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Former local hoops stars reunite for summer league team

Chris Allen walked on the basketball court at Suwanee Sports Academy last month and received a warm welcome from an old friend.

"There he is," Wynton Witherspoon said with a smile.

On the other side of the court, Wesley Witherspoon slapped hands with Adrien Borders as they gave each other a quick nod. It was simple reunion for a pair of Berkmar grads.

If all of these names sound familiar, they should.

Imagine some of Gwinnett County's all-time best basketball players together on the court, playing on the same team. That's what you have every Monday night in the Team BELIEF summer league.

Or as co-founder of the league David Akin likes to call the group, the Gwinnett Legends.

"That's how I like to look at it. We should be pretty good," Borders said.

The team includes Berkmar grads Borders, Wayne Arnold, Patrick Shopeka, Wynton Witherspoon and Wesley Witherspoon, as well as Meadowcreek grad Allen and Shiloh grad Jon Mandeldove.

"I love playing with them. We had a real big, tight community at Berkmar as far as our alumni. We always try to stay together and play together," Borders said. "Any time I have to put together a team, I like to have my Berkmar players playing. We play together. We don't care who gets the shot, we just want to win."

The league features former Division I players like Allen and Wesley Witherspoon to small college players still in school and guys who play overseas.

It's a way to stay in basketball shape before the pro season begins this fall and a good tool to get some exposure.

"I think it's great competition for me, personally," said Borders, 30, who was the Daily Post's two-time Field Performer of the Year in track and field as well as an all-county basketball player in high school. "It's good to play a lot of guys that are fresh out of college. It's pretty competitive."

The league was co-created by Akin, a Berkmar grad and assistant basketball coach at Parkview. Akin played at Berkmar in the late 1990s when Berkmar was becoming a state power. Several of the guys on the Patriots' 2000 and 2001 state championship teams like Borders and Arnold, a former Daily Post Player of the Year, are now playing in the summer league.

"It's fun playing with these guys," Wynton Witherspoon said. "I'm just trying to have some fun and play with some of these guys I haven't played with in a while. I'm just enjoying life."

While the team is built around the success of the Berkmar basketball program, it also includes another pair of highly touted Gwinnett grads.

Allen was a member of two of Michigan State's Final Four teams, while Mandeldove was a member of Conneticut's 2009 Final Four team.

"It's crazy. When they hit me up, I knew what it was going to be," Allen said. "They are trying to get a Gwinnett all-star team. I guess it's working out."

Wesley Witherspoon, 23, was an all-conference player at Memphis and is the youngest on the team. After being released by the San Antonio Spurs in October, he's looking for another shot in the NBA.

"You know the NBA is the ultimate goal, but we'll just see what happens after the summer," Wesley Witherspoon said.

The Team BELIEF summer league will conclude in August with a championship tournament. With the past success of the Gwinnett Legends team members, they seem like a natural favorite to compete for the title.

"We're going to win this easy," a jovial Wynton Witherpsoon said. "Gwinnett Legends is going to win this. That's my prediction."