McHi senior Shaine Casas (seated) signed on to swim for Texas A&M University-College Station in November. Casas has national-level talent in a variety of swim events. He visited Notre Dame and Tennessee during recruiting process. 
Known for our bumper crops of cotton and citrus, the RGV is fast becoming a growing region for college athletes and getting the notice of more and more recruiters.
During the 2017 fall semester – and the NCAA’s new early signing period in December – no less than 15 RGV athletes signed National Letters of Intent to play collegiate sports at D1 schools. Several more will likely sign in the spring semester at top institutions such as Texas, Texas A&M, Houston and UTRGV.
Many more RGV athletes, perhaps dozens more, have signed or verbally committed to play at smaller D2 and D3 schools and junior colleges such as Texas A&M-Kingsville or Our Lady of the Lake or Temple Junior College.
McAllen Memorial’s Kelechi Nwachaku after signing with UTSA
And while those are big stand alone accomplishments, however, signing on to play with a D1 is difficult and for athletes anywhere, much less in the RGV. However, it seems like it’s beginning to happen more often. But without any real data compiled, no one really knows if 15 in the fall of 2017 is a lot relative to how many were signed Valley-wide in the fall of 2015 or 1995.
Still, 15 D1 signings are significant given the variety of recruiting, geographic and other challenges that exist in the RGV,  and it’s happened in a variety of sports across the board. There could be more signings, but after some research online and using contacts, 15 is the most we could find this past semester. (If we’ve missed someone, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you). The athletes on the list have signed LOIs and most will receive scholarships, but some have signed to walk on.
Pioneer’s Audrey Smith (with guns up) signed with Texas Tech.
Five of the 15 are baseball players, two are cross country runners and two more are softball players for 10. The other five include a football player, a swimmer, two volleyballers, a golfer and a shot-put thrower. See the full list below.
The NCAA will open up its D1 signing period in February for football and soccer athletes, and then for basketball and other sports in April. Expect to see a handful of football players like McHi’s Gunnar Henderson (who’s been offered by Texas Tech, Louisville and Yale), Mercedes’ Roger Adame and perhaps others to make commitments during this period. Also, expect to see plenty of soccer signings as well. Here’s the RGV D1 athletes list so far for 2017-18:
    • NAME                        HS                   SPORT             COLLEGE
    • Shaine Casas             McHi                 Swimming       Texas A&M
    • Aaron Galvan              Vela                 Baseball           UTRGV
    • Abanny Garcia            McHi                Baseball           UTRGV
    • Brandon Gracia           RGC                XC                   Texas
    • Christian Gonzalez     Hanna              Baseball           Incarnate Word
    • Noe Guerrero              Hanna              Baseball          Texas Southern
    • Carter Helmcamp        McHi                Volleyball          UTRGV
    • Johnny Howell             Pioneer           Shot put            Houston
    • Julie Lucio                   Bro. Vets         Golf                   Houston
    • Kelechi Nwakachu      McA Mem        Football            UTSA
    • Beth Ramos                Ed North           XC                   Texas
    • Ediberto Reyes           Valley View      Baseball           New Mexico
    • Naomi Reyes              Vela                 Softball             Texas Southern
    • Audrey Smith              Pioneer            Volleyball          Texas Tech
    • Cassie Valdez             Bro. Vets          Softball             UTSA

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