STAUNTON — Maria Hill spent her Saturday night sitting in a hotel room in Huntington, W.Va., with tears running down her face. They were tears of joy.
Earlier Saturday evening, Hill’s son, Robert E. Lee senior Darius George, verbally committed to play basketball for Marshall University. He received an offer from the Division I school Thursday afternoon and, after visiting the school and talking to the coaching staff Saturday he made the decision.
George is currently the 11th leading scorer in Lee High basketball history after averaging 22.5 points a game last season. He has scored 1,128 points for his career and is just 13 points shy of the 10th spot, currently held by former University of Virginia player Jason Rogers. George was The News Leader’s All-City County Player of the Year last season.
Marshall has been following George closely for the past two seasons, but didn’t make the offer until Thursday. After getting George’s high school transcripts sent to Marshall, Hill said she and her son left for West Virginia Friday afternoon. They attended a dinner at head coach Dan D’Antoni’s house Friday night, attended a Marshall football game Saturday afternoon and, after the game, back in the hotel room, George told his mom he was ready to commit.
“It felt like home,” said George. “The coaches made me comfortable as if it was home already.”
It didn’t hurt that his travel basketball teammate Jarrod West, who attends Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg, W.Va., committed to Marshall Friday night. George said that made the decision easier.
Hill told her son to make sure it was the right decision before committing. Just because his friend was going to the school, George had to make the right decision for himself. Hill told him he would know if it was the right fit. By Saturday, George told her he knew.
Lee High coach Jarrett Hatcher couldn’t have been more excited for his player. He said the community has been fortunate to have such a great basketball tradition at Lee for many years and George is the latest example of the talent that has played in Staunton. This is a great thing for George and Lee High basketball, Hatcher said, but it’s more than just that.
“It’s exciting for our fans and our students,” Hatcher said. “Darius’ classmates who maybe weren’t Marshall fans yesterday are now Marshall fans.”
Hatcher said he and George started getting text messages about the offer from Marshall during open gym Thursday. Player and coach talked a lot about it during breaks that afternoon. The final thing Hatcher told George before he left for West Virginia was to soak it all in and enjoy the weekend.
Marshall assistant Mark Cline, a former Wake Forest player, told Hill that they would take good care of her son if he decided to attend. Cline has some connections with the area, having played on the same AAU team as Kevin Madden and Dell Curry in the early 1980s.
George liked everyone on the coaching staff, which also helped him make the decision to attend Marshall.
“Having a relationship with the coaches was another big thing,” said George. “D’Antoni is an amazing guy and I can’t wait to play for him.”
Beside Marshall, Longwood was the only other Division I offer George had received so far, although schools like James Madison, Winthrop and even Virginia Tech had shown interest. But George was ready to get the decision over with instead of waiting to see if another school would make an offer. He can officially sign with Marshall on Nov. 9.
George told his mom that, after the decision, he felt a lot of stress was off of him. Now he can focus on his senior season at Lee High. George’s goal is to win a state championship at Lee before taking off for Marshall.
“They have the talent to do that,” said Hill.