By Doug Gorman
Jonesboro High School senior basketball player Toney Douglas wanted to do something special for his mother Stephanie on her birthday.
So Friday morning inside the Jonesboro High School media center he gave her a birthday present by signing a letter of intent to play basketball at Auburn University starting next year.
For Douglas and his parents, including his father Harry, it's the culmination of years of hard work.
Toney began playing sports under the watchful eye of his father and quickly turned into one of the state's top prospects, even verbally committing to head coach Cliff Ellis' Auburn program as a junior.
"There's a real family atmosphere at Auburn," said Toney. "Coach Ellis has been fair and straight with me from the very beginning. I have a chance to come in and play as a true freshman and it's in the SEC."
Douglas is the second member of his family to sign a Division I athletic scholarship.
Last February, older brother Harry IV, signed a football scholarship with Louisville.
For years, the two brothers were cornerstones of some very good basketball teams at Jonesboro.
Last year, the Douglas brothers led Jonesboro to the Class AAAAA state championship game where they lost to Wheeler.
Despite scoring 1,322 points and averaging 20.2 per game, it was football that eventually won out for Harry, who is now a red-shirt freshman with Louisville, but is projected to possibly start at wide receiver and return kicks next year.
On Saturday Dec. 5, Harry will have his high school basketball jersey retired in a ceremony at the high school.
Toney is quick to point out that he learned a lot about the recruiting process by just watching his brother go through the same thing last year.
"It can be kind of be stressful at times," he said. "I am glad I had a chance to get it over with early. It was nice to be able to do it on my mom's birthday.
During Friday's ceremony, Toney's father couldn't help but get emotional at times as he talked with pride about his young son's accomplishments.
"It's hard to think that this is it," Harry III said. "I've coached both my sons since they were little."
Jonesboro basketball coach Mack Cain called Douglas the best player he has ever coached.
"Toney plays at one speed," said Cain. "He's a great competitor. "We could tell he was going to very special. He just such a hard worker."
Toney excelled in several sports with his father always there to watch.
In addition to basketball, Toney was a standout football player and baseball player.
On the baseball diamond as a 12-year old, Toney's team advanced to four World Series.
From age 11-13 Toney was a member of a football team that went 45-0.
But it was basketball that became the young Douglas' clear path to athletic stardom.
"From an early age with saw how quick and athletic he was," said Harry III. "We knew he was going to be something special. He would always talk to me about getting better."
Both of Harry's sons began their basketball careers in local leagues, but then moved to programs in the city of Atlanta where they played against some up the metro area's best competition.
A 45-point performance by Toney as a 9-year-old made people sit up and take notice.
With his father as his AAU coach, Toney and his teammates captured the state title from the age 10-14.
They also went to the Final Four twice, finished fifth once and 12th once.
Basketball has been a year-round adventure for Toney, and it didn't stop between his junior and senior seasons.
This summer at the ABCD camp in Teaneck, N.J. Toney was among the Top-10 scorers, averaging 14.0 points per game. He was second in scoring at the NBA Players camp, averaging 12.7 points per game.
At the NIKE Super Showcase, he led the camp in scoring with 35 points.
Toney also played this summer with the South Carolina Ravens during the NIKE Peach Jam where he averaged 13.5. The Ravens finished second in that tournament.
With his college future now decided, Toney looks forward to leading the Cardinals back to the playoffs for his senior season.
Heading into his final campaign, Toney has scored 1,630 points putting him within striking distance of becoming Clayton County's all-time leading scorer.
That record belongs to Karl Hollingsworth, who is currently a college basketball player at Stetson University . Hollingsworth left Mt. Zion after scoring 2,352 points.
More than individual records, however, Toney wants to return to the state championship game, and this time bring home the title.
"I've been working on becoming a better defensive player," he said. "I want to help get us back to the state title game and this time win it."
Although Harry is happy with his sons' athletic accomplishments, he is even more pleased with the type of young men they have become off the floor.
"They never gave me a bit of trouble," he said. "They are good students, and they respect authority. If you were to meet them on the streets, you would never know about their athletic accomplishments because they don't like to talk about themselves."
Stephanie echoes her husband's sentiment when talking about her children.
"I'm proud of what my children have been able to accomplish," she said. "I am happy that my husband was able to be there and coach them."