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Alumni event benefits Farmville, youth club

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Players participate in the Farmville Central Alumni Classic on May 24, 2019. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector)

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By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Friday, May 24, 2019

FARMVILLE -— The town of Farmville is steeped in basketball tradition.

This season alone, Farmville had four undefeated regulars seasons from its middle school, junior varsity and boys’ and girls’ varsity squads, with the boys’ team capturing its second 2-A state championship in four years. 

What comes with the success? Scholarships, titles and glory. Some athletes move on, fading as fixtures in the community as they progress in their own personal and athletic careers, and others return to show they haven’t forgotten about the town they once called home.

Devon Atkinson is one of those players.

A former 2-A Eastern Plains Conference player of the year in 2008, Atkinson and the Jaguars advanced to the East Regional finals before falling in his senior season. After playing for two years at Brunswick Community College, Atkinson transferred to Morehead State, where he quickly shot up the rotation and played in nationally televised games, including an ESPN primetime matchup against Kentucky. 

In 2013, following his collegiate career, Atkinson signed to play in Germany before eventually moving to play in Australia. He has been out of the game since 2016.

“I’m just blessed with what God gave me,” Atkinson said. 

Upon his return, Atkinson had an idea to bring other former Jaguars back to Farmville to reunite and compete against each other, thus the annual Farmville Central alumni game was born.

South Central, this year’s 4-A state champion in boys’ basketball, also held a similar event Friday evening in Winterville.

Names such as Shaft Parker Jr., Justin and Destiny Foskey, Tyreek Dupre and Tyler Maye were scaterred throughout Farmville’s four-team roster.

This year marks the fourth year of the FC tournament. Proceeds from the event benefited Jaguar athletics and the Boys and Girls Club of Farmville. 

“A lot of us grew up going to the Boys and Girls Club,” Atkinson said. “That was a spot where we started to play basketball, or played some type of sport. So we wanted to give back to the club where we went and help it grow.”

While the game is played as an exhibition, Atkinson noted the rivalry between players, including his ‘08 group against this year’s crop that included standout guards Terquavion Smith and Justin Wright. 

“Basketball is big in this town’s culture,”Atkinson said. “You have kids like them (Smith and Wright) and you start a rivalry with them. Tyler Maye was in the stands watching me when he was growing up. So now we’re like, ‘Okay now we get to battle each other.’ That’s always fun to be able to play against some young kids or future stars coming out of Farmville.”

The tournament teams were led by Donald Reid, Ty Ebram, Javious Dixon and FC girls’ head coach Hollis Harper. 

Not on the coaching list was Jaguars’ boys head coach Larry Williford. He has been busy making arrangements for his squad’s ring ceremony celebration.

“We’ve got the rings ordered,” Williford said. “We’re getting some shirts and stuff for our guys. I just want to get everything and give them the credit they deserve.”

Atkinson also hopes the event helps younger members of the community recognize and appreciate the many talents to come out of the small Pitt County town. 

“There are people you walk past every day and you wouldn’t recognize how good they were,” he said. “I just really hope this helps some people see and think, ‘He was a great player.’”

The game will continue to be yearly occurrence, and Atkinson hopes to bring even more players back to grow the size of the tournament. 

“I just hope we can continue to keep doing this,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with everything I’ve been able to do, and I want to give back to Farmville Central and the town.”

Contact Jake Keator at jkeator@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.

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