Feb. 6, 2009
Rome, Ga. - The 6-foot-11 senior center for the Hawks, Qavotstaraj Waddell, has found a home at Shorter College, and he's found a team that has embraced him on and off he court.
"Who knows why and when things happen," Hawks head coach Chad Warner said about Waddell, who joined the Shorter program last summer after transferring from Southern Conference member Tennessee-Chattanooga. "I told him that I hoped his decision to come to Shorter was the one of best decision he's ever made."
"It's a real good fit for me," said Waddell - he's simply called "Q" by his teammates - who hails from Norfolk, Va. "Everything happens for a reason. That's been my motto. God has given me an opportunity."
Yes, he gives the Hawks one of their tallest players ever, which in turn allows the team to do more when they take the court. More than that, however, is that he is not only being a force in games, he's also found his niche in the classroom having attained a solid 3.5 grade point average.
"Most of the credit goes to him," Warner said, "and it also goes to the faculty here and to (assistant) coach Bryce Brickhouse. He's really worked hard to get where he is now."
Being comfortable in one place is something Waddell has never fully achieved.
He averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks per game as a senior at Coastal Christian Academy in South Carolina and was part of two national championship teams during his high school career. After high school, Waddell started his college career at Maryland-Eastern Shore where he started 20 of 29 games and averaged 4.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He also had 54 blocked shots, 14 steals and 22 assists.
That next year, however, Waddell enrolled at Cecil College in North East, Md., a junior college program where he led the school to a record 33 wins; averaging seven points and 9.8 boards per game, and eventually drew the attention of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Waddell joined the Mocs and saw action in 25 games during the 2007-08 season, averaging 3.3 points and three rebounds per game. In his first career start, he scored 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a win over Appalachian State.
Still, Waddell was never able to settle in and after the season ended, contemplated yet another move. Only this time Shorter became the final choice.
"There were a lot of things going through my mind," Waddell said. "But the decision to come to Shorter was all mine."
"When we heard he was looking for a place to play," said Warner, "we felt Shorter was the place for him."
Waddell's debut in a Hawks uniform was delayed at the start of the season when he had to have minor surgery to repair an injured knee, but since he finally checked into a game in December, the Hawks have been a more balanced team.
"It's changed our team in a lot of ways, especially defensively in the way we play the post," Warner said of Waddell, who has been averaging 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. "We don't have to help and recover as much. He also brought a level of toughness to our team, which has helped us. He's such a presence and hopefully things will open up more for him."
Waddell knows that while opportunities arise for him, even more will present themselves to his teammates with whom he has developed a strong bond.
"There are no big egos on the team," Waddell said. "Everybody is a brother to each other." It is that kind of relationship that Waddell feels will make the Hawks a force to be reckoned with over the final month of the season.
The Hawks currently hold an 8-4 Southern States Athletic Conference record (12-11 overall) following a 71-61 road win this past week at Brewton-Parker, in which Waddell had 11 points after hitting 3-of-3 field goals and 5-of-5 free throws. The Hawks are fully aware that they have to be a complete team in order to peak for the postseason.
On Saturday, Shorter will be tasked with yet another SSAC test when they host Southern Polytechnic at 4 p.m. at the Winthrop-King Center in the second meeting of the season between he two teams. In December, when Waddell was still sidelined, the Hornets handed the Hawks a 64-53 defeat.
"We're a good team, but sometimes we're our worst enemy," Waddell said. "Once we learn not to hurt ourselves we'll be tough to beat."