Back Hardwood Star to Gridiron Greatness

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Hardwood Star to Gridiron Greatness

By Barry Every
SouthernPigskin.com
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The 5-foot-11, 195-pound dynamo currently has offers from Georgia State, South Carolina and Wake Forest. Dukes is also receiving heavy interest from Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Duke and Georgia.

A lot has changed at Charleston (SC) First Baptist over the last four seasons. For starters the school made the transition from eight-man football after the 2013 season, a year in which they didn’t win a game.

They didn’t fare much better in 2014 putting a goose egg in the win column. But first year head coach Johnny Waters was not deterred, he knew there was a young man on his squad that could change the losing ways of the Hurricanes.

Budding basketball star turned running back, Michel Dukes, made his varsity debut as an eighth grader on the 2014 (0-10) football team. The following year, as a freshman, he racked up 1,246 rushing yards in leading First Baptist to a (4-6) record.

“He is our best player, he is also the best example of what a First Baptist Student should be,” Waters said. “I’ve had Michel since he was an eighth grader and he is a model student and a humble kid. As talented as he is Michel is very coachable; I can tell him to do something and he’ll do it no matter how off the wall it may be.”

As a sophomore, Dukes exploded for 2,239 yards and 38 rushing touchdowns in leading the Hurricanes to a (10-2) mark. First Baptist actually captured the SCISA-AA State Championship with a 28-21 victory over Bishopville (SC) Lee Academy.

In that game Dukes ran for over 130-yards and hit pay dirt twice. His season long dominance in SCISA-AA Football did not go unnoticed as he earned SCISA-AA “Player of the Year”.
“I was actually recruited to First Baptist as a basketball player,” Dukes said. “I wasn’t even going to play football because they were just not that good, but I ended up playing JV ball as a seventh grader.”

SCISA football may not be a hotbed of recruiting in the Palmetto State, but that hasn’t stopped college recruiters from taking notice of Dukes Athletic prowess. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound dynamo currently has offers from Georgia State, South Carolina and Wake Forest. Dukes is also receiving heavy interest from Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Duke and Georgia.

“He is going to be a good one, I think Clemson is close to offering and Coach Beamer at Georgia really wants Michel to come to camp,” Waters said. “Virginia has shown some interest as has Oklahoma State.”

Schools shouldn’t worry about academics, this every down back sports a 3.3 GPA. One school Dukes admits he’d like to hear more from is Florida State. The only certainty in his recruiting is the fact that his offer list will logarithmically change soon.

“All the schools I mentioned are recruiting me as a running back,” Dukes said. “I really like Coach Bobby Bentley of South Carolina, he started recruiting me as a rising freshman and just does a great job relating with me when I visit.”

On the hardwood this past season he averaged over 19 points per contest while dishing out eight assists a game. He was has also been busy on the camp circuit attending the Nike Regional Opening in Charlotte where he posted an impressive 36-inch vertical and a 4.27 shuttle. Since then Dukes has camped at Clemson, Duke, Georgia State, South Carolina and Wake Forest. His camp season isn’t quite over as he plans on hitting Coastal Carolina for a day and possibly scheduling other camps depending on his schedule.

“His improvement from his freshman year to his sophomore year earned Michel Most Improved Player on our team,” Water said. “This surprised everyone at our school since he is our best overall player. He is the type of guy that does all the extra stuff outside of practice, he just has is it as an athlete and that’s what college coaches need to know about him.”

So what can Coach Waters and his star running back do for an encore at First Baptist? The transition from (0-10) to (10-2) happened in a matter of two seasons, maybe back-to-back.

“We lose a lot of players, I just have to step up for the team and be a better leader,” Dukes said. “We all know now what it takes to win football games; hit the weight room hard and practice hard every day. We have to pay attention to our coaches, because that what it takes to win State!”

Losing ways are long gone at First Baptist as long as Dukes continues his assault on the record books while leading by example on and off the field of play. With two years still left in high school expect his offer list to go over double digits, well over double digits.