The Havelock High-to-University of South Carolina connection has reached trend status.
Michael Bowman in March committed to the Gamecocks and continued what Corey Robinson and Pharoh Cooper started by signing in 2010 and 2013, respectively.
The seeds of their decisions were planted in the early 1980s, when longtime USC assistant Brad Lawing was a coach at Havelock. Lawing later returned to the eastern North Carolina high school as a recruiter and coach with the Gamecocks.
“Brad had roots here, and he came down and started recruiting our kids and did a really good job,” Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said. “It’s taken off from there. South Carolina has done a great job recruiting our kids.”
Havelock High – about two hours southeast of Raleigh and five hours from Columbia – has seen its share of major college attention rise over the past decade.
When Bryant took over in 2008, the school had two or three college recruiters come by, he said. That number swelled to more than 30 in the spring of 2012 when Cooper was a rising senior and Class of 2014 running back Derrell Scott was gaining more attention.
“Havelock is not easy to get to,” Bryant said. “It’s right on the coast, and it takes a while. Besides us and New Bern, there really are not a lot of good football schools to pull talent from.”
Defensive line coach Deke Adams recruits the area now and has continued what Lawing started, Bryant said.
Havelock defensive lineman Kendal Vickers was a one-time USC pledge before signing with Tennessee in 2013. The Gamecocks also missed on Scott, who also chose the Volunteers.
USC landed wide receiver Michael Bowman’s pledge even as brother and Gamecock target Kyran Bowman picked North Carolina. The Gamecocks offered five-star Class of 2016 Havelock linebacker Keion Joyner, though that looks like an Auburn-LSU battle.
So where’s the talent tree growing in this coastal community for a school that’s gone 47-1 and won three straight Class 3A state championships?
Some of it comes from nearby Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Bryant said, but most it is homegrown talent.
“We’ve been very blessed to have an influx of talent the last couple of years,” he said. “The talent pool isn’t running dry when these guys graduate. Our junior varsity has been 30-0 the last three years. We look forward to having a chance to win several more state championships and continue to put guys in college like Michael and Kyran.”
South Carolina has had similar success signing prospects in recent years at Dillon and Goose Creek high schools in South Carolina, as well as Stephenson and McEachern, both outside of Atlanta.
Having the friendly faces of Robinson and Cooper already in Columbia were factors in Bowman’s comfort level with the Gamecocks, he said.
“It helps a lot because I know that no matter what, they’re going to push me harder than anyone else,” Bowman said.
Bryant cites the players’ work ethic in the offseason and weight room and the closeness of the team off the field as big reasons for the school’s football success.
“Our football family is close at Havelock,” he said. “That helps when kids go off to college. They know they have not just a teammate there, but they have a friend. That helps a lot in recruiting.”