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48 Rock Hill-area athletes sign to play college sports at UNC, Clemson, Va Tech, more

The Herald (Rock Hill, SC) logo The Herald (Rock Hill, SC) 11/29/2021 Alex Zietlow, The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)

Nov. 29—The early period for high school athletes to sign National Letters of Intent began Nov. 11. Several athletes in York, Chester and Lancaster counties have since put their college sports dreams on paper.

These are their stories.

Andrew Jackson has 5 signees, including 1 going to UNC baseball

Kyle Percival is heading to Chapel Hill.

The left-handed ace of Andrew Jackson High School signed to play college baseball at UNC earlier this month. He called the move "a milestone for the big goal" — and the big goal, to him, is winning a CWS national championship and then realizing his Major League Baseball dreams.

"Those dreams, I've had them since I was a little kid," Percival told The Herald. "Me and my best friend, we used to dream about signing and being able to go to school to (play sports). And now that it's happened, being able to go to an ACC school, it's awesome."

At his signing earlier this month, Percival had friends and family around him. He was joined by his brother, Brett (who also played college baseball); his mother, Julie; and his father, Brandon.

Andrew Jackson head coach Mike Lucas was there, too. Lucas said he and the Percivals have been neighbors since Kyle was really young. ("I watched him every Christmas morning since he was (small) bring Christmas cookies up to my front door," he said.)

And what has Lucas noticed most about his star pitcher?

"Last year, his ability to carry a team was exposed," Lucas said. The coach referenced Percival's performance in last year's postseason, one that saw the Volunteers finish one win short of the first baseball state championship in school history. "I think that was a defining moment. He knows how to carry a team if necessary. He verbally quoted that to the team. I can't remember the exact verbiage he used, but he just tells them that he's got this."

Percival finished his junior year as an All-Area First-Team selection by The Herald and with a 7-0 record and 108 strikeouts. He has command of three pitches in his bag — a fastball (that once hit 92 miles per hour), a changeup and a slurve (slider/curve combination) — which is a rarity among high school pitchers.

The Lancaster County native and UNC have been talking since he was a sophomore in high school, the now-senior said. Percival was originally committed to Wake Forest but reopened his recruitment after the Demon Deacons' pitching coach left. Not 10 minutes after he told his travel baseball coach he de-committed, though — UNC came calling again.

"That same day, I was on the phone with (head) coach (Scott) Forbes, and he said, 'Hey man, let's get you a visit,'" Percival recounted. "And then two days later, I went up on a visit, and that's when I fell in love."

Percival wasn't the only signee the Volunteers hosted earlier this month. He was joined by four others: Tyler Trimnal (Percival's aforementioned best friend) is headed to Clemson to play soccer. Chloe West signed to USC Lancaster to play volleyball. And Bryce Helms and Ashton Phillips both signed to play baseball at Spartanburg Methodist.

Legion Collegiate Academy has 12 sign to play college sports

Legion Collegiate Academy, the public charter school in Rock Hill that now competes in a North Carolina private school league, has done a lot in its first two years of existence: It's won a state championship in baseball. It's won a state championship in softball. It's nurtured the growth of its other sports, too — including a basketball program that might boast the best team in Rock Hill this year.

But the single-most impressive thing that this school has done? It has gotten its students into college via sports. And this past month was no exception.

In November, 12 Legion athletes signed to play college sports. Meet them here:

Kyle Broome signed to play baseball at Florence-Darlington Tech in the fall. The catcher injured his arm and was in the dugout during the team's 2021 state championship run. He calls being able to continue playing baseball "a dream come true" because of what he underwent last year: "I knew I had a role even if I wasn't on the field, and my role was the dugout. Especially during the state championship game, we had to keep the energy up, and if we didn't we probably wouldn't have won the final state championship game."

Jay Douglas signed to play baseball at Florence-Darlington Tech this fall. He has a lot of fond memories at Legion — including one off the field: "Paintballing," he said. "We have team bonding stuff every year, and one of them is paintballing, and it just brings everyone together every year."

Colby Helms signed to play baseball at USC Union. The pitcher had a cousin attend USC Union and said that it was "the only college I really wanted to go to." He said his favorite moment at Legion was winning the 2021 state championship: "It was just really crazy. Soaking it all in. We were down, and of course we never gave up and didn't let our energy go down."

Joey Hylinski signed to play baseball at Winthrop. The Clover native said Winthrop's campus "felt like home." In addition to being a state championship pitcher, he also was Legion's quarterback as a sophomore and junior. He decided to focus on baseball as a senior. He has a fastball, slider and split-change in his arsenal of pitches: "I hit 90 (mph on my fastball) last year. And instead of just improving to 93, I want to hit 95."

Jack Killelea signed to play baseball at the U.S. Naval Academy. The catcher, known for his power hitting, has caught for Hylinski since they were 9- and 10-years old. His friends and classmates who watched him sign saluted him — a tribute to him going to Navy, he said: "It's just a great school, very historic. There are a lot of great things post-graduation that I could get into. And baseball: the coaches are great, very successful program, so I'm excited about that."

Jordan Santos also signed to play baseball at Clarks Summit University.

Shane Blakeney signed to play basketball at Drexel University. The 6-foot-4 guard and Rock Hill native has grown a ton in high school. He knew he'd have a chance to grow because his shoes were so big, he said: "It happened pretty quickly. In 10th grade, wearing size 14 shoe, I kind of saw it coming, but (the growth spurt) came out of nowhere. ... It definitely has its advantages, keeping those guard skills, being a point guard at my height." He looks forward to "bringing home some tournament wins" this season for Legion.

Marcus Kell, who's been in the Legion program since it opened his sophomore year, signed to play basketball at Western Carolina. The 6-foot-6 wing and lights-out shooter will play under head coach Justin Gray (a former Winthrop assistant): "I love him, and I'm excited about what he's building at Western, and I'm just ready to get up there and get started and be a part of the program."

Audrey Stacks is headed to USC Union to play volleyball. One of her favorite memories was meeting and learning from coach Lewis Williamson: "He's been one of my favorite coaches. Just the way he helped me, in general. And just the way he was so sweet to everyone."

Aleah Roy is headed to play softball at Winthrop. She'll be joining her sister, Bella, at the Rock Hill school and will be a part of the institution that current Legion head coach Mark Cooke built. (Aleah is an outfielder; Bella is a pitcher.) "I've always had this love for softball because of my sister," she said. "She's four years older than me. And ever since she started playing it, that was all I wanted to do."

Morgan Langley is going to USC Upstate to play softball. She's overcome a lot in her young career — including a knee injury that she suffered in the semifinals of the state playoffs last year, she said: "I came back and hit in the last game of the state championship series. ... It was awesome. It (wasn't good) that I got hurt, but the fact that my coaches put me back in, it just made everything better. It meant a lot to me."

Gabi Wilson is going to N.C. State to play softball. She committed to the Raleigh school in the beginning of her junior year, particularly because of the coaches and their "home-run mindset," she said: "I may not look like it (at 5-foot-4), but I love hitting home runs. ... When I get up to bat, people always say, 'Watch the bunt!' because I'm so small. But then when I get in the box, I think I'm going to hit a home run."

Clover has 5 sign to play at the next level

Clover celebrated five signees this month. Meet them here:

Caleb Cox is going to North Greenville University to play baseball. He committed to NGU this past summer because of the coaching staff and the family bond the players have. One of his favorite memories with the team was winning a region championship as a freshman on the JV team. That same class of freshmen are all seniors now — and have a chance to do something special this year: "I kind of just want to go out with a bang," he said.

Xander Love is headed to Limestone to run cross country and track. He said he didn't fall in love with XC until his sophomore year — when he was trying to stay in shape for soccer season. He "fell in love" with running, though. Why? "I love the rush you get, before the race and after the race. How you feel after the race. I love my coaches and teammates and how they used to push me every single day." (He added that he loves how running has made him a "healthier person," too. His pre-race go-to meal: a turkey sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce and oregano from Jersey Mike's.)

Kaia Morey is going to Lander to play lacrosse. She chose Lander for a variety of reasons — among them, the school is in-state and close to home and has a great pre-med program. She has played lacrosse since eighth grade and said her favorite aspect of playing lacrosse is her teammates: "They keep the spirit high. They always make us laugh. So it's pretty cool. I'm going to miss them."

Elijah Krause is heading to Limestone to play baseball. He plays catcher — the "quarterback of baseball" — and said one of his favorite memories at Clover last year was beating York, the school's archrival, at home. Why Limestone? "I really like the coaching staff at Limestone for baseball, and then I like the campus, too."

Lawrence Bartee is headed to Winthrop to play basketball. The 6-foot-10 senior leads a Clover club that has a chance to make some noise in 2021. He said he loved Winthrop because the coaching staff has a history of developing big men. (They have one in DJ Burns right now, who is having the best season of his college career thus far.)

Westminster Catawba's MJ Collins chooses Virginia Tech basketball

Westminster Catawba has sent another basketball standout to the next level.

MJ Collins, a Clover native who transferred to WCCS last season, signed to play basketball at the ACC's Virginia Tech earlier this month. He was accompanied at his signing by his extended family; his mother, Jimia; and his father, Michael (who in familiar circles goes by "Big Mike").

"Things like this don't really happen in Clover, South Carolina, which is where I'm from," Collins said. "So taking the next step and being able to set an example for the other kids coming up — telling them, 'Yeah it's really possible to fulfill your dreams' — it feels great."

He added: "It's a dream come true."

Collins finished his junior season averaging 21.7 points, five rebounds and three assists per game, shooting 44% from three and 91% from the free-throw line. He entered this past summer with offers from Murray State, Presbyterian and Wofford — but his recruitment blew up this past summer. ("Blew up" is a bit of an understatement, particularly when you consider how the one-time transfer rule has made it more difficult for high school players to be noticed by high-major programs.)

A lot will one day be written about Collins — about his journey out of Clover, about the "dark times" he emerged out of when it seemed like his basketball dreams wouldn't come true, about how he hopes to elevate basketball in his Clover hometown while at Virginia Tech and beyond.

But for now, he said, he's busy working toward a state championship at Westminster Catawba — a school that has spiked in prestige ever since coach Ed Addie joined the program in 2019.

"All the other stresses is out of the way," Collins said. "I'm officially a Hokie, so there's nothing else I have to be worried about now. I can just focus on hooping and school, and everything else goes back to normal."

Catawba Ridge sees 10 sign

In only two years, Catawba Ridge has built a pretty special and well-rounded sports program — and its November signee class only reinforced that idea.

Sam Rich, the day before winning his second straight state championship in cross country and leading his team to a second-place finish, signed to Notre Dame's running program. Runner Josh Silverman signed to College of Charleston, too.

Trevor Testerman (Newberry College), Greyson Wild (Spartanburg Methodist) and Harrison Wilson (Winthrop) all signed to play baseball in college.

And four more signed National Letters of Intent to play college sports, including Madison Burtner (Wingate University, field hockey); Tyler Weiss (Lander University, lacrosse); Shyann Holt (USC Lancaster, women's soccer); Janelle Ilacqua (University of Michigan, softball); Kaylee Marino (Columbia College, swimming).

15 Fort Mill athletes ink college offers

Fifteen Yellow Jackets signed earlier this month to play college sports.

From the softball team: Brynn Bartolinia is headed to Winthrop. Maddie Drerup is going to USC Upstate. Emma Tisdale is going to UNC Charlotte. And Trinity Wall is going to Belmont Abbey College.

For lacrosse: Brynn Dove is headed to North Greenville University. Xan Hill is going to Brevard College. Emma Marchan is going to Robert Morris. And Ellie Ruddy is going to Widener University.

Three baseball players are headed to play college ball, too: Connor Rasmussen is going to national baseball power East Carolina University. Mathieu Curtis is going to USC Upstate. And Scott Young is heading to USC Union.

Four others also signed: Kyndall Brown (Campbell, swimming); Zachary Nelson (Milligan University, swimming); Nadia Dial (West Point, basketball); and Kennedy Robinson (Radford University, volleyball).

This story was originally published November 29, 2021 8:00 AM.


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