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GWINNETT GRADS: Wise completes impressive debut season

College recruiters considered Kadeem Wise a talented prospect during his high school days at Berkmar, with some high-level schools taking serious looks at him. At one point, he was committed to Duke.

In the end, he signed with Chattanooga and ended up redshirting during the 2009 season. He finally made his college debut this season and made quite the impression in one of the Football Championship Subdivision’s top conferences.

Both the coaches and media named Wise as the Southern Conference freshman of the year this week for his stellar season at defensive back. The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder set a Chattanooga freshman record with six interceptions to go with six pass breakups and 29 tackles.

Wise wasn’t the only local to star in the SoCon this season.

Samford linebacker Bryce Smith, a Central Gwinnett grad, was a first-team selection by both the coaches and media. The senior was eighth nationally with 129 tackles and his 85 solo stops led the nation for the second straight season.

Smith, Samford’s leading tackler for the past three seasons, also is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the nation’s top FCS defensive player.

Collins Hill grad T.J. Hurless, a teammate of Wise at Chattanooga, was a second-team All-SoCon selection by the media. Hurless started the final 35 games of his career at right guard, the longest streak on his team.

FOOTBALL

Butler a Ray Guy finalist, academic All-American

Peachtree Ridge grad Drew Butler, a junior at Georgia, was announced this week as one of three national finalists for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter. Butler won the award last year as a sophomore.

Butler is third in the SEC and 15th nationally with a 45.0 average, including 14 punts of 50 or more yards. He has helped the Bulldogs to a No. 3 national ranking in net punting (41.1 average) as only 11 of his 43 punts have been returned.

Butler also was selected as an ESPN Academic All-American this week. He maintains a 3.58 GPA in telecommunication arts. He is one of only seven Bulldogs to earn All-American and academic All–American honors during their career.

Locals litter FCS playoffs

The FCS playoff brackets were released last weekend and Gwinnett had representatives on five of the 20 playoff teams.

Georgia Southern, heavy on Gwinnett grads, plays South Carolina State today in a first-round play-in game. The Eagles feature Norcross’ Dion DuBose, a starting defensive end (29 tackles, 6.5 for losses, 3.5 sacks) and a regular at fullback, where he has played in 10 games. GSU’s other top local contributors are Peachtree Ridge’s Mitchell Williford (seven starts, 11 catches for 147 yards) and Shiloh’s Michael Butler (five starts, 22 tackles, one interception).

Brookwood grad Mason Howington is a redshirt freshman tight end for Western Illinois, which faces a first-round game today vs. Coastal Carolina.

The rest of the FCS teams debut next weekend, including top-seeded Appalachian State and its three Gwinnett grads, led by backup right guard Ian Barnard of Wesleyan.

Jacksonville State’s Gwinnett grads include kickoff specialist Griffin Thomas of South Gwinnett and Mill Creek’s James Powell, who has 24 tackles, three for losses, a sack and two forced fumbles.

Wofford features the most contributing Gwinnett players, including starting left tackle Calvin Cantrell of Dacula. North Gwinnett’s Eric Eberhardt (31 tackles, 7.5 for losses, 4.5 sacks) starts at nose tackle, Greater Atlanta Christian’s Landon Bennett is the starting punter (38.5 average) and North’s Kenny Barnes has played in 11 games as a reserve tight end.

CROSS COUNTRY

Mecheso helps team to national title

Berkmar grad Girma Mecheso finished seventh individually, leading Oklahoma State to the national championship at the NCAA Cross Country Championships this past weekend in Terre Haute, Ind.

Mecheso was the Cowboys’ top finisher with a time of 29 minutes, 47.5 seconds on the 10K course. It was the second straight NCAA crown for Oklahoma State, which had 73 points to easily beat runner-up Florida State’s 193.

FSU runner Amanda Winslow, a Collins Hill grad, was 138th individually with a time of 21:39.80 on a 6K course. She was the seventh finisher for the Seminoles, who finished as national runner-up.

BASKETBALL

Jones gets praise for NIT play

Former Collins Hill standout Jordan Jones, a junior co-captain at Florida, was named to the all-tournament team for the preseason women’s NIT. She had 36 points, nine rebounds and six assists in three games as the Gators reached the semifinals. She had a season-high 19 points in a quarterfinal win over Charlotte.

Fast break

Central Gwinnett grad Dria David had 10 points and 11 rebounds on Tuesday as as Presbyterian beat South Carolina State 51-38, snapping a 48-game road losing streak. ... Georgia College and State University senior Reece Wiedeman had 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks this week in an 82-74 loss to Anderson. The Greater Atlanta Christian grad now ranks eighth in GCSU history in career blocks. Teammate Andre Mikell of Shiloh also scored 13.

Wesleyan grad Tanner Smith made six free throws in the final 23 seconds Monday night as Clemson held off Seton Hall 64-58 for third place in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. ... Former Wesleyan classmate Anne Marie Armstrong had a career-high 15 points, including 3-for-3 in 3-pointers, last Sunday for Georgia in an 84-51 win over Indiana. ... Berkmar’s Wesley Witherspoon had 20 points for Memphis in a 70-61 Sunday win over LSU.

SOCCER

Gamecocks reach Sweet 16

A shutout from Lawrenceville resident Jimmy Maurer (a St. Pius grad) helped South Carolina to a 1-0 win over Duke last weekend, sending the 18th-ranked Gamecocks into the Round of 16 in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament.

South Carolina, which won on a goal with 59 seconds left in the first overtime, will host No. 19 Michigan on Sunday in the next round. Parkview grad Blake Brettschneider had six shots (two on goal) for the Gamecocks and Maurer made six saves.

SWIMMING

Hughes gets conference award

Gardner-Webb sophomore D.J. Hughes, a home-schooled high school student from Snellville, was named the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association men’s swimmer of the week on Wednesday.

Hughes swam eight career-best times and was a finalist in three events at the Georgia Tech Invitational last weekend. His 200 individual medley (1 minute, 54.66 seconds) and 100 freestyle (46.80) times are the conference’s fastest this season. He also is second in the 100 butterfly (50.56) and third in the 200 fly (1:53.86).

WRESTLING

Hunt climbs rankings

Dacula grad Noah Hunt, a sophomore at Cumberland University, has moved up to second nationally in the NAIA wrestling rankings after a fifth-place finish in the Lindenwood Open last month. He is 9-6 this season at 125 pounds.

Brother Zeke Hunt, a freshman at Cumberland, is 12th nationally at 165 pounds. He is 9-5 on the season and also placed fifth at Lindenwood.

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 will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.