March 30, 2011 9:51:00 AM
McGee Ledbetter knew the Mississippi Association All-Star Boys Soccer game would be his chance to shine and to make a final impression on college coaches.
The Heritage Academy senior midfielder didn''t disappoint.
Not only did Ledbetter score a goal on a penalty kick, but he also displayed the trademark hustle that led Heritage Academy coach Joe Asadi to call him "the heart" of the Patriots'' 2010-11 team.
That heart will beat in Decatur next soccer season.
On Tuesday, Ledbetter signed a scholarship to play soccer for coach Kenneth Thompson at East Central Community College.
Thompson had talked with Ledbetter, but the All-Star game was his first chance to see him play. He liked with what he saw earlier this month in Jackson, and was equally impressed by Ledbetter''s workout on the ECCC campus and with how he fit in with his players.
"He fit a need at an outside midfielder," Thompson said. "We have a returning player at that position, but I think we can move him because we have McGee coming in. The chemistry was there right away, and the guys told me they liked him."
Thompson said Ledbetter played as hard at the end as he did at the beginning of the All-Star game. He said that trait will serve Ledbetter well because his teams traditionally take pride in their ability to outwork opponents.
Even though the South All-Stars beat Ledbetter and the North squad, he felt he held his own at center midfield and displayed the work ethic coaches want. He said he learned that approach to the game through years of playing soccer, many at a high level on Select teams.
"I played on Select teams ever since I was about 9 years old in Tupelo and then I played in Starkville, so that is where I built up the work ethic and the never-give-up, no-matter-what-the-score-is (mind-set)," Ledbetter said. "You just play as hard as you can and to the best of your ability until the whistle blows."
Asadi said Ledbetter shouldn''t have any problem mixing his heart and his hustle with the Warriors.
"He is a thinker, he is a play-maker, and he was the heart of the team," Asadi said. "Replacing him won''t be easy, but we will have to find someone who will be able to fill his roles on the team. I wish him luck. His scholarship is well deserved."
Asadi said Ledbetter''s size (5-foot-8, 135 pounds) might not have been appealing to some coaches, but he said Ledbetter''s skills and his tenacity will allow him to make an impact.
"I think after two years he will have a great chance to get a scholarship to a four-year college," Asadi said. " There is no question based on how much talent he has."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.