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North Forsyth's Holtzclaw commits to North Alabama
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North Forsyth senior Dakota Holtzclaw verbally committed to the University of North Alabama on Friday. - photo by Micah Green

Dakota Holtzclaw had almost lost faith. The 6-foot-5 basketball guard had lost two college scholarship offers when other recruits committed before he could even take a visit to the schools. He was transferring to play basketball at North Forsyth for his senior year, but his ankle was sprained, so he couldn’t practice with the Raiders.

“It kind of just shook me up a little bit,” Holtzclaw said.

If there was a quality that served him best this past season, Holtzclaw said it was perseverance – through the lost offers and the injury to the moment Friday when he verbally committed to play basketball for the University of North Alabama.

Holtzclaw called Lions head coach Bobby Champagne to deliver the news, and Champagne delivered some news of his own.

“He was really excited,” Holtzclaw said. “He has a lot of expectations for me. He wants me to break 1,000 [career] points, conference freshman of the year, some big goals. They expect a lot, so I’m hoping to give them a lot.”

Holtzclaw’s presence at North instantly adjusted expectations for the Raiders this past season. North had gone 1-25 in 2014, but Holtzclaw figured to be a significant upgrade in talent to add with the Raiders’ returning core of Chad Bureau, Nick Cunningham and Coleton Holzer.

North wound up making a 10-win improvement, going 11-15, and Holtzclaw led the team with 16 points per game.

All the while, North Alabama began to enter the recruiting picture thanks to a connection with one of college basketball’s blue blood families.

Pat Moynihan, a grandson of Lefty Driesell, the Hall of Fame coach who took four programs to the NCAA Tournament, had coached Holtzclaw on his AAU team, the Atlanta All-Stars. Moynihan left the All-Stars the next season to join North Alabama as a graduate assistant.

Moynihan convinced Holtzclaw to visit North Alabama in November to catch a football game. Holtzclaw returned for his official visit last weekend. He saw North Alabama as a consistent winner, heard about the Lions’ plan to try to move up to Division I in 2016 and was convinced.

“It feels good. It’s a weight off my shoulders,” Holtzclaw said. “I just thank God for taking me on this journey. It’s definitely taught me a lot about myself, and a lot of lessons learned through it.”