BRADENTON -- Florida State’s last Heisman winner, Chris Weinke, began the ceremony with a speech that included the following line: “You have to wake up every day with a conscience effort to be the best you can be. Great players don’t take a day off.”
Weinke, a former NFL quarterback, wasn’t talking to football players.
That sport’s National Signing Day isn’t for a few months.
Rather, he was addressing all the non-football sports that could sign during its early period at IMG Academies’ Sports Performance Center on Thursday.
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Nearly 40 athletes from the tennis, soccer, baseball, basketball and golf academies took center stage in choosing where to play collegiately.
That would have included Kamari Murphy during the basketball portion, but the 6-foot-8 power forward is in Chicago with IMG’s post-grad team.
Murphy kept to his verbal commitment, though, when he signed on Wednesday with Okalahoma State, IMG’s director of basketball Andy Borman said.
Murphy is a transplant from Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y. -- the same school NBA players Stephon Marbury and Lance Stephenson attended.
Murphy also joins DeAndre Daniels as a top-level post-grad recruit to take up a year at IMG.
Unlike younger players, Borman said those two already entered the academy molded.
“There was no creating them,” said Borman about Daniels (ESPNU rating 95) and Murphy (ESPNU rating 89). “All we did was knock the rust off of them and point them in the right direction.”
Daniels, who spent last year at IMG, is with the University of Connecticut this fall, but made his decision really late.
For Murphy, his choice was simple and didn’t need to wait. It’s all part of what Borman and everyone at the basketball academy strives to get from their players.
“When you find ‘it,’ you pull the trigger,” Borman said.
Another recruit following the footsteps of another is Nicolas Echavarria.
Except in his case, he’s heading to SEC country to play college golf like his older brother, Andres, did at the University of Florida.
But Nicolas isn’t going to be a Gator, rather he signed with the University of Arkansas -- where two-time major winner John Daly played.
“That’s pretty cool to have someone successful to be from Arkansas,” Echavarria said.
The Colombian is the latest in a slew of South American players to make a mark on golf.
Angel Cabrera (Argentina) has two majors and Camilo Villegas (Colombia) is a big-name on the PGA Tour.
There was never a doubt for Echavarria to play college golf -- even though the current world No. 6 in boys golf, according to Golf Week, is beaming with talent usually reserved for professionals.
That isn’t for some time for Echavarria, who only joined IMG in August.
The key success for his game came over the summer when he performed well in the Junior World and U.S. Junior in back-to-back-weeks, he said.
“I think my strength is my putter and short game, which makes me a better golfer because that’s the most important part,” Echavarria said.
Bryane Heaberlin (University of North Carolina) also chose her future destination. The soccer player has already achieved much in her sport, getting a recent call-up to the U-20 Women’s National Team.