Cameron Heyward returned to his roots in a couple of ways during the holidays.
The former Peachtree Ridge two-sport standout came home to Gwinnett County and was a prominent spectator at the Deep South Classic, a basketball tournament in which he made quite a name for himself during his high school roundball career, including a spot on the 2005 All-Tournament team.
However, while catching up with his family - including watching his brothers Corrie Heyward and C.J. Blackwell and the current Lions team finish as runner-up in the 2008 tournament - was a nice diversion, the rest of his holiday focus was on his current sport (football), and about 2,000 miles away in Tempe, Ariz.
That's where he and the rest of the 10th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes continue to prepare to take on No. 3 Texas in the Fiesta Bowl on Monday.
"I'm looking forward to it," Heyward said during a break in the Deep South Classic action. "Anytime you got to a bowl game, it's a big achievement. Texas is a great team, and we want to play hard and beat them."
If Ohio State is to take down Texas, Heyward, who started all 12 of the Buckeyes' games so far this season, will likely play a big role, especially trying to put pressure on Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy.
"He's highly talented," Heyward said. "We haven't faced anyone like him before. We'll be an underdog, but we'll do everything we can to win. Just as a team, our seniors have worked so hard. So, we want to send them out on a good note."
Monday's game will be the culmination of another strong season for the 6-foot-6, 287-pound sophomore defensive tackle.
After earning a starting job, and Freshman All-American honors in 2007, Heyward followed up that success by bettering most of his numbers this past fall.
He stands seventh among all Ohio State defenders with 35 combined tackles and assists, fifth on the team with 41/2 tackles for loss and fourth with 31/2 sacks.
"I'm still not where I want to be," Heyward said. "But I think I'm headed in the right direction."
Alexander tops 1,000-point mark
Norcross grad Monica Alexander topped the 1,000-point milestone for her Newberry College (S.C.) career during a 65-63 loss Monday to UNC-Pembroke.
Alexander had team highs of 22 points and eight rebounds in the game.
Dudish has huge game
South Gwinnett grad Mandi Dudish scored Georgia College and State University's first 14 points Tuesday, helping the Bobcats to a 68-42 win over Newberry.
Dudish finished with a game-high 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range.
Rush sparks Piedmont win
Led by Dacula grad Justin Rush, Piedmont College scored a huge upset of nationally ranked Centre College on Monday. Centre was ranked 18th nationally by D3hoops.com.
Rush came off the bench to score a team-best 19 points in the 80-75 win, Piedmont's first ever over a nationally ranked opponent.
Clarke leads Catamounts
South Gwinnett grad Emily Clarke scored 19 points on Tuesday, lifting Western Carolina to a 73-63 win over UNC-Wilmington. She was 6-for-7 shooting, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
Clarke scored 13 of her points in the first half, making all five of her shots.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to 770-339-8081.