Six Sherman athletes announce their future plans

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Sherman had six athletes sign to play their respective sports in college. From left: Abby Khader (Southwestern, basketball), Cameron Reed (RPA College, football), Jastic Eleby (Paul Smith's College, basketball), Xavier Lee (Tabor, track), Brandon Bonilla (SAGU, football) and Braiden Speed (Western New Mexico, football)

Their backgrounds came from different origins — starters for most of their careers as Bearcats or never playing that sport until this past season; athletes focusing on a single discipline or competing in different sports throughout the school year.

This group of athletes all converged towards the end of their time at Sherman as they announced their choices to continue their sports in college.

Brandon Bonilla is going to Southwestern Assemblies of God for football, teammate Braiden Speed is going to Western New Mexico University and another teammate, Cameron Reed, is headed to RPA College. Abby Khader will play basketball for Southwestern College while teammate Jastic Eleby will join Paul Smith’s College and Xavier Lee is headed to Tabor College for track and field.

Khader chose the NAIA program in Kansas because of the fit.

“I didn’t want to be too far away but also not be too close,” she said. “Whenever a student walks into a college, you know if it’s the right fit or not. It felt like family when I walked through the doors.”

She was a three-year starter for the Lady Bearcats and was named honorable mention all-district during her junior and senior seasons. As a senior she averaged 5.8 points and 6.5 rebounds.

Khader also was an honorable mention all-district soccer player and threw shot put for the track team.

“I’ve been playing soccer since I was five. That was always my first sport,” Khader said. “I never thought it would be signing at this point being a basketball player.”

Southwestern College went 2-20 this past season and 1-16 in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference play. In the year prior the Lady Builders went 12-17 overall and 9-15 in KCAC action. The program’s last winning season was 2014-15 and had a winning record in conference games the year after that.

Eleby chose the four-year school, which is located in upstate New York, over walk-on opportunities at Grand Canyon University, Langston University, East Central and Southeastern Oklahoma State.

“The coach emailed me and wanted to see more of my film. They’re rebuilding and they see me as being a part of that,” Eleby said. “I’m excited to be a part of it; getting a new experience and meeting new people. When you get the opportunity, you’ve just got to take it.”

She was a two-year starter for the Lady Bearcats and was named honorable mention all-district during her junior and senior seasons.

Paul Smith’s College did not play a game this past season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bobcats went 0-23 and 0-16 in the Yankee Small College Conference standings during the 2019-20 campaign. The school is a member of United States Collegiate Athletic Association.

Lee, who has competed in the high jump, 200 meter dash and 800 relay for the Bearcats, chose the NAIA program over Abilene Christian and Lubbock Christian.

“When I got on the campus, I fell in love,” Lee said.

Lee will concentrate on the high jump for the Bluejays during both the indoor and outdoor seasons and also run the 400.

“I’ve been high jumping since summer track in the third grade,” said Lee, who also played basketball. “High jump is what I’ve always been good at. I give it my all everywhere I go and I know it’s going to work out.”

Tabor College finished fourth in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships, the best performance by the program in four years, and will have a pair of athletes compete in the NAIA National Meet.

The Bluejays also took fourth place at the KCAC Indoor Championships.

Speed had never played football before his senior season, spending his time on the basketball court, but made the move to the gridiron.

"Going into high school with my size, I thought I was going to get folded out there," Speed said. "I wasn't having it freshman and sophomore year and then junior year I was iffy. They've been trying to get me to go out; the coaches were trying to get me to go out and senior year I had to give it a shot."

Despite his lack of experience, he showed the ability to earn a scholarship to a Division II program and chose the Mustangs over William Penn.

"Talking with the coaches and other commits, it felt like home," Speed said. "It felt like the best place for me."

Speed became a first-team all-district selection at cornerback with 42 tackles, six for a loss, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

"At first it was a little rough," Speed said. "The coaches trusted me and knew about my athletic ability. I got more confident in my game."

Western New Mexico University played just one game due to COVID-19, a loss to UT Permian Basin in March, after the Lone Star Conference decided not to play a schedule during the spring and return to a normal fall slate in 2021.

In 2019, the Mustangs went 2-10 overall and 1-7 in conference play.

Reed selected RPA College, a junior college program, over Sterling College.

“They had great energy,” he said. “It felt like a place I can grow.”

Reed started at linebacker in his one year at Sherman, being named honorable mention all-district, after transferring from Bonham. An injury sidelined him for most of his junior year after he had been first-team all-district as a sophomore.

“I was kinda worried about what was going to happen because I was out for so long,” said Reed, who will be shifting over to safety at the next level.

Bonilla, a linebacker, chose the NAIA program over Southwestern College and West Texas A&M.

“I was looking at the playing time. I felt that connection with the linebackers coach,” Bonilla said.

He had 103 total tackles this past season (53 solo), 11 and a half for a loss with six and a half sacks and a fumble recovery.

In his three seasons as a starter, he totaled 210 tackles (101 solo) with 17 and a half for a loss and 10 sacks.

He was a second-team all-district selection as a senior after two straight honorable mention all-district seasons.

This past fall Sherman went 5-5 overall and 4-1 in District 7-5A (I). The Bearcats tied Longview for second place — their match-up was cancelled due to COVID-19 — and were the third seed based on a tie-breaker before losing to College Station in the bi-district round.

Bonilla helped the Bearcats to a 6-4 mark as a junior but Sherman was on the wrong side of a three-way tiebreaker for third-place and missed the playoffs.

During his sophomore season Sherman made the playoffs as part of a three-way tie for third place. The Cats lost in the first round to Magnolia West to end 4-7.

Southwestern Assemblies of God played a spring schedule and finished 4-3 overall and 2-2 in Sooner Athletic Conference action. It was an improvement from a winless 2019 campaign and 0-8 conference mark. In 2018 the program went 5-5 overall and 4-4 in SAC play.

“They might change their defensive up a little bit but I’ll probably play with someone in the box,” Bonilla said. “It’s about going in and making an impact.”