By Jeff Odom
Three Steinbrenner athletes will continue their careers at the next level after signing letters of intent Nov. 16.
Girls basketball’s Bailey Hooker (Southeastern University), baseball’s Chase Turner (Florida Gulf Coast University) and softball’s Jillian Lewis (Coker College in South Carolina) participated in the Warriors’ early signing day in front of teammates, family and friends.
Hooker, who is the program’s first college signee, said she chose Southeastern over five Division I and II offers to stay close to her family. She added that it was amazing to have the support of current and past teammates who came to see her sign.
“Although it’s not a big Division I school that I dreamed of, I definitely knew right when I got on campus that it was for me,” said Hooker, who led the team with 19.4 points per game during its district title run last season.
Hooker’s coach JR Allen said her signing is a testament to hard work on and off the court.
“It is a special day just because you’re seeing the results of a young lady that’s put in a lot of time, a lot of hours, a lot of work and has been rewarded for it,” Allen said. “It makes it special because she is the first one for our basketball program.”
For Warriors baseball coach John Crumbley, Turner (.354 average, nine RBI) is the third player from his team in as many years to sign with a Division I program. However, he strikes a personal connection to his first baseman’s choice.
“That’s where my son (J.J.) played four years and graduated from, and I was a volunteer assistant (coach) his senior year,” Crumbley said. “When we started this four years ago, Chase was a freshman on varsity with no seniors and we expected big things. He’s worked hard to get to that next level.”
After years spent with travel softball teams and three years at Steinbrenner, Lewis said it took one email and a visit to the school for the choice to be clear.
“My cousin went there and played basketball and soccer and she really liked it,” Lewis said. “So, I emailed the coach and he had me come up there for a tryout, and I scrimmaged with their team and he called me three days later and he said, ‘I really like you. I really want you up here.’”
Lewis helped the Warriors to a runner-up finish at the Class 7A-District 9 tournament, falling only to eventual state champion Chamberlain.