By MARINA WATERS
Donning a brand new Florida Southern t-shirt, David Crockett High School senior Josh Releford signed his name to a paper that will write his future on and off the basketball court. But for the star point guard, committing to Florida Southern College is a ticket to a lifelong dream as well as a weight off his shoulders.
“It was really a stress reliever because I didn’t know if I was going to play college ball,” Releford said to the Herald & Tribune at his signing on Thursday April 13 in the Crockett library. “From the beginning of the season to the middle of the season, I didn’t know if I was going to play at all. This is something I always wanted to do. No matter what level, as long as I got to play for free—and to do what I love.”
Along with landing a spot with the Lakeland, Florida squad, Releford finished his senior season shooting over 50 percent and shooting 78 percent from the free-throw line. He also tallied 146 assists and 826 points in his senior season alone. Overall, the 5-foot-9 senior scored 1,210 points at Crockett.
“He’s a competitor. He has drive. He wants to be good and he’s not afraid to be good. When you’re not afraid, you’re not afraid to fail,” Crockett boys basketball head coach John Good said. “He can hit shots because he’s not afraid to miss shots. That’s what people don’t understand. He’s in the gym everyday. He’s taking shots. He’s like, ‘If I make it, I make it. If I don’t, I’ll take it the next time I get it.’ That’s what you’ve got to love about a guy like him. That’s why he’s going to be successful down there.”
It might have been a given that Releford would play high school basketball, but his choice to play at Crockett all those years ago came as a surprise to some. But for the guard who left Johnson City, Crockett was the way to get to his dream of playing college basketball.
“It was something that people said he was crazy for doing it, but he had a goal and he felt like this was the best place for him,” Good said. “And that proved to come true.”
“You know, he kind of took a chance on us and made a tremendous sacrifice to come over here and we obviously appreciate it, but he gave up something to get here,” Crockett boys basketball assistant coach Tony Gordon said just before Releford signed his name. “And we’re just hoping that sacrifice continues to pay off.”
Fast forward three years, and the Pioneers had reached the state tournament Releford’s junior season and for the first time in program history. However, the Crockett senior had to find a way to lead the squad to success the following year—after losing seven of the leading eight players on the school’s roster.
“As a leader and as a senior, really I just soaked in what we did last year and I brought it with me this year to go and give it to the young kids,” Releford said. “We made it far. And the group I had my senior season, I felt like I did good leading them and it just felt like a good legacy. Some people will remember me, I hope.”
For Good, Releford served as a leading scorer and team motivator, but he also refused to let the Pioneers settle, which is something Good certainly won’t forget.
“He took over a lot of leadership. Obviously we lost a lot of pieces from the previous year, but he stepped in there and didn’t let us go into places like we were supposed to take the backseat to anybody,” Good said. “He always tried to motivate our kids and let them know that, ‘Hey, there’s a standard here and we’re not going to let it down regardless of who’s on our team or not.’”
As Releford posed for pictures with his family, now all wearing their own Florida Southern t-shirts, Good stood a few feet from the young man he had coached for the past four years. The head coach looked back on all Releford had accomplished—and was accomplishing there on a Thursday afternoon at David Crockett High School.
“Josh came in as a young man and he matured,” Good said. “He set an example for other people and for other players to follow and he had the goal to play college basketball.
“And that dream is coming true today.”