Larger than life | Yadkin Ripple

A West Stokes defender falls about a foot short when trying to block Carson Mounce in 2015.

News File Photo

No matter the size of the stage in which he competes, Carson Mounce continues to adapt and impress on the basketball court.

Surry County got to know Carson as the big man on campus, both literally and figuratively, who starred on Mount Airy’s basketball team from 2012-2015. The three-year varsity player earned multiple all-conference selections and helped the Granite Bears to three consecutive state playoff appearances.

The 6-foot-10-inch center put his skills to the test after high school by joining the basketball team at UNC-Pembroke. The Braves captured multiple Peach Belt Conference Championships during Carson’s five years at UNCP. The team also reached the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament four of the past five years.

Carson has always managed to overcome challenges in order to compete. He hopes to continue that trend as he transitions into a new stage of his life – one in which he is a professional basketball player.

Carson is now a member of the Dublin Lions Basketball Club in Dublin, Ireland. He’s only been in Ireland about a week, but Carson is excited for the road ahead and can’t wait to see what challenges await him on his journey.

A budding young star

The Mounce family, originally from Elkin, is overloaded with athletic prowess.

Parents Neil and Angie are both former college athletes. Neil played baseball at Montreat-Anderson College, while Angie played volleyball at Appalachian State University.

The Mounce boys are all about basketball. Carson’s older brother, Chase, played at both Elkin and Forsyth Country Day High School’s before attending Fort Union Military Academy in Virginia.

Chase earned a scholarship to Tusculum University and later traveled to Peru to play for Osos De La Salle in Arequipa.

The youngest of the Mounce boys is Clay, who graduated from Mount Airy in 2016. Clay plays at Furman University and has been a starter for two seasons.

Basketball has been a part of Carson’s life for so long he can’t pinpoint exactly when his career began. He just remembers always playing at rec centers.

He really started to take basketball seriously when he reached high school.

Levi Goins coached both Carson and Clay Mounce at Mount Airy. Goins met Carson his freshman year in 2011-12, when Carson stood a modest 6-foot-2. Goins was the JV basketball coach at the time and was able to watch Carson mature as an athlete throughout high school.

“I felt like I saw that early on,” Goins said when discussing Carson’s potential to continue playing after high school. “His ninth-grade year on JV was not anything spectacular, but he kind of came along at the end of the year. I was really pleased to see that.”

Goins was promoted to head varsity coach the next year. Carson, meanwhile, grew four inches between the end of his freshman season and the start of his sophomore year.

“The moment I knew he was serious and had real potential was when I gave him a questionnaire that all varsity players had to fill out,” Goins said. “I immediately knew he was serious and was willing to put in the work.”

Carson joined the varsity squad his sophomore year and earned all-conference honorable mention honors. He worked his way into the starting lineup the next year and was selected for his first of two all-conference teams.

As a junior, Carson averaged 14.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. He was sixth in the 1A division in blocks.

His stellar junior season got the attention of schools such as Virginia Military Institute, University of South Carolina Upstate and Tusculum University. Carson ended up signing with UNC-Pembroke in November of his senior year.

“I am very proud of Carson,” Goins said at Mounce’s 2014 signing. “He’s been really working for this for a long time. He’s grown more — physically and basketball ability — than any player I’ve coached.”

Carson was nearly seven feet tall and 245 pounds entering his senior season. He averaged 15.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks as Mount Airy tied for the top spot in the conference. The Bears finished 18-6 that year to bring Carson’s three-year varsity record to 48-28.

“Carson is certainly one of the hardest working players I ever had privilege of coaching,” said Goins, now the principal at Mount Airy High School. “He and his brother would often meet me at the gym at 5:30 a.m. to work out. He’s truly just a fantastic basketball player and a great guy.”

The home of the Braves

Carson made an immediate impact with the Pembroke Braves by playing in all 28 games in 2015-16.

He played double-digit minutes in 22-of-28 games and also scored in 22 games. He averaged 3.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and shot 54.5% from the field that season.

Carson once again played in every game for UNCP as a sophomore, even earning three starts. He led the team in field goal percentage (60%) and helped the Braves to a 24-8 overall record after finishing 15-13 the previous season.

Pembroke captured the Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship that year and reached the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament.

Carson looks back on the 2016-17 season as a turning point in his career.

“I realized I had kind of been going through the motions on some things and I needed to seize the opportunities I had been given,” he said. “I worked hard in high school, but I got a better understanding of consciously working harder in college. I was on scholarship so I took to it heart. These people are paying me to be here so I need to treat it like a job.”

He ended up being redshirted the next year due to an abundance of talent at his position. Pembroke finished 27-6 on the year, repeating as conference tournament champions and making it back to the NCAA Tournament.

The Braves weren’t able to three-peat as Peach Belt Tournament Champions in 2018-19, but still posted a 21-10 record. Carson played in all 31 games and earned three starts. He averaged 5.3 points and 2.4 rebounds in 12.2 minutes per game as Pembroke once again reached the NCAA tournament.

Carson’s streak continued this past season as he once again played in all 30 games for the Braves. He started in 29 of the games and averaged 19.4 minutes. He averaged 6.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.63 blocks as Pembroke captured its first outright Peach Belt Conference Championship with a 17-3 record.

Despite falling in the semifinals of the conference tournament, UNCP qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight year. The Braves were a No. 3 seed and slated to face No. 6 Catawba on March 14.

That game never happened due to COVID-19.

“We were actually on the bus on the way to the first round of the NCAA Tournament and we turned around and came back to campus,” Carson said. “That’s definitely something I didn’t picture going into my last year.”

Carson believed his basketball career was over, causing him to look back on his career and reflect on all the good times he had at Pembroke.

“Probably the biggest takeaway was just being around my teammates. We were all from different walks of life and we all got along really well. Being there for five years, I saw a lot of people come in and out but we were always able to mesh really well. Pembroke had a really good family feel.”

Moving Forward

“It had been talked about, not super seriously, over my college career that I might have the opportunity to play somewhere after school,” Carson said.

With the uncertainty of whether or not he would be signed by an agent looming, Carson focused on getting degrees in English and mass communications.

Carson was preparing for life after basketball when an agent finally did reach out. The connection was exciting, he said, and he looked forward to continuing his career.

He arrived in Ireland on Saturday, Sept. 26, to join the Dublin Lions Basketball Club. Mounce will compete on the club’s Division I squad, sponsored by Abbey Seals.

Carson is in a mandatory quarantine since he is new to the country. After the quarantine period is up, he will join the club and begin preparing for the first games of the 2020-21 season. Games are set to begin in mid-October.

“He is a fantastic teammate and someone that coaches not only enjoy coaching, but also just being around,” Goins said. “His new team in Ireland is going to feel the same way.”

In addition to playing the sport he loves, Carson is looking forward to immersing himself in a different culture.

“I was looking forward to that from the jump,” he said. “I think the longest I’ve been out of North Carolina before was like a month.”

Carson plans on playing basketball as long as he is able to compete. He did say he is realistic and knows that one day he will have to move on from his playing career, but that thought doesn’t worry him.

“I’m not scared of not playing basketball,” Carson said. “I’m more than just a basketball player. I’m excited for life after basketball as well, whenever that may be.”

“I think I want to exercise my communications degree in some way, whether that be advertising or public relations for a company. I like writing.”

Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith