Hillside stars Thomas-Williams, Thompson headed to W.Va., Clemson
The area’s top remaining non-committed college football prospect, Hillside High School running back Donté Thomas-Williams, on Wednesday announced that he will attend West Virginia in the fall.
Generally graded as a 4-star prospect on a 0 to 5 star scale by recruiting experts — with five stars being the highest grade accorded a prospect, Thomas-Williams was one of only two four-star senior prospects in the area this year.
The other is wide receiver Trevion Thompson of Hillside, who signed a national letter of intent with Clemson on Wednesday. Thompson had committed to Clemson late in the recruiting season.
Thomas-Williams spurned offers from national champion Florida State and others including area ACC programs and Florida, Miami, Notre Dame and Clemson to name a few.
At a news conference at Hillside Wednesday, Thomas-Williams said he made up his mind on West Virginia a few days earlier, but he alone of Hillside’s major college signees Wednesday kept his choice secret, the West Virginia cap he would eventually don turned backward to his audience.
He concurred with Hillside coach Antonio King that it was his relationship with the West Virginia coaching staff that made him pick the Mountaineers, saying “it felt like home.”
“The West Virginia coaches were great at relationship building,” King said, adding that they didn’t talk much football during the process.
"A close second was Florida State," Thomas-Williams said.
Thomas-Williams was ranked as the No. 226 prospect in the class of 2014 in the 24/7 Sports composite rankings, as well as the No. 12 running back and No. 11 prospect overall from North Carolina.
Southern High School rising senior running back William Cameron also committed to West Virginia in the fall.
Thompson, a 6-3, 190-pound receiver was ranked as the No. 118 national prospect in the class by 24/7 Sports as well as the No. 17 receiver and No. 5 overall prospect from North Carolina.
King said Thompson’s pick, although it dragged out, was actually never really in question.
“He always kinda wanted to go to Clemson. He just liked it. But he wanted to take a look at the other schools,” King said. “In the end, I think he felt like he should’ve committed to Clemson maybe even before last season.”
King said the announced departure of Clemson junior all-America Sammy Watson to the NFL Draft after the season didn’t make the decision for Thompson. “But it didn’t hurt,” King said.
Among other area players signing with BCS programs Wednesday were Southern High receiver Maurice Trowell and Hillside defensive back Kalen McCain, both with N.C. State.
Former Southern High School stars who went on to play two years at a junior college — Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga. — also signed Wednesday.
Running back Akeem Judd, the nation’s top-ranked junior college running back prospect, signed with Mississippi, and former Southern middle linebacker LeGrande Harley signed with South Florida after a back-and-forth battle with Southern Miss.
Harley committed to South Florida, switched on Feb. 1 to Southern Miss and on Wednesday went back to South Florida.
Three of Trowell’s teammates at state 3-AA champion Southern also signed national letters of intent Wednesday. Wide receiver Derrick Mason and offensive tackle Noah Chase signed with FCS (formerly Division I-AA) member N.C. Central. Also, Southern defensive back Joshua Manns signed with UNC Pembroke.
NOTES — Former Hillside 4-star tight end Josh McNeil, who committed to Alabama and then to LSU as a Hillside senior in 2012, eventually wound up at Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y. when his collegiate eligibility came into question. He remains in the post-grad program at Milford Academy and has verbally committed to national champion Florida State. He hopes to enroll at FSU in January 2015.
— Staff writer John McCann contributed to this report with comments from Donté Thomas-Williams at Hillside Wednesday.