Written by Corbett Smith
Signing day notebook: Rowlett trio will continue careers in baseball but at different schools
ROWLETT — Rowlett seniors Nathan Hawkins, Jeffrey Carroll and Austin Luke have been playing basketball together since third grade.
They gathered Wednesday morning in their high school’s library to culminate one of their childhood dreams: signing to play Division I basketball. All three signed national letters of intent on the first date of the early signing period: Carroll with Oklahoma State, Hawkins with Nebraska and Luke with Belmont.
“To grow up together and to do this, it’s really something special,” Hawkins said. “We’re all real close, like a family. So to see them do it too, it’s special.”
All three have been on Rowlett’s varsity since their freshman years. Luke said if the team can stay healthy, they can reach another one of their goals by season’s end: a trip to Austin for the state tournament.
“That’s where we want to be,” Luke said.
Richland’s Leyton Hammonds also signed with OSU. He and Carroll will join a trio of Dallas-Fort Worth-area players already in Stillwater: Flower Mound Marcus’ Marcus Smart and Phil Forte and Lincoln’s LeBryan Nash. Carroll said Smart’s presence on the OSU roster was certainly enticing.
“You don’t get a chance to play with someone like Marcus very often,” Carroll said. “It’ll be an honor.”
Two other schools had three boys basketball players sign with Division I programs: Arlington Seguin and Prime Prep.
Women’s basketball: Room 200 at Madison was filled Wednesday afternoon with Baylor flags, green-and-yellow balloons and a white cake with green-and-yellow frosting. There was little suspense, obviously, as basketball star Breanna Hayden signed with Baylor.
“My sister’s been there for four years, so it’s basically like home,” said Hayden, whose sister, Kimetria, is a senior guard for the defending NCAA champions. “When I go there, it’s like I’m a part of the team.”
Hayden, who led Lincoln to the 4A state semifinals as a sophomore and last season helped Madison win its first playoff game in seven years, smiled broadly as friends and family celebrated with her. For the 5-10 senior guard whom ESPN’s HoopGurlz ranks as the nation’s No. 82 recruit, it was exciting. For her parents, it was a relief.
“This is my baby girl,” said Donnell Harvey, Breanna’s father. “We don’t have to spend any more money.”
Baseball: Coppell’s signing day ceremony was already going to be a crowded one. But there was room for one more.
Four baseball players were to be among 12 athletes signing national letters of intent. But Tuesday, infielder Tyler Zabojnik decided to commit to Air Force. His paperwork was ready to go early Wednesday morning, so he joined his teammates.
First baseman Jackson Cramer (West Virginia), pitcher Jake Elliott (Oklahoma), pitcher Austin Gardner (Wichita State) and third baseman Tyler Jones (Air Force) also will play Division I baseball next year.
“As far as signing day in November, that’s the most I’ve had,” Coppell coach Kendall Clark said. “Five? Whew.
“For me it’s exciting to know that all the hard work and all the time paid off for them.”
While Coppell is done for the early signing period, Clark said his team may end up with seven or eight Division I signees at the end of the regular signing period in April.
Elsewhere, infielder Camden Duzenack signed with Dallas Baptist, giving Melissa its first Division I baseball recruit.
Softball: Hebron second baseman Chelsea Herndon signed with Florida, choosing a school that was the national runner-up in 2009 and 2011 over 2009 NCAA champion Washington.
That capped a rapid rise up the recruiting ranks for the senior, who said that only “lower Division I” schools were recruiting her going into last season. In a sport in which few high school players start getting recruited by elite college programs as juniors or seniors, Herndon was an exception.
“It is a little more rare,” Hebron coach Staci Jackson said. “The bigger schools are [usually] talking to them by their sophomore year, if not their freshman year.
“She was a little bit of a late bloomer. That’s a great thing. I tell the kids to never give up.”
Herndon had a breakout junior year in which she earned all-state recognition, hit .481 in the playoffs and led Hebron to the Class 5A Region I final. That, coupled with her play in summer select softball, turned heads.
“I never thought I would be in this position,” Herndon said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Volleyball: Lovejoy seniors Ebony Nwanebu, Bailey Martin and Shannon Connell have been important contributors to the volleyball team’s success.
Lovejoy has won four consecutive state titles, and those three have been part of the last two. All three will have a chance to continue successful volleyball careers in college.
They joined their teammates and coaches in the Lovejoy auditorium to sign their national letters of intent. Nwanebu will head to Southern California next season. Martin signed with Northwestern State and Connell with Stephen F. Austin.
“I’ve wanted this since I started playing volleyball when I was 5,” Nwanebu said.
Four players on defending 5A state champion Coppell signed with Division I programs: Chiaka Ogbogu (Texas), Cassidy Pickrell (UC Irvine), Laura Beaty (Mississippi) and Erica Bohannon (Tulsa).
McKinney Boyd senior Megan Mollett will have a signing ceremony after the playoffs, but she filed her letter of intent to Arkansas on Wednesday.
“I went up there on a visit and fell in love with the team and the area,” Mollett said. “It was a feeling I didn’t get anywhere else.”
Staff writers Matt Wixon, Michael Florek, Greg Riddle and David Just contributed to this report.