Austin, Vargas sign letters of intent

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

Neosho student athletes Landon Austin and Diego Vargas signed their letters of intent to continue their academic and athletic careers at the next level on May 25.

Austin will be playing basketball at Northwestern Oklahoma A&M and Vargas will be playing soccer at Crowder College. We talked with Austin and Vargas after they put pen to paper at Neosho High School on Tuesday to learn a little bit more about how they got to this point.

Landon Austin

Landon Austin, seated middle, signed his letter of intent to play basketball at Northwestern Oklahoma A&M on May 25.

As the team’s point guard, Austin helped lead Neosho to the district championship game for three consecutive years, the first time in school history. He averaged 15.5 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game and 1.6 steals per game in his senior campaign and finished as a 2x All Central Ozark Conference selection, 2x All District Team selection and a 2x All Area Player selection.

“It would be an understatement to say Landon was a good basketball player here, he was a great basketball player here,” said boys basketball head coach Zane Culp. “Obviously on the floor, helped us out a lot by leading us in points and assists two years in a row, while being our PG, all district, all conference, all area two years in a row. Helping lead us to district champ game 3 years in a row. All those things were great, and it made coaching, our staff, it’s easy to game plan when your best ball handler is your best shooter and passer. It made life pretty easy for us.”

“But the things people don’t know are the things he did off the floor that were just as important to our program if not more. Whether that was walking thru the halls being a good person, getting good grades,” added Culp. “Being a good teammate, making sure when he went and helped with the youth camp that it was the best hour of their day. That was just as big to our program as all the stuff he did on the floor. Another thing he did really well, he welcomed underclassmen coming into our program. Whether that was rebounding for them, picking them for his team, just making them feel welcome. All those things are why were so proud Landon was a Neosho basketball player and those things will be even harder to replace than the things on the floor. We’re just so proud of him that he gets to move on and keep doing the things he loves at the next level. Were glad it’s at NEO because they’re a great program with a great coach and its close to home so we get to keep watching our favorite ball player.”

How long have you been playing for?

Probably since about second grade.

Did you play other sports growing up?

I was big in football back in the day

When did you begin to focus on basketball?

The summer going into seventh grade, my mom kind of told me to choose between baseball or basketball and I chose basketball.

What stood out about basketball?

I just felt like it was so fun to me. You can kind of make the game your own, put your touch on it more than any other sport.

Favorite sports memory?

Probably my 40-point game the first game of the year. It was like a track meet type of game against Aurora I believe.

When did you know you wanted to keep playing after high school?  

I would say sophomore year, I was in the gym one day and like, ‘I’ve put in too much work to be done after high school,'

When did you begin to get recruited?

I started getting recruited midway through my junior year, that’s when I got my first looks.

Why Northeastern Oklahoma A&M?

NEO just stood out. It felt like home. Another big part was my mom loved the school; it was her number one choice from the jump. Some stuff happened, I looked at other schools and ultimately God wanted me to end up at NEO I believe.

When did they offer you?

When I went on my visit, probably about three weeks ago.

When did you commit?  

Two Fridays ago.

What was your reaction after getting offered?

I was so ecstatic; my recruiting process had been low. I’d been in the gym working by myself trying to get better, going to different colleges. NEO reached out to me and It was good from the jump.

When did you realize you could compete at next level?

After I got my first interest, I had a coach come watch and talk to me after the game. That switched gears in my head, ‘I can actually do this,’

What do you want to major in?

Psychology.

Diego Vargas

Diego Vargas, seated middle, signed to play soccer at Crowder College on May 25.

In 2018, Vargas was named to the Second Team All-District. In 2019, he was named the All-Region Player of the Year while earning First Team All-State, First Team All-Region and First Team All-District recognition. In 2020, he was named All-District Most Valuable Player, First Team All-Region, First Team All-District and Second Team All-State.

“Diego’s won enough awards, I had to print them out because I was worried id forget them all,” said head coach James Carter. “He’s pretty much won everything you can as an individual player, it certainly stands out when you look at his career. A couple thing that also stand out, I think Diego also felt a lot of pressure to perform, Individually and for his team to perform, and he always handled that well. The other thing I think about when I think about Diego is how they say, ‘good teams a lot of times when your best player is also your best teammate you’re in a pretty good spot,’ I often think of Diego when I think about that quote. Very happy for him, very proud of him.”

How long have you been playing soccer for?

Since I was 4.

Did you play other sports growing up?

Yes, track and football.

When did you start to focus on soccer?

“Since high school started. I did the other sports in junior high but in high school I started just playing soccer.

What stood out about soccer?

The beautiful game. It’s all about passion, it’s wonderful. The teammates especially. The bonding.

Best memory here at Neosho?

Definitely freshman year when we won districts for the first time in 10 years, that was a wonderful moment.

When did you begin to think you might want to keep playing soccer after high school?

“Sophomore year. Highschool was at the same level (competition wise), it wasn’t different. I just wanted to continue to compete and try new levels, college is a high level (of competition).

When did you realize you could compete at next level?

Sophomore year is when I started playing with my club team. Going and playing with them, we would go to big tournaments going against good teams and players, that motivated me. It let me know where my level was, and I had to work harder and that I wanted to keep going and getting better.

What position do you play?

Midfield. It depends. In high school, I’m always attacking midfielder. For club, I’m a defensive midfielder.

What do you like about midfield?

Getting the ball. I like to control the game. I like to be creative and passionate.

When did the recruitment process begin?

This year, in the fall.

What stood out about Crowder?

It was a hard decision for me. With them having a new coach, I wanted to try (building something with) him. The way he wants to change the program got my interest.

Part of his first recruiting class, what did sell you on for your role on the team?

What got my attention was he wanted to recruit 40 people. 40 players on his roster, he wanted to do that to compete. I want to compete, earn my my spot, and get better.

When did you get the offer?

A week ago, and I committed a week ago.

What was your reaction when you got your offer?

I was nervous, I’ll tell you that. It was a hard decision. I wanted to go to a school where I can get better, it was exciting to be honest.