0

2011 Sports stories of the year

File Photo Newly introduced Georgia Gwinnett College athletics director, Darin Wilson, far right, speaks with school president Daniel Kauffman, center, and vice president for facilities and operations Eddie Beauchamp following a press conference.

File Photo Newly introduced Georgia Gwinnett College athletics director, Darin Wilson, far right, speaks with school president Daniel Kauffman, center, and vice president for facilities and operations Eddie Beauchamp following a press conference.

photo

File Photo Minnesota Lynx's Maya Morre (23) celebrates her team's championship over the Atlanta Dream after game 3 of the WNBA finals in Atlanta.

photo

File Photo Wesleyan's Grace Leah Baughn holds up the Class A state championship trophy surrounded by teammates Cara Mia Tsirigos and Kaelyn Causwell after defeating Pace Academy.

photo

File Photo Buford catcher Jamie Ritchie leaps into the arms of starting pitcher Josh Heddinger as the rest of the team races toward the mound just after the final out is recorded in the Class AA state championship game against Pike County.

photo

File Photo Grayson's Fred Zerblis (74), Sebastian Rice (92) and head coach Mickey Conn hoist the Class AAAAA state championship trophy following the Rams' defeat over Walton.

Gwinnett dominates hoops titles again

Gwinnett County proved 2010’s dominance of the state basketball tournament was no fluke. The county won five of the 10 state championships that year and followed it up by doing it again in 2011.

The Wesleyan girls won the Class A title again. It was their fourth championship in a row and eighth in 11 seasons. The Buford girls three-peated in the Class AA tournament, while Norcross won the Class AAAAA title for the second year in a row. Greater Atlanta Christian’s boys claimed the Class AA title for the second straight year and the Norcross boys won the Class AAAAA crown. It was the Blue Devils’ fourth title in six years.

Grayson wins first football state title

Grayson officially became a state power this season when it won the Class AAAAA football state championship. In just 12 seasons, the Rams have quickly risen to state prominence. Grayson, winners of 10 or more games every season since 2007, is the only school currently on a run of five straight appearances in the quarterfinals or deeper of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

The Rams went 15-0 this season on the way to the 24-0 state championship win over Walton in the Georgia Dome. Robert Nkemdiche was named the state’s player of the year and Grayson finished the season ranked No. 4 in the nation by USA Today.

McCann continues to shine

Brian McCann’s decorated baseball resume continued to add accomplishments in 2011. The Duluth grad and catcher for the Atlanta Braves was named to the all-star game and received the Silver Slugger Award.

The all-star selection was the sixth straight for McCann, who batted .270 with 24 home runs and 71 RBIs last season, in his first six full MLB seasons. His Silver Slugger Award, which goes to best offensive player at each position, was his fifth in a row.

Central grad Roof helps Auburn to BCS title

Ted Roof’s 20-plus coaching career reached the pinnacle of success in January. As the defensive coordinator for Auburn, the Central Gwinnett grad helped the Tigers to the BCS national championship with a win over Oregon.

Roof, who was an All-American at Georgia Tech, was also inducted into the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame in May.

Roof accepted the defensive coordinator position at Central Florida in December.

GGC begins athletics program

Gwinnett County has dominated high school athletics for more than a decade. Now the county will take on college sports. Georgia Gwinnett College announced the addition of an athletic program in 2011.

The school, which is located off Ga. Hwy. 316 and Collins Hill Road, named Darin Wilson as its athletic director in July. Wilson was the athletic director at Union College (Ky.) and will oversee GGC’s transition into collegiate athletics.

GGC has plans for six intercollegiate sports teams for the 2012-13 school and plans to compete at the NAIA level.

Moore continues winning ways in WNBA

After a successful college career at Connecticut, Maya Moore continued her winning ways in the WNBA.

The Collins Hill grad was selected as the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx. Moore averaged 13.2 points a game, was named to the all-star game, earned rookie of the year honors and helped the Lynx claim their first championship.

This was all in one summer after completing a decorated career at UConn. During her senior season, Moore helped UConn reach an NCAA record of 90 consecutive victories. She received the Wade Trophy Player of the Year and received the ESPY for Best Female College Athlete in addition to several other honors.

Gwinnett shines in baseball postseason

High school football has dominated Gwinnett County for the last 15 years. In recent years, basketball has stepped to the forefront. In 2011, Gwinnett County baseball made its mark.

The county had four teams in the state finals and produced three state champions out of the five classifications.

Parkview officially returned to prominence by winning the Class AAAAA title, its first since 2002 when it won back-to-back crowns.

Buford won the Class AA title, which was its first state championship since 1977.

In the all-Gwinnett Class A final, Hebron defeated Providence to give the school its first GHSA state championship.

Thompkins drafted by L.A. Clippers

Trey Thompkins continued Gwinnett’s streak in the NBA draft. The Wesleyan grad and former Georgia standout was drafted by the L.A. Clippers in June.

Thompkins was taken with the 37th pick in the draft after averaging 16.4 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

Thompkins continued Gwinnett’s recent run of NBA draft picks, joining Norcross’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Gani Lawal in 2010, Norcross’ Jodie Meeks in 2009 and South Gwinnett’s Lou Williams in 2005.

Thompkins’ father Howard Thompkins Jr. was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1981,

Pyle leaves Gladiators for AHL

Jeff Pyle, the Gwinnett Gladiators’ only head coach, left the organization in July to become the head coach of the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. Pyle was the Gladiators’ head coach for its first eight seasons in the county, leading the ECHL franchise to six playoff appearances and a trip to the 2006 Kelly Cup finals.

The Gladiators hired John Wroblewski to replace Pyle. Wroblewski served as an assistant with the Wheeling Nailers last season.

Heyward drafted by Steelers

After a successful career at Ohio State, Peachtree Ridge grad Cameron Heyward was taken in the first round of the NFL draft in April.

Heyward, whose father Craig “Ironhead” Heyward also played in the NFL, was taken with the 31st pick in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. While at Ohio State, Heyward played in four BCS bowl games, including the 2007 national title game.

Heyward has played sparingly with the Steelers this season, recording 11 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.

He’s one of eight Gwinnett Grads in the NFL this season, joining Norcross’ Jeff Backus (Detroit Lions), Brookwood’s Stephon Heyer (Oakland Raiders), Parkview’s Michael Palmer (Atlanta Falcons), North Gwinnett’s Jared Cook (Tennessee Titans), Wesleyan’s Chad Hall (Philadelphia Eagles), Brookwood’s Mansfield Wrotto (Chicago Bears) and Collins Hill’s Brandon Coutu (Buffalo Bills).

Johnson, Min win titles

Gwinnett County natives Kibwe Johnson and Grace Min won prestigious championships in their respective sports in 2011.

Johnson, a North Gwinnett grad, captured titles at the USA Track and Field Championships and the Pan-Am Games. Johnson had a throw of 263 feet, 6 inches to win the hammer throw at the USA Track and Field Championships. It was the longest throw by an American man in 11 years and third-best in U.S. history. Johnson set a Pan-Am record in the men’s hammer throw with a toss of 79.63 meters.

Min, a Lawrenceville native, won the U.S. Open junior girls championship in September. The title came just two months after winning the Wimbledon junior girls doubles championship in July.