The place where brains and athletic talent meet head-on

Published 6:34 pm Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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It’s more than just athletic skill that makes the Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Basketball Tournament so unique.

While we salute those skillful young men and women for their individual and team-oriented athletic ability to dribble, screen, shoot, and rebound, the real talent of these youthful players can be found off the court.

For the past 14 years, this newspaper has joined with Joe Murray Realty of Ahoskie as a sponsor of the Brantley Tournament. In each of those years, we have handed out trophies and All-Tournament recognition to the “best of the best” on the court.

But we also reward a handful of student-athletes for their outstanding academic accomplishments as well as for giving back to the communities in which they live.

Case-in-point are the 2019 nominees for a Brantley Scholarship. Eight of those “bright stars” submitted their paperwork and were individually interviewed last week by members of the Scholarship Committee. What that committee found left them dazzled….all eight ranked at or near the top of their class – with outstanding SAT scores to boot – and all were heavily involved in giving something back to their community.

We read, with amazement, their willingness, without hesitation, to volunteer time and efforts to help in the aftermath of hurricanes, 4-H Club counseling, Stop Hunger Now projects, Adopt-A-Highway program, tutoring younger students, music camps, church activities, and childcare.

Their adult peers used words such as respectful, thoughtful, trustworthy, and determined when describing these bright young people.

We salute the eight candidates for the 2019 Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship: Jeremy Harmon and Madison Dilday, both of Southampton Academy; Jon Stephenson and Carly Ellen Stephenson, both of Northeast Academy; Mattie Grace Gilliam and Blake Birdsong, both of Ridgecroft School; Hailey Hope Gardner of Lawrence Academy, and Brent Benson of Pungo.

We wish there were eight scholarships to award, as each of these individuals would have been extremely worthy. However, there were three, $1,000 scholarships to hand out. In a razor-thin voting process, those recipients were Dilday, Benson, and Carly Stephenson.

The respective families of all eight candidates need to know how impressive your youngsters are, and how they carried themselves during a tough interview. These candidates will one day make for ideal employees in their chosen career fields. The parents need to be commended for instilling life’s most important values in their children.

We also salute the annual sponsors of the Brantley Scholarship: Jernigan Oil/Duck Thru Stores, Northampton County Farm Bureau, Hertford County Farm Bureau, Shavender Trucking, Bertie County Peanuts, and Joyce and Keith Brantley, the parents of the late Lt. Nick Brantley. They are responsible for allowing the tournament directors to hand out over $60,000 in college scholarships to deserving student-athletes over the 14 years of the Brantley Tournament.

And the best news is we’ll be back for the 15th year during the first week of December 2020 where we’ll repeat this same effort all over again in memory of Lt. Nick Brantley.

– The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald