While his friends and former AAU teammates embarked on their college basketball careers, Antoine Myers toughed it out at prep school and then junior college, wondering if he’d one day join the ranks of Baltimore natives playing Division I ball.
“To see what they were doing and see where I was at, knowing that I could be there, it kind of hurt my feelings at first. I was down on myself,” said Myers, a 2009 Forest Park graduate who did a fifth year at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., before heading to Pensacola (Fla.) State College. “I could’ve been there doing the same things they were doing.”
Myers, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard, turned to his former Notre Dame Prep and Cecil Kirk teammate Antonio Barton (Memphis) for guidance.
“He was telling me to keep my head up,” Myers said. “[He said], ‘You’ll be there sooner or later. Keep working hard in the classroom.’ That’s what I did. Gym and the classroom was an escape. [It was] the long route, [but] I was just going to get there.”
Myers’ persistence over the past three years was rewarded earlier this week when he accepted a scholarship offer from Florida International. The former Foresters star was also recruited by Arkansas-Little Rock, Gardner-Webb, Illinois-Chicago and South Alabama.
“It’s been worth it,” Myers said. “It showed me that people are struggling, people go through things, and it made me want it more than I wanted it before.”
Myers’ journey to FIU started after he graduated from Forest Park but came up short of NCAA qualifying standards. At Notre Dame Prep, Myers had interest from several high- and mid-major programs. Seton Hall assistant Scott Adubato -- who's now at FIU -- was one of the more active recruiters of Myers, but it eventually became clear that he was bound for junior college.
Pensacola coach Pete Pena, who discovered Myers through a recommendation from Lake Clifton grad and Florida Gulf Coast assistant Kevin Norris, was happy to welcome the guard they call “Fresh” to his roster.
“He’s been our point guard for the past two years,” Pena said. “He has just been outstanding, distributing the ball and attacking the basket, playing about 36 minutes every night. He’s got a motor that just doesn’t stop. He plays with passion and heart. We’re going to miss him very much. He’s going to be a very, very tough young man to replace in a lot of different ways – on and off the court.
Myers described himself as a combo guard coming out of high school and prep school. He rotated at the 1 and 2 with Barton at Notre Dame Prep. But at Pensacola, Myers developed into a true pass-first point guard. Pena said Myers averaged 10 points and was a first-team all-conference selection for Pensacola (22-8). The point-guard skills Myers developed in junior college were good enough for one of the NBA’s greatest lead guards of all time – Isiah Thomas – to want him on his FIU team.
“I think they came in right away and targeted Antoine,” Pena said. “They realized, ‘This is a guy we want.’ No ifs, ands or buts. I think they approached him with that type of aggressiveness [to be] the point guard in their program. And for any kid, when you’re being recruited for the point guard position by someone like Isiah Thomas, [you’re being] recruited by one of the top point guards to ever play the game. I’m sure that also played a factor with Antoine.”
Said Myers: “I knew a lot about [Thomas]. I kind of did my research. I used to watch a lot of his games on YouTube. I just like the way he plays point guard. I’m a point guard. I can learn a lot from him. He’s one of the NBA’s greats at his position. He can teach anyone.”
Myers, who plans to study to be a computer technician at FIU, said he’s grown accustomed to Florida’s weather and is excited to stay in the Sunshine State for at least two more years. He’s scheduled to visit the Panthers’ campus for the first time next weekend. Pena couldn’t be more excited for his point guard.
“This is a kid with all the excuses in the world not to succeed. But it’s not going to happen,” Pena said. “This kid is so determined to be successful. It’s really been an absolute privilege to watch him grow up the last two years.”
Myers said he’s thankful to his friends, family and former coaches like Cecil Kirk’s Anthony Lewis for encouraging him to persevere and keep his eyes on that Division I prize. He’ll be thinking of them when he’s running the point for Florida International next season.
“I took the long road,” Myers said. “It’s been a very long road for me. Finally I’m where I want to be.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun