Published 9:05 pm Thursday, February 11, 2010

Only a hand full of Pike Liberal Arts basketball players have done what senior Justin McLaughlin accomplished, in this, his senior year.

And it all started as a way to stay in shape from one season to the next.

During the Patriots’ recent game against Macon-East, the senior center became just the fourth player in the program’s history to reach the 1,000 point plateau.

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“It means a lot to me,” McLaughlin said.

“I am very proud of the achievement – it really is an honor.”

The actual number of points scored is currently at 1,005 points but unfortunately for McLaughlin and his team, that will be the finally tally thanks to a second-degree shoulder separation suffered last week during the area tournament.

“It’s difficult,” McLaughlin said about not being able to play with his teammates in the upcoming AISA State Tournament. “But I am going to help my team as much as I can from the sidelines.”

For those who have never seen the 6-foot-2, 255-pound McLaughlin, he looks more like an lineman on the football field, which he is, than a basketball player.

“He is much better than people would think,” Athletic Director Steven Kilcrease said about McLaughlin, who he coaches on the football field.

“He may not look like the prototypical basketball player, but he is very good, especially in the post.

“He is always finds a way to finish – he is like a little Shaq,” the coach said with a laugh.

According to the senior, it’s his size that gives him the advantage over other players.

“It has definitely helped,” he said.

“I have worked and have always tried to do my best whenever I get [on the court].”

One aspect which makes the accomplishment even more impressive for McLaughlin is the amount of time it took for him to get to this point – which was just three seasons.

In those 60 plus games, McLaughlin has averaged close to 17 points a game.

However, despite the numbers, McLaughlin says he is better at the two other sports he plays, football and baseball, which makes this honor “sweeter.”

“I first came [to PLAS] to play baseball for coach Butch [Austin],” he said.

“I was asked to try out for the basketball team and I liked playing the game. It was a good way for me to stay in shape during football and baseball season.

While McLaughlin’s season may be over, he will still travel with the team to the 2010 AISA Elite Eight State Tournament on Tuesday, Feb. 16, to watch his team play the No. 2 seed, Tuscaloosa Academy. for the right to go to the Final Four.