LUFKIN — After missing out on an opportunity to compete for a national championship back in March, the Angelina College men’s basketball team nevertheless is finding reasons to celebrate.
Eight good reasons, in fact.
With the pandemic ending the Roadrunners’ dream season early, head coach Nick Wade and assistant coach Zac Kircher nevertheless worked to ensure their players would find a home at the next level. Their efforts resulted in eight ‘Runners from the 2019-20 squad moving up to play basketball for a university.
Gwarren Douglass of Cleveland, Ohio, has signed with Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas; Tayvion Johnson of Houston has signed with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; Emmanuel Adeoye has signed with Texas A&M University-Commerce; Braxton Foreman of Frederick, Maryland, signed with Tiffin University in Ohio; Cameron Hart of Lufkin has signed with Houston Baptist University; Dralyn Brown of Houston has signed with York College in York, Nebraska; Travis Henson of Oxon Hill, Maryland, has signed with California State University, Bakersfield; and Dwight Simon of Alexandria, Louisiana, has signed with Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri.
Seven of those players were on the AC roster in 2019-20 and contributed to the team’s 24-9 record overall and 16-3 record in Region XIV play. Adeoye redshirted in 2019-20 and did not see game action.
Wade and Kircher have said all along their main goal is to get incoming players to buy into the importance of both academics and athletics once they reach the collegiate level.
“We make sure we let the players know you can’t have one without the other,” Wade said. “We really hold them to that. We tell them if they’re not going to take care of business in the classroom, then to be honest, they can’t play for us.
“To be a champion on and off the court is something we strive to instill, and I couldn’t be any prouder of this batch of guys. They held to their end of the deal, and now they’re able to continue both their academic and athletic careers.”
Wade added that while losing out on a national tournament opportunity and missing a full season because of the pandemic has been painful, seeing his players continue living their dreams is a pretty big morale boost.
“It hurts that we aren’t able to finish the deal with some of them, just because we’re a family here,” Wade said. “It was just as tough on those players as it was on us. That’s what hurts, bringing guys in hoping to get to spend the full two years with them, but because of the situation we’re in, we didn’t get to do that. But I feel we and they did a good enough job to set them up in a position to take that next big step.
“It’s rewarding and it’s a blessing.”
(Gary Stallard is the Angelina College Sports Information Director. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)