by Tori Hamby
Huntersville hometown hero and 2011 NCAA basketball tournament standout Jamie Skeen visited his alma mater to help current North Mecklenburg High School students and parents stir up some Viking Pride.
Skeen, the Virginia Commonwealth University senior who helped lead his underdog Rams to cinch a spot in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four, joined students, faculty, parents and community members Saturday, April 9, as they helped improve the high school’s campus during the Parent Teacher Student Association’s Viking Pride Day.
“It’s a true testament to Viking pride,” said PTSA president Tricia Meyers, who doled out chores such as sweeping sidewalks and raking leaves to the beautification team. “He’s a nationally known athlete, and we feel very lucky to have him come back and lend a hand. Plus, it helps to create a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the school.”
The team began their work to 8 a.m. Saturday, April 9, with help from the Town of Huntersville, armed with shovels, rakes and paint. Skeen arrived about 11 a.m., taking time to talk with students and trim hedges at the front of the school.
Skeen played for the Vikings from 2003 to 2006, leading North Mecklenburg to a Class 4A state championship in 2005 as a junior. That same year, he earned the title of North Carolina’s “Mr. Basketball’ after averaging 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds a game.
He returned to the area for a weekend after a whirlwind month of interviews, publicity and media attention and said he is eager to help give back to the school that launched his basketball career.
“It means a lot to be able to come back,” Skeen said. “And what better time to come back than Viking Pride Day when I can give back to something that has given me a whole lot. I wouldn’t be where I am today without North Meck.”
After the day’s chores were complete, Skeen casually spoke with students and staff – including senior Serena Daya, sophomore Mitchell Loll and teacher Shelley Rummage – giving basketball advice and reminiscing about his days as a North Meck hall monitor.
When asked by a student for Skeen’s secret success on the basketball court, Skeen replied with unexpectedly simple advice: “Just put the ball in the hole.”
But Skeen had more serious words for North Meck students to take with them after they leave the halls of the school. “I just tell the kids to not forget where they came from,” Skeen said. “If they go on to do big things, they need to remember the people – the parents, the teachers, the coaches – who helped them get to where they are.”
Students said Skeen’s presence at the campus cleanup helped to reinforce the overall message of Viking Pride Day.
“He shows just what you can do after you leave this place,” Serena said. “He went to the same high school as us, and he’s one of the most famous athletes in college basketball right now. He gives us someone to look up to.”
“Literally,” added Mitchell. “He’s a tall boy.”