Photo courtesy UNCW Athletics

From walk-on to MVP, Chris Flemmings has UNCW flying high

After Kevin Keatts was named the head coach of UNC-Wilmington in 2014 the mother of Chris Flemmings showed up on the campus of the Colonial Athletic Association school.

Flemmings grew up in Cary, N.C., near North Carolina State, Duke and North Carolina. But the son of Charles and Tracey Flemmings began his college basketball career at Barton, a Division II power in Wilson, N.C.

“She wanted to move her son for a lot of different reasons,” said Keatts, listing academics as one of them.

Keatts is certainly glad he did transfer.

“We just thought it was an opportunity for a bigger stage,” said Flemmings, who averaged nearly 11 points per game as a freshman at Barton in 2012-13 and 19.6 as a sophomore in 2013-14.

Flemmings, a 6-5 guard, sat out the 2014-15 season and began the 2015-16 campaign as a walk-on with the Seahawks. He didn’t even start early in the season and ended up as the Most Outstanding Performer of the CAA Tournament as UNCW captured the league title in Baltimore and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“He probably has one of the best stories I have seen in college basketball,” said Keatts, who awarded Flemmings a scholarship prior to this season.

Last season Flemmings averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest and he was the CAA Preseason Player of the Year going into this year.

Flemmings has started the first eight games and is averaging a team-high 35.9 minutes and 19.8 points going into a non-conference contest at St. Bonaventure Saturday on ASN. The Bonnies have won five games in a row after going 22-9 last season and tying for the regular-season title in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

“It’s a good Atlantic 10 school on their floor. It can only help us,” said Keatts, the CAA coach of the year last season.

“We have to definitely stay poised. We have to be able to withstand their runs,” Flemmings said.

Flemmings had a career-high 34 points in 38 minutes on Saturday in a win against Division II Pfeiffer. He made 12 of 18 shots from the field, including 6 of 9 from the 3-point line, and also had 10 rebounds.

That was an encouraging sign as Keatts noted his three-point shooting has been down this year. He shot 36.3% from 3-point range last season and is now at 35.2 this year. But he has worked on his overall game.

“He is more confident putting the ball on the floor this year,” Keatts said.

Flemmings is hardly the only offensive option for UNCW, which is 7-1 overall. UNCW has four other players averaging at least 10 points per game: sophomore guard C.J. Bryce (16.9), sophomore forward Devontae Cook (14.0), junior guard Jordan Talley (12.3) and senior guard Denzel Ingram (11.6), who began his college career at Charlotte.

“We have, in my opinion, four or five guys who can lead on any given night,” said Keatts, a former assistant at Louisville. “You can’t focus on one guy. We have willing passers.”

Said Flemmings: “It makes it hard for people to scout us.”

The Seahawks were 17th in RPI through Monday, the best among CAA schools. The Bonnies checked in at No. 74.

Flemmings could follow in the path of several former Seahawks who are playing overseas, or give pro ball in North America a shot.

“I really haven’t thought about that,” he said. “That will take care of itself.”

St. Bonaventure (6-2) is paced in scoring by junior guards Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley. Both were averaging more than 20 points per contest after the Bonnies won 81-75 on Tuesday at Hofstra, which lost to UNCW in the CAA title game in March.

Adams tied his career high with 31 points at Hofstra and Mobley had 23 points and 12 boards.

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