Asked to explain why they made their respective college decisions, the seven Rock Hill Bearcat student-athletes seated at a media center table Wednesday morning began to rattle off their reasons.
The first three involved some version of “because it was close to home.” The fourth brief explanation, from baseball player R.J. Petit went in another direction.
“Um, I wanted to get away from home,” he said, as the large group of parents, classmates and teachers and coaches laughed.
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The two-time All-State selection and The Herald’s 2017 girls’ basketball player of the year will stay in Rock Hill to play for Winthrop.
“Very excited. I’ll be able to have my hometown crowd come out and still be able to watch me play,” Anderson said.
The 5-foot-10 forward wants to major in biology with the goal of becoming a doctor. She had interest or offers from USC Aiken, Western Carolina, USC Upstate, Charlotte and Hampton. She averaged a double-double last season and is thrilled to play for Winthrop coach Lynette Woodard, a basketball legend.
“She has an amazing personality and that’s what I really liked about her,” said Anderson. “We clicked automatically and I think we’re going to have a really good relationship.”
Davis-Robinson got serious about basketball two years ago and her hard work paid off Wednesday when she signed with Averett University, in Danville, Va. Davis-Robinson, who said she was surprised to get a college basketball opportunity, liked that the school wasn’t too big or too small and wasn’t located too far from Rock Hill.
“They treated me like family, from the first day they’d seen me playing AAU,” she said. “The teammates were awesome.”
Davis-Robinson wants to major in athletic training and she does well in school. “I have a 3.7 GPA,” she said, “and intending to go up.”
Like her teammate Davis-Robinson, Wright doubted she would play college basketball. But her doubts were as recent as this past summer when she said she had an epiphany.
“I just really got down on myself,” Wright said. “One of my coaches and a few of my other friends talked to me and it woke me up. I started working harder. I’m still not the best, but I’m gonna get better. No doubt about it.”
The 6-foot forward will play at Columbia International. The school’s coach stopped by Rock Hill High for a practice and noticed Wright and liked what she saw. When Wright visited the school she too like what she saw, especially Columbia International’s Christian foundation.
Wright plans on majoring in sports management. She’s not quite sure what she wants to do beyond college; maybe she’ll have another epiphany?
Ballard averaged double digit points per game each of the last two seasons for Rock Hill girls’ basketball. She signed Wednesday to continue playing at Converse College, near Spartanburg. She was interested in the school because it allows students to design their own degree.
“I know I want to major in biology but I don’t know what I want to pair it with,” said Ballard, who is named after her father and nicknamed “Tee.” “I don’t want to work in a hospital. I want to work in a lab, or something.”
Ballard was also attracted to Converse’s relatively close location to Rock Hill, so that her parents can watch her play in person.
The 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher will play college baseball for Charleston Southern. Petit’s recruitment fell in between the big schools -- he was offered a preferred walk-on spot by Clemson -- and the small schools -- he was one of Newberry’s top recruiting targets. Charleston Southern offered a perfect middle ground.
“I liked the youth of the coaches. They understand we’re college students and how we’re gonna be,” Petit said.
Petit might not be done growing physically. He’s filled out in the last year, though, and his fastball is touching 90 miles per hour. He wants to work on his consistency, but his coach Dell Corley said he already has great control.
“He hits his spots,” said Corley. “I’m the proudest of his offseason work ethic. He’s completely transformed his body.”
The Rock Hill volleyball standout spurned offers from bigger schools to commit to Anderson University’s program. She had offers or interest from Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian, Wofford, Charleston Southern and a few bigger schools, but opted for Division II Anderson.
“I figured out that I would like a school better if I wanted to go there whether I was playing volleyball, or not,” said Shugart, who has all A’s in school and plans on majoring in elementary education. “I just loved the atmosphere at Anderson, it’s a beautiful school. I liked the coach and the players make it feel like a family.”
Ball will play volleyball at USC Lancaster, with the hope of moving on to play at Western Carolina. A strong student, she’s spoken with the coaches at WCU, who have a proclivity toward junior college transfers, which Ball do after two years in Lancaster. Western Carolina also has Ball’s preferred major, speech pathology. In the meantime, she’s excited to study elementary education and play volleyball at USC-L.
“It was a surprise that it worked out the way I wanted it to,” said Ball, an outside hitter for Cindy Elder’s Bearcats.
Ball was another in Wednesday’s group that flirted with leaving her playing days behind. But Elder encouraged Ball to talk to USC Lancaster and she was convinced to continue.