By Matt Wiley & Gary Nager
During a small, early morning ceremony, anticipation and excitement about the future fills the room, as three Freedom High School athletes prepare to put pen to paper and sign letters of intent to attend college on athletic scholarships.
On April 30, Freedom High seniors Kelly Huseman, Brandon Patchan and Zachary Romp signed letters of intent, committing to colleges that recruited them for gymnastics, basketball and football, respectively, during a small press conference-style ceremony filled with teachers, family and friends.
“We’re very proud of these kids,” said Freedom athletic director Mick Buddie. “This is a very important step for them. My advice to (the students) is: Don’t take it lightly. Keep the momentum going.”
Kelly Huseman signed a letter of intent to compete in gymnastics as a University of Wisconsin at Stout Blue Devil, located in Menomonie. Freedom guidance counselor Myama Fulkroad introduced Huseman. “She’s an academic, but she balances it well with gymnastics,” Fulkroad said. “She represents the best that Freedom has to offer.”
Freedom varsity basketball coach Cedric Smith introduced Nova Southeastern University commit Brandon Patchan.
“Nova is getting an incredible player and student in Brandon,” Smith said to the crowd. “He’s always had a drive and passion to be a good player. I never had to worry about academics with Brandon. You made my job easy.”
Patchan, the brother of former University of Florida football starter Matt Patchan (who transferred this year to Boston College) expressed gratitude for his years at Freedom.
“I’m happy to be getting my education and having the opportunity to play on the next level,” he said.
According to Maxpreps.com, Patchan, a center and power forward, finished his senior year averaging 10.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Freedom varsity football coach Todd Donohoe introduced defensive back Zachary Romp, who committed to Berry College, located in Mt. Berry, GA.
“Zach truly is a scholar athlete, a tremendous player and a fine young man,” Donohoe said.
Romp closed out his high school career at Freedom this past season with 37 tackles, averaging 3.7 per game, as well as 2 interceptions.
Freedom principal David Sheppard closed out the ceremony with a few words about the diversity in sports at the school.
“It doesn’t matter what you want to play,” Sheppard said. “When you go to Freedom, no matter your flavor of sport, you can be successful.”
Wharton’s Vanderbrook Signs With Indian River State
The same day as the Freedom signings, 6’-8” Wharton High forward Drew Vanderbrook signed to play the next two years at Indian River State College in Ft. Pierce. Vanderbrook, who transferred from Freedom to play at Wharton this year, scored 4 points in the Wildcats’ State Class 8A semifinal 46-38 loss to South Miami.
Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli and Indian River coach Joe Sanchez agreed that Vanderbrook’s future is bright. He became the second Wharton player (point guard C.J. McGill, who will play at the University of Mobile, AL, is the other) to sign to play college basketball next year. “We’ve had players go on to play at four-year basketball schools,” says Sanchez, who once coached at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. “Drew has a chance to do the same.”