Emeuel Charleston was happy people were talking, but he wasn’t happy about what they were saying.
Charleston, a senior on the Abraham Lincoln High School basketball team, was proud that people would look at his Railsplitters and notice there was a lot of young talent on the roster. But then they said something that motivated him.
“People all over were saying that Lincoln is going to be tough next year,” the Mayfair resident said. “That really pushed me. I know they’re going to be good this year, but people must have thought we were just going to lose.
“This is my senior year. I wasn’t looking to just help them get ready for next year. I wanted to win now. They’ll be good next year, but we can be good this year, too.”
Charleston, who last year helped the Railsplitters make it to the Class 6A state championship and win a city championship, wasn’t looking to rebuild, but he was still looking for improvement.
Lincoln made it into the playoffs, then won two games, including an upset over Sankofa before falling to Math, Civics and Science 72-62 on Friday in the third round of the tournament. The loss doesn’t end the Railsplitters’ season. They will be back in action in the state tournament.
“It’s always hard when you have a bunch of players who never played together before,” Charleston said. “Last year, everybody played before. This year was hard because I don’t think everyone knew what we had to do to be good. We had to figure it out as we went on.”
Charleston also had some learning to do.
Last year, the Railsplitters had a lot of floor generals. Charleston deferred to the seniors on the team to lead, both on the court and on the bench.
But this year, the Railsplitters had a glaring void at point guard, and after talking it over with his coach, Al Brown, he decided to run the team.
“Coach told me that I could stand in the corner, shoot the ball and play lockdown defense and that would be fine,” Charleston said. “But as a smaller guard, I needed to play on the ball if I wanted to go to college, if I wanted to play college ball. Last year, I would play point if we needed it, but this year the ball has to be in my hand.
“Now I’m trying to be as unselfish as I can be. I need to get everyone else involved. I’m still scoring, but I’m not scoring as much. I’m more of a guy who gets everyone their shot.”
And they have more chances to score.
Last year, when the Railsplitters played in the final high school game of the season, they won games by doing everything they could to stop other teams from scoring. Defense not only led the way, but it set up Lincoln’s offense in the transition game.
Things didn’t look too promising when the year started, but once the Railsplitters got into the postseason, things looked a lot like last year.
“I think we knew we would be good after we beat Sankofa,” said Charleston, who has led the Railsplitters to a 9-15 record so far. “They’re really good. We know if we can beat them, we can play with anyone. We know we’re back.”
Despite being the point guard, where he leads the team in assists, he ranks second on the team in scoring, pouring in more than 11 points per affair. He doesn’t care if he’s a pass-first point guard or a sniper, he just wants to lead the team to wins.
“I’ve played with a lot of guys in the Public League, either at the park or in AAU or other places,” Charleston said. “People know I can score, but they’re finding out I’m a good point guard, too. It helps to have players (around him) that can score when I get it to them.”
Now that Public League play is over, Charleston believes Lincoln can once again do damage in the state playoffs. The Railsplitters found success last year and the year before that when they won a game before falling in a tight one in the second round.
And the way Charleston sees it, every win not only gives him more time to represent Lincoln, but it gives him a chance to get noticed by a college scout.
“I’ve had some schools contact me, a few (junior colleges) and a Division II school,” Charleston said. “I want to play college basketball. My mom wants it, too. She tells everyone I’ll be playing college basketball. I’m doing for me and for her.
“I think I want to major in business. I don’t want to work for anyone, I want people working for me. I also have some friends who are entrepreneurs. They have people working for them. They can even stay home and make money. That’s what I want. I want to own a business or do something where I can make money.”
And when he does start his business, he hopes he can tell state championship stories to his employees.
“This is it, they’re going to be good next year, but I won’t be here,” Charleston said. “They’re going to be good next year, but I want us to be good this year. And I think we’re starting to show we can be.”