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“Player Talk” with Thomsom Alum and Former First-Rounder Vonteego Cummings

Former first-round draft pick discusses rising stars Lavonta Ivery (Thomson) and Lorenzo Johnson Jr. (Warren County); plus a look at the week ahead.

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Vonteego Cummings (right) with Augusta Christian’s standout freshman Elijah Crawford.

Thomson’s rivalry game against Warren County on the day after Christmas included a courtside observer who is very special to long time fans of area basketball. Vonteego Cummings, the former Thomson (‘95) star who later excelled at Pitt, and then became a first round draft pick of the Golden State Warriors in 1999 before completing a long professional career that included three seasons in the NBA, answered questions after the game about the night’s two brightest stars. Vonteego, a dear friend, also touched on the history of the rivalry between Thomson and Warren County, and the intertwined backgrounds and relationships between the players and fans from both sides.

First we discussed Thomson freshman Lavonta Ivery, who led all scorers with 19 points, including 16 in the second half when the Bulldogs struggled to fend off a constantly surging Devils squad. A particular aspect of Ivery’s game, his ability to blow by defenders off a live dribble going right and left, combined with his size (6-2), reminds me of a young Vonteego, circa 1991, when “Man-Man”’ started to become a household nickname around these basketball parts.

As you can see in the video below, Vonteego praised Ivery, whom he first met when Lavonta was in elementary school, and whose family Cummings commended. And it turns out a member of Ivery’s extended family is Warren County’s star from the evening, Lorenzo Johnson Jr., who scored 16 points, including 4 three pointers, to lead the victorious Devils to a rare, and maybe first ever, road win in the history of the series. Cummings trains Johnson in his “VC5” venture, and Vonteego called Johnson, a junior, a potential future Division I player.

Saturday’s rivalry game at the Dog Pound provided a red hot start to the post Christmas week of holiday high school hoops. The enthusiasm surrounding the result jumped off the screen (read in Full Game Report) from Warren County head coach Uriah Myrick’s quotes when he lobbied for the respect his alma mater deserves for its athletic resume. Little did Myrick know that even before he made those comments, Cummings had tipped his cap to his school’s long time foe:

“Warrenton’s our rival, and we usually come out on top,” Cummings explained minutes after the Devils’ dramatic win. “But this is one of the years they have a pretty good team. So they came out on top. So we respect that.”

And fewer than twelve hours later, Kyle Sandy, who provides a weekly statewide ranking of Georgia’s teams by classification at Sandysspiel.com, also gave the Devils a nod by placing Warren County (4-1) in the top 10 of Class 1A Public for the first time this season.

Bringing in the New Year

After Saturday’s fiery start, this week in high school basketball has the ingredients to make for a fun launching off point for 2021’s journey. Here’s a quick tour of what we have in our sights as of Monday morning:

AugBball and Zone706 will report from Hart County Monday afternoon when Lincoln County takes on Loganville in the quarterfinals of a three day tournament. The Red Devils will be tested after splitting a pair of games last week, and before tipping off region play at home Saturday against #10 Warren County.

On Monday evening we’ll also provide full coverage of Burke County’s Gentlemen’s Classic matchup against Columbia (Atlanta) at Statesboro High School. Other games we’ll track from afar on Monday will be Jefferson County’s neutral site (Vidalia High) game against ECI and Cross Creek’s high powered showdown against Cumberland Christian at Wheeler High.

Lincoln County, Burke County and Jefferson County will continue parts 2 and 3 of their tournament affairs Tuesday and Wednesday. And starting Wednesday, there will be plenty of interesting individual matchups to track. Aquinas will host Hephzibah Wednesday, and Franklin Prep will come to  Richmond the same day. Friday’s lone game will see Grovetown matching up against Creekside Christian in Atlanta. Grovetown will stay overnight to face nationally ranked Pebblebrook Saturday on the same day that several interesting matchups will take place, including Evans-Butler, North Augusta-Laney, Lincoln County-Warren County and Thomson-Aiken.

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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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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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