Winthrop's basketball program received its first commitment for the 2008-09 season on Tuesday, when Reggie Middleton, a 6-1 point guard from Augusta, Ga., picked the Eagles over Central Florida, East Carolina and Marshall.
Middleton, who transferred to Glenn Hills High from Butler High prior to last season, averaged 13.6 points and 5.7 assists. He was a third-team all-area selection by the Augusta Chronicle and is rated the fourth best point guard prospect in the state by Scout.com.
He started as a ninth-grader at Butler.
Middleton combined with Chris Reynolds and Jerel Stephenson to lead Glenn Hills to the Region 3-AAA title this past season. The trio was rated among the state's top 20 players.
The Spartans, ranked among the top five teams in Georgia all season, were upset in the first round of the state tournament and finished 25-4.
Recruiting services describe him as a winner, who is tough, defends and can score.
Weldon Hatcher, Middleton's stepfather and an assistant coach with the Team Georgia Elite/Team Truth for whom Middleton is playing this week in Orlando, Fla., said Middleton's greatest asset "is his toughness."
"Whether his team is up 20 or down 20, his game never changes," Hatcher said. "He plays hard. He does what it takes. If he needs to score, he scores. If he needs to defend, he defends. He's really unselfish."
Hatcher said Winthrop looked at Middleton early in the recruiting process.
"I think he always wanted to go there," Hatcher said. "When he started looking at colleges, they were already looking at him."
Curtis Wheeler, head coach for the Georgia Elite, has coached Middleton the past two years in AAU play. He says Middleton is an "ACC/SEC caliber competitor" who "always gives the maximum effort." While Middleton looks to pass first, Wheeler said he also can "take his man when he needs to."
"You can't say Winthrop is getting a steal with Reggie, because they've had so much success that they don't get steals anymore," Wheeler said, "but I think Reggie could play in any league."
At a tournament last week, Middleton went head-to-head against Concord, N.C.'s Dee Bost, MVP of the North Carolina state 3-A football and basketball championship games, who had committed to Mississippi State. Middleton scored 26 points in a dominating performance.
"When Reggie plays against a player who's highly rated," Wheeler said, "he always plays well. He loves to prove he can play against anybody."
Wheeler said Winthrop got the commitment because of the time and effort put in by head coach Randy Peele.
"Reggie liked Winthrop, because coach Peele did a great job of getting to know him and making him feel comfortable," Wheeler said.
Middleton could fill a major need for the Eagles in '08-'09. Chris Gaynor, who has started the past three seasons at the point, graduates in 2008. The Eagles signed 5-10 point guard Justin Burton this spring. Middleton would make the Eagles at least two deep at the point in '08-'09.
Under NCAA rules, the Winthrop staff cannot comment on Middleton until he signs a grant in aid. The early signing period begins Nov. 14.