Seven Greenforest athletes sign scholarships

Greenforest McCalep Christian Academy officials hosted a historic signing day April 22, with seven high school athletes signing college scholarships, one of which was a track scholarship.

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At the signing day, Garison Coleman signed with Belmont Abby College in North Carolina on a track scholarship. Coleman is the first Greenforest athlete to sign a track scholarship, according to track coach Terence Watts.

“It’s very exciting to see the program pay off,” said Watts, who has coached Coleman since fifth grade. “We’ve had people go to state and do things like that, but those were two-sport athletes, and their main focus was basketball. This is the first time we’ve had someone who was completely focused on track. It was wonderful to be a part of that.”

Watts said Coleman’s dedication to track, his leadership skills and off the field excellence have contributed to his success.

“Being an athlete at that level isn’t just a physical thing, it’s a mental thing as well. Once he saw he could excel at track, he really took to it. He was able to not be mentally discouraged when he was younger and got better and then he became a leader when he got older. It’s the mentality of ‘I want to work, I want to excel,’ that makes him such a great athlete,” added Watts.

According to Watts, Coleman’s signing could also provide a boost for the future of Greenforest’s track program.

“People can see that the program works. Having a track athlete who has gone through this program and achieved that lets people know that even though we’re a small school without some of the equipment of the bigger schools, that we’re working. The things that we can do can help you to excel,” said Watts.

From the boys’ basketball team, Khi Cook signed with South Georgia Tech College and Jaylen Jackson signed with North Carolina A&T State University.

Head coach Rory Griffin said seeing his players sign college scholarships is a highlight of his job.

“People don’t realize how hard it is to earn a college basketball scholarship. That’s a privilege that only a select few receive. To know we can do it year in and year out, I’m just humbled and blessed,” said Griffin.

Griffin added that seeing Cook—a four-year player—and Jackson—a year-one transfer—have opportunities to continue their careers is better than a state championship.

“It really is bigger than a state championship for me. We can hang banners all day, but now these guys have another chance to achieve their goal. People don’t quite remember the years, but they know the players who went on to do great things,” said Griffin.

Last season, the Eagles went 19-5 and went 12-0 in region play. During Cook’s time at Greenforest, the program tallied a 76-34 overall record and was 35-5 in region play.

Last year’s seniors—who signed with Middle Tennessee University and Drexel University—helped achieve the overall record, and Griffin said he hopes Cook and Jackson find similar success in their first year of college.

“What we try to pride ourselves in is wherever you go, you’ll be successful,” said Griffin. “Last year we had Lamar Oden Jr. featured in March Madness and Christian Fussell at Middle Tennessee State. To hear a coach and professor say, ‘they were ready,’ that’s what we pride ourselves in.”

Greenforest Lady Eagles’ signings include Adrianna Jones signing with Covenant College, Benie Lundu signing to continue her basketball career at Coastal Carolina University and both Lor Mputu and Ineza Sifa signing with Eastern Florida State College.

The Greenforest Lady Eagles went 14-6 with a 5-0 record in region play last season, in Nia Evans second year as Greenforest’s head coach. Greenforest also featured a 22-6 record and a 6-0 record in region play last season.

Evans said she was overjoyed seeing her players sign scholarships after they came to the United States for a shot to play college basketball.

“It makes it more special because they aren’t even from America,” said Evans. “They came over here to get that exposure and to be seen, and they were seen. This is a great opportunity for them and I couldn’t be happier.”

Stealing the show with four players signing is also a good sign for the program, according to Evans.

“We’re growing, we’re getting better, we’re getting seen. Last year we only had one senior, and that one senior got signed. If we keep having [the majority] of our seniors getting signed, then we’re doing a great job here,” added Evans.

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