Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro seniors Duby Okeke, Casey Wells, Daniel Peace and Patrick Petty will represent the South squad in today’s Clayton County Senior All-Star Basketball Game. It will the last time that the foursome will be Jonesboro teammates.
JONESBORO – They’ll get one more shot today.
Call them the Jonesboro Four. Patrick Petty, Duby Okeke, Casey Wells and Daniel Peace, all seniors, all starters — along with fellow senior Cameron Sutton — put on their Cardinal black and red jerseys for the last time as Jonesboro basketball players.
But it wasn’t the way they’d envisioned it.
“We were hoping that it would be in the last game of the season in the state championship game, but it didn’t work out like we wanted it,” Okeke said.
That’s because the Cardinals dropped a 75-69 decision to Statesboro in the Class AAAA quarterfinals.
But as it turns out, the group largely responsible for carrying the Cardinals to back-to-back semifinals appearances (2010-11, 2011-12), will have one more shot at playing together when they step on the court as Clayton County Senior All-Star Basketball Game.
The Jonesboro standouts will be representing the South team in the annual all-star game, which will take play at Drew High today at 5:30 p.m.
Sutton, a four-year starter on the team, will not be able to play in the game because of his baseball obligations.
“It’s going to be good, but it’s going to be a bit emotional too,” Petty said. “Knowing that we’ll get to put on the uniform one more time, these guys are like family.”
Just like siblings, according to Peace.
“These are my brothers since Day One,” Peace said. “So yeah, it’s going to be pretty emotional out there. Those guys are guys who have stuck by me through thick and thin these last four years. We just want to go out there this last time and have fun.”
For assistant coach Nathan Wardlaw, the fun has been found not just in what he’s been able to teach them as a coach, but also what they as players have taught him.
“The things I’ve learned from them, just watching them these four years and seeing how they’ve grown, up has helped me as a coach,” said Wardlaw, a three-year member of head coach Dan Maehlman’s staff.
As for Petty, he said he is grateful for what being a Jonesboro Cardinal has meant to him beyond the basketball court.
“I’ve learned so much here that has just caused me to grow into a man,” Petty said. “Through listening to coach Maehlman, I’ve just learned how to be smarter. I used to do things and say things without thinking, and I’ve learned how to think before speaking and acting.”
To a man, each of the outgoing Cardinals speak of how they have been lifted during times of discouragement due to the close-knit culture within the program.
Wells could testify. After experiencing perhaps the lowest point in his high school career last season after being sidelined for most of the year when he tore his ACL, Wells said he found out firsthand what it felt like to have his teammates turn into a support system.
“It was just like a bond,” Wells said. “They rallied around me and others picked up when they needed to. It was a situation where I came back even better because of the bond.”
Peace said there still might be a chance that even after the all-star game, the basketball brothers could land in the same spot once again on the college level. He made mention of “a couple of junior colleges” that were interested in their services.
“We’ve all been talking about where we’re going to go for college and talking about going to the same place,” Peace said. “So there’s an opportunity that we may still be playing together.”
But for now, today’s all-star game will be a time to just relish their brotherhood as Cardinals one last time.
“We just want them to get out there with each other and with some of their peers from around the county and just have fun,” Wardlaw said.
Said Petty: “We definitely want to go out and win the game, but we also want to make sure we just enjoy this with each other one last time.”