By JoAnn Mitchell Brasington ’89
Ask any player, coach, manager or fan of the 2018-19 men’s basketball team about #snacktime and see what happens. Everyone smiles. Everyone.
The entire season gave the Wofford community ample reason to smile, cheer, hold viewing parties and travel with the team to some of the best basketball venues in the country — Lawrence, Kansas; Norman, Oklahoma; Starkville, Mississippi.
The team went 21-0 in the Southern Conference and 30-5 on the season, ranking as high as #19 in the nation and earning a #7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Fletcher Magee ’19 broke the NCAA 3-point scoring record and was named both Lou Henson Player of the Year and Player of the Year in the Southern Conference. He and Cam Jackson ’19, who enjoyed success in the Dark Horse Dunker competition, were selected to compete in the NCAA Tournament’s 3-on-3 Tournament in the Mall of America.
If it were possible, his team would have thought hard about pushing the rewind button, or at least the pause button, but that’s not how college basketball — or life, for that matter — works. And success means opportunity. Mike Young, who coached the Terriers for 30 years, accepted the head coaching position at Virginia Tech, and assistant coach and rising star Kevin Giltner ’12 went with him. Jackson and Magee have agents and will be playing professional basketball next season. Matt Pegram ’19 is ready for a change of pace and has accepted a position with Stryker in Spartanburg. Keve Aluma entered the transfer portal and will be playing for Virginia Tech next season.
Every loss means opportunity at Wofford as well. Jay McAuley, who served the Terriers as associate head coach during the season, jumped at the opportunity to build on the Wofford basketball tradition as the new head coach, and players who made an impact last season are already working to fill positions and lead the Terriers to another championship, because that’s now the expectation for Wofford basketball.
When Fletcher Magee ’19 was about 8 years old, his grandfather took him to play golf for the first time (yes, we’re starting the NCAA’s 3-point field goal record-holder’s story with golf).
He shot 89 on 18 holes. It was his first time on a course.
"I was better than I thought I would be, and it was fun," he says. Football, baseball, basketball, golf — Magee was naturally good at all of them, and they were fun.
Magee competed in the U.S. Kids Golf Tour World Championship at Pinehurst but dropped competitive golf in middle school because it conflicted with other sports.
"I didn’t have the time to stay good, and golf is really frustrating when you don’t have time to devote to your game," he says.
Baseball fell by the wayside in the 9th grade, football in the 11th. Magee’s love of basketball won out, and after watching his success on the court, fans of the other sports will forever wonder "what if."
Wofford knew that Magee was destined to become a Terrier when coaches scouted and recruited him — and they recruited him hard.
"Wofford made me feel wanted, and I loved the coaches, the players and the culture," says the sociology and anthropology major from Orlando, Fla. The only sticking point was the Benjamin Johnson Arena, and even that Magee knew would soon be replaced by the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium.
Rumor has it that Magee practically sleep-walks to the gym at night to shoot. He grins and shakes his head at that.
"Some of it is that I love basketball and I want to get better. I have a certain number of shots I put up every single day, so sometimes I come in early in the morning, or I stop by at random times," he says. Magee even spends time off the court thinking about new shots to try.
He practices fadeaways to the right, to the left, backward and forward, always with game situations and results in mind.
"I practice all that different stuff because I don’t get a lot of slow open threes in a game. I practice the shots I’m going to shoot," he says.
March Madness extended through the spring for Magee. He worked out with four NBA teams after Wofford’s season ended. After graduation, he has workouts scheduled with a dozen more in an effort to find a good fit and get picked up either in the NBA draft or as an undrafted signee.
Magee looks back on the season and will tell anyone that this was definitely the most fun year of basketball he’s ever had.
"It was so special," he says. "We had a group of guys that did not become complacent with success. That was the key. It’s so easy to have a slipup, but we stayed hungry."
He has that same faith in next year’s team.
"We have so many good, young players, and Coach McAuley is a great coach who helped us a bunch both offensively and defensively during the season," says Magee. "It’s a different team, but they’re so dynamic."
Magee is ready for what’s next, but he says he’ll miss the easy relationships he’s built across campus. He’s completely committed to playing basketball professionally but plans to find time for a round of golf or two. Even without practice he maintains a 7 handicap, but he may be sandbagging. Most of us would pick him with a 3.
Cam Jackson ’19 has a lion tattooed on his shoulder. It’s intimidating on the court, especially considering it’s attached to a 6’8", 250-pound forward.
"The lion symbolizes strength, leadership, courage and family. They’re traits I value and aspects of life that are really important to me," explains Jackson, who has shown those traits through his actions as well as his ink.
The team will miss the Winchester, Va., native, but so will the college community, especially those in his major department of environmental studies. Jackson chose environmental studies in part because he grew up fishing and eating the fish in Virginia’s Shenandoah River.
"For a while, we couldn’t do that because of the high mercury content. It sparked an interest," he says.
Jackson also chose environmental studies because it offered lots of time in the field, something he says rejuvenates him. While he was injured during his sophomore year and unable to be active, he learned that writing poetry does the same. Still, nothing brings Jackson back to center like being on the court.
"Basketball calms me," he says. "There’s nothing like being in an empty gym when I’m stressed or in a weird spot. That time helps me work through stuff."
Jackson has signed with an agent, worked out with several teams, was invited to the Professional Basketball Combine and is considering his options.
"I don’t feel like I’m finished yet," he says. "There’s still nothing like preparing, then playing well in front of a big crowd, finding a way to win like we did against ETSU or Seton Hall. All the collective and individual work comes together, and it’s cool to see the results."
Although basketball has always been the plan, Jackson sees the sport as a vehicle, not a destination.
"It will take me to new places and allow me to experience life in new ways," he says. "I’m literally going to be paid to work out, take care of my body, do what I love and see the world."
Wofford has been an integral part of Jackson’s journey, thanks largely to his mom, Danielle Jackson.
According to Jackson, there were lots of little connections to Wofford, and his mom was big on the connections.
"My family has been great. They were always supportive of me. My mom, in particular, wanted me to think big picture. Now I see why," he says.
Part of that big picture was being surrounded by players and coaches who would become family.
"The camaraderie bred our success," he says. As an example, Jackson talks about how the team would play HORSE during shoot-arounds before practice or games. "They were little games you play as a kid and were fun, but they bred that competitive spirit. You’d shoot more after practice if you got your butt kicked in HORSE before."
When Matthew Pegram ’19 graduated from Wofford, he graduated from competitive basketball.
"I had opportunities to play in the future, but I’ve had five surgeries — one after every year," he says. At graduation, Pegram was still wearing a brace to keep his knee from bending as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He also sprained his ankle during the season and pushed rehab so he could play on senior night and during the postseason. "The constant injury and recovery cycle is a trend I don’t want to continue for the rest of my life. The road ended. I’m ready for something new."
Something new means working in medical sales. Pegram is personable, smart and enjoys watching surgeries. His job will involve being in the operating room and supporting surgeons as they implant medical devices.
"The high academics at Wofford definitely prepared me for something like this right after college," says Pegram, a business economics major from Charleston, S.C. "Wofford student-athletes don’t get a break from classes or assignments. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing in the NCAA Tournament or not, we still have to do what all the other students do."
Pegram had big shoes to fill when he came to Wofford. His uncle, Willie Pegram ’68, is in the Wofford College Athletics Hall of Fame, and his AAU and high school coaches, Antoine Saunders ’87 and David Eaton ’04, also played basketball at Wofford.
"They influenced my decision to come to Wofford, but I also came because of the winning culture," says Pegram. "Every four-year class has been a champion."
According to Pegram, this team was special — from the practices to the road trips to the camaraderie on and off the court.
"This is the most connected team we’ve had since I’ve been here," says Pegram, who promises to be "at every game going nuts" in the Wofford fan section next season. "I’m leaving, but I’m taking with me friendships and relationships that I’ll have for the rest of my life."
Jay McAuley’s first month on the job as Wofford head men’s basketball coach involved three and a half weeks in a car recruiting.
"It’s the lifeblood of the program and something I like to do," says McAuley. After the NCAA Tournament and the college’s first tournament win against Seton Hall, Wofford’s name was familiar coast to coast. "We were the second and 10th most-watched games in the NCAA Tournament. That helps us recruit nationally for a nationally ranked program."
McAuley says he and his new assistants will recruit year-round, and that Wofford’s academic reputation, athletics facilities and beautiful grounds make it easy.
"We’re about graduating student-athletes and hanging banners." According to McAuley, the families of recruits understand what a college like Wofford can do for their students. "Wofford is a 40-year decision, not just a four-year decision. A place like Wofford makes an impact."
Wofford made an impact on McAuley when he was hired right out of graduate school by former head coach Mike Young, now head coach of Virginia Tech. After learning from Young, McAuley took positions with Gardner-Webb and Furman universities. Two seasons ago when Young called and asked McAuley to come back, he didn’t think twice.
"Spartanburg is a great college town and a thriving community ideal for raising a family, and Wofford represents everything I want to be part of — high-level academics and athletics," says McAuley. "When I made calls to my new assistants asking if they wanted to join our team, they came like that." He snaps his fingers.
Sallie, McAuley’s wife, and Addie, their daughter, are also part of the team.
"Sallie gets that my job is crazy at times. There is no normalcy of hours," say McAuley, who jokes — sort of — that date nights are spent eating concessions and watching recruits during high school and AAU basketball games. "She and Addie are up here whenever possible, and I invite the team to our house. I want our guys to be around families, to know that they’re part of our families, and we’re going to take care of them like they’re family."
This past season when McAuley was associate head coach, Sallie made player flash cards so 3-year-old Addie could learn the names and faces of the players. She says they offered the added benefit of helping her and the families of other coaches learn more about the players as well.
"It’s a family affair. It takes a whole lot of commitment on his part, which translates into commitment from our family," she says. "We love Wofford and Spartanburg, and it’s a joy to be back here. … and imagine how nice it would be if everyone stood up and cheered and clapped for their spouse while they were working."
Sallie and Addie bring supper to the office on late nights, and they enjoy coming to football, baseball, women’s basketball and volleyball games as well.
McAuley played four seasons of basketball at the University of Georgia and was on the 2008 team that won the SEC Tournament. He’s played in some of the best basketball venues in the country and says that nothing beats playing in the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium and coaching at Wofford.
"I’m just honored to be in this position," says McAuley. His office is still sparse, but he says he’s been too busy continuing Wofford’s championship tradition to fill the walls.
"We still have guys who played a lot, and others that played less, but they saw the blueprint," explains McAuley. "We have an expectation and a culture that’s used to winning, and that means preparing the next class and the next team."
The ever-popular basketball camps will continue under McAuley’s leadership, as will a commitment to work ethic, camaraderie and, of course, #snacktime.
"We recognize that this is a serious deal, but you gotta have fun doing it," says McAuley. "Stopping at a gas station to celebrate a win with snacks is an easy way to show our guys that we appreciate their effort. Now if we win at home, we’re giving snacks to our fans. It’s a thing!"
McAuley says that Wofford basketball is special. It’s special because of the college community, the fans, the families and, most of all, the student-athletes.
"These guys aren’t out there beating their chests. They share the ball and defend as a team. They’re normal students who are part of the campus community, and they take pride in wearing a Wofford jersey," says McAuley. "That’s the reason people drive or fly all over the country. They want to be a part of what we have here at Wofford."
The New Leaders
Tray Hollowell ’21 is ready to lead.
"Fletcher led by his work ethic. He was always in the gym," says Hollowell, an English major and guard from Hopkinsville, Ky. "Cam and Pegs were vocal leaders. We listened to them in huddles."
Hollowell explains that he will take the lessons he learned from the championship team’s three graduated seniors and adapt them to fit his style and the needs of next year’s team.
"I’m looking forward to making a real impact next season," he says. "I’m going to work hard to be an example for the younger guys."
According to Hollowell, that also means staying on top of academics, even during the excitement of the NCAA Tournament.
"I do a lot of homework," he says. "The coaches stress academics, and we always have study halls when we’re on the road."
Hollowell will spend the summer helping with basketball camps, working out with his team and taking classes so the fall and spring are not as hectic … because that’s what leaders do.
Nathan Hoover ’20 belongs to a family whose mantra is: "If you’re going to do something, do it with everything you’ve got."
That’s not a surprise to anyone who’s ever watched Hoover play basketball.
"I show my emotions on the court," says Hoover, a business economic major from Memphis, Tenn. "I can’t always control making shots, but I can always play with a lot of energy."
Hoover wants another championship. Bad.
"We have a new head coach who we have the utmost trust in, and we know it’s going to take a whole lot of work, just like this year," he says.
Hoover will spend most of the summer at home in Memphis working out with a strength coach and his trainer, a former NBA player and development coach. Hoover wants to be ready for his senior season, the competition and the fans who supported the team all year.
"Wofford’s fans made the SoCon Championship seem like a home game," he says. "That support, it made a difference this year."
And it will next year as well.
Storm Murphy ’21, Wofford’s starting point guard, loves the pace and the reliance on team in basketball.
"It takes five guys on the court, plus the guys on the bench and the coach, plus the fans, plus our families. It takes all of us to have an exciting and fun basketball team," says Murphy, a finance major from Middleton, Wis.
Murphy is probably the most outgoing member of the team. He’s a leader on the college’s Orientation Staff, and he’s involved in Campus Outreach, a ministry that places college mentors in local high schools. He goes to Greece this summer through Campus Outreach, then he’ll be back on campus preparing to welcome the Wofford Class of 2023. He’ll also be working out and preparing for the 2019-20 basketball season.
"I’m excited to see our schedule, and I’m excited to be a junior because I know how Coach McAuley likes to coach and who he is; it gives us a lot of confidence," says Murphy. "The energy hasn’t gone down at all."
"We realized that we were not just participants; we were winners."
That’s how Donovan Theme-Love ’20, an accounting major from Providence, R.I., who plays guard for the Terriers, describes the reality of experiencing his childhood dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament come true.
"It’s still unbelievable," he says.
Theme-Love has been plagued with injuries since high school and at the end of the semester was in an orthopedic boot following surgery.
"I’m looking forward to being healthy for the first time and giving more to my team," he says. "We’re going to write our own story."
Theme-Love helped write the team’s #snacktime story. During the 2017-18 season, he picked up a quart of oil for the #snacktime selfie. It added a new level of goofy that the whole team embraced.
"I’ll take credit for that," he says about starting the trend, "but we always put the crazy stuff back and got what we really want."
In Theme-Love’s case, that could be just about anything, but SweetTarts are a favorite.
SHOOTING LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE
Wofford College Director of Athletics Richard Johnson calls the 2018-19 men’s basketball season "lightning in a bottle."
"We captured something powerful and elusive and were able to hold it up to the rest of the world," says Johnson. "That’s what it was. And it was pretty special."
The Terriers enjoyed their most successful season ever, winning a record 30 games on the way to the college’s first NCAA Tournament win in its history.
"Our men’s basketball team set new program marks for regular-season wins (26), consecutive wins (21) and wins against Southern Conference opponents in a single season (21)," says Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations Brent Williamson. "Wofford was also the first team since Davidson in 2007-08 to run the table in the SoCon regular season, going 18-0 before sweeping the conference tournament to claim its fifth NCAA Tournament bid in the past 10 seasons."
What does this incredible journey mean to the college as a whole?
Ask the nearly 5 billion people across the globe who were exposed to the Wofford College name and brand during the team’s road to the tournament. According to media monitoring service Meltwater, the college also received over 3,500 media hits from February to March 2019, with a total advertising value of nearly $50 million. From India to Namibia, Poland to Taiwan, the story of the mighty Terriers reached — and touched — the hearts of underdogs worldwide.
Wofford fans and friends alike got in on the action, including Craig Melvin ’01 and Wendi Nix ’96, who helped encourage and support the Terriers across the airwaves, sometimes to the annoyance of their colleagues. "There were definitely moments where people ran from me in the hallway, hoping to avoid my constant stream of reasons why they should talk about Wofford on the air," says Nix. "Before long, though, it seemed like all of ESPN was on board and suddenly people were coming to me with questions. It was such a fun few weeks."