Fort Myers High relishes maintaining its status as Lee County’s most successful athletic program with county, district, regional and even state championships.
But what the Green Wave take the most pride in is the number of student-athletes who earn scholarships to continue their education and athletic careers at the next level.
Thursday was a prime example. Ten student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent during the NCAA early signing period, which began Wednesday and ends Nov. 16, in a ceremony in the school auditorium.
“This is an opportunity not everyone gets,” Fort Myers athletic director Cameron Yearsley said. “We’re proud to have 10 of you sitting up here. It not only shows the success Fort Myers has in athletics, but your commitment to academics.
Seven of the 10 earned Division I scholarships, including two members of the 27-win defending state champion girls basketball team.
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Forward Autumn Giles signed with the University of Massachusetts after a junior season where she averaged 12.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals en route to The News-Press first-team all-area honors.
“It feels amazing. I’ve worked so hard for this. I’ve put a lot of time into this,” Giles said. “Being in the gym late at night, waking up in the morning just to go shoot, I’m just really happy right now.”
Teammate Jarya Outten is headed to Greenville, South Carolina where she’ll play at Furman University next winter. Outten is an important part of the Green Wave back court and finished last season with solid numbers (11 points, 3.2 steals, 2.6 assists per game).
Outten was overcome with emotion when she addressed those in attendance. She felt blessed to have the opportunity to continue her career athletically and academically just as her friend Stef’An Strawder, a Lehigh star basketball player who was shot and killed in a shooting at Club Blu a little more than three months ago, strove to.
“Where we come from you don’t really make it out,” Outten said. “It’s either survive or success from where we come from. Stef’An Strawder was talking about going to college. I know he would have made it out. I’m one of the people that is actually going to make it out. It really touches me. I could be doing something else out in the streets. Basketball leads me out.”
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Alayna Ryan, the 2015 News-Press Volleyball Player of the Year, elected to stay close to home when she committed to Florida Gulf Coast University a year ago.
During her junior season she led Class 6A in kills (384) and managed 32 aces, 36 blocks and 330 digs as Fort Myers reached the 6A semifinals where it fell to eventual state champion Jensen Beach. She was second on the Green Wave in kills with 225 during an injury-plagued senior year.
“I’ve been dreaming about playing college volleyball since I was 11 years old,” Ryan said. “Plus, FGCU, being a local college, I was always going to their games watching them play. Now I get to be an Eagle like I always envisioned myself being, that’s adding on to the excitement.”
One of the most successful student-athletes in school history, senior tennis player John Carlin chose to continue his career at Michigan State. He won an individual state title as a freshman and reached a state final as a junior. Last season he also teamed with Luka Ilic to win a state doubles championship.
“I like that (Michigan State) is up and coming. They’re like middle of the pack Big Ten right now, but they have through my class three five-star recruits and a four-star recruit, which is probably one of the top signing classes in the country, so I’m pretty excited about that.”
Clay Riemenschneider finalized his commitment to Florida State after finishing his swimming career with the Green Wave by taking fifth in the 200- and 500-freestyle at the Class 3A championships last week in Stuart.
“It feels incredible that my hard work has paid off,” Riemenschneider said. “A couple of years ago this wasn’t something that was on the map. It’s been my goal for the longest time. I knew if I really put the work in every day I could do it. So I went in every day and worked as hard as I could. It worked out.”
Representing the Green Wave boys cross country and track teams was Evan Babatz.
Babatz, who won the News-Press Cross Country Runner of the Year and Track Athlete of the Year awards last year, will attend the University of South Florida after finishing 10th at the 3A cross country meet with a time of 16:08.88 in Tallahassee last week. He also was the state runner-up in the 800-meter and fifth in the 1,600 last season.
Cross country runner and track athlete Amber Winton is headed to Florida Southern in the fall.
Three players from the girls soccer team, which finished 13-6-1 last season, inked NLIs. Defender Sara Delucca will head to the University of North Florida while Olivia Talmage will attend Rollins College after scoring 26 goals and tallying 15 assists last season. Kayla Thorne, who had 11 goals and nine assists last season, signed with Eckerd College.
Dunbar’s Patterson signs with LSU
Less than two days after announcing at halftime of a preseason game her decision to sign with Louisiana State University, Dunbar senior basketball player Dekeriya Patterson inked her NLI in the Tigers’ cafeteria.
It presented a big moment for a Dunbar program that had proven itself to be one of the best in the state over the last five seasons. And yet Patterson, who was second on the team in scoring last season with 17.1 points per game, became the first Tigers player to sign with a Power-5 school.
“It’s a new journey I’m taking with my life and a big step,” Patterson said.
Patterson battled an anemia diagnosis in her junior season and still managed to play well throughout, moving past 1,000 points for her career late in the season. She helped lead Dunbar to 26 wins and a trip to the Class 5A semifinals, where the Tigers lost to Ribault. She also averaged 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game.
“She allowed us to play at an elite level when the other kids left (graduated),” Dunbar coach Dwayne Donnell said. “She definitely filled the leadership role by her play and by her actions.”
— News-Press reporter Cory Mull contributed to this report