Monroe’s Rantavious Gilbert, foreground, center, smiles after signing his national letter-of-intent Thursday to play in the North Carolina mountains for Appalachian State. Gilbert was joined by, front row, from left, his mother Betty, grandmother Mattie McClinton, as well as, back row, from left, Jermaine Turner, Monroe coach Marquis Davis and Sidney Thomas. (Johnny Gilbert/Special to The Herald)
ALBANY -- Rantavious Gilbert rose to his feet, towering over his friends, family and schoolmates just seconds after officially committing to play basketball for Appalachian State.
And the 6-foot-8 Monroe star made a promise.
“I promise I will go up there and work hard,” Gilbert said Thursday morning.
It’s a promise no one doubts he will keep.
Former Terrell County basketball star Brown signs with Columbus State
COLUMBUS — After reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six seasons last year, Columbus State head coach Robert Moore has announced the signing of five student-athletes to national letters-of-Intents Thursday, including for Terrell County star Alre’K Brown.
“I strongly believe this recruiting class is going to build upon the success we had last season,” said Moore, who is entering his third season at the helm of the Cougars. “With the blend of our returning players, this team is going to be fun to watch and very competitive in the Peach Belt Conference.”
Moore said he was especially excited about the arrival of the 6-foot-7 Brown, who is coming off an amazing season at Chattahoochee Valley Community College just down the road in Phenix City, Ala., where he was named the Alabama Community College Conference Southern Division Player of the Year.
In his freshman season, he averaged 11.2 points in 15 games while grabbing 7.9 rebounds per game.
Last season, Brown exploded, averaging a double-double with 15 points and 11.3 rebounds a night. In 28 games, he recorded 146 blocks and scored more than 20 points five times.
At Terrell County, Brown also led his team to four region championships and two Final Four appearances.
“Alre’k is going to give us a strong punch inside,”Moore said. “His size and athleticism will cause problems.”
“Rantavious is a special person,” Monroe coach Marquis Davis said. “Not only is he a good basketball player, but he is a good student. He is a leader in our student body.”
Gilbert, who averaged 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks per game his senior season, is the first Monroe basketball player to sign a Division I scholarship since Demetric Bennett committed to South Alabama in 2003. But basketball is just a small part of what makes Gilbert so special, his coach said.
“He is an intelligent kid,” Davis said about Gilbert, who currently has a 3.5 GPA. “Kids who make good grades are able to improve a lot more than just a natural athlete because they study the game more. He happens to be an athlete and a good student.”
Gilbert has always had a good head on his shoulders, but his basketball game was a work in progress when he came to Monroe four years ago.
“In middle school I was terrible,” Gilbert admitted Thursday. “I was just learning how to play the game.”
Gilbert has come a long way in four years.
“I remember when he walked over from Southside Middle School to come over and start playing basketball,” Davis said. “He was probably 6-4 and couldn’t do a whole lot of things. But each year you saw him improve. A lot of times players come into high school thinking they are already good, but he knew that he wasn’t the best basketball player. So he worked and worked and worked.”
Davis wasn’t even sure if Gilbert could dunk his freshman season despite being one of the taller kids on the team.
“Well … I could dunk. But just not like I do now when I throw it down,” Gilbert said with a laugh.
Now no one doubts Gilbert’s dunking ability these days.
His presence in the middle led the Tornadoes to a 17-8 record his senior season, which was cut short when he injured ligaments in his right ankle in a game against Albany High late in the year. He sat out the remainder of the regular season and played sparingly in the Tornadoes’ state playoff game against Howard, which Howard won in an upset, 44-36.
“The worst thing about the injury is watching your teammates go out there and play and knowing that you can’t help,” said Gilbert, who also had offers from Troy and Alabama State.
However, he said Thursday that his ankle was nearly completely healed and he was ready to settle in at the Appalachian State campus in Boone, N.C. — a place he said felt like “home away from home.”
He’s going to Boone with lofty goals, a work ethic to achieve them and a promise to never stop working.
And if he doesn’t follow through with his promise?
“Then I’ll be right behind him,” his mother, Betty Gilbert, said with a smile.