CORDOVA — Isaac Chatman and Jayce Willingham have been linked on the basketball court since joining the Cordova Blue Devils.After leading the team to an elusive state championship just two months …
CORDOVA — Isaac Chatman and Jayce Willingham have been linked on the basketball court since joining the Cordova Blue Devils.
After leading the team to an elusive state championship just two months ago, the duo is hoping to duplicate that same success at the next level.
Both Chatman and Willingham signed letters-of-intent on Thursday — Chatman to Campbell University, a Division I school in North Carolina and Willingham to Lee University, a Division II school in Tennessee.
“It’s bittersweet,” Cordova basketball coach Heath Burns said of his two star players heading to the next level. “They are going to be sorely missed. I don’t know if I will have two guys like Jayce and Isaac again. I don’t think this county will see two guys on the same team like those two. They’ve meant so much to the community and the school.”
Chatman and Willingham were both All-State players as well as Player of the Year finalists in Class 4A. Chatman, who was the MVP of both the Northwest Regional Tournament and the State Tournament, won the award.
Willingham averaged 22.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game while Chatman averaged 21.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 3.2 blocks and 2.4 steals per game.
Campbell University, located in Bules Creek, N.C., competes in the Big South Conference. Despite being an 8-hour-plus drive from Walker County, Chatman felt at home with the Fighting Camels.
The Campbell staff recently saw Chatman playing AAU basketball. They liked what they saw.
“The head coach came to watch. They said they wanted me to visit. I went to the campus last weekend. It just felt right. I really enjoyed being up there. Not only do they have a good program, they have excellent academics as well,” Chatman added. “I hung out with some of the players when I was there. I met some pretty cool guys. It’s a place I can see myself staying for four years.”
Lee University, located in Cleveland, Tenn., had been in touch with Willingham during the season — and made a push to sign him after Cordova won the state title.
“They contacted me a little bit after we won the state championship game. They had been watching film on me and really liked me. I went up there for a visit and the campus is beautiful. As soon as I went there and met all the coaches, I was like this is where I want to be,” Willingham said.
The Flames play in the Gulf South Conference, along with UAH and Montevallo.
Burns sees both players making an impact at the next level.
“This is a good opportunity for Jayce and Isaac to showcase their abilities. I think both of them could be freshman Players of the Year in their conferences. They are that good. It’s hard to stop a guy who is 6-6. They are both alike when it comes to that. Both of them have high ceilings. Their best basketball is still in front of them,” Burns said.