Artis leads strong opening Campaign on the court

Published 5:54 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2024

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Camp Community College’s men’s basketball team had an outstanding inaugural season that was capped by a trio of notable individual honors, led by freshman combo guard Keimari Artis being named the 2023-24 NJCAA Division III Region 10 Player of the Year.

Hurricanes freshman forward/center James Barlow made the All-Region 10 First Team, and freshman combo guard Bobby Johnson made the second team.

Artis, Barlow and Johnson helped lead Camp to a 17-5 overall record, including an 8-2 record in Region 10 during the regular season.

Evaluating the opening season for Camp’s men’s basketball program, Hurricanes Head Coach Franklin Chatman said, “It actually went really, really well. We had success early on, and the kids actually bought into our whole system, offensively and defensively, and also academically. We had kids to come in to perform well in the classroom and on the basketball court. So they actually bought into our defensive principles, and they were really connected to what our goals were for the year.”

The coach outlined some highlights from the season, leading off by mentioning how Camp played against Sandhills Community College, a premier program at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III level. The Hurricanes fell 114-107 on the road against Sandhills on Nov. 18 but then defeated SCC 72-71 in a Jan. 6 home game.

“Sandhills Community College was the national runner-up last year, and they were the national champs the year before,” Chatman said. “And so for us to split with them this year was really a highlight — that was a great highlight for us.”

Another highlight he mentioned was how Camp started the season, going up to Richard Bland College, a Division I national junior college program, and beating the Statesmen 66-62 on their floor.

“And then we won 10 games in a row in 2024,” Chatman said. “The first loss that we had was in the regional tournament in the semifinals, so to win 10 games in a row was huge for us.”

He also noted that the Hurricanes were ranked as high as No. 11 in the country this season at the NJCAA Division III level, which included 92 teams.

Chatman took a lead role in recruiting Camp’s first-ever men’s basketball team.

“Knowing that this area is a hotbed for basketball players, I kind of identified some kids that I thought could really connect with what we were doing, so I spent a lot of time recruiting kids this year, along with one of my assistant coaches, Zach Johnson,” he said, referring to a King’s Fork High School alum who was one of Chatman’s players when he coached at The Apprentice School. “We beat a lot of bushes, we talked with a lot of people, and we just tried to get the right kids, because having the right kids makes a difference, because not only do you have to play basketball, you have to be a responsible young adult, and that’s what we look for.”

Leading the Hurricanes on the court during the 2023-24 season was Artis, who is a graduate of Lakeland High School in Suffolk.

He was the leading scorer in the region,” Chatman said.

Though stats were not available for Camp’s 22nd/final game of the season, through 21 games, Artis averaged 23.1 points per game, ranking sixth in the nation at the NJCAA Division III level.

In 10 Region 10 games, he averaged 26 points per game, helping lead to his honor as the regional Player of the Year, an award that Chatman saw coming.

“To be honest with you, I wasn’t surprised at all because the kid really played well this year,” Chatman said. “He actually had, I believe, five games where he scored 35 points or more. He’s a three-level scorer, he can really score the ball really well, so I’m just excited that other schools recognized that he was the best player.”

The regional accolades were determined by the votes of coaches from other teams in the region. Coaches could not vote for their own players.

Across 21 games, Artis shot 38% from three-point range, and he also averaged 4.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

“I’m extremely blessed and honored to be named Player of the Year,” Artis said. “I would first like to thank God. I would also like to thank my coaches and teammates for believing in me and also putting me in position.”

Barlow made the all-region first team after averaging 13.8 points, 12.8 rebounds and 6.8 blocks per game across 21 games.

“So he averaged a double-double, and then he also led the nation in shot-blocking, which was huge,” Chatman said.

Also in 21 games, Johnson averaged 16.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game to make the all-region second team.

“Bobby was just consistent throughout the year,” Chatman said, noting that Johnson was second on the team in minutes played. “He played multiple positions for us, and he always guarded the toughest guy on the other team.”

There were also other players on the team that helped set the tone for the program even if they did not receive as much playing time. One of those players was freshman forward/center Jacob Myrick, who graduated from Lakeland.

“He didn’t play a lot, but his commitment to our program was second to none,” Chatman said. “The kid was at every practice, he was never late, and he was always respectful to his teammates and to his coaches.”

Chatman noted that everyone on the roster is eligible to return for next season, but one player definitely will not.

“The only one that we know definitely that’s going to be leaving is Barlow, because he’s actually going to have his associate degree, and he has schools that are interested in recruiting him,” the coach said. “Keimari Artis has an opportunity, because there’s a lot of schools interested in him transferring as well, but we still don’t know what his decision is going to be.”

Meanwhile, offseason work is underway for Chatman, as he is back on the recruiting trail, looking to make the team even better.

“We’re recruiting, because we have some holes we have to fill,” he said. “It didn’t feel good losing in the (NJCAA Division III Region 10 Tournament) semifinals. There’s some things that we have to get better at, so we’re working on that. We’ve given the kids off a month, and then we’ll start working again.”

The Hurricanes’ season ended Feb. 24 with a 64-62 loss to Patrick & Henry Community College in the regional semifinals. Chatman shared what he thought was the deciding factor that led to the outcome of that game.

“Probably our lack of locking in to possessions when we needed to,” he said. “It was a team that we had beat twice (in the regular season), and it’s hard to beat a team three times, and it came down to the last possession of the game, and as a coach, that’s all we can ever ask for — to be in the game. But that’s the way it works sometimes — sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and we’ve just got to learn from it.”