For most student athletes who commit to compete at the college level, the signing day ceremony is a joyous occasion. But the moment was bitter-sweet for Berkeley girls basketball star Genesis Weiters.
The six-foot Stag forward officially committed to Virginia-based Averett University on Monday. But while many family, friends, coaches and teammates surrounded her with support and smiles, two special individuals were missing.
“I wish my grandparents were here to watch me,” Weiters said. “But I know they’re looking after me. I’m really glad my family and friends are here to support me and see me sign. They’ve been waiting for this day.”
Midway through the 2017-2018 basketball season, Willie James Samuel, 69, and his wife, 79-year-old Jerrie Lease Samuel, Weiters’ grandparents, died after their Moncks Corner home caught fire.
Weiters was devastated by the news. The Stags, gearing up for region action, were preparing to turn around a struggling start to their season. And Weiters would help steer the ship by putting the ball on the floor, and subscribing to a faster pace.
But there were many practices where Weiters struggled to play, overcome with grief. She dedicated Monday’s signing ceremony to her grandparents.
“It was very hard,” Weiters said. “It would be days where I was just crying. Coach Peace, Coach Pew, we’d have a little circle, stop practice, and start praying and help me get along. I was real close to [my grandparents]. Ever since then, we pray more. We pray every time we get on the court, but [the coaches] did it more just for me. I really appreciate them just for that.”
Berkeley ended the season 12-9 overall and came up short of a region title through the tiebreaker rule. But through faith and hard work, Weiters concluded a five-year varsity career averaging almost 10 points her senior season. She led the Stags with 11 rebounds and nearly four blocks a game. Her ball-handling ability as a forward also caught the eyes of several schools.
“Coach Peace has been drilling me to put that ball on the floor,” Weiters said. “It was the Timberland game where I kept dribbling, she was just so proud of me…it was really key that I do that because when I go to college, I’m going to have to do that as well.”
Weiter selected Averett, a private Div. III school in Danville, Virginia because of its Christian roots and family-oriented atmosphere. She said it’s far enough away from home, but she has relatives in the area.
“I had gotten many offers. Averett [stuck] out to me,” Weiters said. “It was away from home, which I wanted to be, but my brother lives up there. The coaching staff is just like how I was in high school – friendly, they pray a lot, it’s very family-oriented.”
Berkeley head coach Crystal Peace coached Weiters since her eighth grade year when she struggled to make left-handed layups. She is proud of her star forward’s improved skill and work ethic. She said Weiters left void on the Berkeley squad. But she’s happy that Weiters is achieving her dream to play college basketball.
“It takes a talented player in order to get colleges to even look at you,” Peace said. “It’s pretty big for her. She would be timid at times in regards to going ahead and taking the shot. She was a leader for us. We’re going to miss her a lot.”