The Numbers Game
Tree Rollins, Crisp County, basketball
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Bio: A true seven-footer, Rollins starred at Clemson from 1973-1977. He averaged 13.3 points and 11.9 rebounds during his four-year college career. He was the first player in any sport to have his jersey retired at Clemson. The Atlanta Hawks selected Rollins in the first round of the 1977 NBA Draft. Rollins would play 11 of his 18 NBA seasons with the Hawks. Rollins made the NBA All-Defensive Team in 1983-84. He finished in the top three in blocks in each of his first six NBA seasons. Rollins is still eighth in NBA history in career blocks after retiring in third all-time. He is the Hawks’ franchise leader in blocks with more than 978 than the next closest guy. Rollins played for four teams in his final seven NBA seasons, retiring with the Orlando Magic in 1995. Rollins coached both NBDL and WNBA teams following his retirement.
Why we picked him: Like few of the entrants in the Numbers Game, Rollins kept his same jersey number at every level. He wore No. 30 for 22 of his 24 seasons of basketball beginning in high school, with the lone exception coming in his two years with the Houston Rockets beginning in 1991. It also doesn’t hurt that a majority of his NBA career was spent with the hometown Hawks. He is among the franchise leaders in blocks (first), games played (second), field-goal percentage (third), offensive rebounds (third) and defensive rebounds (second).
Others to consider
Latavia Coleman, Southwest, basketball: The all-state pick averaged 17 points as a senior. She played four years at Florida State, where she led the Seminoles in scoring all four seasons. She left school fifth all-time in scoring and a two-time All-ACC second team pick. She was drafted in the third round of the 2000 WNBA Draft by the Houston Comets. Coleman was later named an ACC Legend and now coaches at Howard High.
Monquencio Hardnett, Central, basketball: Hardnett left Central and earned two letters at Connecticut, where he played in 70 games and averaged 5.7 points.
April Johnson, Jones County, basketball: Johnson was The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year in 2002. The all-state selection ended her prep career as Jones County’s all-time leading scorer. She played at Georgia Tech before suffering career ending knee injuries after her sophomore season.
Lee Martin, Perry, basketball
Bio: While teaming with Dwayne Powell, Martin helped lead Perry to an undefeated state championship in 1962. Martin averaged 20 points per game for the champion Panthers, who won their sixth title under head coach Eric Staples. Martin scored 41 points in a memorable win over Lanier at the Macon City Auditorium during his senior season. Martin then dominated in a postseason all-star game, scoring 26 points and dishing out 19 assists. He attended Georgia following his prep career, eventually morphing into a starter as a senior. Martin averaged 7.6 points as a senior playing alongside fellow Middle Georgian Jerry Waller in 1965-66.
Why we picked him: There are so many greats to pick from during the Eric Staples era, including Billy and Dwayne Powell and even future United States Senator Sam Nunn. But Martin was, without question, one of the best to play for Staples.
Others to consider
Doug Fincher, FPD, football: Fincher finished his prep career with 424 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and nine forced fumbles along with all-state teams in 1988 and 1989.
Andy Summers, Lanier, football: Summers made an all-state team for the Poets in 1969. Summers played at Florida, coming up with a pair of fumbles to help the Gators beat LSU in 1974.
Kenny Walker, Crawford County, basketball
Bio: Walker led Crawford County – where he wore both Nos. 32 and 33 depending on home and away games – to consecutive state championships beginning in 1981. He averaged 25 points and 13 rebounds as a junior and 29 points and 18 rebounds as a senior. Walker went on to a stellar career at Kentucky after playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game and being named Mr. Basketball as a senior at Crawford County. He averaged 22.9 points and 22 points his final two seasons in Lexington. Walker was the AP SEC Player of the Year both of those seasons, and he was a consensus first-team All America in 1986. The New York Knicks selected Walker with the fifth overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. Walker played seven seasons in the NBA, gaining most of his pro fame from winning the 1989 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Walker’s jersey is retired at Kentucky.
Why we picked him: If you list the five best high school basketball players in Middle Georgia history, then you’d be hard pressed not to include Walker. No Middle Georgia basketball player can claim two SEC Player of the Year distinctions to go along with a Mr. Basketball award and All America honors.
Others to consider
LaToya Davis, Mary Persons, basketball: Davis was a two-time Class AA Player of the Year and USA Today honorable mention All America pick at Mary Persons. She scored 3,426 career points, averaging 26.5 points and 20 rebounds per game for her prep career. Davis lettered four seasons while playing for legendary head coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee.
Darrell Lockhart, R.E. Lee, basketball: Lockhart was a Parade All-American after averaging 30 points and 15 rebounds as a senior. He made the All-SEC third team in 1983 at Auburn. Lockhart spent a short time with the San Antonio Spurs after he left Auburn. The Spurs selected him in the second round of the 1983 NBA Draft.
Todd Mickler, Tattnall Square, football: Mickler piloted Tattnall to a GISA championship and undefeated season in 1988. He accumulated 370 yards in the championship game win over FPD.
Hank Williams, Warner Robins, football: Williams and then next guy at No. 32 may have a tussle over who is the second-best back in school history behind James Brooks. Williams’ case: two all-state teams, an undefeated season, a mythical national title, a Warner Robins-Northside rushing record with 232 yards in a 21-14 win in 1981 and 1,546 rushing yards in 1981. Williams signed with Jacksonville State.
Jimmy Womack, Warner Robins, football: Womack rushed for 1,467 as the Demons’ second option in 1976, helping to lead Warner Robins to the state championship and mythical national title. Womack started three seasons at Georgia, including as the fullback for Herschel Walker during the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship run.
Ben Zambiasi, Mount de Sales, football
Bio: Zambiasi played on all three of the Cavaliers’ GHSA state championship teams from 1970-73. Zambiasi rushed for 133 and two touchdowns as a senior in the 1973 championship game. Zambiasi went on to stardom at Georgia, where he was named to All-SEC teams as a linebacker in both 1976 and 1977. Zambiasi still holds the school record for career tackles with 467. Zambiasi went on get drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1978, but he made his name in the CFL. He led the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to the 1986 Grey Cup. He made eight all-star teams and was named the CFL’s defensive player of the year in 1979. Zambiasi is in the CFL Hall of Fame, the University of Georgia Circle of Honor and the Macon Sports Hall of Fame. He also made Georgia’s All-Century Team and was named a SEC Football Legend in 2010.
Why we picked him: Former Georgia head coach Vince Dooley stated Zambiasi’s importance. “In all my years of coaching, I never coached a more intense and tenacious football player than Ben Zambiasi,” he said. Mount de Sales went 41-4 from 1970-73 in no small part to Zambiasi’s play.
Others to consider
Edwana Austin, Appling, basketball: Austin averaged 33.8 points per game to lead Appling to the 1964 state championship.
Bruce Bishop, Stratford, football: Bruce Bishop, Stratford, football: A star during the early seasons of the Eagles’ program, Bishop helped lead the team to two state titles. He rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career.
Ed Beck, Fort Valley, basketball: Beck scored 1,549 points in high school to lead Fort Valley to two state titles. He played in 78 games for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky. He averaged a career high 9.5 points in 1956-57, earning All-SEC second team honors. He played for the Wildcats’ 1958 national championship team.
Colby Jackson, Trinity Christian, football: Jackson rushed for 2,597 yards and 42 touchdowns as a senior at Trinity Christian. He made two all-state teams, and he won two state wrestling championships. Jackson played college football at N.C. State.
Myles Patrick, Southwest, basketball: Patrick was on the Patriots’ first state championship team in 1973. He would go on to earn four letters at Auburn, averaging 8.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in his career. Patrick had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Lakers alongside high school teammate Norm Nixon.
Sharone Wright, Southwest, basketball
Bio: Wright played of the last of head coach Don Richardson’s teams at Southwest, winning a state title as a sophomore and playing in the semifinals and quarterfinals his final two seasons. Wright went on to Clemson after being named a McDonalds’ All-American. He finished second in the nation in blocks per game as a sophomore, and Wright remains 10th in ACC history in blocks. He averaged 15 points per game his final two seasons at Clemson before getting selected No. 6 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1994 NBA Draft. Wright averaged more than 11 points during his first two professional seasons, but a car accident in 1997 essentially ended his NBA career. Wright was named an ACC Legend in 2012.
Why we picked him: Wright was the last of Richardson’s long legacy of great Southwest players. He followed in the footsteps of fellow Middle Georgians Horace Grant and Tree Rollins at Clemson, and he became one of the more productive college players with Middle Georgia roots.
Others to consider
Shana Askew, Southwest, basketball: Askew made three all-state teams and helped lead Southwest to consecutive state runner-up finishes in 1994 and 1995. Askew played at Auburn, where she started 68 games in four seasons. Askew remains in the top 10 in school history in 3-point field goals.
Ben Crain, Dublin, football: Crain earned Class A back of the year honors in 1959 while helping lead the Irish to a state title.
Warren McLendon, West Laurens, basketball: McLendon averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Raiders to the state title in 2004. He made the Southern Conference’s all-freshman team in 2005 at The Citadel.
Jack Scott, Crawford County Training, basketball: Scott starred at Mercer before becoming a Harlem Globetrotter.
J.T. Wall, John Milledge, football: A three-time all-state pick in high school, Wall rushed for 4,594 yards and 66 touchdowns from 1994-97. He also added more than 500 tackles. After playing at Southwest Baptist, Wall transferred to Georgia, where he would score five touchdowns as a fullback on the Bulldogs’ 2002 SEC Championship team. Wall had a short stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he now serves as head coach at John Milledge.
Bunny Fuller, Taylor County, basketball
Bio: Fuller was a big part of Taylor County’s girls basketball dynasty in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Vikings won a state-record 132 straight games and five consecutive state championships during the span. Fuller’s teams went 117-3 during her four years, never lost in Taylor County and won state championships all four seasons. Fuller made three all-state teams and was named the most valuable forward in the state tournament three times. Fuller averaged around 22 points for her career. She scored more than 2,200 points in high school, finishing with at least 23 30-point games and four 40-point games with a career high of 47. Her best season came as a sophomore in 1969-70 when she averaged 29.4 points. Fuller would go on to letter two seasons at Georgia.
Why we picked her: Fuller and Sissy Riley are probably the two greatest players during Taylor County’s unprecedented run. Fuller, however, played won four straight titles, an accomplishment that few Middle Georgians in history can claim. Stats for 22 of her high school games, including 10 during her senior year, are missing, so you can only guess what that does to her already impressive high school stats.
Others to consider
Stacy Nobles, Trinity Christian, football: Nobles was a three-time All America honorable mention at Liberty University and made a Division I-AA All-Independent team in 1998. Nobles holds the career touchdown record at Liberty with 35, and he had 17 100-yard games. He is second in all-time rushing yardage with 3,711 yards.
Derrell Parker, Willingham, football: Parker was an All-Southern honorable mention to go along with Back of the Year honors from The Telegraph in 1965. He signed with Georgia Tech.
Lee St. John, Perry, football: St. John landed on all-state teams in 1966 and 1967.
Red Whitten, Lanier, football: Whitten earned all-state honors in 1950 before earning three letters at Clemson.
Russell Branyan, Stratford, baseball
Bio: Branyan helped lead Stratford to a GISA championship in 1994 shortly before getting drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the seventh round of the amateur draft. Branyan broke into the big leagues as a 22-year-old in 1998. He remained in the majors for 14 seasons, playing for the Indians, Reds, Brewers, Rays, Padres, Phillies, Cardinals, Mariners, Diamondbacks and Angels. Branyan hit 20 home runs or more in a season four times in his career, with a high of 31 in 2009 with the Mariners. Branyan hit 194 career home runs, which puts him second behind Rondell White among Middle Georgians.
Why we picked him: Plenty of Middle Georgians have been drafted earlier than Branyan, but very few had as impactful a career. Few athletes in any sport can claim a 14-year pro career.
Others to consider
William Ivory, Northside, football: Ivory started for three years at running back for the Eagles before playing at Savannah State.
Deauntay Legrier, Wilcox County, football: The coaches pick for Class A Defensive Player of the Year in 2007, Legrier earned consensus all-state honors leading the Patriots to the state championship game. He had 22 sacks his final two years at Wilcox County. Legrier has started 18 games in three seasons at Western Michigan, collecting 100 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Jimmy Seward, Lanier, football: Seward made an all-state team as a senior in 1960 before earning three letters at Georgia Tech.
Henry Taylor, Baldwin, football: Taylor went on to letter four seasons at Florida State, earning first-team All-South Independent honors and honorable mention All America honors in 1984. He is still 11th in Florida State history in career tackles, and his 159 tackles in 1984 is the fifth best total in school history.
Derrick Wimbush, Taylor County, football: Wimbush exploded on to the scene at Fort Valley State, where he rushed for 1,840 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior and became a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy as Division II’s top player. He played three seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Shannon Hall, Central, football
Bio:Hall exploded on the scene as a junior in 1981, rushing for 1,200 yards for Central. A year later, Hall racked up 1,742 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground while helping the Chargers rack up a 9-3 record in 1982. Hall made the all-state team following his senior year. He signed with Albany State.
Why we picked him: Hall’s monster senior season is among the best for a running back in Bibb County history. In the 30 years since Hall made the all-state team, only one Bibb County running back – Westside’s Travis Evans – has received all-state honors.
Others to consider
Tim Perry, R.E. Lee, football: Perry rushed for 1,538 yards and 17 touchdowns on R.E. Lee’s 1988 state championship team.
Billy Kitchens, Lanier, football
Bio:Kitchens earned Back of the Year honors as a senior in 1953 as the Poets lost in the state championship game to Erk Russell’s Grady Grey Knights. Kitchens earned three letters and played on Auburn’s 1957 national championship team.
Why we picked him: Kitchens was arguably the top player on the final Lanier team to play for a state championship. The Poets won 11 games in 1953, one of only two times they accomplished that under legendary head coach Selby Buck.
K.J. Morton, Northside, football
Bio: Much like was the case with No. 93, No. 39 just didn’t have a ton of worthy candidates for the list, so we picked a guy who was plenty worthy who wore the number earlier in his career. Morton wore No. 39 as a sophomore at Northside before wearing No. 4 following the graduation of Deonta Jordan. Morton played on two state title teams at Northside in 2006 and 2007. Morton made the all-state team in 2007. Morton signed with Georgia State, but he ended up at the College of the Sequoias for a year. Morton transferred to Baylor, where he started 11 games as a sophomore in 2011. Morton was an honorable mention All-Big 12 after intercepting four passes, including an interception in the Bears’ upset win over then ranked No. 5 Oklahoma. He made nine tackles in the Alamo Bowl win over Washington.
Why we picked him: It was a struggle to find a quality No. 39, so we found a way to honor a great high school player in Morton who wore No. 39 for a season. Based on our findings, Nos. 39 and 93 are the two most difficult to find quality candidates.