If a favorite has emerged in the race to earn his services, Conway football standout Raiqwon O’Neal is doing a good job of concealing his hand.
“All teams are still in play,” he joked.
Soon, each of the more than 30 schools recruiting the Tiger offensive lineman will know where they stand.
O’Neal will make his college intentions known on Aug. 16, a mere two days ahead of Conway’s season opener at Georgetown.
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South Carolina was among the many schools to offer him over the summer. Also among the crowded lot to do so were Charlotte, East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan, Mississippi State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wake Forest and West Virginia.
According to the Conway standout, his top priority is not all about what occurs on the gridiron … though it is certainly of great importance.
“I want to see if they have my major — which is graphic design, special effects or carpentry,” O’Neal said. “I also want to see if the environment is good on and off campus, along with how coaches and players build a relationship amongst each other.”
Last season, he saw time on both sides of the football. As a defensive lineman, he had 11 solo tackles and six assists to go along with a pair of fumble recoveries.
Prior to making his decision, O’Neal intends to visit several of the schools to have offered him. He’ll pay a visit Saturday to South Carolina before continuing north to Maryland and Rutgers.
O’Neal is not the only Conway player hitting it big in recruiting.
The stock of rising sophomore Tonka Hemingway continues to soar as he grabbed two more offers this past week. Georgia and Maryland were the latest to join a fray already featuring South Carolina and Georgia State.
As a freshman, he had 13 tackles and two assists to go along with three sacks.
Western Kentucky has come to call for senior offensive lineman Gunner Britton, adding to several offers already in his possession. Eastern Michigan, Gardner-Webb, Liberty, Mercer, Stetson and Western Carolina are also hoping to land his services.
Offers realization of a dream for Smith
Will Smith was determined to make the summer prior to his junior year count.
A participant in two sports at Conway High, his name is already in the school’s football record books as a place-kicker. Baseball has long had his heart, though, with his target aimed at one day playing at the college level.
If Smith continues on his current path, that dream will become reality in a little more than a year’s time.
Last month, the Conway baseball standout was offered by Gardner-Webb and Furman.
“This is an unreal experience, a dream come true,” Smith said. “I always wanted to play college baseball, and now I have the opportunity. I’m blessed to have two great schools offer me, and hopefully this is just the beginning.”
In addition to schools previously mentioned, he has spoken with Charleston Southern along with visiting South Carolina and Clemson.
Over the course of the summer, Smith has played with the EvoShield Canes — a nonprofit organization designed to help prep baseball standouts achieve their dream of playing collegiate baseball, or better. The opportunity to see top-level players throughout the summer has both encouraged and challenged him, knowing that is the type competition he will see on a daily and nightly basis.
“I really can say summer ball has helped a lot, as has playing in Conway where (baseball coach Anthony Carroll) has a history of players making it to college and beyond,” Smith said. “If you do well, you truly have a shot.”
The local standout also credits his parents and Mike Williams of Diamond Elite for his continued progress.
“(Williams) has been a huge part in getting me to where I need to be mechanics wise and he has been not only a pitching coach but a good teacher in life as well,” he said. “My parents have been a huge part in all of my baseball success, taking me to all the games and doing whatever they have to do let me chase after my dreams to play baseball.”
Conway basketball standout Jimmy Nichols continues his summer haul, recently adding an offer from Pittsburgh. In addition to the Panthers, Arizona State, College of Charleston, Georgetown, Kansas State Miami, Nebraska, Old Dominion, Rhode Island, Rutgers, Rice and VCU are among those seeking his services. … North Myrtle Beach wide receiver and defensive back Tyler Gore over the weekend paid a visit to Furman.