In a dimly-lit sanctuary, miles from the high schools they led to unprecedented success, Andre Nation and A.J. Astroth joined a half-dozen other prep basketball standouts in making their college choices official Thursday.
Nation, a lanky guard who led Durant to within a game of the Class 5A final four last winter, signed his official letter of intent with James Madison. Astroth, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who became Wharton's alltime scoring king, signed with Vanderbilt.
The pair signed at Brandon's Faith Baptist Academy, where each currently is taking one course -- a Bible class -- and will play for the Eagles' prep-school program this winter. Six other FBA players also signed Thursday.
Somewhat surreal in their absence: anyone from Durant or Wharton, where the two earned all-state recognition last winter.
When asked who was most responsible for helping them secure their scholarships, Nation (fifth from left) and Astroth (fourth from left) thanked their AAU coaches -- who also serve on FBA's staff -- and Eagles coach Ryan Pannone.
"Definitely it was my coaches in my corner pushing me, (AAU) Coach Kenny (Gillion) and (Pannone)," said Astroth, who also is taking three classes at Hillsborough Community College and will head to Vanderbilt next summer.
"It was just basically them two giving me the opportunity to show my hard work paid off. I can't thank them enough."
Nation, a 6-foot-4 slasher, averaged 22.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, three blocks and 1.9 steals for the Cougars (21-5) last season. Astroth averaged 20.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a senior for Wharton, which came within a game of the 6A state tournament.
The other six who signed Thursday at FBA (left to right) were Michael Chandler (UCF), Chris Daniels (Georgia Southern), Rasham Suarez (Georgia Southern), Jakari Bush (FAMU), Brian Pegg (Stetson) and Dylan Poston (Mercer). Pegg will join his older brother Adam -- a former Clearwater High and Oldsmar Christian standout -- at Stetson.