By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Deandre Burnett had been waiting for the moment his entire life.
Burnett, a current member of Massanutten Military Academy's postgraduate basketball team and a Miami native, joined four of his teammates on Wednesday afternoon to sign his national letter-of-intent during the first day of the NCAA basketball early signing period.
For Burnett, there was never a doubt in his mind that he wanted to play for his hometown school. After announcing his commitment in mid-March, Burnett's signature on Wednesday officially made him a University of Miami Hurricane.
"It's real exciting. I'm going to Miami -- it's been a dream for me since I was young," Burnett said. "I grew up watching the Hurricanes, so I've been wanting to sign there forever."
Burnett, a 6-foot-2 guard, has made an explosive impact for MMA this season. The Colonels' offense has practically run through Burnett, with the guard averaging 31 points per game in MMA's seven games this season.
Burnett's ability to score is what caught the eye of many college scouts, and Burnett said schools such as Ole Miss, South Carolina and Marshall showed interest, among many others.
Ultimately, it was the coaching staff -- along with the whole hometown thing -- that sold Burnett on Miami.
"The coaching staff, it was like family. They make you feel like you're part of something real special, that you could really do big things at the school," Burnett said. "Coach [Jim] Larranaga took George Mason to the Final Four, so who wouldn't want to play for a coach who knows how to win?"
Burnett isn't the only member of MMA's postgraduate team who will be headed the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Garland Owens, a 6-foot-5 forward, signed with Boston College, and 6-foot-10 forward Damonte Dodd signed with the University of Maryland.
Owens, who said that Boston College's ACC ties were the selling point for him, said that he and his other ACC-bound teammates have had a friendly rivalry going on this season.
"There's always arguments going on about who is going to beat who next year and who's going to have a better freshman season," Owens said with a laugh. "But we'll see when the season comes around."
Dodd, a native of Centreville, Md., committed to Maryland after his senior season at Queen Anne's County High School in February, but elected to prep at MMA to further develop his basketball skills. He is averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds this season.
Dodd said he was surprised when Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon and the rest of the Terrapins coaching staff first began showing interest.
"In the past, Maryland hasn't recruited a whole lot of in-state people, so it was a big shocker when I started getting recruited by them," Dodd said. "It was exciting just knowing that I was going to college to get a good education, period."
Also signing on Wednesday were guard Q.J. Peterson, who will attend Virginia Military Institute, and 6-foot point guard Frank Mason, who will play for coach Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks next season.
A Petersburg native, Mason, who is averaging 17 points and nine assists for MMA this season, was heavily recruited by a number of schools. Mason, who announced his decision on Oct. 8, said he chose Kansas over Virginia Tech, South Carolina and Providence.
"They have a great tradition. Coach Self has an unbelievable winning percentage, and the players on the team are the type of players that I would like to surround myself with on a daily basis," Mason said. "I'm very excited to be a part of Kansas tradition today, and it's a big step for me and my family."
Wednesday's signings could be just the first five of many more to come for MMA this season, as Colonels second-year coach Chad Myers said he would be "shocked" if he didn't have a total of 11 players sign with Division 1 schools before the recruiting period ends.
Last season, Myers saw seven MMA players sign with Division 1 schools.
"When you take the job, there's two things: you want to compete for a national title, and you want to send guys on to college," Myers said. "We had one guy sign early last year, and this year we've got [five guys signing early]. I think it kind of shows that we're making steps in the right direction.
"I tell people all the time, to think that we would be this good talent-wise in year No. 2 -- it's definitely exceeded my expectations."
MMA's postgraduate basketball program is currently ranked in the top five in every prep poll, and the Colonels are 7-0 as they head into this weekend's National Prep Showcase tournament at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Conn.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org