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National Signing Day Starts Division I Journeys of Three Local Football Stars

Here is our account of three local high school football players who signed national letters of intent yesterday with Division I schools: Laney’s Jordan Stringer (Troy), Williston-Elko’s AJ Chandler (Howard), and Strom Thurmond’s BJ Williams (Wake Forest).


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Below is our account of three local high school football players who signed national letters of intent yesterday with Division I schools: Laney’s Jordan Stringer (Troy), Williston-Elko’s AJ Chandler (Howard), and Strom Thurmond’s BJ Williams (Wake Forest).

Below are excerpts from interviews with the players and their high school coaches, video footage and pictures from Signing Day, as well as this past football season. 

First, we’ll highlight Jordan Stringer, who first made his reputation of an impact player as a freshman on Laney’s varsity football AND basketball teams. Many people, including me, consider Stringer the area’s best overall athlete. In an interview yesterday with AugBball’s digital media specialist Seth Wesley, Stringer, looking sharp in his Signing Day attire, took the chance to thank the people who have assisted him on his path to this point. He discussed his intended college major and gave words of encouragement to the area’s younger athletes who dream of their own Signing Day in the future:

Jordan Stringer – Signing Day Interview

Jordan Stringer – Follow Up Interview

After hearing Stringer’s thoughtful response to Seth’s questions, I had a few of my own. So Jordan agreed to a second interview conducted over text message:

Chad:

When do you first remember setting the goal for yourself to earn a Division I football scholarship?

Jordan:

Lol it’s crazy that in middle school I had a dream of playing Division I basketball, but Coach Chris Thomas (now Laney’s acting head coach) changed my mind about that real quick when I got to Laney my freshman year. I had to type up my 5 short term goals and 5 long term goals. I still got the goals on my mom’s wall and one of my long-term goals was to go D1 in football. That was my first time making that a goal of mine and I worked hard to accomplish it.

Chad:

At times during the pandemic, maybe when there was uncertainty about whether there would be a football season this past year, did you ever worry that, even though you had already committed, maybe your plans would fall through and you wouldn’t be able to complete your journey to Troy next season as a freshman?

Jordan:

Yes sir it was a lot going through my mind during this pandemic. I was so uncertain about the season and about my decision but this pandemic didn’t do anything but humble me more and it made sure I made the best of everything because you never know when it’s your last game.

I’ve been following Jordan’s progress for the better part of five years, and I tried to express what I admire so much about him in an AugBball Facebook post after Stringer and his team suffered a disappointing homecoming loss to Westside. Directly below is the caption I wrote on that October Saturday as well as the video footage that accompanied it:

Here’s Laney senior Jordan Stringer, who committed to Troy earlier this year, pounding away earlier today during Laney’s fourth quarter drive when the Wildcats were trying to close a 7-0 deficit against Westside. Jordan plays every snap. He plays hurt. He seeks out contact and he takes a real beating out there.

Jordan’s leadership is admirable, and younger players on Laney’s roster, or really any observer, can improve their performance and character by following his example. During every football and basketball game in Jordan’s four seasons at Laney, and during every academic semester while he’s been a dual enrolled (at Augusta Tech) honors student, Jordan expends 100% of his heart and soul on the task at hand. He always walks away a champion, even on days like today when the scoreboard doesn’t agree.

AJ Chandler – Williston-Elko – Howard

My interviews with AJ’s coach and AJ himself made me like Chandler even more. Let’s start with his coach…

Interview with Williston-Elko coach Richard Bush about AJ Chandler

Chad:

I think being fortunate enough to sign a Division I scholarship this year is a particularly special accomplishment because I think it will be much more difficult for high school seniors to find a spot on a college roster this year, specifically because every college player has been granted a waiver such that this season doesn’t count against his eligibility. I think it will be unavoidable that open spots for high school seniors will be much more limited than had we not encountered this pandemic. With that in mind…

1) Have you found the situation I described to be the case and is there something you would like to add that you’ve learned or encountered this year when it comes to dealing with recruiting and with your senior players who wish to play college football?

2) Tell me what about AJ makes him special enough to earn a Division I scholarship, which no matter the year, is quite an honor.

Richard Bush:

I think a lot of schools are being more selective on who they offer, knowing that a lot of kids on their current rosters are going to still be on the team.

AJ and I talked about the recruiting situation this summer, and how it was going to be different than other years. He had several scholarship offers from other schools, and once he did his virtual tour with Howard he called me and said coach I am ready. Howard did a great job of coming to the state of SC recruiting him and offering some dynamic players from the state. Several players from SC signed with Howard today, and all those guys seem to have already built a strong bond.

AJ is a tremendous football player who has the ability to score every time he touches the ball. He does a great job catching the ball in traffic and route running. For his size
(6-2 and 190) he is fast also. He is a tremendous competitor who wants to win all the time. He really understands the game of football, and what the defense is trying to do. As good of a football player as he is, he is just as good of a young man. As long as he continues to work hard on and off the field he will have a great career and future.

From Williston Elko’s win over Ridge Spring-Monetta

Interview with AJ Chandler

Chad:

When do you first remember setting the goal for yourself to earn a Division I football scholarship?

AJ:

Since I was a kid it was always my dream to play in the league (NFL) and once I found out Division I was a step closer I was willing to do whatever to get there!

Chad:

At times during the pandemic, maybe when there was uncertainty about whether there would be a football season this past year, did you ever worry that even though you had already committed, maybe your plans would fall through and you wouldn’t be able to complete your journey to Howard next season as a freshman?

AJ:

I’ve always had a love for the game, so the pandemic made me work harder! Being here is God’s work!!

BJ Williams – Strom Thurmond – Wake Forest

Our third subject, Strom Thurmond’s 6-5 and 235-pound defensive end BJ Williams, is bound for the ACC’s Wake Forest. In the interview below Strom Thurmond head coach Antwaun Hillary has high praise for the athletic and academic qualities Williams possesses. And Hillary sheds light on the unique challenge Williams and other seniors in the class of 2021 have faced because of our current public health issues.

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[Livestream] Grovetown vs Evans in Region Battle for Playoff Position

Evans hosts Grovetown and looks to avenge their buzzer beater loss to the Warriors on January 22nd.

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“Sophomore Malik Ferguson picked up a loose ball in the middle of the paint with one second remaining, and right before the fourth quarter buzzer sounded, he released a shot that found its mark to give Grovetown 61-60 win over Evans Friday, a result that threw the top spot in the class 6A, region 5 standings into a three way tie between Grovetown, Evans and Heritage to mark the beginning of the stretch run for the league’s regular season championship. Ferguson’s shot came at the end of a full court dash by Grovetown after head coach Darren Douglas was able to draw up a play during a timeout that was meant to result in a bucket in only six seconds. The play was designed for senior Zach Bell, who eventually fumbled the ball after spinning between defenders at the end of a drive that began near half court after he gathered the ball from freshman Derrion Reid.”

That was Chad Cook’s rundown of the instant classic that these two teams played two weeks ago. That win by Grovetown sets up a must-win scenario for Evans as they look to maintain their footing in the race for a region championship.

Be sure to get your ? ready early because if tonight’s game is as exciting as the last one, you just might forget those jokers altogether!

Streams will be posted here. Tip-off times are as follows:
Girls – 6:30 PM
Boys – 8:00 PM

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Culture

Former Basketball Stars Lead the Way in Business, Community Service, and Artistic Pursuits

Harold Doby, Reggie Middleton and Roman Hill have turned a brand into a business, a lifestyle and a mental framework for impacting their community.

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Reggie Middleton (left) and Harold Doby (right)

On January 4th, the day after Harold Doby’s “Books and Life Lessons” (B.A.L.L.) charitable organization conducted a coat drive to help keep warm some of the most vulnerable people in the downtown area, I spoke with Doby and Reggie Middleton, two lifelong friends and former college and high school basketball stars, at Middleton’s “Came From Nxthing Designer Apparel” shop at 120 James Brown Boulevard. Our interview (below) covered the coat drive, Reggie’s entrepreneurial journey, and the meaning behind the “Came From Nxthing” brand, which originated from the music of Roman Hill, our third interviewee. Hill’s friendship with Doby and Middleton helped sprout a “movement” that has provided a framework for the three former athletes to impact the world through acts of community service, business, art, entrepreneurship and charity.

The interview provided a great chance for me to get reacquainted with two men I’ve watched grow from being boys who excelled in a game, to leaders of their families and their community. I bet others who watched them star at Glenn Hills and Winthrop (Middleton), and at Laney and Augusta University (Doby), will also gain satisfaction from hearing about their continued personal development. For example, Reggie explained how he took advantage of his basketball talent to earn a job playing professional basketball in London. Then he used his experience there to hatch a business idea to bring high-quality fashion for an affordable price to people in his hometown.

Reggie Middleton scored 1,186 points for Winthrop.

Harold’s concern for people who are most in need, whether it be the men and women he personally distributed the coats to earlier this month, or the students in his school he recalled giving clothes and shoes to when he was in grade school, is the original reason for my getting back into contact with the two men I once coached and taught when they were middle schoolers.

Harold Doby distributing coats in downtown Augusta on January 4.

I’m grateful we reconnected because they are a shining example of what can be greatest about sports and the community that builds around such a life journey: strong, caring relationships developed through shared experiences, encounters with adversity, and moments of triumph, as well as failures and hardships. Reggie’s story about how he has been able to take the difficult circumstances of the pandemic and nonetheless thrive in business with his “back against the wall” by drawing on his experiences as a basketball player growing up reinforces something I’ve always believed, that youth sports is great practice for real life. 

Harold Doby and Reggie Middleton, as well as Roman Hill, whom Doby first met as his rapping Augusta University basketball teammate, are winning the game of real life every bit as much as they did when they mastered the game of basketball as younger men.

Look out for news of the next Drive from B.A.L.L. Visit the Came From Nxthing Designer Apparel Facebook page to see Reggie’s merchandise, shop with him online or find store information:

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