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Baldwin's basketball odyssey alive and well

Editor's note: The Henry Daily Herald will run a series of articles over the summer catching up with memorable sports figures from the area. If you know of any story ideas, please contact the Herald at 770-478-5753 ext. 280 or sports@news-daily.com.

By Doug Gorman

dgorman@news-daily.com

Former Clayton County native Cory Baldwin has been on a basketball odyssey for more than two decades.

His basketball resume includes time as both a player and assistant coach at Clayton State, his first head coaching job at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., and now head coach for the Cartersville Warriors, a pro team in the WBA.

No one should be surprised by Baldwin's basketball adventures.

After all, coaching the game James Naismith invented is in his blood.

Sort of a family business.

Older sister Selena was a standout basketball player at Jonesboro and Georgia Tech.

She later coached at Eagle's Landing Christian before deciding to devote time to her family, including raising three kids.

Cousin Clint Satterfield was a successful head boys basketball coach and assistant football coach at Henry County before becoming head football coach at his high school alma mater Jonesboro.

This fall, Satterfield will lead the new Locus Grove High School football team on to the field for the first time.

Baldwin and his family remain close.

"We lean on each other. They ask me for gear," he joked, "and I trade coaching advice with them."

Baldwin's basketball life started back at Mundy's Mill Middle School when he played for Holley Tolier, the man he credits for lighting the fuse that guided him toward coaching.

"I really thought I wanted to be a middle school coach because of him," he said.

He later played at Jonesboro High School and graduated from Lake City Christian (now part of ELCA).

He only had to look down the road in order to find a place to go to school when it was time for college, selecting Clayton State University as the place he wanted to trade basketball skills for an education.

Baldwin played for Jimmy Hebron at Clayton State in the late 1990s.

"I don't think there is a better area than Clayton County," he said. "You are not in Atlanta, but your not that far away from the city either. You can get away. Playing at Clayton State made it neat for home games because I always had family and friends there to support me."

The Lakers were mediocre during Baldwin's time in uniform, posting a 14-12 record his sophomore season and a 15-12 mark when he was a senior

But more than a decade later, Baldwin still has fond memories of his days on the scenic, lake-dotted Morrow campus.

The game that stands out the most for Baldwin is his senior year when the Lakers beat Columbus State in triple overtime on freshman Charlie Fraizer's half-court shot at the buzzer to give an exhausted Clayton State team a 119-116 victory.

"It was a crazy game. I don't remember the score, but it was in the 100s for both teams. It was one of those games every time there was a foul late, another person fouled out," Baldwin said.

Frazier wasn't a typical freshman. He was older, having served a stint in military before enrolling in college, but he never lost his shooting touch, going on to establish himself as one of the best players to ever put on a Laker uniform.

Frazier is still third all-time in scoring for the Lakers with 1,243 career points. He is second in games started with 104.

Baldwin watched Frazier stamp his name in the CSU record books, first as his teammate, then as an assistant coach after becoming part of the Lakers' staff.

It turned into a perfect fit for the former player and started him off on his coaching career.

"I never had to leave Clayton County," Baldwin said. "That was pretty great. I am grateful for Coach Hebron."

When the Hebron era ended at Clayton State, it could have been the end for Baldwin, too once current coach Gordon Gibbons came aboard.

But Gibbons never hesitated about keeping Baldwin on board once he spent some time with the energetic young coach.

"It's really interesting, when I got to Clayton State, I never had any intention of keeping any of the former staffers," Gibbons recalled. "I knew I was going to bring aboard at least one person who had coached with me, maybe two, but after interviewing Cory, I was just impressed with everything he brought to the table. After spending just a couple of days with Cory, I realized he was bringing things to the program. He helped us come running right out of the gate. It's never easy to turn around a program, but to turn it around in one year, you have to give Cory some credit for that."

Baldwin was also teaching at Clayton State, and was closely connected with the academic side of things, something that also impressed Gibbons.

Staying at Clayton State was a boost to Baldwin's future coaching plans.

"Coach Gibbons opened his arms to me and let me be a part of it. His record speaks volumes. There are things from him I learned that I know I will never forget."

Gibbons has turned Clayton State into a Peach Belt and national NCAA Division II contender, becoming the all-time winngest coach in Laker history with a 155-86 record in just eight years.

Baldwin ended his decade-long association with Clayton State in 2006 when he became the head coach at Truett-McConnell Junior College, serving at the two-year school until April.

"I couldn't ask for anything better than what happened at Truett," he said. "We basically took a program that hadn't been really successful, and we built it from scratch. We finished strong my first year, and then we made the semifinals in the league back-to-back. This year we were one game under 20 wins. It was really gratifying, building it from the ground up."

Through it all, Baldwin's biggest supporter has been his wife Amanda.

"She has sort of been our unofficial sports information director, taking pictures and writing stories about our games for the web site," he said. "She has sort of lived and breathed basketball. It's been a change for her having not really been into sports before."

Baldwin ended his association with Truett-McConnell in April, pointing to some philosophical difference he had with the direction the school was going, after it decided to jump from a junior college to an NAIA four-year school.

Still, he's satisfied with the time he spent up in the North Georgia mountains, and holds no ill will with the school.

"We were able to send a lot of our players on to four-year schools," he said. "I still stay in touch with a lot of my former players. They will call me and say, 'You won't believe what we did in practice today.'"

Baldwin is hungry to get back into the college coaching ranks, but right now serving as the first-year head coach of the Cartersville Warriors helps fill a void in his life.

Team owner David Archer asked Baldwin to coach the team this summer and so far, Baldwin has the Warriors off to a fast start at 2-0.

The short summer league only last until July and is filled with players who have played pro ball overseas.

Teams only practice twice a week and often play Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

For Baldwin, it's the perfect way to spend his time until the phone rings offering another college coaching job.

"I would love to stay in Georgia," he said. "I know so many of the high school coaches here, and this is my home."

Gibbons knows its only a matter of time before Baldwn is back on the sideines directing some college.

"It will be next season, but he will be back in college coaching. I don't know where, but he has several irons in the fire," Gibbons predicted.

Until, it happens Badwin has plenty of basketball memories to fall back on, right here in the Southern Crescent.

He and Gibbons talk often, and he is proud of what his coaching mentor has accomplished.

"I will always be a a Clayton State Laker," he said. "It's my alma mater, and I will always cheer for them."