Western Carolina senior Carlos Dotson ended his career with Catamount men's basketball amid accolades and fanfare, but
things could have gone much differently for the decorated forward originally from
As a ninth grader at Dorman High School in Spartanburg, S.C, Dotson was cut from his high school basketball team. A weaker person would have folded and given up, but he saw it as a challenge. Dotson spent the summer training and working out returning in his sophomore season a leaner and more determined player – and it paid off.
"I came back and made the team as a sophomore," said Dotson. "I learned nothing would be handed to me and that has carried me through the rest of my career. I was even told by my high school coach he was proud of me."
As a senior, he helped guide the Cavaliers to a 20-5 record, averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds per game. He earned a spot on the North-South All-Star game roster where he scored 14 points – three in the closing moments to send the game into overtime.
After high school, Dotson searched for the right fit to pursue his collegiate career. He first went to Anderson University and then transferred to College of Central Florida. It was at Central Florida he flourished setting him up to move on to NCAA Division I basketball.
But where would he go?
Well, as it were, fortune smiled on Dotson when Mark Prosser was named the head coach at Western Carolina in March of 2018.
"Coach Prosser had been following my career since I was in 10th grade," Dotson said. "I knew wherever he was that was where I wanted to go."
So, it was a no-brainer when Prosser took over the helm of the Catamount men's basketball program that Dotson would follow. It was a fortuitous moment for both Prosser and Dotson.
The 2018-19 season was a challenge; there is no other way to describe it. The team won just seven games and struggled to define its identity, but Dotson knew better times were ahead.
"We didn't have a true point guard that season and we really struggled," Dotson said. "But more than anything, that season taught us to fight harder and believe in Coach Prosser's system."
Flash forward to this past season and the winds of change began to blow in Dotson and the team's favor. Point guard Mason Faulkner, who sat out the 2018-19 season due to transfer rules, was ready to play and the team had a mixture of talented veterans and eager newcomers ready to ignite a new era of Catamount basketball.
Dotson admitted Faulkner truly changed the whole culture of the team when he was able to play this season.
Two of the first four games of the season saw the team play tight-scoring affairs at both Georgia and Florida State. In the game against the Seminoles, Western Carolina led for most of the second half until the home squad tied the game at 72 with 2:36 left and outscored WCU 7-to-2 in the final two minutes.
Dotson knew this was a special team when the Catamounts came back from being down
22 to Jacksonville with 6:26 remaining to battle back and win 96-94 in double-overtime.
WCU became just the 10th team in NCAA history to erase a 22-point second half deficit
and the first team to ever accomplish the feat with less than nine minutes to play.
"When we were in the huddle, knowing we were down 22, we just told each other to keep fighting so the score wouldn't look as bad in the end," said Dotson. "I looked up at the scoreboard with three minutes left and we were only down by like 11 and told Onno [Steger] if we had played this hard the whole time we would have won the game. As a team, we were all just trying to play hard and finish the game strong and it turned out to be one of the most historic games in NCAA basketball."
After the game with Jacksonville, Dotson saw a turning point for himself and the team. Anything was possible and that equated to a strong 2019-20 year for himself and the Catamounts. Dotson earned honors and awards and helped his team reach the semifinals of the 2020 Ingles Southern Conference Tournament presented by General Shale. The Catamounts defeated Mercer in the quarterfinals – the program's first victory at the event since 2016 – before falling to eventual tournament winner ETSU in the semifinals.
But all the excitement from the wins and accolades he received paled in comparison to what he experienced as he walked off the hardwood the final time as a collegiate player at the Harrah's Cherokee Center. Amidst of all the tournament fanfare – one team advancing, another seeing their season come to a close – fans wearing both the Western Carolina purple and gold and ETSU blue and gold stood collectively as one and showered Dotson with applause during a standing ovation as he left the game.
"It really shows why college basketball is great," Dotson admitted. "A standing ovation from both fans while I walk off the court for the last time; I was crying so hard."
The end of his collegiate career doesn't mean the end of basketball for Dotson. He hopes to continue his basketball career overseas, playing the game he fought so hard to play all those years ago.