Talent show surprise guest singer Darius Rucker joins son of ESPN basketball analyst on stage for duet

Darius and Frankie
Darius Rucker and Frankie Antonelli, son of Debbie Antonelli
(Photo courtesy of Debbie Antonelli)
Jay Williams and (ESPN)
ESPN college basketball analysts Jay Williams and Debbie Antonelli on set
(Photo courtesy Debbie Antonelli)

Editor’s Note: The staff and family of Front Row and the ESPN Communications Department wish everyone the happiest of holiday seasons. We share this post on Thanksgiving weekend in hopes you will be motivated to make your own “Hootie” moment in the days and weeks ahead.

“Darius said it was one of the best moments of his musical career,” said ESPN basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli.

Considering “Darius” is none other than long-time “Friend of ESPN” Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish fame, makes the moment all the more special.

On Nov. 20 in Mount Pleasant, S.C., Frankie – one of Debbie and Frank Antonelli’s three sons – performed a surprise duet on the Wando High School stage with Rucker. Usually at school talent shows, Frankie, 16, does his own versions of tunes from Rucker’s vast catalog that now spans a successful turn as a country artist.

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Darius Rucker in tune with ESPN

A small sampling of the singer’s many connections with the network:

Quiet Please” with ESPN’s Michele Steele

Performance at Game 5 of the 2013 NBA Finals on ABC

Hootie and Blowfish video “Only Wanna Be With You” features “SportsCenter” theme


About midway through Frankie’s solo of “While I Still Got The Time,” the act became a twosome as Rucker joined Frankie on stage. (The video – posted to YouTube, has generated nearly 200,000 views in just more than a week.)

“Darius made a promise to Frankie [who has Down Syndrome] a year ago that he would sing with him one day,” Debbie said. “It was a simple promise kept by a good guy to my son. Frankie did not know Darius was going to sing with him. It was a dream come true.

“His ‘street cred’ is strong right now,” Debbie laughed. “Miss South Carolina, Brooke Mosteller, asked if he would sing a duet with her next spring at the Miss South Carolina beauty pageant! We got it on the books for sure.”

Antonelli said Rucker “does a lot for kids in our community and all over the country.” Her husband’s company runs “Hootie and the Blowfish Monday After the Masters” in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. each year, an event Mike & Mike broadcast from each year.

“It was such a special moment for all of us,” Debbie said. “Darius was aware Frankie was a big fan and sang his songs at the talent shows over the years. It worked out that last week’s talent show was ‘the moment’.”

Rachel Siegal contributed to this post

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