Former Orange guard McMullin named Region X MVP as Sandhills Community College wins conference championship

Updated: February 21, 2022

Life moves fast.

Just ask Joey McMullin.

In 2016, he had been a high school student for only three months before he found himself, much to his surprise, playing extensive minutes as a freshman for Orange’s varsity basketball team.

After graduation, McMullin was isolated and mired in a northeast winter. He was barely playing at Division III Bryn Athyn College, a liberal arts college in Philadelphia.

A year later, he’s closer to home with his basketball prospects blindingly bright.

On Friday, McMullin was named the Region 10 Player of the Year for Sandhills Community College after the Flyers held off Central Carolina Community College 110-103 in overtime in the Region X Tournament Championship Game in Pinehurst. It was McMullin’s first championship of any kind since his freshman year at Orange, when the Panthers won the Big 8 Regular Season title.

The Flyers found themselves climbing out of deep holes throughout the tournament. In the semifinals, they trailed Lancaster Community College by eleven points in the second half. In the championship game, they trailed the Cougars by 13. McMullin scored 18 points against CCCC to spark a comeback.

In 32 games this season, McMullin averaged 14.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. The Flyers, who have won 15 of its last 16 games, are 25-7 overall, 11-1 in Region X.

The Flyers will face Region 20 Tournament Champion Prince George Community College in Largo, MD on Saturday. The winner will advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Tournament.

“It is a big game,” McMullin said. “But I’m ready for the national championship.”

In addition to being named to the All-Region team, McMullin was also named Co-Region 10 Freshman of the Year with Sandhill’s Bryan Quiller.

“Coming into this year, I didn’t think I was going to be player of the year,” McMullin said on Saturday. “We had a lot of returners so it was a shock to me when I got it.”

After the championship ceremony in front of a packed gym, McMullin immediately called his old high school coach, Greg Motley, to inform him of the news. Motley, now the head coach at Southern Durham High School, had just won the Northern Lakes Conference Tournament Championship on Friday night with a 76-74 victory over Carrboro in Stem.

“I am proud of him,” Motley said. “I’m proud of how he has continued to pursue his dream of getting an education and playing basketball. He is a great example of what hard work and determination looks like. I’m excited to see what the future holds for him.”

It was a dramatic rise to prominence after a demoralizing year in Philadelphia. McMullin found himself at Bryn Athyn because he felt it was his only path to college basketball at the time. Early on, the pandemic led to an inconsistent schedule. When the games did take place, it was always in empty gyms and McMullin was usually on the bench.

“Philadelphia really humbled me,” McMullin said. “I wasn’t playing any and I was just mad at myself. I was really close with two of my teammates there, but being a kid from the country area I missed by family and friends.

After just a few months, McMullin decided to transfer to Sandhills. Along the way, he decided to work out every day, something he really couldn’t do in Philadelphia gyms due to COVID.

“The first time I visited Sandhills, they treated me like family,” McMullin said. “They really care for you on and off the court, which is huge to me. I’m not really a kid to flaunt my accolades and post highlights on my social media. I enjoy doing work when nobody is looking. Coach Motley really instilled that in me as soon as he started coaching me.”

In fact, it was Motley who delivered McMullin the first big surprise of his basketball career. When he started at Orange in October 2016, McMullin figured he would be on the junior varsity squad. What he didn’t know was that Motley needed some bodies immediately for the Panthers’ opening games against Leesville Road and Rolesville at Millbrook High School in Raleigh. Some key role players, like Ryan Sellers, Eli Haitchock, Kendell Whitted and Morgan Paschall, were still in the midst of a deep playoff run with the football team. Thus, McMullin found himself playing varsity ball, often starting, as a freshman alongside All-Big 8 Conference selections Connor Crabtree and Logan Vosburg. In the first game of his career against Leesville Road, McMullin scored ten points.

He never saw a minute of JV ball.

McMullin would be a freshman starter on an Orange team that would win the Big 8 regular season championship, sweep the regular season series from rival Southern Durham, win the Eastern Guilford Holiday Hoops Championship (beating Eastern Guilford on its own floor in Gibsonville for the title), and advanced to the state quarterfinals of the 3A State Playoffs.

McMullin would conclude his Orange career in February 2020 with over 1,000 points. As fate would have it, as McMullin was about to earn the biggest accolade of his basketball career last week, the 1,000 point club at Orange got a new member.

Jerec Thompson, who played alongside McMullin for two years at Orange, earned his 1,000th point at Western Alamance last Monday in the opening round of the Central Carolina Conference Tournament. Thompson could wind up playing against McMullin next season in a junior college somewhere.
“I wasn’t really surprised by that,” McMullin said of Thompson. “He works really hard. Hard work pays off in the long run.”

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