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Pictured, from left, are Brenice Tharp, Nathaniel Russell and Anthony McDaniels. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Local high schooler accepts eSports scholarship to WVWC as popularity of collegiate-level gaming grows

BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon-Upshur High School senior recently secured a scholarship to West Virginia Wesleyan College for eSports.

B-UHS senior Nathaniel Russell announced his intention to attend WVWC during a signing ceremony Feb. 24. Russell joined the B-UHS eSports team when it first formed last summer and currently plays Call of Duty: Vanguard.

“My family wants me to get a higher education, but I don’t have enough money to go, so I saw this scholarship opportunity and I took it,” Russell said.

He plans to major in graphic design once he attends WVWC and will continue to play Call of Duty in tournaments.

B-UHS eSports coach Anthony McDaniels said not many people know how popular eSports has become at the collegiate level.

“ESports is competitive video gaming — collegiate competitive video gaming,” McDaniels explained. “There is a high school league we joined earlier this year, got it started and there’s tons of scholarships available. WVU is starting up a team; WVWC already has a team; Concord has a winning team and they’re doing amazingly good right now.”

He said West Virginia is a little bit behind the rest of the country right now, but schools are starting to catch up.

“We didn’t get to compete last year because it was just starting up, so we were getting all the computers set up, all of the games together, getting everything that we need to get going,” McDaniels said. “So, once we got that, we were able to expand our distance learning lab and use it for the eSports arena and get it going to where we actually competed and we did amazingly well.”

He said one of their Call of Duty teams placed sixth in the nation and they are hoping to do even better this season.

“If we win, the kids are each going to get a $1,500 scholarship from the High School eSports League and they will also get extra scholarship based on the prizes that HSEL has yet to offer,” McDaniels said. “We’re getting into the groove of things; we’re getting started and super excited for these opportunities for the kids.”

Russell is the second B-UHS eSports team member to receive a scholarship from WVWC, and McDaniels was confident his other students will be offered scholarships as well.

“I have more kids than today signing who will go, but they have not decided where they want to go because they want to keep their options open,” he said. “Some wanted to see if WVU will offer a scholarship or Concord or any other school they’re looking at, so there will be more in the future.”

McDaniels said he sees a great future for eSports at B-UHS.

“It’s huge right now,” he said. “Video games have been around for a long time, but now we’ve made it to an era where we can compete with people across the nation. High school eSports League allows us to play against people in Colorado, Texas, California — all of these different places — and that is huge.”

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