Basketball

Josh Ferguson, Winthrop basketball’s sole senior, ready to make his last run special

Ask Josh Ferguson what people need to know about the Winthrop men’s basketball team this season, and he smiles.

Well, ask him nearly anything, and that’s what the 6-foot-8 forward does. And he has reason to: After all, the sole senior on the Eagles’ roster is embarking on his final run as a college basketball player — and he knows the season could be, collectively and individually, a special one.

“It’s exciting getting ready to go out and make some history,” Ferguson said at the Big South Conference’s media day in Charlotte on Tuesday.

The history he’s referring to is a Big South championship — a feat he hasn’t accomplished since his freshman year.

Since then, of course, a lot has changed: As a sophomore, Ferguson started 26 out of 31 games after starting one in his debut season. As a junior, he carried a similar load in terms of minutes, but he became a more dynamic scorer, averaging 11.3 points per game and proving he could shoot over 40 percent from three in addition to leading the team in rebounds and defending the post.

And now, as a senior, he anticipates his role to change again: He’ll still be a vocal leader, an asset as a big who can run the floor in Winthrop’s up-and-down system and someone head coach Pat Kelsey said he’s “really leaning on” in the frontcourt; that said, with the addition of Rock Hill native and University of Tennessee transfer, D.J. Burns, Ferguson anticipates being able to more often operate in space on offense — a prospect he’s excited about.

“Having D.J. there takes a load off me,” Ferguson told The Herald at a practice earlier this season. “We have two big guys now, so we can rebound and defend (better) and then, with the offensive mismatches, D.J. and I play really well together, playing off one another.”

He said he and Burns could pose matchup problems Winthrop couldn’t before in his sophomore and junior seasons.

“We could play high-low,” Ferguson said. “I can bring more of an outside touch. He has a really good inside touch. We can kind of play off of that, and most teams don’t have two bigs to match up with us.”

At the conference’s media day, head coach Pat Kelsey sang Ferguson’s praises.

“Josh just has that comfortable way about him,” Kelsey said with a smile at media day. “He’s from the beach, from Miami … That’s just how Josh is. He’s a world class young man. I tell people all the time, he’s the type of kid I’d say ‘buy stock in Josh Ferguson’s future’ because it’s bright.”

Ferguson said that a lot can also be discerned by how his teammates act together once the practice’s final whistle blows. Another smile comes to his face when he talks about how much his teammates love working out together after practice and how much time they spend with each other outside of basketball. (“I’m the best Fortnite player on the team,” he insists.)

Come the end of this season, Ferguson said he wants to play basketball professionally. He’s majoring in business management and aspires to one day run his own company — perhaps one related to fashion.

But those life-after-college-basketball decisions are a Winthrop season away — one that could bear more fruit than any other he’s been a part of.

Said Ferguson with a smile: “We’re going to make it happen this year. We’re going to make it happen.”

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