Will Patterson hadn’t seen much time on the basketball court through his junior season at Christian Heritage School. But when Anthony Moseley was hired as the Lions’ head coach last summer, he saw something in Patterson.
Berry College sees something, too.
Patterson has accepted an offer to play for the Vikings. Because Berry, which is in Rome, is a NCAA Division III school, it cannot give athletic scholarships. However, Patterson will receive a partial academic scholarship to the Rome school.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 170-pound guard only wanted a chance to prove himself after playing a handful of varsity minutes through his first three high school seasons.
“I think he said he played in two games (as a junior),” said Moseley, whose belief was as big a reason as any Patterson became one of the biggest surprises in local boys basketball this past season.
Said Patterson, “I met him last year at the end of the season up at the Bradley Wellness Center. When he became coach, he knew how good I was from watching me up there. He had confidence in me.”
As a team, Christian Heritage struggled in its first season against Georgia High School Association competition after spending the previous five years in the Georgia Independent School Association. The Lions finished 8-14 overall and missed the GHSA’s Class A private school state playoffs.
But Patterson was a bright spot, leading the Lions in scoring as he averaged 17 points per game. He also averaged five rebounds and three assists on his way to making the All-Region 6-A team and earning honorable mention on The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Boys Basketball Team.
“I got a lot better, but I wasn’t bad. I was just overlooked,” Patterson said. “It motivated me to get better.”
Moseley, who was the head coach for Christian Heritage’s middle school team during the 2011-2012 season, said he often saw Patterson shooting at Bradley. That work ethic continued during his senior year.
“The first day of practice, the first day we did anything, Will was there,” Moseley said. “You hear it all the time, but if I had 20 like him — he’s the hardest-working kid I’ve ever seen. He’s got the purest shot around, but he still works on his shot every single day. He works on basketball every single day.”
When it came to finding a college, Patterson said location played a factor — he described his choice as “not too close and not too far from home” — and he also touted Berry’s academics. On the basketball court, Patterson’s work ethic will now be applied to helping the Vikings turn their program around.
Last season, Berry finished 5-21 overall and 2-12 in Southern Athletic Association play. Vikings head coach Jeff Harlow resigned in late January and Derek Taylor finished the season as interim head coach. Jeff Rogers, who spent the past four seasons as head coach at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky., took over at Berry in April.
Patterson believes changes at Berry could work in his favor.
“We’ll have a lot of new players coming in,” he said, “so I’ll get the opportunity to earn a spot.”
A roster for the upcoming season was not on the team’s website, but last year’s roster of 15 players included just two seniors.
For Patterson, making the transition to college basketball will require a little more weight and better defensive skills, Moseley said. But however hard Patterson has to work to earn playing time, Moseley is confident he’ll do so.
“I’ll use him as an example for many years to come,” Moseley said. “There have been many kids who had to sit on the bench and kept sitting on the bench and just gave up. Will never gave up. He went and worked and worked. Last year, we saw how hard work pays off. You’d think he’s on the bottom of the totem pole, and he’s not.
“He’ll have to work on his defense more. His shooting and ball handling is fine. ... But, like I said, he’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen.”