AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Saturday will mark six years since 9-year-old Eric Smalls was killed in a car crash. Each year, his memory is kept alive by helping some local students getting ready for college.
Families came together at the Kroc Center in downtown Augusta Thursday for a scaled-down version of the annual Eric J. Smalls Memorial Scholarship banquet.
“I never thought I would be recognized for anything like this because I had a late start to basketball,” said winner Nicholas Conzett.
Eric’s mom, Frankie Simon, and United Elite Basketball Coach Corey Warren believe hard work pays off. To qualify for the scholarship students must display great sportsmanship and be a driving force on and off the basketball court.
“They built me really ever since I was a little boy. Now I’m fixing to graduate and go off to college so it’s pretty exciting for them and Coach Warren,” said winner Joshua Dorsey.
The banquet was a hybrid model where some people attended in-person while others online. This year the scholarship was divided up into $400 for each winner instead of awarding $1,000 to one student-athlete since the pot has grown over the years.
Coach Warren said, “With that, it’s just so exciting that we can be able to give out so much money to so many recipients and so many student-athletes to help them going to college to play the sport that they love.”
“Every year just going in and playing for him in the tournaments, the scholarship, whatever it is, it’s an inspiration to play to play for him,” added Dorsey.
Scholarship winners this year include:
- Nicholas Conzett, Lakeside High School, will attend Georgia College and State University
- Joshua Cody, The Academy of Richmond County, will attend Kennesaw State University
- Cameron Warren, Evans High School, plans to attend Savannah State College
- Devin Pope, Cross Creek High School, will attend Columbia International University
- Joshua Dorsey, Cross Creek High School, will attend Albany State University
Folks shared memories of Eric during the banquet saying he was a ‘fireball’ and a very detailed oriented guy. He is missed very much.
“At a young age, Eric had it in him. He had it him to be what we as coaches love, a coachable person,” affirmed Coach Warren.
Eric was killed in a car accident on Riverwatch Parkway in 2015. Two of his friends also died in the tragedy but many are keeping their spirits alive.
“With losing Eric, I’ll be honest, I still haven’t gotten over it. Each and every year it’s like when we do the scholarship, it’s like it’s brand new,” said Coach Warren.
Unfortunately, the Eric Smalls Memorial Basketball tournament is canceled this year but Coach Warren says it will return in 2022.