By JUSTIN RAINS
Two local athletes took advantage of the first day of the early collegiate signing period Wednesday, inking their letters of intent to play sports at the next level.
Elkhart senior catcher Levi Smith signed his National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Stephen F. Austin University, while Cayuga senior guard Preston Anderson signed to play basketball at the University of Hartford (Conn.).
Both said that it was the fulfillment of childhood dreams.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Smith said. “When you’re little, you always dream of playing Division I baseball and now that it’s happened, you’ve got to live in the moment, but after today you’ve got to set new goals and set on to accomplishing them after high school.”
Added Anderson, “It’s kind of like a bittersweet feeling, because I don’t want to leave here. But, I look forward to leaving here and doing bigger things.”
LEVI SMITH, STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
Smith joins a Lumberjack team that finished 2012 26-33, with a 16-17 record in the Southland Conference.
He said that a major reason for his decision to go with SFA — a decision he made this past summer — was his relationship with SFA head coach Johnny Cardenas.
“I’ve known the head coach over there for a while now and he’s really a great guy,” Smith said. “He’s the one that helped me with my catching when I first started. Knowing him, I know that whatever happens the next four years, he’s going to set me up the best ways that I can be successful.”
Taking advantage of the early signing period definitely had its perks for Smith, who now doesn’t have to worry about his recruitment anymore during his senior season.
Instead, he said he’s focusing now on helping the Elks get back to the state tournament, where the team fell to Jarrell in the semifinals last season.
“It’s so amazing because now I can just focus on the high school season,” he said. “That’s what’s important right now is this upcoming season.”
PRESTON ANDERSON, UNIV. OF HARTFORD
Connecticut is a long way from Cayuga, but Anderson said he has big plans for himself once he settles in with the Hawks.
The 6-7 senior said he wants to try and make an immediate impact with Hartford, a program that went 9-22 a year ago but fell in overtime during the conference tournament semifinals.
“For this next year, I want to get in and make an impact as fast as I can,” Anderson said. “Farther on, (I want) to go on and be an all-conference player, things like that. Just succeed.”
Like Smith, Anderson said that getting this out of the way during the early signing period was especially important.
The Cayuga basketball team is coming off of two-straight regional semifinal losses to Tenaha, and Anderson wants to lead his team back to state one more time.
“It’s a great relief,” he said. “I can completely focus on winning state and nothing else.”
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com