MMA leading scorer Falden signs to play basketball at Winthrop

Charles Falden

WOODSTOCK – A year ago Charles Falden had to sit back and watch some of his L.C. Bird High School basketball teammates take the next step in their playing careers by signing on to various colleges, as uncertainty surrounding Falden’s academic eligibility hamstrung his own ability to garner significant interest. His time finally arrived.

Falden, the Virginia High School League’s 2016 Group 5A Player of the Year who has spent this school year prepping at Massanutten Military Academy, signed his national letter of intent on Wednesday morning to play basketball for Winthrop University for the 2017-18 school year.

“I’ve been waiting for this day since ninth grade really,” Falden said. “I didn’t really know a lot in middle school, what this really meant, but I could see it in high school and I seen some of my older peers, teammates do this, it meant a lot to me. I was kind of upset with myself when I wasn’t able to do it in high school with the rest of my teammates and stuff like that, but coming here (to MMA) it made it even better.

“(It’s) a big relief because it’s been over my head for so long. It feels good to sign now.”

Falden, a 6-foot-3 guard who led the Colonels’ postgraduate basketball team in scoring (23.6 points per game) this past season, said he fielded a total of seven NCAA Division I scholarship offers and chose Winthrop over Virginia Military Institute – which had given him his only offer in high school – and Campbell University in North Carolina.

Falden, a Richmond native, said he took an official visit to Winthrop’s campus, located in Rock Hill, South Carolina, about three weeks ago and made his commitment earlier this week.

“I chose them because (head coach Pat Kelsey) did a great job recruiting me. He came a little late toward the end (of the season) but he really showed a lot of interest in me,” said Falden, who averaged 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for MMA while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor and 45.6 percent from 3. “I really didn’t know too much about the school but I watched them during the NCAA tournament and I was like that’s a good team right there.

“I went on a visit and they just showed a lot of love, support. And then they’ve got my style of play and it’s a good coaching staff, a good environment.”

Kelsey, who just wrapped up his fifth season with Winthrop, guided the Eagles to the NCAA tournament this past season, where the Big South Conference champs were awarded a 13 seed and fell to No. 4 Butler in the opening round.

Winthrop has won 88 games over the last four seasons under Kelsey, and the Eagles 26 wins in 2016-17 were the third-most in school history.

“He has a lot of energy,” Falden said of Kelsey. “He really showed a lot of interest. The rest of the staff, they really showed my parents and I a good time down there. They were very, very interested. They went out of their way to show us a good time.”

Falden is the fifth Colonel to sign a national letter of intent this school year, joining Jamarko Pickett (Ole Miss), Bud Mack (Manhattan), Kasper Christiansen (Florida International) and Cory Hill (Fayetteville State).

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com