Photo by Heather Middleton
By Brian Paglia
DULUTH -- One spent his early years of high school basketball career as a nomad, travelling between three different states to find the right place. One spent three years experiencing the full specturm of the highs and lows of high school basketball with a county rival.
As different as Rasham Suarez and Jordan Enadeghe are, both came to Jonesboro at different times looking for the same thing. They came to Jonesboro looking for a moment like Wednesday, with fifth-ranked Jonesboro taking on nationally-ranked Miller Grove in the Class AAAA semifinals at the Arena at Gwinnett Center and a spot in the state championship game at stake.
And even though the Cardinals fell 65-52 to Miller Grove, ending Suarez's and Enadeghe's high school careers, both said their journeys were worthwhile.
"I accomplished a lot of stuff," Suarez said. "I learned English. I learned how to play basketball, play defense. It's been a good experience."
"When I first came to high school, I made a goal that I wanted to win a state championship," Enadeghe said. "I worked so hard to get it."
Suarez's journey is well-chronicled. The point guard moved from San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend high school in the United States. He played in Iowa as a freshman, nationally-renowned Findlay Prep in Las Vegas as a sophomore, then came to Jonesboro the summer before his junior season.
The 6-foot-2 guard was searching for a place where he could display his talent, the kind of no-look passes and deep 3-pointers that helped him win Region 4-AAAA player of the year twice and get a basketball scholarship to Georgia Southern.
But Suarez said he found much more than that at Jonesboro.
"It meant a lot to play here," Suarez said. "Coach (Dan) Maehlman's a great coach. He taught me a lot of stuff. That's why we got here to the Final Four. I know in the future we're going to be here again."
Enadeghe travelled far less. The senior forward played at Forest Park for three seasons, starting as a sophomore when the Panthers made the Region 4-AAAA championship game and lost in the second round of the state tournament. With significant losses to graduation, Enadeghe expected to lead Forest Park back to the state tournament as a junior. Instead, the Panthers were beset by turmoil and missed the state tournament.
So the 6-foot-4 forward came to Jonesboro searching for a fresh start. He became the Cardinals' defensive stopper, guarding the opponents' best offensive player, and a symbol of Jonesboro's identity as a tough, defensive team with his willingness to dive for loose balls and take charges.
And it was more than he could have asked for.
"This is the best team I've ever played with," Enadeghe said. "I love these guys. This is the first time I've been able to say I love my teammates and really mean it."
Both played admirably in their final high school game. Suarez battled through nagging groin and ankle injuries to score 12 points. Enadeghe led Jonesboro with 13 points and seven rebounds against Miller Grove's formidable frontline of 6-foot-8 forwards Tony Parker and Brandon Morris.
And neither will be forgotten for bringing Jonesboro back to the semifinals for the first time since 2003, along with Cardinals seniors James White and Myron Sallie.
"They were unbelievable kids," Maehlman said. "I'm not really good at end-of-the-year speeches, especially when we had a group like we had. I would be honored for them to be my son, every single one of them."