Lakeside High School basketball player Adi Filipovic plays post for the Panthers, and although he's not one of the top scorers on the squad, he is posting some pretty good numbers.
Filipovic is ranked in the top five academically in Lakeside's senior class.
While in action on the court, Filipovic threads passes inside with the precision of a surgeon, and when pounding in the paint, he gathers rebounds as a result of smart positioning.
Seeing a player use mind over matter is a thing of beauty for Lakeside coach Richie Carnes. He knows the cerebral approach is a sign of something special.
"Usually the better students are more disciplined at practice and more disciplined on the court," he said.
Columbia County coaches agree that perseverance in the classroom is as critical as athletic talent.
"That's the thing about Lakeside; we've got accomplished students, and that carries over to the court - they listen," Lady Panthers basketball coach Bill Richey said.
Other top student-athletes at Lakeside include Hunt Revell, Matt Josephson, Lauren Peters and the entire Lady Panthers basketball squad.
"I tell you what - just about every girl on the team is an exceptional student," Richey said. "Most of the juniors and seniors are in the AP (Advanced Placement) program, and most of them are high academic achievers."
Richey said he believes the players' brain power makes his job as a coach easier. "I don't have to worry about grades. I know they're conscientious students and are going to get the job done."
Columbia County's private schools, Augusta Christian Schools and Augusta Preparatory Day School, feature many athletes with high academic averages.
"If you look at the kids on our teams, you'd probably find about 75 percent of the juniors and seniors have honors or high honors," Augusta Prep Athletic Director Kevin Long said.
"The advantage we have is we're a smaller school and we have more kids like that (doing well in both academics and athletics) because we are an academic school and they are motivated to accomplish."
Al West, Augusta Prep's first-year boys basketball coach, agreed with Long - to a point. West did want to dismiss one misperception.
"A lot of people think Augusta Prep is a school filled with geniuses," he said. "One thing that I think the school excels at is taking an average student and helping them realize their potential."
West added that realizing potential, in both athletics and academics, hinges on individual effort.
"I have kids who are excelling in basketball and also in my chemistry class. There's some balance," he said. "Thomas Folk is a hard worker, and he's always attentive and willing to go the extra mile to understand and grasp concepts. Patrick Welch is a talented individual in class, and Taylor Bird is a shining example of a person doing a very good job of balancing his efforts on the court and in the classroom."
Augusta Christian football coach and Athletic Director Steve Price cited two players as examples of well-rounded student-athletes. "Matthew Stout made a 1,420 on the SAT, and Aaron Price does very well academically; he's in honors and AP classes," he said.
Price said the combination of brains and brawn equate to gridiron excellence. "A team is able to progress faster when you have smart players, because they pick up things on the field faster. I've found that the best seasons we've had, the leaders were successful not only athletically but academically."
Compiling a definitive list of the top student-athletes from each school is a daunting task; however, local coaches and athletic directors did offer up some star students.
According to Harlem High School Athletic Director Jimmie Lewis, football players Travis Reese, Domonique Brown and Tyler Holley make good grades, while Harlem basketball coach Kim Chambers mentioned Brown, Nila James and Laura Tam.
At Evans, athletes John Paul Stout, Osmond Brinson and Abdul Walters all rate high academically, says Lee Chomskis, the school's head football coach and athletic director.
The Knights basketball team has several players excelling on the court and in the classroom. Coach Kevin Kenny noted the work done by Kendrick Davis, John Harris and Marcus Davis.
Lady Knights basketball coach Tim Whitfield gave his entire roster a pat on the back. "I know most of them are good students," he said. "I'd hate to single anybody out."
Greenbrier's sporting geniuses included 4.0 students Eve Motlow, Kiley Moranski, and the Sutherland sisters, Katie and Lindsey. Greenbrier senior Christina Large also has high marks.
"I'm in a good situation," Lady Wolfpack softball and basketball coach Garrett Black said. "The girls all make good grades. I've never had any player be academically ineligible. That shows their commitment and dedication."
Greenbrier basketball coach Danny Black said his team has several A and B students, including Richard Burke, Daniel Jordan and Barrett Stafford.
"I harp on them that grades come first," Black said.
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