Injuries, Wade Weldon says regretfully, "have been the theme of my basketball career."
The Greater Atlanta Christian grad can point specifically to his ankles, the sources of a string of injuries dating back to his high school days. Aside from a bout of mononucleosis his senior year of high school, the issues that have kept him off the basketball court have been ankle-related.
But those painful days, Weldon hopes, are gone. They have disappeared for the moment, allowing the guard to enjoy a strong season with the 9-3 Oglethorpe University men's basketball team.
"It feels really good to be on the court," Weldon said this week. "It still feels like I'm trying to get into the groove. I'm trying to find my role on this team because we've got a lot of scorers. In high school at GAC, I was the main scorer but here we've got a bunch of guys who can fill it up. But it's fun. It's definitely fun."
Weldon's joy is sweeter because of his hiatus from basketball. He played sparingly as an Oglethorpe freshman, then severely injured his left ankle just two games into the 2007-2008 season. He landed on a teammate's foot in practice, fracturing his ankle and tearing three ligaments.
The setback forced him to redshirt, but his second shot at a sophomore season has gone much better.
Playing on a smallish, up-tempo team, he averages 12.9 points as one of five Oglethorpe double-figure scorers for a team that averages 80-plus points.
"We get up and down the court," Weldon said. "We shoot a lot of 3's. All the teams we play say, 'You must have fun in this offense.' They all want to run it. Because we do have the green light (to shoot) pretty much all the time."
Weldon has been important on the perimeter - he has made 26 of 64 3-pointers (40.6 percent) - but his inside work also has been vital for a team that isn't blessed with a ton of height.
One of the team's strongest players at 6-foot-1 and a sturdy 195 pounds, he averages 6.4 rebounds, which is second on the team.
"We play zone a lot and I'm on the blocks a lot," Weldon said. "I like to get down there and get physical. I've been working on it by lifting weights. Coach said he needs eight rebounds a game from me."
Weldon received a national honor the last week of December, when he was named to the D3Hoops Team of the Week. He was recognized for his play in wins over Buffalo State and Pitt-Greensburg, averaging 18.0 points and making 14 of 22 field goals in back-to-back games.
Black, Rebels knock off UGA
Collins Hill grad Shantell Black led her Ole Miss women's basketball team to a 62-54 win over Georgia on Thursday night.
Black had 12 points, five rebounds and five assists while helping hold Georgia star guard Ashley Houts (2-for-10 shooting) in check.
Smith steps up
Unbeaten Clemson has relied on a handful of young players for its success thus far, including Wesleyan grad Tanner Smith. The freshman had a solid game on Tuesday night with six points and five rebounds in a victory over Alabama.
Smith also made 3 of 5 shots in the win.
Dudish continues roll for Bobcats
South Gwinnett grad Mandi Dudish was named the Georgia College and State University Athlete of the Week on Tuesday for a recent run of big games.
Dudish scored a career-high 21 points twice the previous week in wins over Newberry (S.C.) and Valdosta State. The sophomore tied a school record with seven 3-pointers against Valdosta State and also led the team with four blocked shots.
Kulavic climbing career charts
Norcross resident Katie Kulavic, a St. Pius grad, is climbing the career charts at Oglethorpe.
She recently broke the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference record for most career field goals, passing Parkview grad and former Oglethorpe standout Heather Francoeur Karvis, now a coach at St. Pius. Kulavic is 190 points shy of passing Francoeur Karvis on the all-time SCAC scoring list.
Kulavic, who also grabbed her 500th career rebound recently, is averaging 14.2 points and 4.8 rebounds for the 12-1 Petrels.
While many of Gwinnett's bowl participants were young reserves or redshirts for their team's postseason, others made solid contributions over the past month.
Here's a brief look at some of the top performances by Gwinnett grads in the bowls:
· Fellow defensive tackles Greg Billinger (Parkview) and T.J. Greenstone (Collins Hill) helped Vanderbilt to a 16-14 win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl, the Commodores' first bowl win since 1955, and first bowl appearance in 26 years. Billinger had seven tackles and Greenstone made four stops, one for a loss.
· Air Force lost 34-28 to Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl despite 57 rushing yards on 16 carries from Asher Clark, a freshman from Peachtree Ridge.
· Brookwood grad David Pittman, a junior in his first season at Minnesota, played in 10 games this season but had just four catches for 32 yards. His highlight came in the Insight Bowl, where the former quarterback completed a 75-yard pass in a 42-21 loss to Kansas.
· North Gwinnett grad Jared Cook scored his team's only TD in a 31-10 Outback Bowl loss to Iowa. The South Carolina junior - a 6-5, 242-pounder with 4.37-second speed in the 40-yard dash and a 391/2-inch vertical - is considering going pro after catching 37 passes for 573 yards this season.
· Wake Forest tight end Ben Wooster, a GAC grad, caught the go-ahead TD pass in the fourth quarter as the Demon Deacons defeated Navy 29-19 in the EagleBank Bowl.
Blalock named to honor society
Reinhardt College baseball player Brad Blalock, a Grayson grad, has met the qualifications to be a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society, which is limited to the top 10 percent of juniors, seniors and graduate students at each institution.
Blalock will be inducted into Alpha Chi on Feb. 22.
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.