By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
Fourteen athletes secured their destinies as Wildcats for at least the 2007-08 school year after signing letters of intent to compete on various athletic teams on Wednesday.
Head baseball coach Britt Bonneau, head tennis coach Hutton Jones and head track and field coach Don D. Hood all welcomed the incoming athletes when the high school seniors and junior college athletes signed letters of intent to compete at ACU.
Bonneau added six, while Jones and Hood added four each to of their teams.
The baseball signings included Brandon Jordan of Gover High School; Lorn Smith of Langham Creek High School; Kevin Justice of San Angelo Central High School; Cameron Bankston of Burleson High School; and junior college pitchers Carlos Hernandez and David Mastiner, both from West Valley College.
Bonneau, who announced the largest class of early signers in his 11 years at ACU, said the player who would most likely have biggest immediate impact would be Hernandez.
“He’s a guy that will for sure benefit our program,” Bonneau said.
Hernandez went 12-1 as a freshman at West Valley, was a first-team all-American and was twice drafted by major league teams.
“It’s not too often that you get a shot at an athlete like that,” Bonneau said.
Four Texas high school tennis players will have their shot as ACU athletes after signing letters of intent to play on the tennis teams.
Abilene High stars Jaclyn Walker, Karl Bein and Hayden Scruggs, in addition to Lubbock Coronado High School player Bryan Joiner, all signed with the Wildcats.
“All of these are just ACU tennis type of people,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t recruit anybody that I don’t think has a shot to play.”
The three Abilene natives were part of the three-time District 3-5A championship tennis team, which was ranked in the top five of the state all four years the athletes played, and Joiner was a three-time all-district selection at Coronado.
“These are the kind of people we want and will potentially be better tennis players,” Jones said.
Hood also saw potential and signed four Texas track and field athletes: thrower Paige Newby of Colorado City; middle-distance runner Allyson Dunn of San Antonio; hurdler Destinee Nixon of Mesquite; and thrower Nick Jones of Amarillo.
Hood said the three female athletes would all contribute to the team, but he expects Newby to contribute right at the start of her college career.
“[Newby is] somebody that can come in as a freshman and have a chance to win a national championship,” Hood said. “That’s a huge impact.”
Newby won the class 2A state championship in the discus and won 26 of the 30 high school meets she competed in.
Hood said he expects Jones to contribute on the men’s team as a much-needed thrower. Jones, who will also play defensive end for the Wildcat football team, won a District 2-5A shot put championship for Amarillo Tascosa High School and was a runner up at the Region I-5A meet.
“I’m just really excited to get these kids in the fall,” Hood said. “The type of athletes we’ve sign is a good sign for the type of recruiting that we’re doing. It shows we’re able to get some of the good kids.”