Cheering the ones you love

At some point next Tuesday, Georgia Southern twins Carolyn and Elise Whitney may find themselves at the free-throw line or along the baseline at Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum.

If either twin is close to the cheerleaders, they can expect to get an earful from at least one pompom-toting Bulldog at the women's basketball game. All in good fun of course.

"I'll definitely say something," said Georgia freshman cheerleader Kelly Hall, who played basketball with the Whitneys at Wesleyan. "If they're inbounding the ball I'll probably mess with them a little bit."

Not too long ago, the three Wesleyan grads were on the same basketball team, leading the Wolves to the 2006 state championship. The Whitneys were seniors on that team and moved on to Georgia Southern, while Hall had one year left.

But Hall's final high school basketball game - a loss to Greater Atlanta Christian in the 2007 state finals - was her last one. A tremendous athlete with great speed, she had opportunities to play college basketball at smaller schools. She also played soccer and ran track at Wesleyan, and could have easily found college teams that wanted her to compete in those sports at the next level.

Instead she chose to attend Georgia.

"The only thing that drew me away from basketball is I didn't want to play at a small school," said Hall, whose sister Jenny was a Florida State cheerleader and whose brother Chad is Air Force's leading rusher. "I love Wesleyan to death, but I was over a small school. I decided I'd rather cheer at a big SEC school than play basketball at a small one."

Hall wasn't sure if she'd even make Georgia's cheerleading squad, which isn't easy. Not only did she earn a spot, she's one of only two freshman on the Bulldogs' eight-woman, eight-man elite squad that cheers at football and basketball games.

"I love the traveling part of it," Hall said. "That's really fun. Cheering for Georgia-Florida (two weeks ago) was probably the most fun I've ever had."

Hall doesn't totally dedicate her athletic time to cheerleading. She plays basketball almost every day - she plans to play intramurals - and also wants to play intramural soccer.

Still, when she sees the Whitneys on the basketball court next week, Hall admits her mind might wander to how much she misses basketball. But only briefly as she faces the dilemma of cheering for his best friends or her Bulldogs.

"I don't even think I'll be torn (on who to cheer for)," Hall said. "I'll have to cheer for Georgia, but my heart's with (the Whitneys)."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.