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Saturday, June 22, 2024

When Hard Work Pays Off

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Joey Mclaurin is an extremely calm and composed young man. He is well mannered and well-spoken with an infectious smile. By looking at him, you’d never know how driven and fierce of a competitor he is and how far that ambition has taken him. Mclaurin just finished a successful high school basketball career at William Floyd High School and will be heading to Hartwick College in upstate New York this upcoming fall to continue lacing up his sneakers on the basketball court while studying sports management as a major.


Joey grew up in Mastic Beach and attended William Floyd School District from kindergarten right through the twelfth grade. Joey remembers well the first basketball hoop that his mother Nedra bought him at age two.


“That little Fisher Price hoop was really the start of it all. I loved that thing.”


From then on, the basketball was stuck to his hand.


He played both basketball and football up until the tenth grade, following in the footsteps of his older brother Vantrell. Vantrell, who also played for William Floyd, was the strong sixth man on their last Suffolk County Championship team back in 2012.


“That County title inspired me to take on that torch and try to run with it. I wanted a championship of my own,” says Mclaurin.


Vantrell was also the corner back on a county championship football team at Floyd the same year. But going into tenth grade, Joey decided not to play football any longer and focus solely on basketball.


“I knew I needed to really lock in on basketball and my grades as well. We all knew that the basketball team was going to be a special one for my senior year.”


Like every athlete and true competitor, there were checkpoints along that way that threw some fuel on Joey’s already-burning fire. Obstacles that that he had to confront and choose to use as a catapult to work harder and get better. In the ninth grade, he was kept down on the junior varsity team while his closest friends and players he grew up with in Floyd were moved up to varsity.


“I was heartbroken and discouraged over that but decided to do what I needed to do,” says Mclaurin.


He kept improving his ball handling skills, his ability to see and control the court while also being a threat from both three point and mid-range. Despite being often described as similar to future-Hall-of-Famer Steph Curry, as too small and weak to mix it up with bigger guys, Joey was determined to prove every voice wrong.


Despite the success, it’s clear that nothing has been handed to him without work. He’s had to work and work hard for every ounce of success he’s experienced. Being of a smaller stature and having to overcome multiple ankle injuries were things that could have held him back, but they didn’t. Joey fought his way to a starting point guard position on the William Floyd varsity team amongst other great players. This past season he was team captain and helped lead the team to a historic undefeated regular season with their second consecutive league one title. Mclaurin was named League One Most Valuable Player, along with awards in All Conference, All League, All Suffolk County and Second Team All Long Team honors. He averaged 13 points and hit 31 threes total, along with 4.1 assists in the regular season. Joey was described as, “The senior team captain and leader of the team. A coachable young man who sets the bar high for the other and future players in the program.”


But his success and hard work hasn’t been limited to only the basketball court. Joey has worked just as hard in the classroom as well. His scholarship to Hartwick College came through his academic success as he has maintained an 87 overall average. While many athletes are great on the court or field, yet neglect the classroom duties and disciplines, Joey has been sure to keep the basketball in one hand and a textbook in the other.


Mclaurin is spending his summer working at Empire camp in Bellport with children from fifth to eighth grade. This camp gives back and gives something proactive to do for kids from some of our tougher neighborhoods to navigate. Joey loves working there and being a source of inspiration for young people coming behind him.


“I wouldn’t mind having my own camps like this in my own community after college,” says Mclaurin.


Joey is inspired to continue to play and reach high places for his grandmother, who passed away when he was young. She has instilled strong values in his family that are worth carrying on and pursuing. He’s inspired to play for his friend Marcel Arrington, a young man who was shot and killed a few months after graduating high school at Floyd in a park nearby. Last, but certainly not least, he’s inspired to play by his mother Nedra who also won a league championship in basketball with Riverhead high school in the early 1990’s.