Ellison had nine athletes across six sports sign national letters of intent Wednesday afternoon in a crowded Eagles gym.

New athletic director and head football coach Todd Wright was introduced to those in attendance at his first Ellison signing day.

“Now you’re going to be alums,” he said to those students signing. “We can’t wait until you come back and share your experience with everybody at the school.

“Thank you for the introduction. Thank you for allowing me to be an Eagle.”

Ellison basketball had five players sign: two boys and three girls.

Three years ago, Laurence Bryant was a sophomore playing basketball in P.E. class. Coach Alberto Jones Jr. shared the story of coaches telling him they had a student in P.E. who could play.

The following year Bryant went out for the team and made varsity, admitting that playing at the college level was never the initial goal.

“I think that’s pretty neat,” Jones said, “and shows another kid who came from the bottom and worked hard to get where he’s at.”

Bryant signed his letter of intent to play for Dodge City (Kan.) Community College surrounded by his friends and teammates.

Jones looks forward to seeing Bryant play at the next level.

“He’s a talented player. He’s one of those kids, I think, who is going to be a better college player than high school player. His talent level is going to surprise a lot of people in college.”

District 8-6A MVP Casey Armour signed to play close to home at McLennan Community College in Waco.

“I think MCC is a great place for him,” Jones said.

Aujunnae Smith, Cielo McClain and Daija Planas have all played on varsity since they were freshmen. It was only fitting that all three signed to play college basketball on the same day.

“They’re hard work is paying off,” girls basketball coach Sherry McKinnon said. “They get to go play at the next level and do what they want to do next in their lives.”

Smith signed with Langston (Okla.) University and took the opportunity to thank her parents.

“Without them I couldn’t have grown into the person I am today.

“I want to take the time to thank coach McKinnon for giving me the opportunity to play varsity all four years, as the experience has prepared me for the next level.”

McClain won’t be too far from Smith as she signed with Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla.

Planas signed with Hill College in Hillsboro.

She thanked her family, friends, various coaches throughout the years and “coach McKinnon, for taking a chance on me.”

McKinnon hopes her players always remember the biggest lesson she preaches in her program.

“Be coachable, be humble and work hard. Nobody owes you anything. You have to work hard for what you want.

“They’re going to have to compete and not let anybody or anything get in the way of their dream.”

Volleyball player Ashae Murphy signed with Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan.

Coach Sarah Stolley proudly looked on as Murphy signed surrounded by her family. “I’m just so proud of Ashae and all the girls who signed this year.

“They’re all hard workers, great teammates, great people, great students.”

Stolley is just as excited for the schools her players are committing to as she is for her players.

“These colleges are getting steals with these volleyball girls.”

With his parents and little brother by his side, Keondre Taylor signed to play soccer for Hill College.

Malik Pratt signed to run track for Huston-Tillotson in Austin.

“Malik is a kid that’s just a leader,” coach Jesse San Miguel said. “A kid that steps up to every challenge.”

Punter Morgan Button signed his letter of intent to play football for NCAA Division III Howard Payne.

Coach Brian Cotton is close to Button’s family, which made watching him prepare to play at the next level extra special.

“I feel like he’s one of my sons,” Cotton said, “and to see him go from where he was as a middle-schooler to where he is now, it’s a tremendous feeling of pride.

“He’s one of the best kickers and punters in the country. He’s going to go there and do great things.”

fcardenas@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7562

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