Hard work, dedication opens path from Waxahachie to Arkansas

Not many grow up playing the sport they love and get an opportunity to play it in college — much less for free with the benefit of a full-ride scholarship from a legitimate NCAA Division II university.

Add Waxahachie High School senior Destinee Pointer to that short list of the country’s student-athletes.

The Lady Indians pure-shooting leading scorer signed a National Letter of Intent on Friday at Lumpkins Stadium, choosing to play basketball at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith when the collegiate school year kicks off in four months.

“I’m ready to leave, have a little journey and learn new stuff, but I’m torn,” Destinee said, pausing slightly and staring sheepishly at her mother and father Tiffany and Michael Washington, as if suddenly struck by a bout of shyness. “After I met the coach at UAFS (head coach Elena Lovato), I knew she’d have my back and make sure I’m good, but I’m going to miss all the character-building lessons from coach (Lesli) Priebe, what (Duane) Roberts taught me and all the sisters I made as a Lady Indian.”

Destinee, who said she’s loved basketball since she was 6 years old, played for Priebe, the Lady Indians head basketball coach, and Duane Roberts, head coach of the Urban Heroes Elite Basketball program, for nearly a decade.

Urban Heroes Elite Basketball is a Dallas-based youth basketball league that offers the advantage of learning and teaching discipline, sound fundamentals and techniques from experienced coaches intended to help young ladies reach athletic and academic goals while emphasizing academic success, and developing leadership.

Though each expressed their pride in Destinee’s growth, the coaches credited the player for reaching her goal of attending a four-year university.

“She’s been with our organization for two years and her work ethic and dedication to the game, on and off the court,” Roberts said. “When we got her, she was a pretty Mosaic Down syndrome. Jim Markle, the president, has a son with autism, and I have Chase.”

Her 4-year-old son Chase Schaefer died from congenital heart disease two weeks ago.

“His sister’s playing in his place today,” she continued. “We have a thing we say, #chaselife. She’s chasing life. We really want to continue this program and include parallel play for all special needs athletes. That’s why we have the ‘beep ball’ technology. We want to make sure that if they want to play, we’ll make every effort to make that happen.”

The “beep ball,” a softball-sized target that pulsates a shrill beep, helped Maggie Witten, who despite being blind since birth, swims with the Ellis County Angels and golfs with the Ellis County Fireballers, both locate the ball for a hit and run to the base with the help of a buddy.

There was baseball, a silent auction selling items from an autographed Nolan Ryan baseball, to antique Texas Rangers tickets, to a football signed by a Heisman Trophy winner, but the most important thing was youth baseball was back at Optimist Field for players like Waxahachie Rangers player Arthur Moore and Waxahachie Little Ponies third baseman Ziyah Pointer.

“I missed playing baseball and I’m glad its back,” Pointer said after her team beat the Waxahachie Rays 15-10 during the first day of the Play for Slade tournament. “It’s really fun and I love running hard and getting a hit. I’m glad we won and my mom got to see it.”

The joy felt by Moore, Pointer and all the children who fielded baseballs or hit “beep balls” is the reason the spirit of Slade Russo lives on and ties every person that crossed the threshold to his memory.

The outpouring of the community through Optimist Field and its purveyors, Chim Curry and Bryan Johnson, has been the savior the Russo family needed to move on and begin to heal, Steve said.

“I can’t begin to explain how it feels to have to lose a child. You think it won’t ever happen to you, but it does. It’s a terrible cross to have to bear,” Steve said. “The support from this community and the tournament don’t take the pain away, but it distracts me from it. This tournament is something my wife and I look forward to every year and we’ll hold it as long as the community lets us.”

Contact the Daily Light sports desk at 469-517-1454 or contact the sports editor at kmatthews-marion@waxahachietx.com. Follow Khris on Twitter at @Khris5MarionWNI and the Waxahachie Daily Light on both Facebook and Twitter.