BASKETBALL: Ridgeland's McLin chooses Georgia Northwestern

Many high school recruits say they choose certain colleges and programs because of their family-like atmospheres.

Ridgeland's Xavier McLin might just be the perfect example.

The 6-foot-2 senior swingman and honor roll student is big on family and said it was one of the main reasons he chose to sign with the Georgia Northwestern Bobcats basketball program during a ceremony at Ridgeland on Tuesday.

McLin said his mother, Stephanie, encouraged him to stay focused on his goals.

"This is overwhelming," McLin said. "I never thought I'd be playing college basketball, but my mom told me just to keep my head on straight and keep praying about it, and she was right. It came true and I have her to thank for it."

McLin, an exceptional all-around athlete, averaged over 10 points a game for the Panthers in his senior season, and was one of the area's top sprinters on the track.

He said the personality of Bobcats coach David Stephenson was one of the main reasons he decided to sign.

"Coach Stephenson just showed the same characteristics that my parents have and that drew me to him and the school," he explained. "From his religious side to the caring, he just sees a lot of things that other coaches don't see in players."

Stephenson said he felt "very fortunate" to get McLin, and not just from a basketball standpoint.

"I was impressed with him from the very start, especially when he came into my office the first time dressed like he was going to church," said the veteran coach. "His parents were there as well, asking all the right questions.

"He's very focused on what he wants to do, and I think he's grateful that he gets to stay at home, close to his family, and play against some of the guys he's gone up against the last four years. We're looking to do some really good things with him."

Ridgeland head coach David Stoker said that McLin's best basketball is still ahead of him, and that GNTC was getting "a real steal."

"Midway through the season, we're late in a game that is essentially over, and there's Xavier running the court, hustling to block a shot," Stoker recalled. "Unfortunately, he got injured on the play and missed some games, but that's the kind of player he is. He never quits on a play. I'm excited for him and Georgia Northwestern will be really happy with him."

Stoker added that McLin began to find his stride as player in the past year.

"He was more a jump shooter early on, then he learned to attack the basket," the coach said. "His confidence went way up this past season when he started taking the ball to the rim. His scoring and rebounding also went up, and I think he realized that was his game."

Stephenson said McLin would be primarily a shooting guard next season, but didn't rule out some work at small forward.

"He'll help us be able to press a lot more, and you can interchange him with some guys we already have on the team and not lose a whole lot," Stephenson said. "With him and a few other guys we are signing, we'll be able to do more and be in good shape defensively."

As for McLin, he said he would be ready to go wherever he's needed on the court.

"It would be kind of hard to play the (center) position with my size, but I think I'm versatile enough to play anywhere else," he added. "I'm working on getting stronger and working on my ball-handling skills, and my shooting is coming along. I've been working on it a lot since Coach Stephenson starting showing an interest in me.

"It's going to be great to play with some of these guys I've played against. I've seen their talents and I know they are great players. It will be nice to have all that talent on one team and see what we can accomplish."