Lovejoy seniors Darius Bridges, Deandre Mathis, Marlon Reid, and Mike Harden signed basketball scholarships. (Special Photo)
HAMPTON – Lovejoy swingman Jahir Cabeza joined four of his teammates as college signees, making the five players the largest signing class in Lovejoy basketball history.
The four who had already signed were point guard Michael Harden, power forward Marlon Reid, small forward Darrius Bridges, and guard DeAndre Mathis.
“They came into the season with no scholarship offers on the table,” Lovejoy assistant coach Jay Moore said. “They put in work and dedicated themselves to getting better as individuals in the classroom and on the court.”
Four of the players signed with junior colleges.
Cabeza is one such player as he signed to attend Missouri State University-West Plains.
“When they started recruiting me I was very excited,” Cabeza said. “When I took my visit it confirmed that I really wanted to go there.”
Cabeza’s coaches believe he has the potential to garner major scholarship offers.
“Jahir, overall, was our best player,” Moore said. “He had interest from D-I’s, but he wanted to go to JUCO and develop and hone his skills so he can get the high-major looks that we all think he should be getting.”
Cabeza, who holds a 3.6 grade-point average, believes he will be playing high-major basketball in two years.
Harden, a 2013 player for the Wildcats, signed with Central Georgia Tech.
This past school year he attended Action Sports Academy this past season.
He led the Decatur prep school in scoring and assists.
“He’s highly athletic,” Moore said. “They compare him to Russell Westbrook with his athleticism and tenaciousness on defense.”
Harden relished his time at Lovejoy, before heading to Action Sports, as he was a part of two quarterfinals teams and earned all-region first team as a senior.
Harden also has interest from Division I schools and thinks he will eventually play at that level.
“After two years, I want to be at a high-major Division I school. I want to be a tremendous student athlete,” Harden said.
Reid and Bridges both signed with Georgia Perimeter College and both had to overcome challenges.
Reid moved to Clayton County from New Jersey and began playing basketball late as a sophomore.
“The odds were against me,” he said. “Luckily the coaches I got here supported me and helped me get to where I need to be.”
Bridges missed his junior season because of academic troubles and a house fire left him and his family homeless for nearly a year.
“It was a hard process keeping myself focused in school and keeping myself playing basketball,” he said.
After Georgia Perimeter he wants to continue to further his basketball career and become a computer engineer to help his family.
Mathis, the lone four-year college signee, will play for Brewton-Parker College. The NAIA school is located in Mount Vernon.
“DeAndre is a great kid – 3.4 GPA. He shoots lights out. He was one of our captains,” Moore said.
Moore and head coach Rick Francis are proud of what their players accomplished.
“The guys earned this,” Moore said. “They truly earned it.”