Three athletes from Baldwin High School signed to continue their careers in college at a special ceremony Wednesday in the school’s gymnasium. Erron Bolston, three-year starting catcher for the baseball team, inked a scholarship deal with LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tenn., cheerleading standout Brianna Cleveland signed to Savannah State University, and The Union-Recorder All-County girls basketball Player of the Year, Crystal Corley, made public her choice to attend Augusta University.
Baldwin Athletic Director Dexter Ricks introduced the athletes before handing it over to the players and their coaches to announce their decisions.
“If we can put it in the paper every time a kid messes up and does something crazy, we can definitely make sure we acknowledge when we have young athletes — young students who are doing the right thing,” Ricks said.
After each athlete had made a statement, Ricks instructed them to sign in unison and reminded them of their responsibility to uphold a contract.
“You are going to sign in unison your national letter of intent,” Ricks said. “Remember this is a contract between you and that institution saying that you’re going to provide a service, and for your services, they’re going to pay for part or all of your tuition. So, make sure you take that (seriously).”
Following the ceremony, Baldwin Principal Jason Flanders congratulated the athletes.
“You are part of the Braves family, and when you’re part of the family, you’ll never not be part of the family,” Flanders said. “Each one of these students is special to me this year. Erron, I tell you what, when you talk to him about baseball, his eyes just light up, and you can see the passion come through in what he does. The same thing for Brianna, you can tell she loves to cheer when you see her in that element — football games, you can tell that’s really where her passion lies. And when Crystal’s on the basketball court, you can tell the dedication she has to her craft.”
Head baseball coach Brandan Thomas introduced Bolston.
“I have had the pleasure of watching him grow over the last two or three years as a player, but as an individual as well. He’s always working hard, he’s always trying to get some extra work in. … He’s just really driven and he loves the game. This award he’s getting today, this scholarship opportunity he has, Erron has really worked hard (for),” Thomas said before speaking directly to Bolston. “If you ever need anything while you’re up there at school, just call me and I got you.”
Bolston will join LeMoyne-Owen, a small HBCU with about 1,000 students, that competes athletically in the NCAA’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference at the DII level.
“First things first, I want to thank my parents, for always standing up for me and keeping me on the right track,” Bolston said. “I also thank my head coach and best coach I ever had, Mr. Brandan Thomas. Coach, he always believed in me and pushed me to my limits to make sure I could perform at a high level behind the plate.”
In lieu of cheerleading coach Erica Jackson, who was unable to attend the ceremony, Ricks introduced Cleveland.
“Brianna is going to probably the best college in the state of Georgia. I’m a little biased— Savannah State,” said Ricks.
Savannah State is an HBCU with more that 4,000 students in Savannah, Ga. and competes in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in NCAA’s Division I. The school’s competitive cheerleading team became the first HBCU to win a national cheerleading championship when it snagged the CheerSport Nationals title in 2017.
“Thanks to everyone in my circle who has supported me officially to become the person I am today,” Cleveland said, after naming several people of influence in her life. “Last but not least, I would like to thank my mother for being my first cheerleading coach and pushing me to always follow my dreams at every cost— for believing in me when people said it couldn’t be done. We did it … I’m so blessed to be right here right now to further my educational journey alongside the cheer … without further ado, I will be attending the illustrious Savannah State University.”
Baldwin girls basketball coach Kizzy Walker introduced Corley, who she said had “15 or 16” schools recruiting her. Corley kept her decision a secret until announcing it at the ceremony.
“She is a great athletic player, and I’m going to miss you so, so dearly. I am, and I’m already missing you. But, you know, you’re making room for someone else to come up to be greater,” Walker said. “And I just want to let you know, that you’ve made a great choice, because I always tell my players, ‘go where you are needed, go where you are needed. Don’t go somewhere because of a big name and you’ll sit the bench and you’ll just wonder why you’re not playing. You need to go somewhere where you will make an impact and a difference.’ And I, I just love you, and I hope that you do very, very well, and I look forward to seeing you in the WNBA.”
Corley announced that she would be attending Augusta University, in Augusta, Ga., which competes in the Peach Belt conference in NCAA DII.
“First, I want to thank God for giving me this talent that I have and giving me another opportunity to bring it to the next level and to further my education. Second, I want to thank my friends and most of all my family, especially my loving mother, for all the late nights and extra time she put in coming to get me after practices and games, going on numerous college visits, and for them pushing me to be the best I could be all the time. I would also like to thank all my teachers and coaches who made me realize basketball isn’t just a sport, it’s a part of your lifestyle, and you can’t turn it on and off when you feel like it,” Corley said. “For the next four years, I’ll be attending Augusta University.”