South Georgia Tech Booster Club honors Jets and Lady Jets
“Quite a year!” That was the way South Georgia Technical College Jets Booster Club President Martha Arrington summed up the 2017 – 2018 basketball season for the Jets and Lady Jets at a special Booster Club banquet held in the John M. Pope Industrial Technology Center on the Americus campus recently.
Lady Jets sophomore forward Esther “Nike” Adenike from Lagos, Nigeria, was recognized by South Georgia Technical College Athletic Director and Lady Jets head coach James Frey as the Most Valuable Player of the Year for his team. He also presented her with an award for being selected as a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) first team All-American and with a medal for her selection to the NJCAA All-Tournament team at the national tournament in Lubbock, Texas. She was also named an All-American by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association earlier in the season.
Jets head coach Travis Garrett selected sophomores Rico Simmons from Wilkinson County, GA and Marquel Wiggins from Oglethorpe as Co-Most Valuable Players for the Jets for the 2017 – 2018 season.
“I don’t have the words to describe this season,” said Booster Club President Martha Arrington. “Other than to say this may have been one of my most favorite years yet. I love watching these Jets and Lady Jets play basketball. We followed the Lady Jets to Texas to the National Tournament and we sat on the edge of our seats when the Jets defeated Georgia Highlands in the NJCAA Region XVII semi-finals. This was an unbelievably good season. It is inspiring to watch these young men and ladies do what they do on the courts.”
Arrington also thanked all of the members of the Jets Booster Club for their support this season. “We could not have done everything that we did without the support of each of you and the support we received from the community. On behalf of these players and coaches, I thank you for what you do to make all of this possible.”
Nearly 100 individuals were on hand at the Booster Club banquet that featured Candace Head, Regional Coordinator of the Georgia Department of Labor Region 8 district and a member of the first Mercer University Teddy Bears basketball team, as the guest speaker.
Head began her talk by asking everyone in the room to hold up their hand that had played in a basketball national tournament. Each of the South Georgia Technical College Lady Jets raised their hands but so did Candace Head. “I bet many of you were surprised to see me raise my hand because I don’t exactly look like someone who should have played in a national basketball tournament. But I did.”
Head was a member of the very first Mercer University women’s basketball team. In her senior season, the Mercer Teddy Bears earned the right to advance to the Women’s Basketball Tournament only to be told that they couldn’t go. “Things were different back then,” said Head. “There were no scholarships. There was no meal money. We rode to the games in our coach’s car and we played in hand me down men’s soccer shorts and t-shirts with numbers put on with black electrical tape.
“I say all of this to tell you that the lessons you have learned on the court will help you go a long way. The next time you step on a court, remember you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the women who came before you. Some of them whom had to play basketball in skirts!”
Head went on to say that their coach fought the decision for the players not to be able to compete in the national tournament. They were the first women’s basketball team from Mercer University to qualify and compete in the AIAW National Tournament. “We helped start a legacy that continues today. We did lose in the semi-finals and I still remember how that made me feel. At the time, that was as high as we could go. There was no women’s basketball in the Olympics or Professional Women’s basketball leagues. This was it,” said Head.
“But I say all of this to encourage you to think about the bigger picture. Build a legacy for the next generation to follow. I believe that one day soon, the Lady Jets will have a National Championship Trophy. And you and others before and after you, will have been a part in helping that dream come true,” concluded Head.
SGTC Athletic Director and Lady Jets head coach James Frey thanked Head for her comments and challenged the players to remember the people who had played before them and who had set the standards so high at South Georgia Tech. “We challenge the players to look on the wall at the banners and we tell them that this game and this program is bigger than one person.”
Coach Frey thanked assistant coach Kezia Conyers who has been with him for five of his six seasons at South Georgia Tech. “Coach Conyers is awesome. Her record here at South Georgia Tech is 142 – 28 as an assistant coach. She has helped us to win our conference and advance to the national tournament for four of those five years. I appreciate her and all that she means to this team and this program.”
Frey also thanked President Dr. John Watford, the Booster Club, the Administrators and the faculty and staff. “I look forward to coming to work every day. This is a great place to be. I have been coaching for 26 or 27 years and I have only seen two or three places like this where people are all working together to make good things happen. This is a special place and I hope to stay here as long as you will have me.”
He recognized the players and then singled out Esther “Nike” Adenike as the Most Valuable Player for the team. “Her journey started four years ago. It took us two years to just get her here. It is very difficult to get young women through the Nigerian embassy. But she kept working and here she is a student athlete with a 3.5 GPA, a first team NJCAA All-American, an all-tournament player in a national tournament and the MVP for the Lady Jets for 2018.”
“I would like to thank God, and my coaches for this opportunity. I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and helped me,” said “Nike” after Coach Frey presented her with the award.
The Lady Jets finished the season with a 29 – 6 overall record and finished in the top 16 in the nation. This was their fourth trip to the national tournament in the past five years.
SGTC Jets head coach Travis Garrett came up next and said that “we had a good season, but we are not satisfied. The guys fought really hard and we got to the finals of the NJCAA Region XVII Championship but we didn’t get the job done. We are going to get the job done.”
The Jets finished the season with a 20 – 12 record and had some highlights during the season. But he also pointed out that his team averaged 83.5 points per game. Sixty-eight of those points were scored by sophomores. “We have some big shoes to fill next season and we are already working on that.”
Garrett recognized two of those outstanding sophomores, Rico Simmons and Marquel Wiggins as the MVP’s for the Jets for 2018. “We wish the sophomores good luck and we are already recruiting for next season. We are happy with the progress we made this year, but are still not satisfied with where we are.”
South Georgia Technical College President Dr. John Watford thanked the coaches, players, booster club members and the community for their support of the Jets and Lady Jets athletic program. “Many people have asked me why I think athletics are important or what does athletics bring to the college. Tonight answers that question. There are so many intangible benefits that athletics bring, including the opportunities or the way it helps change the lives of our athletes. Athletics and other extra-curricular programs and clubs teach valuable lessons. This is just one more way to provide opportunities for students and I am very proud of our Jets and Lady Jets and the wonderful season that they provided us with.”