NAHS student-athletes sign for scholarships

The last few days of April may have brought a sigh of relief for at least five of North Augusta High School’s top student-athletes, with Jacquie Hill, Gracie Bryant, Zach Wilson, Tavarez Hall and Eric Collins all having their “signings,” to confirm their scholarship-based collegiate plans.

Hill and Bryant put pens to paper on April 23. Hill is on board to play softball at Erskine College in Due West. Bryant will play volleyball at Lander University in Greenwood.

Wilson, Hall and Collins had their assembly Monday. Wilson is staying relatively close to home, with plans to play baseball at USC Sumter, while Hall is moving a little farther out, aiming for basketball at Saint Augustine’s University, in downtown Raleigh, N.C. Traveling even farther will be Collins. He is Maryland-bound, planning to swim for the U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis.

Collins may be the most prominent of the bunch, having bagged two state titles during the 2012-13 school year: the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard breaststroke.

“I’m very diverse with my events,” said Collins, whose parents are Tom and Chris Collins. “I’m good at all the strokes, at varying distances, so whatever they need me to do, I can do at a high level.”

In terms of studies, he’s leaning toward “something in math and science.” A January visit to the campus worked in the academy’s favor, despite the weather having been nasty, he said.

“He always works his hardest at practice,” said teammate Glenn Barnes, also a senior, “and (he’s) just always trying to improve and motivate others while he’s doing it, and throughout his years of practice, it’s enabled him to become one of the best swimmers in the state.”

Hall, whose parents are Antonio and Keisha Dunbar, said he plans to study chemical engineering, and is looking to play small forward and power forward for the Falcons. He described himself as having the advantage of being a “mismatch,” being taller than normal as a small forward, and shorter than normal as a power forward.

Hall, who stands 6-foot-5, said he expects to focus on improving his ball-handling in the months ahead.

“I’ve got a good offensive game, but I also shut down the ... players I guard,” said Hall.

Al Young, North Augusta’s coach, described Hall as having an excellent work ethic, in terms of pursuing his goal of taking the next step in education and athletics. “He’s come into our program, worked real hard and reaped the benefits,” Young said.

“I go to the gym pretty much every day for about three or four hours,” said Hall.

“I usually ... lift on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and every day, I go to the gym and play ball or work on dribbling and shooting.”

Wilson, whose parents are Chris and Patricia Wilson, said he is planning to serve the Fire Ants as either a catcher or second-baseman.

“I’m a really good hitter, and I’ve got a decent arm, but I’ve got a really good glove, too, so I can play anywhere in the infield.”

As for goals for the next few months, Wilson said, “I need to work on just getting bigger and stronger for next year.”

He said he’s looking to focus on “some kind of engineering either mechanical or architectural.

Teammate JoJo Higgenbottom, who has signed to play for USC Aiken, commented on Wilson. “He’s really scrappy and he works really hard, and he’s a really good hitter and he hits for average and power, and he ... never gives up and he does what he’s supposed to do.”

Hill, whose background includes two years of varsity volleyball for North Augusta, said she will probably serve Erskine as a second-baseman.

“She’s just solid just great hands, great awareness I mean, a great player to have on your team,” said Derrick Quinn, North Augusta’s softball coach.

Hill, whose parents are Chris Hill and Francisca Schultze, served North Augusta as a shortstop.

“It’s going to be different, but I think I can handle it,” said Hill, who’s leaning toward studies in athletic training.

“We’ve had a long, great tradition at North Augusta,” Quinn said, “and Jacquie’s going to continue that process.”

Lindsay Tucker, North Augusta’s volleyball coach, described Bryant as “a great team leader.”

“She’s had a lot of experience club and then also through school and she played middle for us,” she said, noting that Bryant’s planning to play on the right side for Lander.

Bryant, who stands 6-foot-1, is the daughter of John and Stephanie Bryant. She competed at the varsity level for three years. She said she’s looking to improve her strength in the months ahead, “so I can hit harder.”

Referring to Lander, she said, “I really like the coach and the team, and it just felt right when I went. I just felt like it’s close to home, and my parents and grandparents can watch me, and that’s really important to me.”

She said she plans to study early childhood development, en route to a career as a kindergarten teacher.