Countless challenges awaited Brenau University women's basketball coach Gary Bays when he started the program up four years ago.
He had to recruit players to a brand-new, unknown NAIA program. Not to mention he had to lure them to a women's college, which isn't typically a major draw for basketball prospects.
But his biggest recruit, Shiloh grad Ashley Hagans, may have been the easiest to get on campus. Her father called Bays to ask about an opportunity at Brenau -- Hagans' older sister had gone to school there -- and a tryout was set up.
Bays needed to see just a few minutes before he offered her a spot. Soon he had a talented recruit and Hagans, who spent her first two years of college at Georgia Perimeter, had a team.
"We were really fortunate to get her, obviously this is a Division I player that we don't normally get," Bays said. "She's been a great find for us. It's only our fourth season so pick her up has taken us to another level. ... Usually players like this you have to work a few years to get."
Hagans became Brenau's first NAIA All-American as an honorable mention choice as a junior last season, when she led the nation with a 21.2 scoring average. She set 11 school records that season.
Brenau is 16-8 this season thanks to Hagans, who Bays called a "difference-maker." She averages 19.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 steals, all team bests.
"She's one of those rare players that can create their own shot," Bays said. "Ashley can shoot and also can take people off the dribble and get her own shot."
While her college career is winding down, Hagans plans to keep playing at the professional level.
"She'd like to play overseas," Bays said. "If we can find her the right opportunity, she wants to keep playing and I think she should."
Butler tops 1,000-point mark
Norcross grad Brenton Butler scored the 1,000th point of his Fordham career Wednesday night in a 72-61 loss to St. Bonaventure.
The senior guard scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half as the Rams fell to 2-20 overall and 0-10 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Butler now has 1,023 career points.
Witherspoon gets conference honor
Memphis sophomore Wesley Witherspoon's recent scoring binge brought an honor this week when he was named the Conference USA player of the week.
The Berkmar grad averaged 27.5 points and made 69.6 percent of his shots in the Tigers' two games the previous week. He scored a career-high 29 points in an 85-75 win over Alabama-Birmingham, then added 26 in a loss to Gonzaga.
Shiloh grad Andre Mikell came off the bench to spark Georgia College and State University to a 74-67 win over Clayton State last weekend. Mikell had a career-high 19 points, aiding backcourt mate and Parkview grad Ty Rowland, who had 18 points and a team-high eight assists. ... Meadowcreek's Chris Allen scored 21 points Tuesday night, but it wasn't enough as No. 10 Michigan State lost 76-64 to No. 6 Purdue. The guard made 4 of 7 3-pointers for the Spartans, who lost their third straight Big 10 game after starting 3-0. ... Norcross grad Al-Farouq Aminu had a team-high 22 points Tuesday night as Wake Forest beat Boston College 92-85.
Florida's Jordan Jones, a Collins Hill grad, hit the game-winning free throws with 2.7 seconds left last Sunday, lifting to the Gators to an 80-78 double-overtime victory over Mississippi State. Jones had 21 points, made 11 of 11 free throws and extended her streak with at least one 3-pointer to 23 games. ... Central Gwinnett's Dria David had team highs of 12 points and five rebounds as Presbyterian defeated Winthrop 48-43. The Blue Hose then won their third straight game Tuesday night 74-29 over Allen University as David had a career-high seven assists.
UGA's Mangimelli tops in SEC
Georgia's Jana Mangimelli, a Brookwood grad, has the Southeastern Conference's fastest 400 individual medley time this season heading into next week's SEC championship meet in Athens. She is the only freshman in the league seeded first in an individual event.
Mangimelli's 400 IM time of 4 minutes, 10.68 seconds is more than three seconds faster than her nearest competitor. In the SEC's top times list, she also ranks sixth in the 200 IM (2:00.20) and 11th in the 200 backstroke (1:59.01).
Teammate Lexie Bryant, a Duluth grad, is ranked 16th in platform diving and 17th in one-meter diving.
Locals high in Patriot League
Several Gwinnett grads rank high in the Patriot League's top performances this season entering next week's league championship meet.
Army's Matt Joiner, a sophomore from Collins Hill, is seventh in three-meter diving (284.45) and ninth in one-meter diving (255.30). Teammate Scott Aron, a freshman from Norcross, is eighth in the 1,650 free, 11th in the 500 free and 14th in the 1,000 free.
Navy freshman Andrew Feeney, also a Norcross grad, is seventh in the 100 breaststroke (58.88) and 12th in the 200 breast. Teammate Sean Bagent, also a freshman from Norcross, is 20th in the 50 free.
TRACK AND FIELD
Bolling winsseason opener
Harding University (Ark.) senior Frank Bolling, a Greater Atlanta Christian grad, won the 800-meter run at the season-opening Mule Relays at Central Missouri. His time of 1:55.28 was best among a 27-runner field.
Bolling holds the indoor school record in the 800 and was a 2009 NCAA National Championships qualifier.
Reeves on Wooden Cup list
Agnes Scott's Kimberly Reeves, a Parkview grad, was a national semifinalist for the Coach Wooden Citizen Cup, a prestigious national award given each year to one college and one pro athlete who have made a great positive influence in the lives of others.
Reeves, one of 25 national semifinalists, is designing her major -- sociology and anthropology combined with environmental and sustainability studies -- to focus on educating children about sustainability.
Iduate up for prestigious award
Georgia Southern infielder Nina Iduate, a Norcross grad, was announced Wednesday as one of 30 softball players nationwide who were nominated for the Lowe's Senior Class Award.
The award is given to an NCAA Division I-A senior who has excelled in four areas -- classroom, character, community and competition.
Iduate, a two-time All-Southern Conference selection, maintains a 3.65 GPA in mathematics. She was an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District selection last year, as well as a National Fastpitch Coaches Association scholar-athlete.
Buford's Hunsucker honored
Colgate (Penn.) junior Trey Hunsucker was named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll earlier this week. Hunsucker, who plays football for Colgate, is a theater major.
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 email@example.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.