North boys hoops bids farewell to well-rounded senior class

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman North Gwinnett's Kwesi Abakah (12) dunks the ball during a game this past season.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman North Gwinnett's Kwesi Abakah (12) dunks the ball during a game this past season.

That the class of 2012 will go down as one of the most decorated in terms of accolades in the long history of North Gwinnett boys basketball program comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched the team play over the past few seasons.

After all, four different Bulldogs -- 2012 Gwinnett Daily Post Boys Player of the Year Chris Bolden (Georgia Tech), Kwesi Abakah (Northeastern), A.J. Clements (North Greenville) and Mac Howard (Berry) -- have signed scholarships to play college basketball.

That group helped lead the Bulldogs to a 21-10 record, the regular season Region 7-AAAAA championship, their first trip to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals since 2004 and a No. 7 state ranking.

However, how special this class is goes even beyond its accomplishments on the basketball court and the quartet of future college hoops players.

Three more seniors will have their college educations paid for thanks to their achievements in the classroom, with Ryan Copeland and Justin Techo set to attend the University of Georgia on combined aid from Georgia's HOPE Scholarship program and a scholarship fund put together by North's booster club, while Danny Crawford will attend Georgia State University on a HOPE Scholarship.

"I can't say enough about this group as a whole and how committed they are academically and to putting North Gwinnett basketball back on the map," North coach Zach Smith said. "All seven of them are going to have their college educations paid for, and four of them will play college basketball. That's remarkable. That's half a basketball team. I've never seen anything like it anywhere I've been, and it's a real tribute to what we're trying to accomplish as a program."

But even more impressive to Smith is the fact that all seven of this year's North seniors, including the four that signed athletic scholarships, posted grade point averages high enough to qualify for the HOPE Scholarship.

The group as a whole posted an overall GPA of 3.58.

"If you have seven seniors, typically, there are one or two outliers," Smith said. "But out of our seven guys, there wasn't a single outlier. They're all going to lead successful lives.

"We set high expectations both on the court and in the classroom, and these guys represented that and represented this school well.