Winston-Salem Christian School athlete chooses academics over athletics

Family and friends pray with Arrington Jones as he announces his decision to attend UNC Wilmington in the fall.

Winston-Salem Christian School athlete chooses  academics over athletics
April 28
13:08 2021

It is rare to have a student athlete think academics over athletics when choosing a college. For Winston-Salem Christian School’s (WSCS) Arrington Jones, academics were paramount, and athletics was just the icing on the cake when making his decision.

In the end, Jones chose the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) to attend college. Jones chose UNCW because they have his major and will attempt to make the basketball team as a walk-on. Jones had options to choose from because of his stellar grades. He was offered an academic scholarship from several schools, including UNCW, that allowed him to have choices of where he wanted to go. 

Jones decided on the Seahawks over other schools that offered him an athletic scholarship and an opportunity to play early. The opportunity to pursue his career path while also playing the game he loves put UNCW over the other schools that were interested in Jones.

“It was really hard, because when the pandemic hit, recruitment slowed down a lot,” said Jones. “I was in contact with some DI and some DII schools and then once the pandemic came, that all really disappeared because I wasn’t playing that much and I wasn’t in contact with that many coaches.

“At the end of the day, I chose UNC Wilmington because I am a big academic person. I feel like I can go anywhere with my brain, but you can only go so far with basketball, because basketball is going to end at some point. No one can take my intelligence away, so I always think academics first and then athletics.”

Jones has a dream of becoming a marine biologist and UNCW has that major in its curriculum. He also likes the way the team plays on the basketball court and how head coach Takayo Siddle leads the team.

“I have been telling people this for a long time, the biggest statistic I saw online was that UNCW is the number one school in the country for marine biology and that put them over the head of a lot of people,” Jones said about the school. “I also watched UNCW play this season and I liked the way they played. Coach Siddle, he likes to run, get up a lot of shots and shoot threes and most importantly, he makes his players play defense.

“When I watched coach Siddle and his team play, everybody was doing everything. Everybody was scoring and everybody was playing defense and I like that, because I feel like I am a defensive player. When all five guys are working together on defense, it’s a beautiful thing; it’s really an art.”

Travis Holcomb-Faye was Jones’ coach for his senior season and had high praise for the work ethic and leadership qualities Jones exhibited.

“From day one, he was a leader,” said Holcomb-Faye about Jones. “He came in the gym every day and was very vocal and he was a hard worker. He came in the gym every day and put the work in and pushed the boys every day. I met with him before the season and laid out my expectations and he really lived up to what I expected from him.

“He really gets after it defensively and I love the way he plays because he brought a lot of heart. Offensively, he brought speed, he can knock down the jumper, he can finish at the rim; he can just do a lot of different things. He has a lot of tricks with him.”

Holcomb-Faye feels Jones has the skills and more importantly, the intangibles, to benefit a Division I basketball team. Even as a walk-on, Holcomb-Faye thinks Jones will do well because of his work ethic.

“Heart and passion are the two things he brings to the table,” Holcomb-Faye continued. “Coming into a Division I program, the way he approaches practice is going to give him a leg up, as far as a walk-on, because he is going to come in there every day and bring it. He is going to try and lock the best offensive guard up every day in practice. He is going to come in there prepared and work as hard as he can.

“He is a coach’s player and what I mean by coach’s player is, the coach is going to love him. He’s going to love his energy, he’s going to love his passion and presence in practice, he is going to love how he does the little things a coach loves, and that’s what I love about AJ. As soon as I got in the gym, I was drawn to him because the things I love as a coach, AJ brought that to the gym every day.”

Coincidentally for Jones, WSCS’s National Team Head Coach, Antonio Lowe, had a connection with coach Siddle from UNCW and reached out to gauge his interest in a player with Jones’ skills. Lowe had high praise for Jones and was happy to reach out to assist in any way he could.

“It was simple; the kid worked his tail off, on and off the court,” said Lowe. “He is a really high academic kid with over a 4.0 grade point average, so college coaches are always looking for kids to build culture and I felt like he was a culture guy because of the academic work he put in, so it was a no brainer for me. 

“When he told me he wanted to go to UNC Wilmington for their marine biology program, I just reached out and asked if he needed any walk-ons that were good culture guys. Me and the head coach are really good friends and we are from the same area, so Arrington is the one I wanted to reach out for, considering the work he had put in in the classroom and the fact I just felt like it would be a good look for him.”

Lowe feels Jones will do well because he is the type of kid who will work hard in practice and take advantage of any opportunity he is presented with to play.  

“I can see him definitely benefitting from that hard work on down the road because he is going to work his tail off; I have no doubt about that,” Lowe continued.

Kecha Brabham, Jones’ mother, stated UNCW was his first choice and she wanted to support her son with whatever school he decided to attend.

“I wanted it to be a financial situation where he didn’t have to struggle,” Brabham said. “My number one rule is you graduate debt free, because you are not doing student loans.”

Brabham says she was excited to have Jones finally make a decision. She stated they discussed the possibility of him not playing, but the school has his major and that was most important to him.  

For Brabham, academics has always been the top priority for her children to put them in the best possible situation for the next level. Athletics has just been an addition to what they do in the classroom.

“I have always stressed academics from the very beginning, because if he didn’t have the academics at this point, it wouldn’t be a situation for him, because he wouldn’t have academic and merit money to come on the campus and say he could be a walk-on. A lot of times parents get distracted with ‘I want my kid to go DI’ and they lose sight of really what’s important.”

Brabham credits Lowe for reaching out to the coaching staff at UNCW and getting the ball rolling with the communication process with them.  

Jones plans to head to UNCW this summer to get a jump on transition from high school to college. He feels he is ready for the rigors of the college life, on and off the court.

“In the classroom, I expect nothing but the best,” he said. “I know I will have to study more and whatever I get out of that is what I deserve. Athletically speaking, I just want to go down there and work hard. I know that I am considered a walk-on, but I will prove to them that I deserve a scholarship.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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