me because I’ve never done this before,” said Locklear. “I know that on Saturday (before the game) I can go out and practice with real guys, D-1 people, and then play with them guys, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
“It’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity for everyone, at every level, 1A through 4A basketball,” said Lumberton coach Bryant Edwards. “If we just look at the list, the east team is really full. They have a lot of good players there, from D’Marco Dunn down, and having Matt selected as one of the ten from the East says a lot about the year he’s had. “
Locklear, a Pirates forward, averaged 14.4 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game in his senior season, leading Lumberton for the second straight year after the Pirates Co-State Championship in 2020 4A East Regional Finals The second round of the playoffs in its senior season is a big part of the reason Locklear was selected.
“Laneys coach Eric Davis is the head coach (for the East team), and when (Locklear) was up to 35 (points) and 20 (rebounds), (Davis) contacted me and said, ‘I have to get him on my team and help me to win this all-star game, ”said Edwards.
Eichelberger, a standout guard for the past four years, averaged 14.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game this season, leading the Bulldogs to a 40-1 record over the past two seasons. She is required to play collegially in Fayetteville State.
“It’s very big; I feel blessed,” said Eichelberger. “They picked me out of all of these girls in North Carolina, so I feel really blessed that I was chosen.”
She was also put on North Carolina’s roster for the Carolinas Classic, an all-star game between North Carolina and South Carolina seniors, but that game was not played due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This time around, she will have the experience of playing in an All-Star game for which she was selected.
“COVID took a lot of things away from this class by 2021 so I’m excited for all of these girls and men chosen to actually get out there and compete,” said Mike Moses, St. Pauls coach. “I think it’s different when you actually play in the game. They can be mentioned and named in something … but that’s the best part of playing in the game and going out there and having fun with your co-workers who made the game too. It’s a chance for them to go out and have a good time and create a lifelong memory. “
This chance is even sweeter for Eichelberger after the end of the Bulldogs season, as the team has to be quarantined before the second round of the state playoffs. Now she’s got one more chance to represent St. Pauls on a high school court.
“The game that should have been my last high school game, everyone knows how it went,” said Eichelberger. “So it’s like another chance – I’m not on my team, but it’s still considered high school. So, in a way, it’s another chance. “
Locklear also appreciates that the East-West game not only names rosters, but also plays a game in 2021 after the events of last year.
“It’s really a blessing to really play this year because I know they didn’t make it last year but this year they do,” said Locklear. “I am thankful for.”
Locklear, who will be reclassified to the Class of 2022 for college recruitment purposes and will play for the Flight 22 post-grade team for the next year, recognizes the chance that playing on a big stage like the East-West Game is bidding ahead of its recruitment for the 2022-23 season.
“Yeah, it could be a big deal if someone notices me at this east-west all-star game. I’ll do this after graduation and get an extra year and stuff,” said Locklear. “It could play a really big role in my recruiting process.”
For both Locklear and Eichelberger, the selection is the highlight and reward after years of hard work.
“I think it’s definitely a testament to your hard work,” said Moses. “TJ worked for four years and people noticed what she was doing. I’ve been blessed to be in the front row to see it every day. They just want to see kids like that win, period. She won in the classroom, which isn’t much talked about, and she won on the pitch – and I’ve seen her game grow. I know that she is one of those colleagues who are in this game. “
The pair will become the first Robeson County player to play in the east-west game since Lumberton’s London Thompson in 2018.
In addition to Locklear, the East team also includes Dalyan Askew from Hertford County, Dalyan Berry from Panther Creek, Bennie Brooks from East Carteret, D’Marco Dunn from Westover, Bradlee Haskell from Pinecrest, Leontae Kornegay-Moye from Farmville Central, Kenny Noland from Apex Friendship and Terquavion Smith from Farmex Central and Lucas Taylor from Heritage. Davis and Riverside-Martins Bobby Williams coach the east team.
The East Girls team consists of Eichelberger, Clintons Isa Banks, Janiya Foskey from Farmville Central, Morgan Graham from Southeast Raleigh, Ashara Hayes from Jack Britt, Montasia Jones from Pine Forest, Virginia Grace McAllister from Swansboro, Shaylin Polluck from Southwest Onslow, Diamond Thomas of Southwest Onslow and Meredith Wooten of Princeton. The girls’ team in the east is trained by Donald Mooring from South Lenoir and Andrew Gurley from Croatia.