SCHENECTADY — Jeremiah Davis saw the balloons in Schenectady High School’s Pat Riley Sports Center and figured they were for his parents, Joseph and Evon, who had told the recently graduated youngster beforehand that they were being honored for their support of the Patriots’ boys’ basketball program.
As it turned out, the three-sport standout was the one being honored Wednesday morning as the first recipient of The Naylon Carrington #NayWay #Blueprint Project Foundation Athletic Scholarship Award.
Carrington was a popular and charismatic student-athlete at Schenectady who was killed in an auto accident in October of 2020, four months after graduating from the high school. Carrington exuded positivity, excelled in the classroom, and his contribution to the Patriots’ varsity basketball team was multi-fold, including points and defense, but also encouragement and an infectious drive to get better.
“This is very emotional. He was like my brother. He was a teammate,” a surprised Jeremiah Davis said after receiving the $500 scholarship from Carrington’s mom, Sondra Banks. “He always had high energy. He always had high spirit. He was a guy everyone wanted to be around.”
Davis makes an impact, too, and was one that Schenectady basketball coach John Miller called an easy choice for the scholarship he’ll use toward his education at Utica College.
“When Sondra asked me, I didn’t have a second thought,” Miller said of choosing Davis, who played basketball and football and ran track for the Patriots. “He represents everything you want a player to be. High integrity. High character. Work ethic. Positivity. He’s a leader. You learn to appreciate when you get a kid like that. If I could clone Jeremiah Davis, I’d do it over and over again.”
The Athletic Scholarship Award is one of four scholarships Banks will be presenting to Schenectady students this summer in recognition of her son.
The Schenectady basketball team had Carrington’s No. 2 jersey on the bench throughout this past winter season in his honor. Members of the Schenectady football team wore a decal on their helmets during the “Fall II” season that read, ‘Play For Nay,’ and had a No. 2 by those words.
“This is a very bittersweet moment for me,” Banks said during a brief ceremony that included Davis family members, including Jeremiah’s twin brother Chris, and several basketball players that will form Schenectady’s next varsity team. “This is my first scholarship I’m giving away in Naylon’s honor. You are the first.”
“His [Carrington’s] mom is so driven to make sure that the message he wanted to deliver remains relevant,” Miller said.
Banks said she came up with the athletic scholarship idea shortly after Carrington’s death and asked Miller for his support that he gladly gave. Banks said she was looking for a student-athlete who had a close resemblance to the character and integrity of Carrington on and off the court.
The Davis twins are active off the court with their Love City project that, through social media and the selling of T-shirts, “spreads positive vibes throughout the community and throughout the school,” Jeremiah said. He added, “I noticed people were seeing Schenectady as a negative place and that there is negative energy here. I’ve never seen it like that.”
“He is driven to give back and do good things for the community that he came from,” Miller said of Jeremiah Davis.
The 18-year-old, who plans to study psychology and compete in football and track at Utica, was humble in accepting the scholarship.
“I am very thankful to Naylon’s mom,” Jeremiah Davis said during the award ceremony. “It’s very hard to explain in words how much Naylon meant to the school and to the team. I am just very thankful for Coach believing in me, my teammates for respecting me and my parents for raising me right.”
“This makes me feel so, so, so awesome,” Joseph Davis said of his son’s recognition. “I can’t believe it. It doesn’t seem real.”
Carrington made playing varsity basketball a reality his junior year after being cut from several lower-level teams. It’s a story of perseverance Miller has used to inspire and will continue to do so, and the basis of an essay two recent Schenectady graduates will be rewarded for next month with Carrington-themed scholarships.
“When a student faces obstacles, what will they be willing to do?” Banks said of the essay theme. “Naylon chose to work at his craft. He played pick-up games. Joined AAU. He went to the park. He got up early.”
“Naylon was thankful for his opportunity,” Miller said. “It wasn’t given. It was earned, and he took full advantage of it.”