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Sports

Double duty
Harding hoops coach Aikens wins at football
 
Published Thursday, September 12, 2013 7:18 am
by Herbert L. White

Walter Aikens is off to a good start as Harding High’s interim football coach.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Harding High football coach Walter Aikens (right) is best known as the Rams’ basketball coach, but he’s led Harding to a 2-0 start since taking over the program just before the start of fall drills.


The 2-0 Rams have already doubled last year’s win total and are off to their best start since 2007. Aikens, Harding’s boys’ basketball coach, replaced Deveron Harper, who stepped down days before fall drills to finish requirements for his N.C. certified teacher’s license. Aikens credits the coaching staff and players for Harding’s success.


“It’s nothing I did,” Aikens said. “I put everything in the hands of the coaches. I just oversee and make sure everything runs right.”


Harper, a former Carolina Panther who was Harding’s head coach the previous two seasons, is the Rams’ defensive coordinator. Aikens a football assistant coach for five years, sets the tone as a motivator and giving the assistants room to do their jobs.


“I give a lot of credit to the coaching staff,” he said. “These guys already have a system in place, so I let them run the thing like they want to do it. I’m just here hopefully motivating these kids like I know I can and they seem to be responding.”


Harding is finding new ways to win. In last week’s 14-8 victory against West Charlotte, the Rams forced six turnovers, including four fumbles and a game-saving interception in the final minute. In the season opener, Harding rolled up 333 yards in a 27-8 win against Garinger.


“Coach Aikens is an outstanding and amazing coach,” said senior defensive end Nakkia Walton, who scored on a fumble return against West Charlotte. “He’s been my basketball coach since eighth grade and the mentality and chemistry he brings is all out of love. He’s got the same mindset we’ve got – all he wants is to win and change Harding football.”


Aikens’ basketball reputation – he was Queens University’s first recruit when the school added a men’s program in 1990 and played professionally in Brazil – gave him credibility on the court. Now he’s using it in a different arena.


“I just enjoy being out here with the kids,” he said. “I know they know how I am, they know how I coach with basketball, so they know I can motivate them. And they know when I’m talking to them, they’re giving me their undivided attention and they know if I’m seeing something, it’s to help them out.”


Harding’s next two games – against East Mecklenburg and South Mecklenburg – are winnable, which would up the ante Oct. 4 game against SoMeck 8 heavyweight Charlotte Catholic. Walton isn’t shocked by the Rams’ success, or their new leader’s role in Harding’s start.


 “I’m not surprised, but anything can happen,” he said. “As long as you’ve got God in your life, anything is possible.”

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