LUMBERTON — Whiteville guard Tyrell Kirk put on a show at Lumberton High School on Saturday, giving Robeson County a taste of what it could see next year at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
A 6-foot-4 combo guard, Kirk logged his fifth triple-double of the season in a 60-57 win over the Pirates, scoring 22 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists — including a pass that led to the go-ahead basket.
Following the game, Kirk sat down in the locker room to offer an update on his recruitment. When asked which college program has made the greatest effort to get him on campus, Kirk said: “Pembroke.”
“(UNCP) has a nice environment. … and good coaches that treat me like family,” said Kirk, who has five triple-doubles in 14 games this season with the Wolfpack.
“They have a good program. When I went to visit the school it was fun.”
With several offers from Division I and Division II programs, including Charleston Southern, Lander and Mercer, Kirk said other schools are waiting for his ACT scores.
“There are a few college coaches that are interested,” he said.
Like many prospective college athletes, Kirk said playing time is the biggest factor in ultimately deciding where he wants to continue his career.
“I want to get the feel of playing college basketball,” he said. “That’s whether I’m playing or not. But yeah, I want to play too.”
Known for his playmaking ability, whether he’s pulling up for mid-range jumpers or threading the needle on a pass to a teammate, Kirk said he plans on making his college decision “a month or two” after the high school basketball season ends.
“People call about (Tyrell) all the time,” Whiteville coach Jerry Singletary said. “Pembroke is, I would say right now, the leader. He’s told me some other schools have called him from out west. Also, Mercer and Charleston Southern have reached out. The list goes on.”
The brother of Shaun Kirk, a sophomore forward at N.C. State, Tyrell has seen what it takes to get to the college level. The younger Kirk also had the benefit of watching current UNCP guard Quamain Rose, an all-American player for the Braves, during his prep years at Whiteville.
The attention comes as no surprise to Singletary, who knew from watching Kirk in middle school that he would be a special player.
“I think the more people that see him, they’ll see what I saw in him as a freshman and even in middle school,” Singletary said. “The kid is a winner and he does what it takes for his team to win. Every coach would love to coach a kid like that. He leads the team on and off the court. That’s what you want in a leader.”
As for the advice he plans on giving Kirk, Singletary said he encourages the senior guard to “take it one day at a time.”
“I don’t want (Tyrell) to feel so pressured,” he said. “I’m not going to push him one way or the other. He needs to make the best decision for him the next four years. When he sits down to come and talk to me, we’ll talk and I’ll give him the best advice I can.”
Singletary also pointed out Kirk’s strengths as a student and the importance of factoring that element into his decision.
“It’s also about what he wants to do in life,” he said. “That’s the first career choice he needs to make. Basketball may have carried him there, but it can let you down also. You have to have something else.”
Regardless of which school nabs Kirk, Singletary is confident the basketball program will soar under the guard’s leadership.
“I watch him (as a leader) and I think he’ll take over and coaches won’t have a lot to worry about,” he said. “He’s teaching kids as he’s playing the game. They’re going to get a great guard.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.