COLLEGE PARK — Two former North Clayton High basketball players signed to continue their careers on the collegiate level last week.

Abernathy chooses Olive-Harvey

Class of 2015 guard Marquez Abernathy signed to play basketball at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago last week.

Abernathy was a key part of the North Clayton basketball program in his final two years on campus. He finished his senior season third on the team in scoring at 6.7 points per game, all while leading the team on the floor from the point guard position. The Eagles qualified for the state tournament in Abernathy’s senior season.

Despite a solid high school career, Abernathy sat out this past season. He began the year at North Central Kansas Technical College before transferring to Tallahassee Community College. Yet, the 6-foot-2 guard never gave up his dream and maintained game-shape in hopes of returning to the hardwood.

“I didn’t really think it was over. I had faith through the whole process,” said Abernathy. “You have to go through something to get to something. God has a plan for everybody — that’s how I took it.”

Abernathy said Olive-Harvey head coach Brandon Moore reached out to him in hopes that he would come play at the school. Abernathy said he liked the coach and the players, and that Chicago reminded him of Atlanta and felt like home.

When it came time to make a decision, Abernathy didn’t wait long. He knew he wanted to continue his career after missing the game for an entire season, and that enduring through adversity during his freshman year will better prepare him for life with his new team.

“It taught me a lesson,” he said. “Basketball could be here today and gone tomorrow, so while I’m playing now I need to take full advantage of my opportunity.”

North Clayton head coach Martisse Troup said he was proud of the way Abernathy handled himself over the past year.

“With Marquez, he’s been through a lot but he was able to fight through it to get back on the court,” said Troup. “In high school he was great player and leader for me. I’m excited to see him pursue his dreams of playing basketball on the next level.”

Johnson picks Concordia College

Jalal Johnson, who was a key member of North Clayton’s Sweet 16 squad last season, has signed with Concordia College in Selma, Ala.

Johnson averaged more than 7 points per game for the Eagles as a senior last season. He improved those numbers as the season progressed, averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds during North Clayton’s playoff run.

“Jalal was definitely a leader on the team,” said Troup. “He improved each year. Every year he was working hard. Freshman year to senior year was a big transition from not getting a lot of playing time in 10th grade. To excel in his senior year was phenomenal.”

Like Abernathy, Johnson wasn’t sure what his basketball future had in store for him. He waited into the summer and was willing to walk on at a school until the recruiting service Pro Movement Basketball helped him secure an offer from Concordia.

“I was gonna try to walk on. I’m happy I get to keep playing basketball for four more years and focus on my school,” said Johnson.

After holding a 3.4 Grade Point Average throughout high school, academics were a priority for Johnson. He said that one of the main aspects he liked about Concordia were the class sizes, which should allow him to maintain his solid work in the class room.

On the court, Johnson said he believes he’ll fit in well at Concordia and is excited to get to work with his new team.

“The coaches seem like they are building a good team and are having good seasons,” he said. “The players, they seem like they all get a long and fit together well.”

Luke Strickland is the sports editor of the Clayton News in Jonesboro and the Henry Herald in McDonough. He went to school at the University of Georgia.

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