Coming off an all-state senior season at Norcross, Denzail Jones didn't go too far for college basketball. He signed with Clark-Atlanta, figuring he'd play right down the road from his high school.
The sweet-shooting, 5-foot-9 guard's plans didn't work out, though.
Jones barely made it half a semester at Clark, scarcely playing in the 2009-10 season before leaving the school. He took some time to plan his next move, which he assumed would be walking on at Alabama-Birmingham in his native state.
"Then it kind of surprised me, I just got a call out of the blue," Jones said.
The call was from an Anderson University coach who was interested in signing Jones. Not long after that, Jones was in Anderson, S.C., content that he'd found the right place for college.
Now a junior starter, he is thriving on and off the court.
"It's a good place," said Jones, who played for two state championship teams at Norcross and averaged 16 points for a state quarterfinal team his senior season with the Blue Devils. "It's a nice place to be. It's a very quiet location. It keeps you focused on basketball and education."
Jones had to sit out the first semester last season because of his transfer but quickly made an impact for Anderson. He led the team in scoring (12.5) as a sophomore, helping the underdog Trojans to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
Anderson, off to an 8-3 start (3-0 in South Atlantic Conference play) is hoping for a repeat tourney run this season.
"What we did last year, we were the underdog, the Cinderella of the tournament," Jones said. "This year we're kind of in the shadows again. We're trying to fight our way back to the front."
Jones is a key cog in that mission.
He's in his first true season as a starting point guard, having played shooting guard virtually his entire Norcross and college career. He played some point in AAU, but this season still has been a learning experience.
"I'm a totally different player now than (when I was at Norcross)," Jones said. "They've got me on the ball at point the whole game. There's a lot of learning. It's a process. Going from a pure shooter to contributing in other ways offensively than shooting and scoring is a change."
The switch hasn't hurt Jones' production. He ranks second on the team in scoring (12.0) and leads the team in assists (3.0) and steals (2.0) per game. He also ranks second in the conference in steals.
"When I first got here I was playing more on the wing," Jones said. "But it's coming along. I'm getting more comfortable with it and enjoying it now."
Carroll jumps into starting lineup
Parkview grad Katie Carroll, a true freshman at Belmont University (Tenn.), has played her way into the starting lineup.
Belmont has struggled this season -- 3-12 overall and 2-2 Atlantic Sun -- but has gotten a recent spark from Carroll and her shooting.
The guard had 10 points, three rebounds and two 3-pointers Wednesday night in a narrow loss to Jacksonville. She played a team-high 30 minutes in her second straight start.
Carroll earned the starting spot after a strong performance Dec. 18 off the bench against Austin Peay. She played 35 minutes and scored nine points in that 58-56 loss.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.