Athletic Director Lonnie Jordan with Finley Sims and Preston Lawrence

The Wildcat Student Center was packed with family members, coaches and classmates Wednesday to witness National Signing Day festivities for Lake Highlands High seniors Finley Sims and Preston Lawrence.

Sims signed a letter of intent to play volleyball for Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee and Lawrence will play basketball at Rogers State in Claremore, Oklahoma.

“This is a big deal,” said Athletic Director Lonnie Jordan. “With the work that they’ve put in and the sacrifices they’ve made here at Lake Highlands High School and with the help of their teammates and coaches and the support of the community, they basically will have a job – they’ll go to college and play the game they’re passionate about.”

Sims will attend the Division II school on full scholarship – two-thirds from the athletic department and one-third for academics.

“I felt like I fit [at LMU] immediately,” said Sims, whose father played college volleyball with the Railsplitters’ assistant coach. “The girls were very welcoming and the campus is gorgeous. It’s a smaller school, which is perfect for me. It’s right next to the Cumberland Gap, so there are places to hike and get away from the city.”

“Finley has done a great job,” praised Coach Abbey Perez. “She is a bubbly, persistent athlete with a high volleyball I.Q.”

Lawrence, who also earned a full ride, said he can’t wait to join his new Division II teammates.

“I went on my visit and it felt just like home,” said Lawrence. “The coaches were really welcoming, and it was a great family atmosphere. It’s just outside of Tulsa, so it’s close to a big city, but it’s different from Dallas – it feels like a small town.”

This year’s team of Hillcats is heavy on seniors, so Lawrence thinks he’s likely to earn time on the court.

“I’ll have a great chance of playing – that’s a big part of why I chose Rogers State. They believe in me. They said if I work for it, I can play.”

Coach Joe Duffield recalls the day Lawrence showed up as a freshman with more enthusiasm than skill.

“Preston and I arrived at Lake Highlands at the same time,” recalled Duffield. “I remember one of the first open gyms. We had a lot of older players, and Preston showed up – this scrawny white kid with bushy hair. He got into a couple of games and his team just kept winning. He was flying all over the court hitting rebounds.”

Duffield put him on varsity as a freshman, and Lawrence won the team’s Glue Award for pulling the team together. Later he was named Wildcat Offensive MVP, All District, Academic All District and All City.

“More than all these awards and statistics, Preston is a great example of showing up every day and doing the work,” said Duffield. “That’s what’s paid off.”

Finley Sims signs her letter of intent

Coach Joe Duffield, Assistant Coach Zac Haug and Preston Lawrence