It wasn’t so long ago that Drew McMichael was stuck in the mud when it came to a college choice.
Up until last weekend, in fact, that was still the case.
The Evangelical Christian senior, the state’s leading pole vaulter, had taken four official visits to the University of South Carolina, the University of South Florida, Liberty University and the University of North Carolina. No school stood out to him.
McMichael made his verbal commitment to the Tigers following his visit to the Alabama school and then signed his Letter of Intent to the Tigers on Wednesday during National Signing Day. The Sentinels had seven signees.
“As soon as I got home from Auburn,” said McMichael, who plans to major in engineering, “I knew this was the place I was supposed to be at.”
The pole vaulter, who is ranked No. 13 nationally, visited the Tigers two weekends ago without a firm sense on where he stood with the school. He was actually leaning in the opposite direction, since the program lacked an indoor facility. But those doubts were soon alleviated.
“Once I saw all of their Olympic training stuff, I was definitely blown away by their facilities,” he said.
An added bonus, McMichael said, is the fact that the Tigers are bringing in another freshman from Iceland who vaults over 17 feet. McMichael’s personal best is 16-5.
“I think it’s perfect for him,” said Maxwell Thompson, McMichael’s pole vaulting coach at ECS. “It worked out great. He took his time. He went not only to ACC but SEC schools. He looked at all the opportunities that were given.”
“We talked a lot about weighing his decisions and what meant the most to (him). Is it the full college experience, or is it just the sports? Or is it academics? It was a total package. For him, that was the best fit. When he got there, he called me up and said, ‘This feels right. This feels like the place.’ That’s what it’s about.”
During the recruiting process and even after verbally committing to Columbia University in December, Mariner senior Rodney Hunter still couldn’t believe the premier Ivy League school wanted him.
Each time he said as much his mother, Joy Hunter, set him straight.
“Believe it,” she told him. “I’ve been telling you that all your life.”
Hunter capped a brilliant athletic and academic career at Mariner by signing to play for coach Kyle Smith in Manhattan, N.Y., next season.
It was the finalization of a process where Hunter admittedly had his mind made up early.
“I always wanted to play for coach Smith,” said Hunter, who became the sixth player in Lee and Collier counties to reach the 2,000-point mark in January. “I loved the way he said he wanted to use me. He said I’m a peacock and he’s going to let me strut my feathers.”
One of the most feared scorers in Southwest Florida, Hunter averaged 20.9 points and 6.8 rebounds this past season in leading the Tritons to a 21-7 record.
“I think a lot of people use the term ‘athletic’ as a disguise,” Tritons coach James Harris said. “With Rodney, he really is athletic and he also has the basketball IQ to go with it.”
Harris said there is no goal that is unattainable when it comes to Hunter, who excelled in the classroom with a 4.0 grade-point average, which was good enough to finish summa cum laude.
“We always told Rodney he had to continue to push himself to the highest level,” Joy Hunter said. “Now, he’s going to have to push himself to his ultimate level.”
Evangelical Christian School held a special signing day ceremony Wednesday (4/15/15) morning in the school’s gym to honor student athletes attending different colleges and universities. Players signing included: Sterling Carter, Justin Joyce, Sara Miller, Drew McMichael, Emily Mosley, Grayson Wilkes and Grant Young.
Cape Coral senior Jose Valmana firmed his decision to attend Florida SouthWestern State College to play baseball for the first-year program on Wednesday.
He was part of a signing ceremony inside the Seahawks auditorium that included five other signees.
The right-handed pitcher, who throws an upper-80 mph fastball and a hard slider, said he wanted to attend a school near his hometown to be close to his family.
The Buccaneers will play their home games at the City of Palms Park and will begin in the fall with 20 scrimmages before adding 56 regular-season games in the spring. Valmana said he also had interest from Florida International University.
“It’s kind of special because we’re the very first team,” Valmana said.
Senior swimmer Jason Tillotson, who competes in the individual medley and the breaststroke, chose to continue his career at American University in Washington, DC.
“I just love the coaches there,” Tillotson said. “The coaches have the capability to take me to the next level, which when I say next level, I mean being college, Olympic trials level, the Olympic level.”
Dylan Bontrager was one of three late football signings at the school. The Cape Coral quarterback will attend Ottawa College in Kansas, a NAIA program which went 9-3 in 2014.
Spring athlete college signees
Rodney Hunter, Columbia University, basketball
Zac Keating, Iowa Central Community College, Swimming
Jason Tillotson, American University, Swimming
Dylan Bontrager, Ottawa College (Kan.), Football
Drake Wanshon, Alderson Broaddus University (W. Va.), Football
Jose Valmana, Florida Southwestern State College, Baseball
Angel Torres, Saint Vincent College (Pa.), Football
Evangelical Christian School
Grayson Wilkes, Southeastern University, Soccer
Grant Young, Southeastern University, Football
Justin Joyce, Hiram College (Ohio), Football and Baseball
Sarah Miller, North Greenville University (S.C.), Volleyball
Sterling Carter, Baptist Bible College (Pa.), Basketball
Drew McMichael, Auburn University, Track
Samantha Wood, Ave Maria University, Basketball
Cypress Lake, Signing April 20th
Rebecca Morse, Appalachian State, Tennis
Corey Kerkesner, Franklin & Marshall College (Pa.), Wrestling
Southwest Florida Christian Academy, Signing April 22nd
Logan Long, Messiah College (Pa.), Basketball
Janelle Lopez, California Baptist, Cheerleading
Corey Jones, Southeastern University, Football
Taylor Edens, Faulkner University (Ala.), Basketball
North Fort Myers, Signing April 22nd
Tucker Sheridan, Wingate University, Football
Shawn Howard, East Coast Prep, Football
Connor Magoon, Anderson University, Football
Lindsey Stramel, New York Institute of Technology, Soccer
Katelyn Kelly, Seminole State College, Softball
Alynn Kayatta, Seminole State College, Softball
Fort Myers, Signing May 11th
Clifton Flemming, Glenville State University (W. Va.), Football
Jared Nash, Wagner College (N.Y.), Football
Terrance Moore, Fairmont State University (W. Va), Football
Cam Wallace, Heidelberg College (Ohio), Football
Emily Summa, Florida Atlantic University, Swimming
David Morar, Rhodes College (Tenn.), Soccer
Taylor Wipf, Maryville College (Tenn.), Soccer
Zach Kazak, Florence-Darlington Tech (S.C.), Baseball