Originally created 04/15/04

Two Yellow Jackets fly to college



It was a forum to take a look and see just how far two basketball-playing young ladies at North Augusta High School had come.

Helena Thomas remembered when her daughter, Latrice, used to come home all dirty after "playing ball" all day with the neighborhood boys.

Faye Norris remembered when her daughter, Crystal, first played in the Aiken Church League at the age of six.

Those were the first steps. Better yet, the first bounces. Wednesday was a day when the reward came for the repetition of those efforts. Latrice Thomas officially signed her letter of intent to play basketball next season with Anderson College. Next was Yellow Jackets teammate Crystal Norris. She signed a scholarship offer to play for Savannah State.

"C'mon now parents," an observer said. "Everybody break out their proud mom and dad faces for this."

That was easy.

"Latrice has came a long way," her father Jeffrey Thomas said. "There was a time when she was with the wrong crowd, and maybe had the wrong attitude. But we got her focused. Got her pointing in the direction she's at today."

There were a few awkward moments. No one really knew just how many of the triplicate forms to sign.

"I've got to make sure and bear down hard," Crystal Norris said, penning her name in blue ink.

But there were also some sad ones. Latrice Thomas used the term "they" to talk about Anderson College. Faye Norris had to correct her, as her coach, probably for the last time.

"You can't use 'they' anymore," Faye Norris said. "You have to use 'we'. You're not a Yellow Jacket anymore. You're at Anderson now. You're a Trojan."

It was doubly-emotional for Coach Norris. She was saying goodbye to two vital players, but also to a daughter.

"I feel a little more grown up today," Crystal Norris said. "I feel like this part of my life is over, and a new step is beginning."

It was.

"They did well and turned out the way we all hoped they would," Faye Norris said. "But now North Augusta for them is finished. And we have to wish them well."

Thomas, a small forward, averaged 15 points and five rebounds this past year. Anderson College, who went 25-7 last year, led NCAA Division II in scoring by averaging 85 points per game.

Norris, a shooting guard known for her defense, averaged nine points and four steals this season. She's off to help build a winner at Savannah State, who won six games last season despite setting an NCAA record with a low of three points in the first half of a game against Florida State.

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com.