By Josh Beavers
It was a morning of smiles all around at Minden High School on Wednesday as two Class of 2021 grads signed to play sports at the collegiate level.
Football standout Raymond (R.J.) Dillard and basketball star Shaniah Washington were joined by family and coaches as the Tiders signed letters of intent to continue their athletic careers.
Dillard will play football for Southern Arkansas University in nearby Magnolia and Washington will lace up her sneakers in Kansas at Cowley College.
Minden principal Becky Wilson congratulated both players.
“Keep accomplishing your goals,” she told them. “We are so excited to see what your future holds, and we are so proud of you. Roll Tide!”
Dillard was a standout at running back and linebacker for the Crimson Tide. He thanked his family and coaches for pushing him to make it to the next level of athletic play.
“They pushed me,” he said. “They helped me achieve, and I have been working toward this for a long time.”
His mother, Latonya, was on hand for the signing.
“I’m very proud of my son and what he has accomplished. There are so many kids out doing whatever, but he kept his head on straight and focused.”
Spencer Heard, Minden’s head football coach, said R.J. is a great young man and an excellent role model for younger players.
Dillard will major in sports medicine at SAU.
The second signing of the morning saw Washington put her name on papers to play basketball for Cowley College, one of the winningest programs in junior college basketball.
She was joined by her mother and sisters for the signing.
“This is something she has always wanted to do,” said Ramona Washington, Shaniah’s mother. “I and her entire family are so proud that she is going to get an education and be able to continue playing basketball. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Jacob Brown, MHS girls basketball coach, noted her athleticism will allow her to thrive in the league.
“She can play multiple positions,” he said. “She had to play in the post on the (2018-19) state semifinal team, and her senior year she had to move to point guard and run the show. She is versatile and can score and then can create offense from the defensive end.”
Brown’s statement was echoed by Cowley coach Todd Clark.
“I like Shaniah’s versatility,” he said. “She can play a lot of positions and is athletic enough to guard a lot of positions. We look forward to working with her.”
Clark has won 393 games in 17 seasons at Cowley, which is a community college in Arkansas City, Kansas.
Washington will major in sports medicine.
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