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I see the Mayor is getting out his signs again this year. This is a welcome sight because he deserves another term for...

Late signing spree starts for area athletes

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Ayden-Grifton baseball player Mason Ross sigs to join the Methodist University baseball team.

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By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, May 23, 2019

As the current school year nears its conclusion, athletes from around the county are finalizing their choices to continue their academic and athletic careers at the college level.

Following is a summary of recent local signings:

Ayden-Grifton quartet signs

Four Ayden-Grifton standouts signed this week, including the dynamic duo of multi-sport athletes Mason Ross and Jordan Atkinson. 

Atkinson, who originally signed to play baseball for Methodist, was informed earlier this month he will also be joining the Monarchs basketball team. He plans to study athletic training. 

“Methodist was the only school to offer me for both sports,” Atkinson said. “I still wanted to play both in college, and that was a big factor in my decision. I wasn’t ready to make the choice just yet.”

His teammate, outfielder Mason Ross, announced his choice on Monday afternoon. Ross played soccer, baseball and was a state qualifier in wrestling for the Chargers.

“It’s really close to home and they have a great baseball program,” Ross said. “I really liked the coaching staff as well.” 

Ross was excited to be able to continue to play alongside his lifelong friend. 

“He’s like family to me,” Ross said of Atkinson. “I can rely on him to do anything and everything. It’s crucial to have someone you can rely on in college.”

James Richardson was another bright spot for this year’s Chargers basketball squad. The 6-foot, 185-pound guard excelled alongside Atkinson. He showcased his ability to accurately pass the ball, along with his smooth jump shot, which landed him a spot with Davidson Community College.

“The school was the best fit for me,” Richardson said. “The team also fit my style of play. They are very fast, and that’s my type of game.” 

Richardson said he expects to be slotted as a combo point guard. 

Jalen Hardy, a standout for the Chargers track program, was the last to sign her letter of intent. She will attend N.C. Wesleyan College, where she plans to study exercise science. 

“It’s a great school,” Hardy said. “I love the students and staff. I can see myself succeeding up there.”

Five Falcons sign

South Central rounded out its year of signings with another five athletes, including cross country runner Fletcher Bost, basketball stars Shykeim Phillips, Raquan Vann and Ninevah Reddick and top wrestler Jerrell Belcher. 

Bost will graduate with his name spread throughout the SC cross country and track and field record books. He leaves with four school records, including the 800, 1600 and 3200 records. He was a top-ten runner in the region and a 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference champion. He will attend Western Carolina University where he will also join the honors college.

“I’m definitely happy with my time here,” Bost said. “I feel like I could have done a little better. In high school, the most important thing to me was friends, so that drew me to cross country in the first place. I wanted to have a good time and always make the best of every moment.”

Vann and Phillips, members of the Falcons 4-A state championship basketball squad, will also be moving on. Vann will team up with other local prospects, including Greene Central’s Donte Johnson, at Fayetteville Technical Community College. 

“I’m very excited,” Vann said. “I love the coaching staff and the team we’re building. It’s going to be a great year.”

Phillips, one of two superstars on SC’s 2018-19 team, was a workhorse for the Falcons on their way to the 4-A state title. After a long and secretive recruiting process, he will join Greene Central superstar Imajae Dodd at UNC Wilmington. He also hopes to improve some aspects of his game while with the Seahawks.

“I’m looking to improve on becoming a more consistent player overall,” Phillips said. “I want to improve my three-ball, and just being more consistent on the court so I can help this team win.”

Reddick, the Falcons girls basketball team’s leading scorer, will be heading to Elizabeth City State University.

“Being with a team like we had this season means a lot,” Reddick said. “Coming in and putting in the effort we did really touched my heart. I’m really excited about getting out to Elizabeth City, meeting some new friends and helping this team win.”

Last but not least, Jerrell Belcher, better known as ‘Bubba,’ crossed the 100-win mark in his final season on the mats. He finished with a 140-14 career record and was a national All-American and finished third in state competition this season.

Belcher will attend Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, IA. He is already in talks to transfer to Appalachian State after his time in Iowa.

“My time here was fun,” Belcher said. “That’s all I can say about it, it was a lot of fun.”

Fuller heading to N.C. Central

D.H. Conley volleyball star Elana Fuller announced her decision to continue her career at N.C. Central University Thursday afternoon.

The standout middle hitter grew up quickly in the sport, joining the Vikings squad after being denied at spot  on her middle school team twice. She then jumped into travel ball with the East Carolina Junior Volleyball Club before landing with DHC. After a long recruiting process came to an end, Fuller was delighted to have her many supporters, consisting of family, friends, coaches and teammates, in attendance as she signed her letter of intent. 

“The family atmosphere and unity I felt when I visited really drew me towards Central,” Fuller said. “I really felt like I was at home. I met the team and they were really sweet, and I just loved that.”

Fuller said she intends to study business administration, followed by law school so she can become a sports agent.

Once she arrives on campus, Fuller expects to spend time at her traditional position in the middle.

“They want to start me in the middle,” she said. “At the next level, I am small for the middle, but I am working to improve my footwork. I think I can be successful.”

Contact Jake Keator at jkeator@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.

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