In Greek mythology, the Trojan horse concealed the Greek people so they could enter the city of Troy.
In modern-day Waco, the Trojan horses have been concealed long enough.
Three starters from University’s regional tournament boys basketball team will sign national letters of intent to play in college on Thursday. That includes point guard Umoja Gibson, the Super Centex Player of the Year, who will head to the University of North Texas. He’ll be joined at Thursday’s signing day event by forward Antoine Hailey, who will further his playing days at Angelina College, and post Jibrael Washington, who is bound for Temple College.
Additionally, University football player Julian Locke will sign with Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and softball’s Ashley Estrada with Mary Hardin-Baylor.
For Rodney Smith, there are few rewards more gratifying than seeing hard-working players get a chance to move on to college and live out their athletic dreams.
“Oh man, at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about,” said Smith, who coached Gibson, Hailey and Washington in basketball the past four years and has transitioned to University football head coach now. “Their goal was to play on the next level, and to see them attain that goal of not only graduation but continuing their dream of playing basketball, that’s what it’s all about. As a coach, you want to see those kids go on to great things. They’re closing one chapter of their lives and opening another.”
Gibson, a 6-0 point guard, averaged 22.4 points and 11.1 assists for the Trojans this year, who held Class 5A’s No. 1 ranking for more than two months. He received a flurry of interest from Division I schools before this season, including offers from Houston, Texas State, Montana State, Portland and Sam Houston State. But those schools, except for Texas State, backed off after signing other players. That left Gibson to choose between the Bobcats or the Mean Green, a late arriver to the party.
Ultimately, he will hook up with former Baylor assistant coach Grant McCasland at North Texas.
“I think Grant and North Texas are going to be a great fit for Umoja,” Smith said. “The sky’s the limit for that kid. He’s going to do some great things, and I’m excited to be a part of his life.”
Hailey, a 6-3 forward in high school who projects as a guard in college, averaged 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds while making first-team Super Centex. He’ll join an Angelina team that went 20-10 in the 2016-17 season.
Washington, a 6-7 post, averaged 8.5 points and 8.9 rebounds and stood out as one of the top shotblockers in the area, turning back 5.7 shots per contest. He’ll head south on I-35 to Kirby Johnson’s always-successful Temple College team, which went 24-7 this year.
Locke is a two-sport letterwinner for the Trojans who also starts on University’s baseball team. He played receiver in football. Estrada was an honorable-mention Super Centex centerfielder for University in 2016, which recorded the program’s first-ever playoff win.
Lady Leopards make college choices
A pair of Lorena’s finest girls athletes made their college decisions final on Wednesday.
Senior track star Tiffani Peacock signed with Baylor, while volleyball standout Maddie Miller inked with Incarnate Word. Peacock ranks as the top girls pole vaulter in Central Texas this year, with a season-best of 12-0. She also has competed in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles, the long jump and the javelin toss in her track career.
Miller served as the defensive backbone of Lorena’s regional tournament volleyball team, accumulating more than 1,200 digs. She was named co-district MVP and first-team Super Centex. She also was the leading scorer for Lorena’s district championship soccer team, netting 38 goals.
McGregor’s Porter signs with Simpson College
McGregor senior Essance Porter isn’t the biggest frontcourt player around, but her big heart has landed her an opportunity to play college basketball.
Porter signed with Simpson College on Wednesday, an NCAA Division III school in Indianola, Iowa. The 5-foot-5 forward has ranked among Central Texas’ top rebounders for the past several seasons. As a senior in 2016-17, she averaged 14.7 points and 14.7 boards while landing second-team Super Centex recognition.
Vanguard inches closer to state title
It took a tiebreaker to top them, but Vanguard’s tennis duo of Evan Mastin and Graham Gardner came tantalizingly close to a state title on Tuesday.
Mastin and Gardner reached the final of the Class 4A boys doubles at the TAPPS state tennis tournament at the Waco Regional Tennis and Fitness Center. But they fell just shy of gold, as Fort Worth Lake Country’s tandem of Zachary Harper and Ray Clark outlasted the Viking pair, 7-5, 5-7, 10-7.
Vanguard’s duo won three consecutive matches in straight sets at the tournament to reach the final, including two matches where they dropped only one game combined. They were two-time district champions in a career that concluded Tuesday, as both are seniors.
Elsewhere at the TAPPS tennis tourney, Vanguard’s Trey Cofer won his opening state match before falling in the quarterfinals in 4A boys singles. In Class 2A girls singles, Live Oak’s Amber Rhodes lost her state opener to Lubbock All Saints’ Lena Tello, 6-1, 6-2.
Live Oak also qualified two entries in 2A boys singles – Jonathan Cox and Luke Garst. Cox dropped his opening match Wednesday in straight sets, while Garst won over Conrad Small of Lubbock All Saints, 6-0, 6-1, to advance to the next round. In 2A boys doubles, Live Oak’s DJ Burfischer and Levi Hobbs fell in a straight-sets loss to a team from Texoma Christian School in Sherman.
Axtell’s Frillou heading to Western Texas
Axtell’s Brittany Frillou will extend her softball career at Western Texas College in Snyder, Texas.
Frillou plans to sign later this month. The senior catcher hit .492 with three home runs and 28 RBIs for the Lady Longhorns last year. She is also a four-time state qualifier in powerlifting.