Shaded by the warm darkness of the Clinton High School auditorium on Monday’s beautiful spring afternoon, Jeremiah Pope signed a commitment to Fayetteville State University. The signing itself was a unique one: his signature crossed the page as he was surrounded by three generations in his grandparents, parents, and even his baby brother, Joel Carter, looking on with proud grins.
It’s an accomplishment a long time in the making, and a legacy still being carved. Pope’s stellar record and sportsmanship has earned him a spot playing in the exclusive North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game. He’s among 20 young men statewide selected for the honor.
Coach Randy Jordan also spoke to the team Pope has helped craft.
“School record for most wins, fewest losses, 25 wins in a row,” he nodded, looking on at Pope. “He was part of a special group. I’m really proud of them all, and I will miss all our seniors.”
As for Pope’s personal records on the team, he’s gone above and beyond.
“He’s 84-24 his entire high school career, which is incredible,” remarked Jordan, glowingly. “It’s phenomenal. That’s a phenomenal record. Three conference championships, three conference tournament championships, third round of the states. You can’t ask any more than what this young man has done for this program.”
Pope’s determination and evolution as a basketball player is shaped not just by his passion for basketball, but also his family and faith community. During the signing, his father Carlos Pope spoke briefly on Jeremiah’s path as a Christian athlete while holding up a second sheet of paper beyond just FSU’s well-earned contract: a printed verse, Jeremiah 29:11.
“This isn’t just his name, of course,” said Pope’s proud father, chuckling softly as he held up the verse for the cameras. “God has a plan for Jeremiah. To not come to harm, to prosper.”
Prospering he is.
Pope spoke lovingly on the support of what Adrian Carter, Jeremiah’s mother, called his church family at Clinton’s Mount Pleasant Baptist Ministries, and how their guidance from a young age alongside his close-knit kin put him on his path to success. Pope fondly talked about his aunt Phyllis and uncle Tim, who is currently deployed to Kuwait, and how his family’s support has made him more able to be himself.
“They always reach out, call us up. We do the same for them,” said Pope. “I get a lot of myself from them.”
Pope’s dedication to interpersonal bonds and teamwork are reflected in the closeness between he and his team, as well as his tightly-knit relationship with Coach Jordan himself. “He’s always welcome in my home. I love this guy, and I look forward to seeing him play in Fayetteville.”
As for his collegiate plans, Pope is planning on entering marketing and sports management.
“I want to manage myself, but definitely something in marketing or business.” Wherever this takes him, however, mother Adrian couldn’t be more proud.
“If he goes on to play professional? That would be great. If he goes for the degree, that’s great,” she remarked. “I’m proud of him.”
For now, however, he’s going to be hitting the court. His next official game will be NCCA’s East-West All-Star game on July 17 at Greensboro Coliseum, where he’ll face off against other outstanding basketball players in North Carolina. From there? The bright lights in Fayetteville State’s Capel Arena just next door in Cumberland County — cheered on by the vast cast of players in a legacy Pope is still leaving behind.
Reach Sports Editor Daron Barefoot at firstname.lastname@example.org.