A month ago during his graduation, Tullahoma High School senior Austin Secrest seemed sure that he would be attending MTSU this coming fall.
However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, nothing is for certain. This time though, the change is a good one, as Secrest recently learned that he will be able to continue his basketball and academic career at Cumberland University.
“This opportunity means the world to me,” Secrest said. “Since I was a kid, I’ve always dreamed of playing a collegiate sport. When I was presented with the opportunity I couldn’t pass it up.”
Secrest won’t be the only former Tullahoma basketball player on the Phoenix’s roster next season. In May, Secrest’s teammate Ben Fulton previously accepted an offer to play for Cumberland University, so the two will be playing together again in Lebanon.
“It’s amazing. Ben is not only a great teammate but he is one of my best friends off the court,” Secrest said. “It’s great to have someone you are comfortable with and have good chemistry with on and off the court.”
This past season was historical year for the Tullahoma boys basketball team. In February, the Wildcats won the District 8-AAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. Tullahoma went on to finish the season with a 16-16 record, seeing its year end with an 87-67 loss to Siegel at Lawrenceburg in the semifinals of the Region 4-AAA Tournament.
While the year ended positively for the Wildcats, it was a tough start to the year, in particular for Secrest. Early into the 2019-20 campaign, the Tullahoma guard was forced to miss games after suffering an injury, forcing him to miss a month of playing time.
“The injury was one of the most difficult challenges to face, especially during my senior year,” Secrest said. “I tried my best to be a vocal leader, bench hype man and the extra eyes for Coach [Jason] Welch and Coach Nick [Watson]. The injury showed me how easily something you love can be taken away. I never took for granted how fortunate I was to be able to play when I returned.”
Heading into the 2020 portion of their schedule, the Wildcats came in with a 5-9 record. Secrest was able to rejoin his team in late December. Once Tullahoma entered the district portion of its schedule, the Wildcats turned things around, going 11-7 in its final 18 games of the year.
“I feel like it [starting district play] was a wakeup call for all of us, but especially for us seniors,” Secrest said. “We realized that this was our last go around and we had the talent and coaching to accomplish our goals.”
Before the regular season concluded, Tullahoma won its final four district games. The Wildcats ended the regular season with a 55-40 win at Coffee County, which allowed them to nab the number-two seed heading into the District 8-AAA Tournament. With the two seed, Tullahoma received a bye in the first round of the district tournament.
The Wildcats opened the district tournament with a 51-45 win over Lincoln County in Fayetteville. In the victory over the Falcons, Secrest led the Wildcats in scoring, netting 12 points.
That win over Lincoln County also locked Tullahoma’s seat into the district title game, where it would face Columbia Central. In that championship contest, the Wildcats took control in the first quarter and were able to stay in front the remainder of the way, earning a 63-50 win over the Lions.
“Winning that title meant a lot,” Secrest said. “We were always the underdog and we really set our minds towards the district championship. It’s always amazing to see all of your hard work pay off especially when we were predicted to be the sixth seed in the early season final predictions.”
Secrest put up 10 points per game during his senior season. He added three rebounds and three assists per contest, while also averaging 1.1 steals per game. His performance led him to being named to the All-District 8-AAA Team as well as the All-Region 4-AAA Squad.
Heading into Cumberland, Secrest says that he plans on majoring in business and finance, while receiving a minor in healthcare. He also added that he’s ready to play at the next level.
“I’m looking forward to improving my game, meeting new friends and being able to compete at the collegiate level,” Secrest said.