Five former Liberty County athletes were honored and inducted into the Liberty County Athletic Hall of Fame on Thursday evening for their contributions in football, basketball, baseball and track.
Friends and family members gathered at Club Stewart, where each individual’s accomplishments were recalled and the 2011 inductees received plaques.
All but one of the inductees were graduates of Bradwell Institute. Bryan Sears graduated from Liberty County High School, where he excelled in track and field.
“That boy could run,” his dad, Joseph Sears, said. Bryan Sears was not able to attend the banquet because he is deployed on the USS Enterprise. Joseph Sears expressed his son’s excitement about the honor.
“It means a lot to him,” he said. “He was excited about it, and I wish he was here to receive it. It was something that, for a parent, it means a lot. And for him, I know it means a whole lot.”
Bryan Sears was a four-year track star at LCHS. He was crowned the USA national champion in the 200-meter dash in 1996 and was the school’s region champion in the 100- and 200-meter dash in 1998.
In 1998, he also won his second USA national champion title in the 200, took the title in the 100 and was named the 1998 Coastal Empire Male Track Athlete of the Year.
In 1999, he was the world champion in sprint medley at the World Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. In 2000, he was elected to the National High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sears received a full scholarship to run track at the University of Florida and later transferred to the University of Texas EI Paso, where in 2003 he was a member of the conference-champion 400-meter relay team.
David Kunda was recognized for his talents on the Bradwell Tigers’ football team. He was named to the All-Region 3-AAAA first team and was an All-Coastal Empire linebacker in 1996 and ’97. During his senior season, he registered 86 tackles, 58 assists and was the Harvey Overton Defensive Player of the Year in 1997. He received an all-state honorable mention from the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 1997.
Kunda received a four-year football scholarship/appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where he played all four years for the Navy football team. He graduated from the academy in 2002.
“It’s a huge honor,” Kunda said. “Being recognized for accomplishments you did, whether it was a couple of years ago or many years ago. Just the fact that there are people out there that recognize those accomplishments. Those are the type of events in your life that lead you to where you are now.
“It’s good to share those experiences and talk through them,” he continued. “It takes you down memory lane, and you get to meet a lot of the people in the community that maybe you met once in the past or knew once in the past but didn’t get to see and share your gratitude.”
Robert Campbell and Kashien Latham were recognized for their contributions on the Bradwell Institute basketball squad. Campbell played all four years at BI and earned a scholarship to play at Armstrong Atlantic State University, where he finished his four-year career ranked second all-time in NCAA Division II history with 357 steals.
Campbell also earned NCAA Division II All-America honors as a junior and senior and ranks third on the Armstrong all-time scoring list with 1,537 points. In April, he was inducted in AASU’s Hall of Fame.
“It’s an honor to be inducted and remembered for where I played my high school basketball,” Campbell said. “And to have one of my former teammates, Joe Lecoeuvre (from AASU) introduce me and for them to even want to have me in their hall of fame — I just can’t say enough. It’s an honor.
“I want to say a special thank-you to my coaches and my teammates for instilling in me the skills that I needed to play basketball,” he continued.
Latham also played for the BI Tigers but added that sports, especially basketball, were not his priority.
“Basketball was never my first thing,” he said. “I was always into school. My brother was 6 foot 7 and played basketball. My dad was 6 foot 5 and he played basketball, and everybody always thought I should play basketball.
“I went through a growth spurt in the ninth grade … and when I came back my sophomore year, I was 6 foot 9, so I had to play. I was the tallest kid, so I had to play and I hated it,” Latham continued. “I remember not going to practice sometimes because I didn’t have that passion to play, but the coach would come to my house. My dad came back from Korea and made me go to practice, and it turned out to be a good thing. By the time my senior year came around, I was good in basketball and I enjoyed it more.”
Latham earned a scholarship to play at Georgia Southern University, where he finished his four-year college career as the school’s all-time leading shot-blocker with 112, according to GSU archives. He became the 29th member of the Eagles’ 1,000-point club. Latham played all four years, starting 96 of 114 games and registering 33 career double-doubles.
“It means a lot to have that recognition,” Latham said. “You don’t really do it for the recognition, but when somebody does recognize the things you’ve done athletically, it means a lot. It makes you stop and think about all the things you’ve done. I mean it’s been a long time since I played basketball, but it brings back memories and it’s a good feeling.”
Rodney LeCounte played some football for the Bradwell Tigers, but he flourished on the baseball field. LeCounte had a .596 average in his high school baseball career. He hit nine home runs and drove in 55 runs in his senior year.
LeCounte earned a scholarship to Brewton-Parker College, then transferred to North Florida Community College in 1987, where he compiled a .353 batting average, hit eight home runs and drove in 26 runs. LeCounte then signed with Columbus State College, where he hit .426 with 75 hits, 52 RBIs and six home runs in 52 games and eventually played in the Division II College World Series.
“It means coming back to the community and being recognized by the community,” he said. “It’s always home. Even though I’m not living here right now, this is always home. It gave me life lessons and taught me a lot of different things. … Going through and how to handle adversity — it’s life itself.”