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Gentle giant Derek Miller, more than just a force in the paint

Contributed by Rob Grubbs   (@RCGJr226070)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

In a generation of excess, many today are defined by what they don’t have instead of the things they do. While the destination is important, the journey is richer and more rewarding. Apalachee senior 6-foot-7 forward Derek Miller is on a journey as he nears his graduation from high school. Derek is a star for the Wildcat basketball team, but to define him by that fact comes up woefully short, he is so much more. While basketball is a big part and figures to provide the avenue for his journey in the near future, it is just one component of this young man who is extremely comfortable being himself, a trait that can never be taken for granted and refreshing in today’s athletes.

His senior year has been interesting to say the least. Gone is the only high school head coach he knew, Kevin Morris, who moved on to Jefferson High School and in his place, first-year head coach Spencer Bernstein. Add to that he is returning from a season ending injury last year and there were a lot of unknowns coming into the year. While the record is not as strong as they would like (8-10), all of their losses have been by seven points or less including three in overtime; they could easily be 12-6 or better with a few breaks here and there. But there is still a lot of that story to write, as Derek and the Wildcats have improved throughout the season and look to jell at the right time when the Region 8-AAAAAA tournament starts. But again, Derek is so much more than just the leader of an improving basketball team.

A Special Bond

Derek was born in Peoria, Illinois, he says he still prefers the cold and misses it with his easy smile.  He moved here when he was six, his father passed away when he was a youngster and the family moved south. His mom, Tiana and older sister, Saboyce, settled in Winder, Georgia. When talking to Derek and his mom, you can sense the closeness; they finish each other’s sentences at times and even communicate with an unspoken eye language. Tiana works the night shift and does not get to see him play usually. She keeps up with his games via text messages afterwards and even then, “He forgets to tell me, so I have to text him to see how it went,” she said while cutting her eyes towards him.

Derek with his mother Tiana

The special times for them are on her off days, when Derek cooks breakfast for her and they enjoy the opportunity to share the moment. His specialty is waffles, they are good he said.  Tiana almost glows when she talks about Derek, but not just about his athletic prowess, but because of who he is and how he is becoming a man right before her eyes. If success in life for a man is predicated on the amount of love and prayer invested in him by his mother, then Derek is in good shape.

And Derek is there for her as well. When she faced major health scares in the past two years, Derek became the son/nurse, they are family and they stick close, which is all they know. Success is born in the tight knit fabric of family and Tiana and Derek are a testimony to that.

A Legacy at Apalachee  

Derek’s sister, Saboyce, five years his senior, left a great legacy at Apalachee. Quite the basketball player herself, she reached the 1,000-point threshold in her career and signed a scholarship to play college ball at Emanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia after she graduated in 2012.  She held the Apalachee High School girls shot-put record with a throw of 34-2.5 until 2016 when current junior Nakia Hooks, another basketball player, took the honors. Derek’s conversation was light-hearted as we talked, but when it came to his sisters’ influence, he suddenly got serious.  “I remember – I was in middle school and was not playing basketball and she would go outside to play and I would go with her. Even though she was with her older friends, she treated me with respect, she treated me like I was someone. That changed me. Her attitude towards me changed how I saw myself. I wanted to be like her.”

Saboyce lives in Illinois now and the gym she starred in is now under her brother’s watch, but as a player who scored often – she once took 50 shots in a game against Clarke Central – her biggest current contribution is the assist she provided by helping the in development of Derek.

Late Bloomer

In today’s microwave environment of developing the basketball talents of youngsters, the norm is for players to enter to the competitive grind of club basketball around age 9 or 10. For those who want to go big time, the prevalent thought is you play year-round at the highest level. From this, skills are honed but more importantly, players become known to the college recruiters before ever entering high school.  While the current stars of the Class of 2018 were spending their summers traveling to gyms all around the state, Derek took a different path; he developed his music. Before Saboyce drug him outside to play hoops, he was at home with his drum set.  Music was his oasis and playing in the praise band at his church was his arena to be seen.

To this day, he still plays the drums at Grace Missionary Baptist Church. The Pastor there, Robert Ballard has been his mentor since he was in the fourth grade. Coincidently, Rev. Ballard is also the PA announcer for Apalachee basketball, so he gets to see both sides of Derek, the music and the basketball.  Ballard shared, “Derek is really an exceptional young man. Whether it is his athletic or musical abilities, it is clear to see he is truly gifted. But his greatest gifts are his ability to connect with people regardless of age, interests or skin color. Everyone loves him and sees him as their own.  The school cafeteria workers adore him because he is one of the few students that give them hugs and tells them thank you.”

Tiana said it best, “He is a well-rounded young man, he has a love for people and people are drawn to him. He lost his father at an early age and I think that is a big reason for him loving people.” It doesn’t take long to be around Derek to sense that about him.

Revisiting a Scare

Last season, the Apalachee Wildcats, led by two senior All-Region guards, were holding onto third-place in the region. On January 20, 2017, Derek scored 21 points as the Wildcats held off rival Winder-Barrow.  In early February, with the tournament coming up, Derek suffered a season-ending knee injury. While there was physical pain for the injury, the mental strain was tough too. His jovial, whimsical demeanor turned very serious during the conversation. He shared, “While I was hurting, it was tough because I felt like I let my teammates down. It took a long time for me to get over that.”

The Wildcats lost their final four games of the 2016-17 season, including twice against Winder-Barrow and came up short in their goal to make the state tournament. It is easy to see that experience left mixed emotions on Derek and he has wrestled with those feelings a lot over the past 12 months.  While the pain is gone, the desire to move past the experience mentally is evident.

Game Day

A tour of the Apalachee High School student parking lot is like many of the affluent schools in the metro-Atlanta area, big trucks and nice cars. But for Derek, game day starts on the school bus. Tiana gets off work around 3:15 a.m. and is asleep when it’s time for him to head to school. But as in all the other aspects of his life, Derek uses the time on the bus to begin preparation for the game, “I start the day with my music,” he offered, “I listen to different things, it always starts my routine and gets me ready.”

After school, when the JV and 9th grade games start, you will find the star forward in the concession stand making fries and hot dogs, he loves serving and being around people, it is where he is most comfortable.

Derek Miller, Rob Grubbs
Even our own Rob Grubbs can not score in the paint on Miller

Once it’s game-time, Derek is mentally at peace, no moment is too big for him. Coach Bernstein says of Derek, “He is a physical specimen, he has unbelievable stamina and he is fast and never shows fatigue on the court.” When asked what he thinks when he gets the ball, he dead-panned, “Four things, in this order; dunk, hook shot, pass or get fouled.”  His dunks are what the fans wants to see.  Against Banks County earlier this season, Derek had an exceptional flush that jolted the crowd. He said, “I could feel the rush of energy from the crowd, it was an exciting moment.” While he may be a late bloomer to the game, he has no problem thinking like a big man.

In terms of the professional game, his favorite player is Russell Westbrook, “I admire the way he runs the floor, but I really like the way he hypes up his teammates. I want to be like that. Everyone on the team is my teammate and I want to make them better. “

Wrapping up a Career

Derek has come back strong from the injury, he is currently averaging 15.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. His career field goal percentage sits at 55%, he is a three-year starter and has improved each year. While he may have gotten a late start, his passion for the game burns hotter that any five-star. His immediate goal is to push the Wildcats to the state tournament and finish high, but then the curtain on his high school career will close.

But that will not be the ending, it will just be a new chapter. Derek just wants a chance to play at the next level, he and his coaching staff are working towards that goal. Coach Bernstein summed it up, “I wish I had a team full of Dereks, he is that special. If I am a college coach, I want Derek on my team. I know he can play at the next level, there is no doubt in my mind. We just need to get him the looks, we need coaches to come out and experience Derek’s game firsthand.”

When that goal becomes a reality in Derek’s life, there will be a new chapter to write in this story, but for now, Derek is just happy to be Derek, to spend a few more mornings making waffles for Tiana and being a great friend to those at Apalachee High School.  While many want to move on to the next level, Derek has the unique ability to just enjoy the moment and soak it all in. It’s a lesson that Derek can teach us all.

Adversity can’t hold back Sequoyah’s Alyssa Cagle

There have been two aspects synonymous with Sequoyah Lady Chiefs basketball over the past three, now going on four years; wins and Alyssa Cagle. It could be argued that winning and Alyssa Cagle could go hand-in-hand with each other, something that Coach Derrick DeWitt would not argue.

“She is definitely an anchor; an insurance policy and she exemplifies what Sequoyah basketball is all about,” said DeWitt of Cagle of who is first in her class and on pace to become valedictorian of the 2018 Sequoyah graduating class.

While Cagle has strived both on the hardwood and in the classroom over her first three years, it has not come without adversity.

“The first week in January I broke my nose in a game against Harrison,” explained Cagle. “I had surgery a couple days later and then I came back from the surgery about a week later and wore a mask. Then my second game back, I tore my ACL on January 21st against Cherokee.”

The Lady Chiefs would lose to rival Cherokee 52-49 and see a 14-5 start to the year finish 5-5 over the last 10 games of the season including a three-game losing streak capped by a 59-51 loss in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs at Winder-Barrow while Cagle was forced to watch from the sidelines with her team-best 12.4 points, 2.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game unable to make a difference.

“I was MVP of my team, so me going down was a huge thing for my team. I’ve always been that kind of person that leads by example so it was hard to provide that guidance for the team, whatever they needed, when I couldn’t physically be on the court,” said Cagle of how difficult it was to watch a promising season derail by injuries. “It was just hard watching them. It just kind of hits home.”

One day after surgery

It was also especially tough for DeWitt, who has helped groom Cagle from Day 1 when he thrusted her into a starting role and has seen her blossom into one of the best pound-for-pound point guards in Georgia.

“As a supporter and a believer of her talent as a fan, I was just sad to see her go down late in the year like that,” said DeWitt. “I was sad for her because when she broke her nose, she wanted to stay in the game and she was like ‘no, I’m finishing this game’ and I was like you can’t, your nose is bent. She’s just a warrior, she doesn’t want anything to get in her way. She doesn’t want to let her teammates down. She is very motivated to get to the next level.”

A first-round loss for Cagle’s Lady Chiefs was a first in three years. As a freshman, Cagle helped Sequoyah to an Elite Eight berth where they lost on a buzzer beater to Stephenson, 55-53, a game in which Cagle dropped in 12 points and five assists. In 2015-16 as a sophomore, the Lady Chiefs took a step further and advanced to the Final Four where they ran out of energy and fell to Southwest DeKalb 55-47. Both Stephenson and Southwest DeKalb went on to win the state championship after clearing the Sequoyah hurdle.

Culture Changer

Since Cagle has joined the Sequoyah varsity roster, the Lady Chiefs are 71-21. She has been on the forefront along with Coach DeWitt of the renaissance of Sequoyah basketball, a girls program which won the state title in Georgia’s largest classification back in 1994 & 1996.

With still a final year of eligibility remaining, Cagle hasn’t wasted anytime in getting her body ready to be able to write the final chapter of her storied career.

“Typically, with any ACL injury, it’s going to take you a full-year to be where you were before you had the injury. Right now, I’m four months post-surgery. I couldn’t be doing anymore to prepare for the season. I’m going to come back at nine months, which a lot of people do,” told Cagle of her daily progress.

“To prepare for that, I work out about five to six days a week with a trainer in Sandy Springs, at a place called Exercise Bioenergetics. It’s a huge two and a half hour full-body work out. I’ll probably do this for the next year until I go off to college, even after I begin playing again.”

Cagle will begin practicing again in September, but won’t be at full speed until the nine-month mark.

16 weeks after surgery
Silver Linings

Once Cagle returns to the floor, she will be surrounded by familiar faces as Sequoyah graduates just one senior from their 19-10 roster. With the Lady Chiefs’ primary ballhandler on the sidelines for the final 10 games of the season, it gave the rest of the team a chance to step up and benefit from their newfound roles.

“I think my absence is going to better us in the long run. For the past three years, I have been the sole ballhandler. There are no other ballhandlers on our team. So without me, a lot of the girls have stepped up, which next year that will definitely pay off because we will have more ballhandlers with more experience being alone without me out there. Whenever I return, hopefully we’ll be a better team than we were last year.”

Next Level

As the days get shorter and shorter until Cagle’s return to the floor for her senior season, as does her time to pick up scholarship offers and decide what to do with her life after her time in Hickory Flat is complete.

“It’s been difficult now that I hurt my knee. A lot of coaches want to see me play again, but the schools I am talking to right now are Wofford, Jacksonville State, Stony Brook, Stetson, Samford, Georgia College, and Georgia State.

“I’m interested in anywhere,” continued Cagle. “I definitely want to play basketball in college.”

On June 15, Georgia College offered Cagle a full-ride.

With an immaculate academic background, a strong work ethic and desire to be the best, DeWitt believes Cagle will find the right fit in college.

“If you want a floor general, someone who knows the situation, knows how to call the right play, how to finish late in the shot clock, how to find the hot hand, a player who doesn’t get tired, that’s a student of the game and is a quality character; she’s not a gamble on any level,” expressed DeWitt. “She can thrive in Division II or Division I, she’s all about her academics and athletics and she’s focused on having basketball be her gateway.

“Being probably our valedictorian, she’s going to have the run of the mill as far as what school she wants to attend. Is she a gamble? No. She’s very coachable. She’ll do what’s best for the team, she’s selfless and she’s a leader by example.”

Artistic Cammon uses hardwood as his canvas

A picture is worth 1,000 words. You might need that and then some to describe rising senior guard Joshua Cammon and his worldly outlook on life. From basketball to baseball to photography and fashion, Cammon doesn’t just stuff stat sheets, he also lives a very busy and fulfilled life.

“I know I picked up baseball first because my older brothers played baseball and they taught me but I actually ventured into basketball when I was five years old but I started baseball when I was four,” explained Cammon who played his junior season at Eastside where he averaged 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.4 steals as a team captain for the 20-10 Eagles.

More impressive was Cammon accomplished this feat with a broken wrist that kept him sidelined during baseball season and limited him to being only a pinch-runner.

“I didn’t know I had a wrist injury but I had a broken scaphoid bone in my left wrist. During the basketball season, it had happened around Christmas but I just wrapped it up and played. I thought it was just a sprain.”

Cammon was a leader on the floor and personified toughness playing with a broken wrist
Cammon was a leader on the floor and personified toughness playing with a broken wrist
The Unknown

For high school players with aspirations of playing on the college level, playing year round is a must. Travel ball constantly allows kids to continue working on their game and in some cases, garner more exposure to college programs. On the other hand, the miles can start racking up on bodies and may cause fatigue if players don’t manage their time wisely.

The fact that Cammon, a potent performer on the high school level, has never played AAU is hard to fathom in this day and age. Instead, he has balanced his baseball and photography careers with the hardwood.

“I’ll go to the gym or even outside just to keep up”, explained Cammon on how he balances each sport by practicing the offseason sport – in this case basketball – on the weekends to maintain his muscle memory.

With one of his many goals being to play in college, missing out on the AAU scene can be a tough pill to swallow.

“I think I’m missing out on a bunch of things like scouts-wise because I know my really close friend Isaiah Miller who just left Eastside, he’s gotten a lot of scouts just through AAU itself. So I know if I played AAU two or three years back I probably could have gotten some better looks.”

Being an unknown commodity to college coaches and even at the high school level in the state of Georgia has its obvious downsides but it can also serve as motivation.

“I do feel like I’m an in the shadows person because of where I’m at in Georgia.”

New Beginnings

No longer will Cammon be in the shadows as he has transferred to DeKalb County’s winningest program in history, the Tucker Tigers who have a mark of 870 wins and 591 losses. Coming off a 20-7 season, Cammon brings a versatile skillset to the table.

“I know I can bring more scoring and defensively, I’m not going to lay down on defense and not get back,” explained Cammon who also thinks he can change the tempo of the game by either slowing or speeding the pace to his liking.

With transfers in and out of the Eastside program, Cammon and his parents sought a more stable location to play his senior season. Cammon received recommendations about Coach James Hartry who has amassed a 317-149 record in 16 seasons at Tucker.

After playing his whole career at Eastside, joining a new school posed potential problems fitting in, but Cammon has made the transition seamlessly.

“I feel like it’s not too hard [picking up a new system]. I like it. At first I wasn’t sure about it but then when I actually went in there and started playing more summer games with them I kind of fell in love with it and the team and people. It was so calming.”

Youphoric Lifestyle

Joshua Cammon separates himself from other athletes with his passions off the court. The 3.3 GPA student is a fan of anime such as Naruto and Dragon Ball Z but more impressively, runs his own fashion company and is a passionate photographer.

“Photography has been my thing for a while. I’ve actually been taking pictures since I was about 12. I’ve been taking pictures of my mom’s friends’ weddings and I’m going to be taking pictures for my aunt’s in January,” said Cammon, a modern day Ansel Adams.

Photography takes Cammon to his happy place
Photography takes Cammon to his happy place

Cammon noted that his dream school would be Virginia Commonwealth because of their great basketball, baseball and photography programs.

Aside from his photography, Cammon has also begun a clothing line called Youphoric ATL. That is focused on happiness.

“Youphoric, the word comes from euphoria which means being happy and elated. So I put ‘You’ because you can’t find happiness without finding it in yourself first.”

Cammon’s inspiration for the line came from his own life experiences.IMG_9807

“I started it because there was a time I was sad because of family things and issues I don’t like going through. I just learned how to not be involved with it but still enjoy life without it,” explained Cammon who with a group of friends opened the company on March 20 of 2015.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter of Joshua Cammon’s life has yet to be written. At age 17, Cammon’s lifelong novel already has an impressive introduction. As a renaissance man, the body of Cammon’s book will continue to expand with the many different avenues he can choose upon. Combo guard in basketball, infielder in baseball, exquisite photographer or fashion entrepreneur, the life of Josh Cammon is worth the follow on and off the court.

Duo’s Loyalty Helps South Paulding Shatter Records

A school-record 25 wins. A 17-3 mark in Region 5-AAAAA. An Elite Eight appearance; the deepest run for any boys team in school history. This is the resume of the 2015-16 South Paulding Spartans led by Coach Gil Davis.

From humble beginnings back when the school opened in 2006, Davis has been there from the very start. Over the past four years since Davis has taken over as head coach the Spartans have taken off, compiling a record of 87-28.

Gil Davis
Gil Davis

Overseeing the program grow from a relative unknown into one of the brightest young programs in the state has been a gratifying experience for Coach Davis.

“It’s been crazy. It’s been a tough process but it’s been a lot of fun to see it come to where we’ve been the last four years,” explained Davis. “A lot of hard work, a lot of butt kickings early and just fighting through it. It’s just been a lot of fun these last four years.”

That hard work and those butt kickings endured as a young program have paid off.

“It’s really been awesome to be honest with you. We’ve been tabbed kind of as a football school from the beginning,” said Davis about the basketball program’s recent success in the playoffs.

“Here in Paulding County, basketball has never really been a big deal, so it’s been a really big deal to us to put this county on the map so to speak and put our school on the map as far as basketball is concerned.”

Pillars of a Program

Two rising seniors have led the way in South Paulding garnering statewide respect and attention. Kane Williams and Ja’Cori Wilson both hold Division-I offers. Williams is a playmaking 6-foot-3 guard that averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals per game as a junior, good enough to earn a Sandy’s Spiel All-State Class AAAAA Second Team selection. Wilson, a versatile 6-foot-7 forward, led the team in scoring with 17 points per game and 10 rebounds a night on his way to Honorable Mention honors.

Kane Williams
Kane Williams

The two building blocks of the program are still reaching their potential and their humility has prevented them from acknowledging just how much they have meant to South Paulding.

“I don’t even think they really realize how big it’s been,” said Davis. “It’s just another thing that’s put us on the map. County-wise, we’ve been on the map so to speak, but it puts us on the map as far as the state goes with all these things they are being a part of like HoopSeen and things like that; bringing a lot of attention to our school and making us more viewed as a basketball school and an up-and-coming program.”

Williams and Wilson’s play has gained the attention of college coaches. Williams holds offers from Middle Tennessee State, Alcorn State and Southern, while Wilson has scholarships from Alcorn State and Southern in hand.

JaCori Wilson
JaCori Wilson

“It’s been awesome to see these recruiters come out here. A lot of them get here and are like, ‘Coach, I didn’t even know this school was here’ and things like that. It’s just great that South Paulding is becoming a place that people can view in a positive light when it comes to basketball.”

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

The South Paulding basketball program has become a family, close knit with each player and coach looking out for one another. For every Kane Williams and Ja’Cori Wilson, there is an unsung hero like Anthony Brown inside gobbling up misses and setting the school-record for most rebounds in a career with 481. Brown has graduated but other key pieces return like D.J. Jackson, a gritty undersized guard, Jordan Burge, a 6-6 forward ready to make an impact in Brown’s absence, and others like Drew Shepherd and James Bryant.

A team that prays together, stays together
A team that prays together, stays together

What do these steady role players have in common with stars like Williams and Wilson?

An all for one and one for all mentality.

Williams and Wilson like so many other high school standouts with designs on playing D-I could have left their homegrown AAU team the Georgia Stunners. Instead, the two stalwarts anchor the team they have been a part of since the seventh grade and continue to build an unmatched chemistry with their year-round teammates.

Georgia Stunners
Georgia Stunners

“We’ve been together since seventh grade. Every year I’ve been like, if I left now, it’s like leaving a brother behind or leaving someone behind that I’ve been with for so long,” explained Williams about his loyalty to not only the Georgia Stunners program but the camaraderie built at South Paulding.

Wilson echoed his sentiments.

“It’s been like family. It’s been a great experience and you learn a lot, you do a lot, it’s just great.”

Reaping the Benefits

Going on over five years now playing together, both Williams and Wilson have seen their hard work and dedication to one another come to fruition with their individual and team success at South Paulding.

“It’s been very fun. It’s been an amazing experience to actually break the [school] record and all that stuff. Accomplishments that nobody at this school probably thought we could accomplish. It’s been a fun ride since freshman year all the way to now,” said Williams.

“It means a lot like what Kane said,” explained Wilson on the duo’s years together turning into shattering school records and leaving a lasting legacy. “We came from nothing and we’ve been striving to get to where we are. To see that we’ve accomplished something that not many people have done at this school, it’s been great.”

When asked about their goals for their final season in the burgundy and gold, the 2015-16 County Player of the Year, Williams, and the program’s single-season record holder for points in a season, Wilson, didn’t mention anything about individual goals, but team missions.

Kane Williams honored as County Player of the Year
Kane Williams honored as County Player of the Year

“Of course I want a state ring,” exclaimed Williams. “But short-term I just want a winning season; taking every game one game at a time.”

“Not losing inside the region. Claiming a region championship and getting W’s,” is Wilson’s objective.

As two of the program’s best players ever to step foot in South Paulding High School near their final season, both players have praised Coach Davis for his guidance along the way with Wilson stating, “He’s been a great mentor, a great coach, a great guy and being there for us.”

St. Pius looks golden behind Kerney Lane and brothers

“A workhorse. He’s an absolute gym-rat. I’ve never quite been around somebody who loves the game as much as him. He loves it, he lives it, sleeps it, breathes it and he’s somebody that when the lights turn on and when the crowd’s big, his game rises.”

That is what St. Pius X Head Coach Aaron Parr said at DeKalb County Media Day of senior forward Kerney Lane. The Golden Lions, coming off of a school-record 25-win season and a Sweet 16 appearance, have relied heavily on the southpaw since he moved to town for his junior season.

Born in San Luis Obispo, California, his mother elected to move the family to the East coast to be closer to relatives. It turned out to be a good decision and a blessing for the Golden Lions as Lane earned First Team All-Region honors last year and now has St. Pius at 17-2 and ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA.

Windermere Prep Rock Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team
Windermere Prep Rock Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team

Going from California to possibly the toughest region in the state, Lane explained that the competition in Georgia is a bit fiercer.

“In California I went to a small catholic school with like 400 kids and we played other catholic schools that were around the same size,” said Kerney. “So I’d say that the competition here is a little more competitive just because of people being taller and more athletic. Just the skill of play is probably a lot higher because Atlanta is obviously a big city.”

King of the Jungle

Playing in Region 6 means there are no days off. Entering the season, four teams were ranked among the top ten. Fast forward to Week 9 and the Region boasts No. 2 Lithonia, No. 3 St. Pius and No. 4 Grady, with Lithonia and Grady both holding the No. 1 spot in the state for multiple weeks.

The Golden Lions have never been known as a high-flying act or a power plant for Division-I talent, so how have they been able to compete with the likes of Lithonia and Grady with Bucknell-commit Avi Toomer and even a prestigious program such as Columbia?

“Focusing on details has put us in a great position,” said Lane of the Golden Lions’ current 42-7 two-year span. “I think we’re a very respectful team because of our defense and how we shoot the ball and how we play well in big moments. Last year we had the most wins Pius has ever had because we did the small things.”

Simply put, with all the success St. Pius has had, it all boils down to one thing.

“It has a lot to do with our coaches and our players all wanting the same thing, which is to win. I think that Coach Parr has set us up for each of us to succeed in the right moment.”

The smooth lefty has averaged 18.5 points and 7 rebounds per game this season, meaning he is St. Pius’ go-to guy on offense; a role Kerney embraces.

“I’m a really big competitor. I just think that when my team needs me, I’ll step up for them. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. So if that means me scoring a lot, I’ll do that. If it means me passing or making big plays for someone else or finding someone else then I’ll do that. I think it’s just whatever my team needs me to do, I’ll do.”



Overcoming Adversity

A player with the right size and versatile skillset to score either inside or outside is something college programs crave. So why is one of the Peach state’s best unsigned seniors still available? During the travel season with the Atlanta All-Stars Lane tore his meniscus in June which caused him to miss some time during the hotly recruited summer months. The adversity of the slight setback did not hinder Lane’s ability to stay positive and work his knee back into shape. With the numbers he is producing his senior year, no one can question that Kerney is back to 100 percent.


Programs such as Elon, Holy Cross and UNC-Asheville have remained in touch with Lane and have shown interest while Georgia College and North Georgia have put forth offers for the 6-foot-6 forward’s services.

“It’s been difficult at times but I think that by working hard and playing well, coaches will remain in contact,” said Kerney of his recruitment process which has slowly began to heat up.

Parr’s Purpose

One person Lane has leaned heavily on during the recruitment process and who has helped guide Kerney into becoming a better player is Coach Aaron Parr. A Class of ‘06 graduate from St. Pius and the school’s all-time leading scorer, Parr is a young head coach who already is in year five at his Alma Mater after finishing his playing career at Birmingham-Southern.

Coach Parr on stage with Kerney and Christian Merrill
Coach Parr on stage with Kerney and Christian Merrill

His youth and relatability has helped form a close bond between him and his players.

“He has helped me a lot,” said Kerney. “He’s taught me a lot because he’s a younger coach and he’s went through the same thing I have. He’s familiar with AAU and that whole situation, so he’s kind of helped me with getting coaches in the gym and how to react to coaches and respond to them.”

Lane and the entire St. Pius team has a chance to make a statement and gain some exposure as they travel to Norcross High School this Saturday to take part in the Peachtree Corners Invitational (formerly Hilton Invitational). The Golden Lions meet Mountain Brook High School out of Birmingham, Alabama.  The Spartans boast 6-foot-7 freshman Trendon Watford, a five-star prospect and younger brother of former Indiana University standout, Christian Watford. The younger Watford averages 24.5 points and 11.1 rebounds and will likely be locked up with Lane all game long.

With countless college coaches on hand for the day long tournament, Kerney and the rest of the Golden Lions remain focused on getting better each day and not letting the potential pressure of hundreds of eyes watching get to them.

“It’s a non-region game so we kind of look at it more as an opportunity to get better. At every game there could be a lot of coaches, but I think we have to just treat every game like the last one and play hard and try to win every game. I don’t focus on the other stuff.”

Family Ties

Kerney is not the only Lane on the St. Pius roster. Young brother Everett is a 6-foot-2 sophomore who has seen his role and playing time grow each week. At first the idea of playing with his brother was a little different, but now the elder Lane has come to embrace it.

Everett pictured in middle
Everett pictured in middle

“It’s actually been a lot of fun. I was kind of expecting it to be a little annoying at first just because he’s a brother and I’ve been playing with him since I was a little kid, but it’s always been not fun and games, it’s been extremely competitive,” explained Kerney.  “It’s actually been a really big help because we both know each other’s strengths and weaknesses to a point. I think we are both really good when we are on the floor together and he’s having a great year so far. He’s a really good teammate so it’s been a fun experience having us both out there.”

Kerney actually isn’t the oldest brother, the eldest being 22-year-old Arthur who resides in Charleston, South Carolina. Arthur is as proud an older brother as they come, always watching St. Pius games on his computer and supporting his two siblings from over 300 miles away.

“It’s been great,” said Kerney. “He watches all the games online. He’s been an incredible supporter and extremely helpful with things that he sees on film. He is very good with making sure my image is right. He’s very committed to it and I really appreciate that.”

Kerney, with the support of his family along with his teammates and Coach Parr, has put St. Pius into the limelight as a state title contender.  Battling past his minor summer setback, Lane looks to be a lock to follow in his coach’s footsteps and become a gem for any college program that offers him a scholarship.