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GWINNETT GRADS: Buick commercial features Jukes' philanthropy

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

During last year’s NCAA tournament, Avery Jukes was playing for one of the most memorable Cinderella teams in recent history.

His magical senior season with Butler ended with a 61-59 loss to Duke in the championship game, but he was one of the game’s stars with 10 first-half points.

Nearly a year later, Jukes is still part of the NCAA basketball tourney. In a much different way.

Buick has partnered with the NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports to produce video segments on a select group of inspiring athletes, and the South Gwinnett grad is one of them. A total of seven people are featured in 30-second spots, which will air during the remainder of the NCAA tourney. The first showing of Jukes’ video was Thursday night prior to Butler’s Sweet 16 game.

An extended feature on Jukes is available at www.ncaa.com/buick for being part of the Buck Human Highlight Reel, a promotion that seeks to “tell inspiring true stories of human achievement.”

“It’s definitely a great experience,” said Jukes, who will attend this year’s Final Four to make appearances for the Buick project. “A lot of people watch those games on every channel and it’s a great chance to let people know about the foundation.”

Jukes was selected based on the success of his non-profit, the Jukes Foundation for Kids (JFK). He started the venture as a college student after a volunteer trip to Uganda in 2008, eventually making improvements in that country his mission.

His organization provides food, clothing and education resources to children in Uganda, as well as the Indianapolis area where he attended college. Much of his emphasis is on bettering educational opportunities for children in Uganda, where only 57 percent complete primary school and only 12 percent of those enroll in secondary school (high school level). JFK provides scholarships to dedicated Ugandan students to further their education, giving grants to five children last year and 10 children this year.

“Our next project and it’s a couple of years away, is to have our own secondary school (in Uganda),” Jukes said. “But that takes a lot of money, so right now we’re focusing on funding as many scholarships as we can.”

For more information or to donate to Jukes’ foundation, go to www.jukesfoundationforkids.org.

GYMNASTICS

Shealy gets Big 12 gymnastics honor

The jump to college gymnastics went fairly smoothly for Michelle Shealy.

The Providence Christian graduate, a freshman at Iowa State, was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after an outstanding debut season that saw her win the league’s Newcomer of the Week award three times and overall gymnast of the week once.

Shealy posted the top balance beam score for her team this season, a 9.900 against rival Iowa, and won an impressive seven event titles this season.

The award was voted on by the Big 12 coaches.

“I am proud to know that my peers recognize the talent that Michelle Shealy has shown in every meet this year,” Iowa State head coach Jay Ronayne said in a school release. “What makes this award even more special is that it rewards her for her hard work, dedication and passion for the sport.”

Allen wins MAC titles

Hebron Christian’s Nicole Allen was a star in her second Mid-American Conference Championships last weekend.

The Ball State sophomore tied for the individual title on both the vault (9.900) and floor (9.875), the first time an athlete from her school has won two events titles at the conference meet since 2000. She placed sixth in the all-around standings with a score of 38.950.

BASEBALL

Hit-and-run

North Gwinnett’s Travis Echols was 2-for-3 with four RBIs and Norcross’ Richard Pirkle was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI as Georgia College and State University beat Columbus State 8-1 in the first half of a doubleheader last weekend. Columbus State’s Ryan Lewis, a Brookwood grad, was 3-for-3 with his team’s only RBI in Game 1. GCSU completed the sweep in Game 2 behind North’s Jim Moreland, who was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Pirkle also homered in a Friday night loss to Columbus State.

SOFTBALL

Hit-and-run

Collins Hill grad and Georgia State pitcher Erin Collins saved both victories in last week’s doubleheader sweep of Kennesaw State, earning her second and third saves of the week. ... Peachtree Ridge’s Callie Fernandez hit a three-run homer and later added another RBI single in North Georgia’s 7-1 win over USC-Aiken. North Georgia also won the nightcap to the doubleheader 2-0 as Jessica Coan of Greater Atlanta Christian pitched two complete games with 14 strikeouts in 14 innings.

TRACK AND FIELD

Curry breaks GSU record

In her first outdoor meet, Peachtree Ridge grad Sara Curry broke the Georgia Southern record in the 5,000-meter run with an 11th-place finish at Coastal Carolina’s Shamrock Invitational.

Her time of 18 minutes, 23.14 seconds took 30 seconds off the previous school record. The 5,000 race was won by three-time Olympian Zola Budd-Pieterse.

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.