Success follows Jaleel Charles and he hopes it will continue long after his graduation from Claflin University. His remarkable career on the Panther men’s basketball portends as much.
At 6-9, Charles was a formidable presence on the court and was accustomed to attracting attention from opposing teams. His deft shooting touch around the basket led Claflin to a 14-5 record in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and 26-7 overall, tying the school record for most wins in a season since moving to NCAA Division II. The Panthers also captured their first-ever SIAC Tournament title last season.
With the tournament title, the Panthers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II Tournament. Charles averaged 13.8 points, eight rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game in 2017-18. His stellar play earned him All-SIAC first team honors and the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award. He was also named to Boxtorow’s first All-America Team.
“It was an experience that I will never forget,” said Charles, looking back at last year’s accomplishments. “We played with a chip on our shoulders.
We remembered how bad we felt losing in the quarterfinals to Fort Valley State University the previous year when were the tournament’s the top-seeded team. We did not want that to happen again”
His coach, Ricky Jackson, was effusive in his praise of Charles.
“Jaleel was perhaps the best traditional post player in Division II basketball last year,” Jackson said. “He can play with his back to the basket, he shoots with either hand, and he can play facing the defender. His teammates enjoy playing with him because Jaleel does what it takes to win.”
Jackson is also elated that Charles committed himself to playing well on the court as well as performing in the classroom
“He took a chance on us,” Jackson said. “He did not know anything about Claflin but he came and it worked out great for him and for us. Jaleel could have left school last year. He had several offers from international teams, but he made it clear he wanted to graduate before he left Claflin”
“I have really enjoyed my Claflin experience,” Charles said. “The environment is dramatically different from New York. “It’s a slower pace but it helped me improve academically and as a student athlete.”
Charles future plans include participating in tryouts for several international professional teams. He has travelled abroad before and he is looking forward to an opportunity to continue his basketball career.
Just as Charles played an integral role in Claflin’s historic SIAC championship, he realizes he will make another enduring mark at the University as a member of the first Fall Commencement Class.
“I decided to participate when I heard this was Claflin’s first fall commencement,” Charles said. “This was another historic event at the University – and for me – another very memorable moment.”