By Zack Huffman
After anxiously awaiting his fate in the NBA draft Thursday night, former Jonesboro High School standout Toney Douglas can now rest easy and look forward to the beginning of his professional basketball career.
As the night wore on and player after player was selected, Douglas continued to wait. Depending on which mock draft was consulted, Douglas was projected to be drafted either late in the first round or early in the second.
Just after 10 p.m. Douglas's anxiety was relieved.
The NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers selected Douglas 29th overall.
Media outlets were reporting that Douglas would be traded to the New York Knicks where he would join fellow first-round pick Jordan Hill who was selected eighth overall.
Efforts to reach Douglas or his father Harry Douglas III on the busy draft night were unsuccessful.
Earlier in the week, the elder Douglas said "We're very excited but we want the process to hurry up. Toney says to me every night, 'this seems like the longest week of my life."
While many draftees came out of school early, Douglas stayed in college long enough to earn a Bachelor's Degree.
"I told Toney, let those kids get drafted higher than you," said Douglas. "You're a winner. You've got something you can fall back on."
Of the teams that had shown interest in drafting Douglas, some went as far as contacting Mack Cain, his former head varsity coach at Jonesboro High School.
"I've had a few NBA teams call me about him," said Cain, now head coach at Northgate High School in Coweta County. "It's been pretty fun. They've asked what kind of a student he was in high school."
When talking about Douglas as a young teenager, Cain remembers a quiet athlete who despite already showing a tremendous amount of talent on the hardwood, never hesitated to continue working on his own game.
"From the first time he walked into the gym, you could tell he was a very special player," said Cain. "As talented as he was, he worked even harder to get better. He certainly out-worked everybody around him."
In his junior year at Jonesboro, Douglas was a part of the Cardinals team that was state runner-up to the Wheeler Wildcats. At that point, Douglas was still playing with his older brother, Harry Douglas IV.
The elder Douglas would hang up his basketball jersey to play football at the University of Louisville and eventually get drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2008.
Dan Maehlman, who is the current head varsity coach at Jonesboro, coached the junior varsity team and assisted Cain when Douglas was a freshman.
Maehlman knew from the beginning that he had the potential to be extraordinary.
"He was an unbelievable kid," he said. "Not a day went by that he didn't work on a part of his game."
In four years at Jonesboro, Douglas accrued 2,404 points, which still makes him the record holder as Clayton County's leading career scorer.
According to Maehlman, he is not the least bit surprised that Douglas was expected to be drafted in the first round.
Douglas began his college career at Auburn. He had been recruited to play for head coach Cliff Ellis. When Ellis was dismissed after the end of the 2003-2004 season, Douglas stayed at the school for a single year under new head coach Jeff Lebo. During his rookie season, Douglas averaged 16.9 points per game and was named SEC Freshman of the Year.
From there, he transferred to Florida State University. After stayign out the NCAA-required year after a transfer, Douglas returned to competition for the 2006-2007 season.
He averaged 12.7 per game in his first season at FSU. He averaged 15.4 in his second.
During his senior year, Douglas's success would flourish. He would lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in just over a decade.
Douglas averaged 21.5 points per game, completely a total of 1,655 points at FSU and earning ACC Defensive Player of the Year Honors.
According to Cain, defense was something that came to Douglas after high school. He joked that he would often assign Douglas to guard the less-talented players from any opposing team.
"He wasn't really thinking about defense in high school," he laughed. "He couldn't guard the dead. We were always giving him a hard time about that."
Jokes aside, Cain used Douglas's development of his defensive ability as a prime example of his ability to identify his flaws and work towards continual improvement.
"He became a very good defensive player."
Now Douglas will have the chance to bring defensive and offensive skills to the NBA as he begins his professional basketball career.
--Sports Editor Doug Gorman contributed to this story