Have hoops dreams, will travel

Another NBA draft passed last month without a Gwinnett product taken in the first round.

Norcross' Jodie Meeks was picked in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks, but he failed to become the county's first-ever first-rounder. He should still fare well, joining the 76ers' Lou Williams, a South Gwinnett grad, as an NBA regular.

Only a select few make it to where Williams is and Meeks will be - basketball's elite league. With those spots rare, hoopsters have to look elsewhere to keep their career going.

And for those with a passport and a game, overseas basketball is becoming a more popular option than ever for Gwinnett players.

As recent as 10 years ago, it was tough to find a local player hooping it up abroad. Now it's pretty common. I could take a nice world tour just visiting players that I covered in high school.

Berkmar grad Tony Akins has been a trailblazer of sorts for the current generation of Gwinnett standouts. The former Georgia Tech point guard has seen the good and bad of overseas basketball, and he does his best to help local players find opportunities in other countries.

Along the way, the 29-year-old has had a pretty good career himself. And he's experienced one of the best parts of overseas basketball - if you're willing to travel, you can make a nice living.

"Oh yeah, Tony's made some real good money," said fellow Berkmar grad Wayne Arnold, who played professionally last season in Austria.

Akins has been treated like royalty in some places, while feeling less than at home in others. But he's traveled all over the world, playing in Russia, France, Turkey, Poland, Croatia, the Dominican Republic, Greece and South Korea, among other places.

It's been quite a journey for someone who's not even 30.

Others, like Arnold, have followed the same path. So have guys like B.J. Puckett, a Dacula grad who has played in Chile, Portugal and Mexico, and Brookwood's Robby Bostain, who has found a niche with teams in Holland.

Gwinnett's next wave of players leaving college, led by Norcross products Gani Lawal (Georgia Tech) and Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest), should be NBA first-rounders, so they won't need overseas basketball.

But it's still not a bad option for others.

"I love it," Puckett said. "I'll keep doing it as long as I can."

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