The race to see who will receive the Eric Marshall Award as Columbia County’s boys high school basketball player of the year might come down to the final week of the season. That is a rarity. Most seasons, someone has already surged out in front at this point. The race is not down to just one or two players; there are four or five contenders. Here is a look at a few of the players doing well enough to be in the discussion.
Guard; Evans; senior
McDavid has had a solid final prep campaign for the Knights. He recently surpassed 1,000 career points and is averaging just under 17 points per game for the season. Despite his slim build, he is pulling down more than six rebounds per game. McDavid also leads the Knights in steals with 3.7 per contest and dishes out more than three assists per game. Perhaps most importantly, McDavid has helped guide Evans to a 9-0 record against Columbia County opponents.
Forward/center; Greenbrier; senior
A year and a half ago, if you had told me Thomas Brown would even be in this discussion, I would have thought you were crazy. After Brown emerged as a key player for Greenbrier a year ago, I still had my doubts how good he could be this year. With Greenbrier graduating top players Chad Waddell, Justin Cofer and Dejon Britton, I thought Brown would have trouble shouldering more of the scoring load.
Last season, Waddell and company drew most of the attention from opposing defenses, which allowed Brown to have some big games. This year, he would be more of the focal point. He has certainly proved he can handle the responsibility. Brown has been one of the area’s top big men. The 6-4 leaper is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per contest, both among the best in the area. He leads the county in rebounding and blocked shots, swatting 3.8 per game.
Guard/forward; Lakeside; senior
It has been a tough year for the Panthers. The team is young, and coach John Kucela has spent most the season trying to find a second scoring option. Luckily, he has not had to worry about the first option. That role has been filled for the past two seasons by Hall. The 6-3 swingman is averaging 17 points per game for the second straight year, despite constant double-teams from opponents this season. He has also improved his passing, as his 3.5 assists per game illustrate.
Point guard; Harlem; freshman
That word “freshman” sure does stand out. No freshman has ever won county player of the year. I can think of only one who was named first team all-county. That was Fredie Williams, who starred for Evans in the mid-1990s.
Reid definitely deserves a very close look. He leads the county in scoring, averaging more than 20 points per game. He has taken a Harlem team that had struggled to win four or five games a season in recent years and made it respectable.
The Bulldogs’ nine wins this season are the most for the school since they won nine games in 2005-06. They have also posted three wins versus Columbia County teams.
That has not happened in a decade.
Reid has helped elevate the game of those around him, too. Dylan Farmer and Alonzo Hill have benefited greatly from his presence. His ability to penetrate is his strength.
Reid has gone to the free throw line 164 times, more than any player in the area. That’s 7.1 trips every game.
Guard; Augusta Christian,
Fortenberry can shoot. He hits 82 percent from the free-throw line, and his 50 three-pointers are easily tops in the county. However, he is more than just a shooter. In addition to his 15 points per game, Fortenberry averages four rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.4 steals per contest.
Congrats to Grant
I have called high school football games on radio or television locally for 17 consecutive seasons. My first year was one of my most memorable. That year I broadcast 15 games. Come playoff time, we followed the Josey Eagles.
We had done two Josey games during the regular season, and we did all five playoff games. So seven of the 15 games that season involved Josey. Josey was outstanding that season. The Eagles went 15-0 and won the school’s only state title.
One of the team’s best players was a 6-4, 195-pound junior safety named Deon Grant. Grant was terrific on both sides of the ball and was a key to the Eagles winning it all in 1995. Four years later he would capture a national championship as the best defensive player on a very good Tennessee team.
And now, 17 years after his high school state title, Grant is a Super Bowl champion, as his New York Giants claimed Super Bowl 46 with a 21-17 win over New England. I know Grant is not from Columbia County, but he has represented our area well. He has not been arrested for domestic violence or drugs, he has not gotten into fights at strip clubs, or been involved with dog fighting. Instead, he has kept his nose clean and focused on football.
And because of his professional, workman-like approach, Grant has reached the pinnacle of team sports and will forever be labeled a Super Bowl champion.