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By Connie Leinbach
The Ocracoke School family turned out Thursday to witness Senior Liam Caswell committing to Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, Va., to study and play basketball next year.
Caswell in February led the varsity boys basketball team to a historic second round in the state championship playoffs for the first time in the school’s history.
In a “signing ceremony,” Caswell thanked the middle- and high-school students, faculty and staff in a packed Ocracoke School Commons room.
“It was a tough decision,” he said as he signed the commitment letter at a table decorated with balloons in Bridgewater colors, red and gold, then thanked the island community.
Dolphins Coach David Allewalt said Caswell’s hard work and dedication—to both his team and academics—is why “seven or eight” schools recruited Caswell. But Bridgewater’s basketball coach was the only one that traveled to Ocracoke to watch Caswell in person, Allewalt said.
“Their coach came twice for a total of three games,” he said. “They were very professional.”
Then Caswell visited Bridgewater, a NCAA Division 3 college in western Virginia, to play with the team and try them out.
“They had a locker for him,” Allewalt said. “They did a PowerPoint of his game footage showing why he was a good fit, and Liam clicked with them. He was recruited at the same intensity of a Division 1 school.”
Allewalt said Bridgewater is in the top 150 schools in the nation academically.
“If you have a goal, this is proof that if you work hard, you can achieve it,” Principal Leslie Cole told the assembly. “As the Dolphin family, we’ve never been more proud.”
Athletic Director Charles Temple said Caswell’s good character and integrity would be an asset to any institution of higher learning.
Caswell said that though he hasn’t quite decided on a major, he’s leaning toward sports fitness.
It wasn’t just Caswell’s obvious athletic prowess, which he honed almost every morning in the school gym at 6 a.m. shooting baskets and participating in the summer Amateur Athletic Union team.
Through all of the travel and play, Caswell kept his grades up, Allewalt said.
This was the first time the school had such fanfare for one of its seniors choosing a college.
“With our upgraded athletics, there could be more,” Allewalt said.
Patricia Piland, eighth grade science teacher, said Caswell was in her first eighth-grade class and was an outstanding student then.
“He was definitely a quiet leader,” she said as she watched the signing. “He sets by example.”