There’s been a strong high school-to-university connection when it comes to “West Florida” this week.
Two West Florida High Jaguars — from two different sports — signed letters of intent this week to continue their athletic careers at the University of West Florida.
Both district champs this season, Faithe Franklin will join the UWF Argos womens basketball team while Jibrashia Moore will sign on with softball.
For Franklin, who said she lost the “love” for basketball at the beginning of her high school career before ultimately finding it again her junior season, called Friday’s signing surreal.
“It took me a while to wrap my mind around it (signing to UWF) … it took a minute to realize what had actually happened,” Franklin said. “UWF is about to grow sky-high. The school and the athletic programs are growing. They’ve got football coming along now too. I want to be a part of the growth.”
Franklin experienced an ideal scenario during the PSA Subway High School All-Star game, when she shined and first garnered attention from UWF.
“It all started with the all-star game,” Franklin said. “After that, UWF started communicating with me. They (UWF) came to watch me play at the University of Mobile with the girls team there. We started communicating more, and they offered me last week.”
Franklin was critical in the revolution of West Florida’s basketball program, as the team combined for five wins during her ninth and 10th grade years.
But for her final two seasons, the Jags captured back-to-back district championships and took things one step further in the playoffs.
“Freshman year was rough,” said Franklin, who began starting midway through her ninth grade season. “But the biggest thing is, we proved everybody wrong. Freshman year we used to get bad mouthed all the time. Eventually we showed people that we are not just scrubs, and that we actually know how to ball.”
For Moore, her Thursday signing immediately followed one of the toughest night’s of her career, as West Florida fell to Mosley in a season-ending playoff loss on Wednesday.
“(Wednesday night) was sad, really sad,” Moore said. “It really didn’t hit me that that would be my last high school game until it was too late. But I will always remember what a great softball program we had at West Florida. I’m gonna miss it. Seems like yesterday I was just a freshman … I can’t believe I’m about to graduate and go to college.”
During the signing, Moore said there was too much going on in her head to process — but she knew long before that UWF was her proper fit.
“I didn’t realize how big UWF’s campus was until I actually took a visit,” Moore said. ”I think they have a really good softball program and I’m just excited. Coach (Melissa) Paul was telling me about practices — how they get in there and get it done, they do what they gotta do.”
Also in the mix of signings this week at West Florida High, Deja Jones — also critical to the rebuilding of West Florida girls basketball — inked a letter of intent to the College of Central Florida.