WHEELERSBURG — As it turns out, Carter McCorkle’s third official college visit made him realize that Marietta College was indeed the perfect match.
And, as a result, McCorkle made it official recently with his signing ceremony, as the six-foot five-inch Wheelersburg High School standout announced his intention to play college basketball for the NCAA’s Division III Pioneers.
McCorkle, at his signing, was flanked by his parents Matthew and Jamie McCorkle; Wheelersburg High School boys basketball head coach Steven Ater; and several friends and Pirate teammates.
McCorkle joins the Pioneer program —which competes in the Ohio Athletic Conference and is coached by 14-year mentor Jon VanderWal, who has amounted 255 victories in his first 13 campaigns.
VanderWal became the all-time winningest coach in program history during the 2018-19 season, as he has guided the Pioneers to six OAC regular-season championships, three OAC Tournament titles, and eight NCAA Division III Tournament appearances —including a pair of Elite Eights in 2014-15 and 2018-19.
McCorkle said his visit to Marietta made up his mind, and that he wanted to be part of the close-knit and disciplined philosophy which VanderWal instills.
“I had already been on two visits and I was supposed to go on a couple others, but my third visit which was Marietta, I just knew that Marietta was the place for me academically and athletically. The people there made me feel like it was home for me. I’ve grown to love the people and the place. After that visit, I just knew that was where I wanted to go,” said McCorkle. “Coach VanderWal’s teams are really close together and like family. That’s really close to what I want. When I met with the guys (current Pioneer players), they all made me feel like I was part of their system already. They’re all a unit that makes sure no one is left out. Coach VanderWal really likes to get the ball out and get things going, and I think we’ll fit together pretty well.”
McCorkle, who played primarily center for the Pirates but who could certainly step out and shoot the mid-range jump shot, may play more of the “three” guard for the Pioneers —as he showcased some of his elbow and free-throw line jumpers during this past season’s postseason tournament.
“Right now, they have a 6-9 center there, but I could definitely see my role being a wing, or a “3” or a “4”, or anything like that,” he said. “Whatever they want me to be. In the SOC, I felt like I was a pretty strong kid. But college shooting and college ball-handling and college physicality is a lot different than high school, and it’s all another level I have to get ready for.”
As a senior, he averaged 11 points and seven rebounds per game in the regular season, while also making 1.4 steals and blocking 1.1 shots.
He had similar numbers as a junior —in which he scored 9.7 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while collecting 1.5 steals and again blocking 1.1 shots per game.
He also shot 51-percent from the field.
A first-team all-Southern Ohio Conference Division II selection as a junior and senior, McCorkle captured Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior —and moved up from (Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association and District 14 Coaches Association) all-Southeast District Division III Honorable Mention last season to third team this year.
McCorkle played sparingly on the varsity as a sophomore, but has been regarded as one of the top three in the Pirates’ regular rotation the past two campaigns.
He has been part of three consecutive SOC II outright championships — along with three Division III district championships in four years.
He was also a four-year letterman in soccer, and was an integral defensive piece as part of the Pirates’ regional championship squad.
“I loved soccer since I was a little kid, but basketball is my passion. The state semis in soccer this year was an experience I’ll never forget, and to help my good friend Aaron Jolly show out and to watch him break school records this year was incredible,” said McCorkle. “A historic experience for sure.”
And, one in basketball as well.
As a freshman with Wheelersburg, McCorkle practiced against the likes of 6-6 standout Tanner Holden, who went on to become the Division III Southeast District Player of the Year and a Wright State signee.
McCorkle said those experiences only excelled his game over two years.
“I can remember practicing with Tanner at the varsity level, which was unique. Even as a freshman to my sophomore year, he was very difficult to go against every day and he is a Division I player. But I felt like that really helped me grow as a player,” he said. “As a junior and senior, instead of working on the growth, I’ve really gotten to show what I’ve become.”
Ater alluded to that growth, going clear back to junior high.
“His growth has been tremendous as a player and as an individual,” said the coach. “You could see flashes then of what he is now. He still has a lot of growing left to do as a player, and he is in a great place to do that at Marietta. He gave us a long and athletic post defender, and has given us his ability to do so many different things. He can be just a tremendous and devastating rebounder for you, but his offensive game has really grown and blossomed. I’m so proud of the work he has put in. You can see the way his body has transformed and he just lives in the weight room. He is always putting time into his game and into his body. It shows off with the chance to play college basketball. He has earned every opportunity that has come his way.”
Indeed, McCorkle has become one of the best players in the area, who — despite being 6-foot-5 — can play at an up-and-down pace.
“Both Coach (Steven) Ater and Coach (Jon) VanderWal like the transition game and to run teams to death. Make sure you outwork the other teams with hustle plays or defensive steals and just get easy buckets on the offensive end,” he said.
McCorkle said he plans to major in physical therapy, and explained that “Marietta is the next step to learn some more and become that player I want to be.”
Without a doubt, McCorkle and Marietta College appear to be the perfect match.
“Marietta is a fantastic program, both academically and athletically,” said Ater. “He will do really well there.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved