WINTER HAVEN - For the first time in its history, Polk State College on Monday evening retired the jerseys of two former basketball players who went on to play at the professional level.
The jerseys were retired during halftime of the Eagle's matchup against State College of Florida. The Eagles defeated the Manatees 72-56 to win the Suncoast Conference Tournament championship game. The Eagles now head to the FCSAA/NJCAA Region 8 Men's Basketball Tournament in March.
The retired jerseys belonged to Lance Jeter, No. 34, and Lorenzo Williams, No. 41.
Jeter, a guard, played two seasons for Polk State from 2007 to 2009. In his last season, he averaged 15.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
Jeter helped Polk State win back-to-back Suncoast Conference Championships.
"He ranks up there as one of my favorite players of all time," said Polk State Head Basketball Coach Matt Furjanic. "He is a dominant leader on the court, very coachable and a hard worker. He's probably one of the most intelligent players on the court I've ever had as a coach."
After graduating from Polk State, Jeter went on to play for the University of Nebraska, where he started in all 55 games of his two seasons. In his career there, he received numerous a wards, including the Jack Moore Award for team MVP. In his senior year, he averaged 11.7 points, 4.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.
He is now playing for Lasaulec Aris, a professional team in Holland.
"I feel so honored that they would do this for me," said Jeter in a Facebook message on Tuesday.
Jeter watched Monday's matchup and the retirement of the jerseys via Skype from Holland.
"Polk is a beautiful place and I met a lot of people there who are very special to me. I was very thankful and grateful. I will cherish that moment forever."
Jeter's mother, Joy Jeter, traveled from Beaver Falls, Pa., to attend Monday's game at Polk.
"It's very exciting," she said. "My son is very grateful for Polk State College and for the teammates he played with here."
Williams, a forward, played for Polk from 1987 to 1989. He went on to play for Stetson University and then headed to the NBA, playing eight total seasons for teams including the Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics.
He now works as a teacher, coach and trainer in Fort Lauderdale.
When he received word that his jersey would be retired, it made him reflect on his time at Polk, Williams said.
"It was one of my greatest experiences with playing basketball in my life. I was growing as a player and I had a great coach directing me," said Williams, who played under former head coach Josh Giles.
"He taught us to be good people off the court and he taught me mental toughness and how to handle life situations. I use a lot of the lessons I learned at Polk State in my own coaching now."
The retired jerseys will be displayed in the gymnasium on the Winter Haven campus, and no other basketball player will wear the numbers while at Polk.