Junior Nick Fortenberry played a key role in the Augusta Christian Lions 13-0 season and a South Carolina Independent School Association Class AAA state football championship.
He caught 48 passes for 976 yards and eight touchdowns, including a clutch third-down reception late in the title game that allowed the Lions to run out the clock.
“I was very happy about that one,” Fortenberry said.
But he was playing mostly to keep in shape for basketball. It’s paying off, as Fortenberry has helped the Lions jump out to a 9-0 start on the hardwood, thanks in part to his team-leading 16.9 points- and 3.6 assists-per-game. He is also the team leader in 3-pointers with 21.
“My role is to score, basically. but also to help my teammates get better,” said the 5-8 guard. “For us to win I have to score. The last few games I’ve been starting, but the first few games I didn’t start because of the state championship (football) game and I wasn’t in shape.” While he enjoys both football and basketball, basketball is his No. 1 sport – and not just because he has been playing it his whole life.
“I like both of them, but basketball is really where my heart is,” Fortenberry said. “There’s not so much contact. Football is very tiring. Basketball is more of a skill play and I like that.”
He developed his shot with the help of his father, Henry.
“I was brought up to be a good shooter because my dad really wasn’t a good shooter. He always said, ‘I want my son to be a good shooter when he gets older.’ That’s where all that came from.”
And while he has racked up points on the offensive side of the court, Lions head coach Marty Griffin has been impressed with the way he has become a leader and handled all that has been thrown at him.
“He’s a natural shooter and scorer, but he’s really taken on the challenge I gave him during the offseason to become a defensive force,” said Griffin. “And that’s what he’s done. He’s guarding real well right now. I think those two things are what I’ve been most pleased with.”
Fortenberry is hoping he to play basketball at the collegiate level and beyond.
“I want to play basketball for Georgia State, but it doesn’t really matter to me if I go play at a DI school or a DII school as long as I’m able to keep playing the game I love the most,” he said.
While he has basketball on the front burner, at least one of his football teammates thinks he could take football further as well.
“He did a great job for us,” said Lions senior quarterback Tyler Roberson. “He’s a great player and he wants to play college basketball, but I see football in his future.”