If Abiodun Ayetimiyi had won many more awards at the annual Raiders basketball banquet Monday, he might’ve needed a wheelbarrow to haul all of his hardware back to his dorm.
Ayetimiyi, a redshirt sophomore, won Three Rivers Booster Club Raider 110% award, the Jim Landrum Assist Leader award and the Roy Barham Raider Rebound award to take home the most awards at the banquet.
“I was really happy because last year when we had the banquet I was seeing guys walking up to get most of the awards. I was telling myself then like this year, my sophomore year, I want to make a difference,” Ayetimiyi said. “So I was feeling really accomplished, although we didn’t get what I really wish we’d get, like going to the national tournament, but I still feel accomplished getting these awards, some of my few awards in basketball in the United States.”
Ayetimiyi’s production jumped exponentially in his third year with the program, transitioning into a consistent starter who did a little bit of everything and a lot of hustling. He averaged six points per game, five and a half rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes per night. His freshman year, he averaged one point, one rebound and less than one assist per game in one start. He made 23 starts as a redshirt sophomore.
“His entire venture here is an interesting story,” Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. “... He’s a little more mature than the rest of these guys, and you could tell it when we were out there playing. We weren’t as talented as we have been, but it didn’t keep (Ayetimiyi) from playing his best.”
Freshmen Khalil Johnson and Austin Parker both won two awards apiece. Johnson took home the Lonnie Davis Highest GPA award with a 3.4 GPA, and he won the Jack Cope “Raider Defense” award.
“I just always like to pride myself on working hard and stuff like that, so just to hear my name called, some recognition for the year feels good,” Johnson said.
Parker earned the Roger Pattillo Drawing the Charge award and the Dr. H. Tudor Westover Field Goal Percentage award. Tallon Fonda and Ayetimiyi were also recognized for their place on the All-Region XVI team and the all-conference team this season.
While the season didn’t go quite as planned for Three Rivers, which finished with its second losing season in 49 years under Bess, the season served as motivation to get the program back to the national tournament for the first time since 2010.
“I would say the season in itself is motivation enough. I don’t think anybody likes losing, you know, so we all want to come back with a desire. I feel like the region is really starting to open up, too, so to get a couple new recruits on board and get them to buy in. I feel like we realize the importance of working hard and having to buy in, and we see our weaknesses so we’re just working to correct those,” Johnson said.
To do so, Bess and his coaching staff have been trying to hit the recruiting trail to bring in players with good attitudes from winning programs to build a culture that expects to win.
“In general, we’re trying to get good attitudes and people that will come in here and understand the tradition that Three Rivers has and try to do their part to continue that,” Bess said.
The cheerleaders were also recognized Monday in the Bess Activity Center. Anna Birdwell received the Best Backspot Cheerleader of the Year award.
Now, the focus turns to next year as the team tries to make a return to the national tournament in what will be Bess’s 50th season.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic