18 NWF State athletes are on to find success at the next level

18 NWF State athletes are on to find success at the next level

By SAM GRUBENHOFF

NICEVILLE — Student athletes should take notice. The athletic programs at Northwest Florida State have gamed the system.

In what is becoming the norm in northern Niceville, 18 Raider athletes across four sports are set to matriculate to four-year schools with scholarships in hand after completing their stints at NWF State.

Six come from Steve DeMeo's men's basketball team, which made it to the NJCAA quarterfinals and compiled a 31-3 record. Another seven come from the Raider baseball team, which missed the playoffs despite a winning record. Four of Bart Walker's basketball players and one softball player from Jack Byerly's crew are moving on, too.

NWF State athletic director Ramsey Ross said he beamed like a proud father when each crossed the stage at graduation earlier this year.

"There's no better joy for somebody in my chair than to look and see them walk across the stage at graduation and to see them do great things at the next level," Ross said.

It's not the number 18, however, that most impresses Ross. Rather, it's the percentage of second-season participants who have received athletic scholarships to continue playing at four-year schools.

Ross estimates 90-94 percent of Raiders who have played their sophomore season across each sport at NWF State during the past four years receives a scholarship offer. Those who did not sign a scholarship, he said, have elected not to continue their athletic careers.

"Everybody has earned a scholarship who wanted one," Ross said. "I think that's the most important thing to me."

Many of those recent Raider graduates are off to schools with name recognition.
 
Andres Feliz, who averaged a team-high 20 points 6.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds, is off to join the men's basketball team at Illinois. Trinity Baptiste, who averaged a team-high 13 points and 8.3 rebounds, will join the women's basketball program at Virginia Tech. Thomas Broyles, Brock Mathis and Grant Stewart will play baseball for Missouri, LSU and Troy, respectively.
 
More so than the Raiders' athletic accomplishments, Ross said he believes schools across the country have learned they can trust NWF State athletes because of the standards those athletes are held to on and off the playing field. In that way, NWF State tries to model itself after Division I programs, Ross said.
 
"We heavily emphasize academics," Ross said. "That's the first and foremost thing we preach here. I think you see it in our graduation rate. Our graduation rate hovers anywhere between 86-90 percent."
 
Ross said NWF State makes use of its academic resources and support systems to offer its student athletes everything they need to succeed, but it is up to the athlete to take advantage.
 
Recent trends indicate most do.
 
"I think a lot of these student athletes, we're opening up doors for them that might otherwise be shut," Ross said. "In some respects, it's our version of paying it forward. I take great joy and satisfaction in seeing them reach their goals."
 
Men's basketball

Tray Boyd – East Tennessee State University

Karim Ezzeddine – University of New Mexico

Andres Feliz - University of Illinois

Derek Funderburk – North Carolina State University

Kelvin Robinson – Eastern Kentucky University

Ja'Cori Wilson – Morehead State University

Women's basketball

Trinity Baptiste – Virginia Tech

Ann Jernigan – Old Dominion University

Ashley Lee – University of West Georgia

Jade Lewis – East Carolina University

Softball

Sheala Brown – Thomas University

Baseball

Corey Armstrong – Auburn University at Montgomery

Thomas Broyles – University of Missouri

Christian Camacho – University of Pittsburgh

Cason Greathouse – University of West Georgia

Brock Mathis – Louisiana State University

Ethan Routzahn – St. John's University

Grant Stewart – Troy University