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Gwinnett Grads: Locals keep careers going overseas

Gwinnett-grown athletes have flourished with both major league baseball and NFL football teams in recent years, but the impact on the highest levels of professional basketball hasn't been the same.

South Gwinnett grad Lou Williams continues to be the only Gwinnettian in the NBA.

But that doesn't mean pro basketball isn't an option for some former county standouts, several of whom have taken their careers overseas.

No local product has done it longer than former Berkmar and Georgia Tech standout Tony Akins. Just last week, Akins signed with Paok Marfin Thessaloniki, a team in Greece's top league.

The 5-foot-11 guard played the 2007-08 season with K.K. Split of Croatia, but was suspended from that league until May 30, 2009, for a failed drug test. He questioned the test, saying "I know I'm clean."

Akins has played all over the world since leaving Georgia Tech, with stints in Poland, Russia, China, Turkey, France and the Dominican Republic.

Fellow Berkmar product Wayne Arnold, who played locally last season with the Buford Majic, also is in Europe. The 6-foot-4 guard signed for the Kapfenberg Bulls, an Austrian team, for the 2008-2009 season.

He started his pro career in 2006-2007 for Haukar of Iceland.

Dacula grad B.J. Puckett, a standout for the Gwinnett-based Atlanta Vision last season, is playing in Santiago, Chile, through the end of the year.

After the Chilean season, the 6-9 forward plans to rejoin the Vision for the ABA season. He also has played in Finland, Mexico and Portugal.

Brookwood grad Robby Bostain also is playing overseas, having signed recently for a second season with Landstede Zwolle in the Netherlands.

BASKETBALL

Williams shines in Sixers win over Celtics

South Gwinnett grad Lou Williams led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 98-92 win over the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics in a Wednesday preseason game.

Williams scored a game-high 27 points, making 7 of 12 field goals and 12 of 13 free throws. The Sixers trailed by 14 points but the high-scoring guard led a rally with 16 of his points in the fourth quarter.

SOFTBALL

Groves transfers to Brenau

Buford grad Jesse Groves has transferred to Brenau University to continue her fastpitch softball career. The holder of 14 school records at Buford, Groves previously played at Newberry College (S.C.).

VOLLEYBALL

Smajic named Tiger athlete of the week

Brenau junior Maida Smajic, a defensive specialist for the volleyball team, was named the Tigers' athlete of the week on Tuesday. The Central Gwinnett grad had 51 digs in two Southern States Athletic Conference matches the previous week.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.

SideBar: IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS

A quick look at where to watch former Gwinnett standouts in today's college football action:

Noon - Cornell at Harvard, Versus

GAC's Eric Schultz (No. 52) plays linebacker for Harvard.

Noon - Minnesota at Illinois, ESPN

Brookwood's David Pittman (No. 9) plays quarterback for Minnesota.

12:30 p.m. - Colorado at Kansas, ESPN2

Grayson's Conrad Obi (No. 93) plays defensive end for Kansas.

12:30 p.m. - South Carolina at Kentucky, WATL

For South Carolina, North's Jared Cook (No. 84) plays tight end, Buford's Yvan Banag (No. 30) plays fullback and Brookwood's Kenny Miles (No. 31) plays running back. North's E.J. Adams (No. 17) plays wide receiver and North's Ross Bogue (No. 86) plays tight end for Kentucky.

3:30 p.m. - Tennessee at Georgia, CBS

For UGA, GAC's Brannan Southerland (No. 36) plays fullback, Norcross' Fred Munzenmaier (No. 48) plays fullback, GAC's Caleb King (No. 4) plays running back, Brookwood's Rennie Curran (No. 35) plays linebacker, GAC's Christian Robinson (No. 45) plays linebacker and Peachtree Ridge's Drew Butler (No. 13) is a punter.

3:30 p.m. - Purdue at Ohio State, ESPN

Peachtree Ridge's Cameron Heyward (No. 97) plays defensive line for Ohio State.

4 p.m. - Chattanooga at Wofford, SportSouth

Buford's Neil Brown (No. 64) plays defensive line, Collins Hill's T.J. Hurless (No. 74) and Mill Creek's Austin Wilson (No. 87) plays tight end for Chattanooga. GAC's Landon Bennett (No. 85) is a kicker, North Gwinnett's Eric Eberhardt (No. 98) plays defensive line, Buford's J.J. Miller (No. 63) plays offensive line and Dacula's Calvin Cantrell (No. 66) plays offensive line for Wofford.

8 p.m. - LSU at Florida, CBS

GAC's T-Bob Hebert (No. 53) plays offensive line and Peachtree Ridge's Derrick Bryant (No. 36) plays cornerback for LSU. Buford's Omar Hunter (No. 99) plays defensive line and Buford's T.J. Pridemore (No. 45) plays fullback for Florida.

8 p.m. - Oklahoma State at Missouri, ESPN2

Central Gwinnett's Beau Johnson (No. 2) plays running back for Oklahoma State.

10 p.m. - UCLA at Oregon, FSN

Buford's Justin Roper (No. 11) plays quarterback for Oregon.