PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Southern Fulton's Connor Litton earns well-deserved nickname, 'man child'
More than a decade ago, Connor Litton was playing in a Little League game when a teammate, Billy Baker, called him a "man child."
Fast forward to the 2014-15 boys basketball season, and the nickname is back in effect.
"It's just a weird name, but I kind of am a man child at some things," Litton said. "Sometimes, I think it's a weird nickname, but even though it died out for a while, it came back and somehow stuck this year. Even kids from other schools, they'll see me and say, "Oh, there's the man child,' so I kind of like it."
The "man child" is pretty much the perfect description for Litton, who did a bit of everything for Southern Fulton this season. He is the Public Opinion Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
"He really is a beast," Indian coach Kent Hendershot said. "To have his motor and that intrinsic drive – there wasn't a rebound he didn't think he could get, a bucket he couldn't score. He had that hard-nosed mentality, and it's been a pleasure to work with him."
Litton missed the first two games of the season due to a back injury, but as soon as he came back, he was off and running. He played 24 games this season, and in 22 of them, he finished in double figures. He averaged a double-double with 15.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, and had a career-high 27 points in the Inter-County Conference Championship when the Indians defeated Bellwood-Antis, 65-57.
He was the team's leading scorer in all but one of four postseason games and had a double-double in all four.
"He responds well to big games," Hendershot said. "Any time there is something big on the line, he always seems to bump it up a notch."
The Indians compiled their best record (24-3) in school history, went undefeated in both the ICC and the Sideling Hill League and qualified for the PIAA Class A tournament after finishing second in District 5 Class A.
And it wasn't all Litton, either. He worked well with the other members of the "Big 3," Dylan Gordon and Trent Rider.
"We all have our thing that helps the team," Litton said. "I'm in the paint for the most part. I'm a decent outside shooter, but not like Trent. He's probably the best shooter from the outside that I've ever played with. He can knocked down 12 threes in a row at practice, and it's nothing for him.
"Dylan, he shoots so well from the foul line, and he's really hard to stop. He's also probably one of the best defenders who's ever guarded me."
But there's no question Litton was the emotional and physical leader this season.
"He just dominated under the basket all year long," Hendershot said. "If there was any 50-50 ball in the air, he was usually getting it. His motor is unlike a lot of other kids. It takes a heck of an athlete to try to keep up with him – one that can jump with him and do the things he does, you don't find that a lot. He's tough to neutralize, and I don't know that anybody did all year long."
Despite his dominance on the basketball court, Litton has even more promise on the baseball diamond. He is already signed to play at Cowley (Kan.) Community College, which is currently ranked fourth in the National Junior College Athletic Association. It is designed as a program to help players reach Division I colleges or even higher levels.
But his competitive spirit on the court certainly doesn't hurt his baseball game.
"Connor is a competitor," Hendershot said. "If he's playing checkers, he wants to win. That's innate in him. He's going to try to beat everybody doing it. That's certainly not something I coached; that's ingrained in him."
That competitiveness, plus his clear natural abilities, should take him far.