PILOT MOUNTAIN — Keri Fulp signed a letter of intent with Wake Forest University at East Surry High School Wednesday amidst a lot of excitement indicating her commitment to attend the university and play basketball for the Demon Deacons.
Fulp, along with family, teachers, coaches and Principals Diane Beane and Assistant Principal Brent Long, paid tribute to the occasion by attending the event, shaking hands and celebrating the momentous occasion of the signing, which was held in the school’s library.
Fulp sat at a signing table decorated with a single black and gold pom-pom, a basketball sporting a gold and black nike check mark, and a huge Wake Forest flag emblazoned across the table’s front.
In front of a small crowd of witnesses, Fulp smiled and with an official tone took the pen in hand. Without much ado, she got down to business and signed her name three times on the small stack of papers that bore a large emboldened Wake Forest logo.
These three quick signatures earned Keri Fulp a full academic scholarship that includes room and board, tuition and books to attend the local prestigious university.
Fulp’s mother, Debra, said, “We are completely honored and blessed for Keri to be able to play basketball locally near home, and at such a fine institution.”
Sisters, Kayla and Karli, remarked about the team spirit and support that had always been a part of their lives and again emphasized their thankfulness of their sister’s dream being fulfilled so close to home.
Kayla said, “It’s very exciting for us as there has always been healthy competition between us. There is so much love and respect between us and it is exciting to see how her competitive spirit has helped this day come to fruition.” Karli said she will miss her but will be going to see her and support her wholeheartedly.
Fulp said when asked if she was concerned about the transition from high school to college, “I am looking forward to a lot of hard work. There is no comparison between collegiate and high school level.” However in the meantime, Fulp said that she understood the importance of priority and will be competitive during the basketball season at hand for the Cards.
“I’m proud to be a Cardinal, it is a huge priority for me to represent my school well. That’s just the way I am. When I am a Cardinal, I am a Cardinal; when I am a Deacon, I am a Deacon. I guess I will always bleed red…and black and gold,” added Fulp with her characteristic quiet strength and smile.
Fulp will play Wake Forest women’s basketball under Demon Deacons Head Coach Jen Hoover and will begin training this summer.
She began playing AAU basketball at 8 years old with the Surry Storm AAU team under coaches Allen Hiatt and her father, Frank, who was her assistant coach until 2011. She has since been coached by Cleon Cook of the AAU Carolina Express and Keith Gunter of the East Surry Cardinals at the high school level.
Her father said he believed this day would come some day for Keri when he began to see her potential at an early age. When she began playing for the Express team, he finally got to retire from coaching her and relax and enjoy watching her for a change.
The Carolina Express AAU team has tryouts once a year and Fulp made the team in 2011 because of her dedication to work for it both on and off the court.
Coach Cook said, “She is a very hard worker and does not mind getting after it. When she comes to the gym, she comes to work and leaves it knowing she has put in a good effort.” Cook said the Express team recruits teenagers like Fulp for the purpose of training them and helping them to get recruited.
Gunter also commented about Fulp’s tremendous talent and work ethic and said he was so pleased to see the culmination of four years result into such a victory for this town and young Cardinal player. “I am extremely impressed with her intelligence, and she will do what it takes to be a good teammate. She improves individually as well the best that she can,” Gunter said.
Fulp also played on an ambassador tour for the State Department in Russia with a bilateral exchange USA team in 2011. She toured with Coach Brian Robinson of Bishop McGuinness and 10 girls and boys. She befriended many and described the difference in basketball styles. She smiled as she described the American beat and “bang” type in contrast to the finesse type played by the Russians. She recalled how happy it made her to experience that tour.
Fulp said her family and her faith in God is an integral part of her success and has held her up during times of adversity. “Without faith, I cannot have success,” Fulp said.
Both grandmothers attended Wednesday showing their support just like they always have since she has been a young child and both were nearly moved to tears during the signing event. The whole thing has always been a family affair, they said.
Maternal grandmother, Annette Preston, said, “I am thrilled, Keri has worked hard for this.” In good times and bad times and in sickness and health, the family has always been there for her, Preston said, and will continue to be at Wake Forest.
Paternal grandmother, Mary Smith, who also played basketball as a young woman at Shoals School, said, “This means the world to me, when she was a baby we took her to Wake Forest basketball games.” Her advice has always been “to play your best and do your best and if you lose then you have done the best that you could and play as a team. As long as you do that, you do not have anything to feel guilty about,” she said.
Overall, Fulp said she has learned this lesson in sports: “Do not back down from anybody,” she said.
Reach Tanya Chilton at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1921.