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A band of brothers disperse from Riverdale

By Brian Paglia

bpaglia@news-daily.com

In the recruiting journeys of three Riverdale basketball teammates, each owes their prized scholarships to one fateful moment.

For Judson Dilliard, it was a game against Creekside during the regular season that scouts attended to observe more-heralded teammate Terrell Barnes. For Byron Graham, it was the recruiting tape he mailed to Lon Morris College, the only tape he sent to any school. For Carlos Collier, it was a summer camp that introduced Bryan College to the Raiders guard.

From those pivotal moments came opportunity. The teammates from Riverdale and the AAU basketball team Riverdale Soul coached by Graham's father signed scholarships this month to play college basketball, giving Riverdale the most college signees in the Southern Crescent this season. Raiders forward Terrell Barnes committed to Tennessee Tech in the November early signing period.

Dilliard will follow Barnes to Tennessee Tech, a Division I program in the Ohio Valley Conference. Collier signed with Bryan College, a NAIA school in Dayton, Tenn., in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. Graham will play at Lon Morris College, a Division I junior college in Jacksonville, Texas.

Though they disperse off onto different paths, their journey began together on AAU and middle school teams. Graham's father, Byron Graham, Sr., started the Soul in an effort to keep the group intact, to let their skills develop together and give the high school team they would eventually play for a polished trio.

Dilliard played for Mount Zion for three seasons before transferring to Riverdale for his final year, finally bringing the group together for a high school season, one that included 20 wins and an appearance in the second round of the state playoffs.

While Dilliard was at Mount Zion, Graham and Collier enjoyed remarkable success at Riverdale. They played on an Elite Eight team in 2008 and a Final Four team the year before, one that holds a significant place in their memory.

"That was a great memory," Graham said. "Traveling everywhere, hanging with the guys. You get to get out of school early, eat good, play on the big stage with all the lights on you.

"Everybody respected us. You would go to the mall and people would come up to you and say, 'Hey, you go to Riverdale.' We was out there that year."

Collier came to Riverdale his freshman year as a loner, he said. He knew Graham from basketball, and soon his sweet shooting stroke and basketball teammates made him relish his time with the Raiders.

"Coming here as a loner my ninth grade year, I didn't know anybody," Collier said. "Pretty much all my memories are with them. They've been like brothers to me."

When Dilliard transferred, it brought the trio together again and put in place the missing piece of Riverdale's team. There was no transition period. Dilliard seemlessly fit in as Riverdale's leading scorer, setting a school record with 49 points against Mundy's Mill on senior night.

"It was a great season," Dilliard said. "I had a fun season with everybody. It was just fun coming into Riverdale. Like an instant connection. Every game was fun."