Manila golfer signs with UAM
Manila senior JJ Helton has signed a letter of intent to play golf at University of Arkansas Monticello (UAM).
JJ is known as a team leader in basketball and has also excelled in golf for the last two years for MHS.
Manila high school students, teachers, teammates and friends gathered Wednesday afternoon for a signing ceremony in the Lion gymnasium.
JJ played basketball for Manila for the last three years and golf his junior and senior year.
He always considered Manila his home and is very happy his family returned to Arkansas when he started his sophomore year. They moved to Alabama when he was in the seventh grade.
"I always wanted to come back to Manila and I am glad we did," JJ said.
JJ said he liked UAM and is looking forward to playing golf there. He has met a few of the players he will be joining.
"They are experienced and I know I can learn from them," JJ said. "I really like Coach Josh Wright. He has a lot to offer."
JJ said he felt like he had a brighter future in golf and even though he has only been playing for two years he really enjoys the game. He said the first time he picked up a club was in Alabama during his ninth grade year and he loved it from the first.
"I feel I can improve on my golf," JJ said.
JJ is also pleased that his high school teammate Garrett Scott plans to walk on at UAM golf and another co-basketball teammate Kam Ashabranner will be playing basketball at UAM.
During his high school golf two-year career he has played under the direction of Coach John Deaton.
"No doubt JJ has a lot of natural talent," Coach Deaton said. "He has only been playing two years and he was medalist his senior year leading our team to the District Championship. He had the lowest scoring average on the team. He has a lot of talent and is good at anything he does. He is a good student and has maintained good grades. He will do great for UAM. He has great work ethics and character. Monticello is getting a steal with JJ Helton. I think when he takes the time to devote to his golf he will do great."
JJ's average score was 74 per 18 holes.
JJ thanked his mother and family for their support.
"I want to thank my golf team," he said. "It has been a fun ride. I want to thank Coach Deaton for helping me. This is like a dream come true. My dream was always basketball but when I started playing golf it became my dream."
Manila high school principal Robin Baugher congratulated both JJ and Kam.
"You have made us proud," she said. "We are proud of all of our athletes. You have given us fine years of entertainment. We all wish you the best."