Four EHS athletes sign with colleges

EASLEY — The mood was festive Monday afternoon as four more Easley High School seniors signed letters of intent to continue their athletic careers in college.
Spencer Collins signed to play basketball with Wofford College, wihle football players Nick Starling and Joseph Smith signed to play for LaGrange College and Delta State University, respectively. Stephen McKnight signed to play baseball at Anderson College.
Starling, whose nickname is “Turbo,” played on the Green Wave’s offensive line, which was a key to the Easley’s success over the past two years, according to head coach Chad Smith.
“The guys up front were really important to our success on the field these past two season,” Smith said. “And Turbo was a part of that.”
Starling will be following in the footsteps of former Green Wave quarterback Colt Shope, who attended LaGrange College. He will be reunited with Aaron Duncan, who is set to be a senior running back for the Panthers next season.
The Panthers are coached by Todd Mooney, in his eighth season as LaGrange head coach. Mooney is 21-40 as the Panthers head coach. After starting with an 0-20 record, Mooney led the 2008 team to a 9-2 record and the championship of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic conference.
Last season the Panthers were 4-6. This year will be the team’s first season as members of the USA South Atlantic Conference. The conference winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Joseph Smith’s role as long-snapper for the Green Wave was so key this season, coach Chad Smith said the team will likely have to reconsider its special teams strategy next season with Smith graduated.
“He’s the best long-snapper I’ve ever coached,” Chad Smith said.
Smith said that while he realizes the value Joseph Smith brings to a team, often schools do no have enough scholarships to invest a “full ride” for a long-snapper. But Statesmen head coach Jamey Chadwell, a former coach at nearby North Greenville University, was familiar with Joseph Smith’s play at Easley and offered him a full scholarship. Chadwell begins his first year as Delta State head coach this season. The Statesmen were 11-3 last season, advancing to the NCAA Division II Semifinals.
McKnight was 15-4 last year as a Green Wave pitcher, and hit .302, earning his spot as the team’s MVP. McKnight won all-region honors and played in the North-South All-Star Game. Anderson College struggled to a 14-36 record last season.
“Stephen is an even better person than he is a baseball player,” Easley High athletic director Chris Carter said.
Collins also had a fan in Carter.
“I can’t express how thankful I am to have seen Spencer play for us,” Carter said. “He is one of the greatest high school basketball players in the history of our school.”
EHS basketball head coach Grant Stallard said Collins’ accomplishments on the court were matched by his strong character.
“When college coaches ask about a player, the first question they ask usually isn’t how many points does he score or how many rebounds does he get, but what kind of kid is he,” Stallard said.
Collins led Easley to two Region I-AAAA titles, averaging 27.3 points per game. He was also the team’s leading rebounder.
Collins scored 44 points in his final game, ending the game with a dunk at the buzzer.
Collins scored 29 points in the North-South All-Star game.
The Green Wave were 79-30 during Collins’ four years of high school play, and 7-3 in the playoffs.
The Terriers finished last season with a 19-14 record, including a 56-52 win over Wake Forest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Carter noted he was proud of the four signees more for their character than their success in their sports.
“We’ve never had an ounce of trouble from any any of these four young men,” Carter said.