by RYAN SARDA
ASHLEY GARNER/The Sanford Herald Central - Central Carolina Community College will welcome eight new players to Join their basketball team recently. Pictured are slgnees (bottom from left) John Yon, Demetrius Dewar, Christian Clegg, Van Ellis Jr., Cameron smith, and (top from left) assistant coach Brian Hurd, head coach Doug Connor, assistant coach Joshua Mlze, and Athletic Director Mike Neal.
SANFORD -- With six signees headlining its 2010 recruiting class, the future for the Central Carolina men's basketball program seems exceptionally bright.
The Cougars are coming off a 16-15 season in which they were ranked for the first time and head coach Doug Connor is hoping that his six new players can come in and contribute right away to help his program excel in the NJCAA Division III Region 10 Conference.
"With the new players we have coming in and the group we have returning, we should be pretty good this year," said Connor. "We've got good things going on at Central Carolina and if we can get after it on the court and in the classroom, we'll be very good."
Highlighting the class are two players from Sanford. Southern Lee's Chris Clegg and former Lee Christian sharpshooter Cameron Smith will be a part of the Cougars' future.
Clegg will be reuniting with former Cavalier teammate Anthony Newby, who is a projected starter for the Cougars in the upcoming season. Clegg, who stands 6-foot-6, will see some time at the forward position.
"Chris Clegg got some great coaching from (Southern Lee coach) Gaston Collins," said Connor. "He was a part of a great program and we're excited about what he can bring to the table. He hasn't even reached his potential yet. He's one of the most improved players from high school that I've seen over one year."
Collins says that he is proud of his now-former Cavalier going on to play at the next level.
"If he continues to work on his game and his academics, his upside could be tremendous," said Collins. "I am very proud of what he has accomplished. He's deserved this."
Smith, who spent the past year at Sandhills Community College and did not play basketball, decided to transfer to Central Carolina to be a part of Connor's program. The 5-8 guard will likely see time at the shooting guard position for the Cougars.
"He's got an outstanding attitude," said Connor about Smith. "He's got a great jumper and has an incredible work ethic. He's going to be a good all-around player for us. We're excited to see what he can do for us. He's one of those guys you want on your team any day and I'm excited to have him."
Also signing with the Cougars was Martin Ngnog of Africa, who is transferring to Central Carolina from Wake Tech. Connor hopes that Ngnog, a 6-7 center, will be a force in the paint for the Cougars.
"He's going to have a massive inside presence for us," said Connor. "He's going to be a banger on the boards and will clog up the middle."
Connor also got 3-point specialist John Yon, Terrell Royster, former Green Hope player Van Ellis and Demetrius DeWar as part of his incoming signing class.
"We signed a great class," said Connor. "I really believe that this team is going to be good. If these guys can come in and learn our system and get used to playing with one another, we're definitely going to be good."
On Friday, Enloe's Dominique Williams will be signing his letter of intent to join the other five new Cougars on the court.
"He's going to be the real deal," said Connor on Williams. "I think he's going to come in and have an immediate impact with this program. He's a dunker, he can shoot the 3 and is explosive. He's special."
So what are these incoming freshmen getting themselves prepared for?
Connor says that once players sign on the dotted lines and make the commitment to play for the Cougars, his goal is to make them the best student-athletes he can because he'd like to see all of his players go on to a four-year university after they're done at Central Carolina.
"They are going to get good coaching that's going to be a disciplinarian," said Connor. "The goal of this program is to develop these kids to not only be the best players on the court but the best people off it."
After the first six games of the 2009-10 season, Connor coached the Cougars to a 5-1 record and earned the school's first Top-10 ranking in history in the NJCAA Division-III poll.
"We've got all the pieces to get back into the top 10, we've just all got to be on the same page," said Connor. "It's going to take discipline. Good teams have good discipline. We're going to have team rules and every player must abide by those team rules. In order for us to make the national tournament, which is our goal every year, we're going to have to be well-disciplined."
Connor's team played a tough schedule in 2009-10. The Cougars played several Division-I junior varsity programs and also played teams that were ranked in the top 10 in Division-II of the NJCAA. Still, Connor believes that playing tough competition makes his program better in the long run.
Returning starters for the Cougars will be captains Nick Spinks, Casey Boggs and Valente Battle. Also back for the Cougars will be Dejan Brown, who Connor believes is the most athletic player in the Region.
"I've been blessed with a great assistant in Brian Herd and cannot wait for Nov. 2 to get here," said Connor. "I really think this team has the potential to be special. We can win 20 or more games this year. We've just got to do the right things attitude-wise and discipline-wise."