The lives of Jon Sizemore and Chris Walker have followed the same path dating back to seventh grade, when Sizemore moved to Suwanee.
They were North Gwinnett basketball teammates, then fellow Cadets at the United States Military Prep School in Fort Monmouth, N.J. They finished there and headed to West Point, N.Y., where they are finishing their fourth season as basketball teammates at Army.
Following their May 22 graduation, they even have similar post-graduate military jobs -- Walker as an intern with the prep school's basketball team and Sizemore as a graduate assistant for the golf team until officer training begins.
Both also are getting married to their high school girlfriends from North -- Sizemore to Ginger Morgan and Walker to Michelle McMunn -- a week apart in June. Not surprisingly, they also will be a groomsman in the other's wedding.
"(Sizemore's) copying me," Walker joked, "if he tells you any different, he's lying."
The players' friendship has grown since they graduated North, partly because it was a built-in support system for the rigors they have faced at Army. The prep school year is tough and physically demanding, some say more so than the academy itself.
But they made it through that year, then moved on to the Black Knights' basketball team.
"It's been great to have him here, especially the first few weeks and months of prep school, helping each other through the military part," Sizemore said. "It's nice to have a person to talk to about that because it's a different experience than what most college students go through."
Family visits for one of the two turned into family visits for both. If Sizemore's parents visited, Walker was spending time with them, too. And vice versa.
"Having him here made it a lot easier," Walker said.
The North grads haven't won as many basketball games as they would have liked -- Army is 52-59 the past four seasons -- but they are improving a program that has struggled some in the past. The team is 12-9 this season, giving them their first chance at a winning college record.
"Army's not known for their basketball," said Walker, who ranks in the program's all-time top 10 in field goal percentage and blocks. "But the years I've been here we've won some basketball games."
Walker has lost 20 pounds from his high school playing weight, carrying 232 pounds on his 6-foot-9 frame. More finesse and less bruiser, he has started every game this season for the Black Knights, averaging 5 points and 4.1 rebounds. He's making 59.5 percent of his shots in conference play.
Sizemore hasn't played quite as much as Walker, contributing mostly in a reserve role. The NBA isn't beckoning for either player, though their futures are bright outside of basketball.
Walker's degree is in systems management in the systems engineering department, and Sizemore's academic focus is environmental science.
"It's exciting (to graduate), it's kind of surreal," Sizemore said. "The way the academy does it, they have milestones. We have 100th Night coming up, that's 100 days left to graduation. We have spring break. The closer we get as we hit those milestones, you start to feel like it's coming to an end. The five years flew by, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Witherspoon scores career high
Wesley Witherspoon had a career-high 29 points in Memphis' 85-75 victory over visiting UAB on Wednesday night. He was 8 of 12 from the floor, including a 3-pointer, and 12 of 14 from the foul line.
It was his third 20-point game in Conference USA play this season. He had 22 vs. East Carolina and 20 against Houston in January. He is averaging 11.6 points this season after 4.0 as a freshman.
Central Gwinnett grad Dria David continues to be a bright spot for struggling Presbyterian. In last weekend's 64-49 loss to Charleston Southern, the guard had nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. She then scored a team-high 12 points Monday night as the Blue Hose beat Coastal Carolina 56-46, improving to 3-17 on the season ... Georgia College and State University (16-2 overall) beat UNC-Pembroke 82-50 last weekend, improving its best start ever in Peach Belt Conference play to 9-0. Parkview grad Ty Rowland had 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting and Greater Atlanta Christian grad Reece Wiedeman had eight points and a game-high seven rebounds in only 14 minutes.
Hebron Christian grad Meredith Montgomery of North Georgia College and State University is averaging 8.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists. The junior was voted as team captain by her fellow players and her coaches. ... Emily Clarke, a South Gwinnett grad, scored 21 points but Western Carolina still lost 74-71 to the College of Charleston on Monday.
Former South star Mike Mercer had 12 points and six rebounds Wednesday night as South Florida upset No. 7 Georgetown 72-64 in Washington, D.C. He was 5 of 9 from the floor and 2 of 2 from the foul line. ... Slumping Presbyterian fell to 4-20 with a Thursday loss to Virginia Military, but Peachtree Ridge grad Khalid Mutakabbir scored 12.
Locals honored by SEC
A total of 21 former Gwinnett area athletes were named to the Southeastern Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll last week, including eight Georgia Bulldogs.
The UGA selections included football players Drew Butler (Peachtree Ridge/telecommunication arts major), Taylor Bradberry (Winder-Barrow/ exercise and sports science), Andrew Jensen (Brookwood/risk management and insurance), Dallas Lee (Buford/sport management), Jordan Stowe (Parkview/psychology) and Jason Veal (Parkview/finance). Parkview grads and UGA soccer players Ashley Baker (recreation and leisure studies) and Marah Falle (exercise and sports science) also made the list.
Six South Carolina soccer players from Gwinnett got academic honors: Sam Arthur (Greater Atlanta Christian/business administration), Blake Brettschneider (Parkview/journalism), Jimmy Maurer (St. Pius/Lawrenceville/finance), Evan O'Dell (Peachtree Ridge/finance), Maria Petroni (Buford/chemical engineering) and Jocelyn Spurrier (Brookwood/business).
Vanderbilt football players and human and organizational development majors T.J. Greenstone (Collins Hill) and Tristan Strong (Collins Hill) were honored, as were Kentucky football player Ross Bogue (North Gwinnett/agricultural economics) and soccer player Samantha Au (North Gwinnett/chemical engineering).
The other honorees were soccer player Melissa Clarke of LSU (Norcross/mass communication) and football players Darius Hanks of Alabama (Norcross/consumer affairs) and T.J. Pridemore of Florida (Buford/political science).
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.