By Jeffery Armstrong
Former Jonesboro High basketball star Toney Douglas, now a freshman phenom on the Auburn University basketball team, has always seemed to follow in his big brother Harry's footsteps.
That still hasn't changed, as Jonesboro retired the No. 23 basketball jersey worn by Toney Saturday night - a little more than one year after Harry's No. 15 was retired. As close as the brothers are, it's fitting that both of their jerseys will sit right beside each other in Jonesboro's gym.
Jonesboro boys basketball coach Mack Cain praised Douglas for being a great person as well as a great player. Cain said his two sons looked up to Douglas and he couldn't be more prouder of a player.
"I knew Toney was going to be a special player when I saw him the summer before his ninth-grade year," Cain said. "The word 'love' is thrown out a lot these days, but I can truly say with all my heart that I love Toney Douglas. He's an outstanding young man."
Douglas was also an outstanding athlete. He participated in three sports: basketball, baseball and track but he decided to concentrate fully on basketball and he definitely made an impact for Jonesboro High. He was a starter since his sophomore year, helping propel the Jonesboro Cardinals to the state final four, averaging 21.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game and four assists per game. Jonesboro lost to Lakeside-DeKalb in the final four that year. During Douglas' junior year, he was a major catalyst on the team's state final run, making big shots and sinking some clutch free throws along the way. Douglas averaged 27.5 points per game that season and Jonesboro played in the Class AAAAA state championship game, losing to the Wheeler Wildcats.
Douglas had to carry the leadership mantle by himself during his senior year (2003-04) after his brother Harry graduated, but he proved very capable, averaging nearly 30 points per game and becoming Clayton County's All-time leading scorer with 2,478 career points. He also led the Cardinals to a berth in the state playoffs, where they lost a close first-round contest to eventual state finalist Tift County.
Among Douglas' accomplishments included the News Daily Southern Crescent Player of the Year twice (2003, 2004), 2004 Parade All-American, 2004 McDonald's All-American Nominee, 2004 Street & Smith 1st Team All-Metro, 2003 Student Sports All-American and was named All-State 1st team three straight years. Douglas was also an ace off the court, volunteering at the South Fulton Medical Center and the Word Voice Youth Organization.
As a freshman at Auburn, Douglas is the second-leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference with 18.9 points per game, which is tops on his team. He's also averaging 5.5 rebounds per game and two assists per game and currently sports a 2.7 grade point average. Despite all his accomplishments, Douglas continues to work hard to be a humble person.
"It feels good to know that my brother Harry and I are recognized for what we did at our high school," Douglas said. "But I really want people to remember me as a nice, respectful person who isn't caught up with all that I've done."
Believe it or not, Douglas would rather talk to people about everything else but basketball.
"Every time I come home, I always get people who want to talk basketball. To be honest, I love the game, but I'm around it every day," Douglas said. "I want to talk about other things besides basketball. I want people to understand that I am a good person who has other interests."
Douglas' brother Harry, on break from the University of Louisville, said he was proud of his little brother.
"I'm happy for Toney. He and I have helped put Jonesboro basketball on the map and it's cool that we'll have our jerseys retired together," said Harry. "I guess it's fitting because we are so close. He's my best friend, even though he bugs me about seeing him play. I like to spend as much time with him as I can."
Douglas' parents, Harry III and Stephanie, are very proud of their son and what's he has done for Jonesboro.
"I am very proud of Toney, especially the fact that he is humble. I feel like he deserved this; he has actually set the tone for basketball in Clayton County," Harry III said. "It was a lot of hard work - the long hours shooting baskets until late at night, going to basketball camps and taking trips all over the country. It's an incredible feeling to see both my sons get their jerseys retired here at Jonesboro High."
"I'm so proud that Toney doesn't let all of this go to his head. He's very respectful and kind to others," said Stephanie. "I knew he was special when he held a bat in his hand at three years old. He's a remarkable person."