This year, nine players from the St. James Coastal Crew Rebels signed scholarships to play sports in college — the most Rebels ever to sign in one season.
Terrence Alston signed with Brewton-Parker College, Ricky Rivera signed with Savannah State University, Jimmy Bacon signed with Georgia Perimeter, Eli Guest signed with Mississippi Delta, Joey Bell signed with Georgia College and State University, DeAndre Ross and Shakirus Moss signed with Greensboro College and Myron Murphy and Keith Robertson signed with Middle Georgia.
All the Rebels signed to play basketball except Rivera, who will play football in college. President and Coastal Crew Rebels founder Ernie Walthour said he was elated the successful group of kids earned the opportunity for a higher education and to play sports.
"It’s a great thing for St. James, the Rebels and especially for these kids," he said.
Walthour said the kids earned their scholarships by dedicating their summers to develop skills and participate in AAU leagues like the Rebels squads.
Corporate sponsor representative Jay Osteen of Osteen and
Osteen became involved with the Rebels in 1997 because he said he wanted to assist the youth in the community. He said most of the kids are also attend the St. James after-school program, which offers children scripture lessons, mentoring, meals and plenty of time to hone their skills on the basketball court.
"I am very proud of all nine St. James Rebels who received scholarships," Osteen said. "These nine young men serve as a great example of what you can achieve if you make the grade and give 100 percent effort on the court. These young men give the younger children great hope in that the younger children have witnessed their success and believe they can achieve the same. Success breeds success. I am especially proud of Keith Robertson (Bud). Bud has been in our after school program since he was six-years old and to see Bud grow through the program and now get a chance to attend college on a scholarship makes it all worthwhile."
Former Highlander Joey Bell said hard work and hours of dedication is what it takes to make the next step. Bell said he plans to mentor younger players and will visit St. James often to help others the same way the program helped him.
Long County Blue Tide and Rebels players Eli Guest and Jimmy Bacon said it was an honor to represent their high school at the next level. Both agree with Bell, saying kids who want to make that leap should be willing to sacrifice some of their vacation time and focus on off-season training and drills.
All the athletes excelled in the classroom as well, knowing their grades would either hurt or help their chances of playing ball in college.
"We’ve always stressed academics," Walthour said. "These kids prove that making the grade is just as important as being skillful on the basketball court."