Devils go from small town to big city
Published 1:25 am Monday, April 24, 2006
By By Matthew Nascone
The rewards of the incredible season the Escambia County Blue Devils boy's basketball team had in 2005-06 continued to roll in April 20 in the school library. On this date Quartez James and Kenny Johnson both signed scholarships to play basketball for Lawson State Community College in Birmingham.
"First and foremost I am happy that these two guys will get to continue their education," ECHS head boy's basketball coach Jerome Antone said. "They are not just good kids, they are good people and I wish them the best of luck at the next level."
It goes without saying that the two athletes are excited to play college ball, and they both said they would not forget where they came from.
"It feels great to be moving on, but we could not have done it without the support of the coaches, the teachers and other staff and the community," James said. "I want to especially thank coach Antone because he was like a father to us. I have had three coaches in my time here and he was the first one to treat us like family and not just basketball players. He took care of all of us."
Antone said his treatment of the Devils last year was the result of the way one of his former high school coaches treated him.
"I had a high school football coach, Ostell Hamilton at St. Jude Catholic High in Montgomery, who told me that I would need to help someone in need in the future," Antone said. "And he was right because it makes me feel good to help these guys in any way I can."
Johnson also displayed his excitement to play in college.
"I am glad to have the chance to go on and play college ball," he said. "And I am going to try my hardest to get to the next level after that."
Both guys find comfort in already knowing a teammate as they travel to unfamiliar territory.
"It is a good thing to have someone I already know because I know I won't be by myself," Johnson said.
James said he feels the same way.
"It feels real good to have someone I know on my team in college because I can help him out and he can help me out at the same time," he said. "And I will have someone to get used to playing college ball with."
Lawson State is a public two-year institution with a population of slightly more than 2,000 students in the southwest section of Birmingham.
Antone said he hopes the signing of James and Johnson to a college scholarship will show future Blue Devils that hard work can reap rewards.
Also on hand for the signing were ECHS assistant principal David McKinley and athletic director Kyle Davis. McKinley said this signing day could only be good for ECHS.
"I have watched these two develop into great athletes and great young men in their four years here," McKinley said. "And that should prepare them to get the most out of their experience at the next level of basketball and in the classroom. It is a big day for ECHS as well as the city of Atmore and I know they will represent us well in Birmingham."
Davis said he was proud of the accomplishment these two athletes have made and he gave praise to the job Antone did in preparing James and Johnson for college basketball.
The accomplishments of the 2005-06 Devils have allowed these two young men to move on and they have not forgotten how they did just that.
"The success of the team helped us out a lot because we could not have done this without a team," James said. "Without teammates there is no one to pass to and no one person can win on his own."