Cleveland embracing the challenge to become the best

We live in a world now where at the first sign of adversity, athletes’ first instinct is to give up or go somewhere that it’s easier to succeed. There are few cut from the cloth of people like Carl Cleveland, the Banks County product who embraces a good challenge, and if he’s not playing the game, doesn’t feel himself.

“For me, being around basketball my whole life has helped me,” says the Leopards’ all-time leading scorer who now excels at Young Harris College. “I’ve got into the grove of if I don’t play basketball, I feel sick. I’m not myself without it. I wake up everyday and think how can I get better today. A major part of still loving the game for me is looking at your own process. A lot of people want that process of being good or winning to be quick and easy when that is impossible. I embrace the challenge of the tough process I go through so I’m able to accomplish the things I have and will.”


Framed Print (11×14) – Carl Cleveland

Framed Print (11×14) – Carl Cleveland


Cleveland, a Class of 2020 star, is averaging 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game throughout his college career so far, which includes an abbreviated 2020-21 season (COVID-shortened) and his first full season last year. The forward has changed his game since suiting up for the Leopards, and it’s opened up parts of his game altogether.

“The main thing I’ve improved on from playing in high school is changing my body,” adds Cleveland. “My coaches at Young Harris have shaped me to be able to play the 3-5 with the weight room and conditioning. Being able to handle the ball like a point guard has been a major emphasis for my game also. I need to be able to have a mismatch with whoever is guarding me. Being able to post smaller guards and bringing post players out to the parameter.”

What hasn’t changed is his ability to score and take advantage of those mismatches he talks about. He did it often at Banks County, and resulted in 2,445 points, 1,049 rebounds, 390 assists, 82 blocks, and 116 steals. After averaging just 5.1 points and 1.9 boards as a freshman at Young Harris, he took it to a new level by going for 15.6 points and 7.4 rebounds, as well as 1.8 assists as a super freshman (COVID+1). He has 49 career 3-pointers at the college level, hitting on over 40-percent, and is a 70% free throw shooter as well. This is just the beginning, as Cleveland has big goals for 2022-23.

“This year I want to be part of the all-conference team for the Peach Belt,” states Cleveland. “With averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds in the conference last year and not being put on the all conference team, it fueled me to have a big off-season so that I’m an all-conference player this year.”

And of course with high goals set for the individual usually means the team will succeed as well. To that end, the Mountain Lions are looking to far exceed last season’s win total of 6 games and just 3 in the Peach Belt. With Cleveland and his supporting cast, this team has a chance to take a giant leap into contention.

“This year’s team is going to be a lot different from past Young Harris teams,” says Cleveland. “My coaches have done a great job of being able to bring back our core guys and also bringing in guys that can help our team immediately. We have the pieces to really compete in the Peach Belt and potentially make an appearance in the national tournament. I love our guys and coaching staff and I see a lot of great things happening for us this year.”

The Mountain Lions tip off on October 31 in their Purple/White exhibition, and officially open the season at Chowan on November 11.

Cleveland was a 2-time BLITZ Player of the Year, 2-time All-State player, 2-time Region Player of the Year, and is a BLITZ Hall-of-Famer. He led the Leopards to nearly 100 wins over his 4 seasons at Banks County, including an Elite 8 run as a senior and 2 separate Sweet 16 runs.

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