Wendell Lofton isn't used to doing these kinds of things so early.
So it was a bit humorous Thursday when the longtime Hephzibah coach found himself talking about star player Kenya Drayton as if she had already departed.
"We are really going to miss her here, both as an athlete and a student," he said.
Drayton, of course, still has another year to play.
Lofton was using the moment to reflect on Drayton's career because the senior was signing a letter of intent to play basketball at West Georgia.
"No, I'm not gone," Drayton said, laughing. "I'm really looking forward to the year, actually."
Drayton, who will join former Hephzibah star ReNate Lopez at West Georgia, is Hephzibah's top post player. Her parents, Ken and Sharon , both played sports for Lofton at the school.
Lofton said it was the first time he could remember one of his players signing a letter of intent before the season.
He said the Rebels will lean heavily on Drayton's inside presence this season.
"We're expecting a lot out of her," he said. "In fact, we're planning on riding her all the way to states."
Drayton is one of three starters back for Hephzibah, which advanced to the state quarterfinals last season.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Aiken will have two NCAA Division I players in its starting lineup this year.
Bree'Ana Perry and Lexy Williams signed letters of intent this week to play college basketball.
Perry, a 6-foot-4 post player who is the second cousin of former NFL players William and Michael Dean Perry , will play at Virginia Commonwealth. Williams, a guard, will play at Georgia Southern.
Aiken lost in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs last season to South Pointe.
TILTON SIGNS: Evans golfer Jacob Tilton , the reigning Augusta City Junior champion, recently signed with Armstrong Atlantic State.
"I liked that it was in Savannah," he said. "It's a good-sized school. It's not too big."
Tilton said he knows two of the team's nine players: Parker Gordon (Greenbrier) and Matthew Motes (Augusta Christian).
SOUTH AIKEN SIGNEES: South Aiken swimmer Laura Beth Thomas will compete for South Carolina next year.
Lindsey Workman , a catcher on the Thoroughbreds' softball team, will play at Newberry.
Staff writer Stephen Fastenau contributed to this story
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.