Franks inks with TCTC

PICKENS — Throughout his high school career, Pickens’ Justin Franks has strived to reach the goal of playing soccer in college.
That dream officially became a reality last Thursday, as the senior signed to play for Tri-County Technical College beginning next year.
“I’m so glad to know it’s set in stone and that’s what I’m going to do,” Franks said. “It’s been my goal since I started in ninth grade playing soccer. I just love the sport.”
Pickens head coach Craig Thompson said the dedication to competing at the next level has driven Franks to become a better player, while also helping the Blue Flame to become a better team.
“His leadership, work ethic and dedication to the team has been invaluable,” Thompson said. “He has set a really good example and been a role model for the younger players to see what it takes to play at the varsity level, to be successful and then to go on.”
Franks helped the Blue Flame advance to the state AAA playoffs this season, as Pickens opened Tuesday night at Eastside, with results unavailable at press time. And Thompson admits that without Franks in the line-up, that reality may have never come true.
“Without him, we definitely wouldn’t be going to the playoffs this year and we wouldn’t have done nearly as well as we did,” Thompson said.
“I’m very proud of Justin,” Thompson said. “He’s worked extremely hard these last couple years. He’s really going to be missed next year. The coaches at Tri-County are getting a really great player and an all-around great person. The sky’s the limit for Justin.”
For Tri-County head coach Kevin Mahlan, one thing quickly jumped out about Franks’ game.
“The first thing I noticed about him was how he kicked the ball. When he hits the ball, you hear a pop,” Mahlan said. “When he first kicked the ball and I heard that noise, I had never heard it before. That caught my attention.”
In addition, Mahlan, who played defense himself in his younger days, admired Franks’ defensive prowess.
“Playing the middle of the defense, nothing got by him,” Mahlan said. “I’m trying to build a big defensive wall for my team this year and I think Justin will fit right in the middle of it.”
Mahlan, who is the fifth coach for the Hawks in the program’s five-year history, is also the first coach to hit the recruiting trail for Tri-County.
“I’ve found that some of the kids I’ve recruited probably never would have even gone to college, but because I’m offering them the opportunity to play soccer, they have decided to get an education. We plan on making that their number one priority.”