For his senior project, Grovetown High School’s Austin Madigan wanted to be a difference-maker.
So, during spring break, Madigan joined forces with William Avery to help run a basketball camp at Evans Middle School. It was the third of three events Madigan joined in with Avery to help raise money for the Augusta Warrior Project.
The idea to raise money for veterans was inspired by his father, who reached out to Avery for help for his son.
“My dad was actually a disabled vet and he’s also a basketball coach so I kind of put the two together,” Madigan said.
He was appreciative of Avery’s help.
“My dad is pretty close to him and he does these camps every couple of weeks, so he decided to help me out and I’m very thankful for that,” Madigan said.
The first event was a free basketball skills clinic on March 22 with those in attendance donating items that were ultimately packaged and sent to deployed troops. The second was a night of alumni basketball games between six high schools in Richmond County on April 4, followed by Avery’s four-day camp for boys and girls from ages 6 to 14.
Avery, whose Will Avery Camps are sponsored by the Augusta Metro Youth Foundation, thought Madigan did well on his senior project.
“He wants to do sports management in college and he’s done a really good job for me these past three weeks,” said Avery. “I think he’s really learned a lot. He sees it’s not easy putting these things together and he definitely appreciates the process a lot more than he did coming in.”
Also working the camp were athletes from across the county including Evans’ McKenna Lawrence, Greenbrier’s Jakob Nelson and Madigan’s brother Dakota, who goes to Harlem.
Campers enjoyed what they were getting from their time on the court during the week.
“I like it because it helps me learn moves for the future,” said 11-year-old Desmond Chavous from North Augusta.
Alec Jones, 10 from Richmond County, learned new dribbling skills and was a fan of going head-to-head with others.
“I like competition and that’s what we do,” Jones said.
The whole process left Madigan satisfied.
“It’s amazing,” Madigan said. “It feels good because not only am I helping wounded veterans but I’m working with kids and that helps me in the long run. These are great kids. For them just to be here and participate, helping me with my senior project and benefitting them for basketball, it’s a good thing.”
Basketball and Beyond
Augusta Athlete Returns To His Roots To Be a Mentor, Role Model
DANIELLE WONG MOORES
Growing up in the Sand Hills neighborhood of Augusta, Will Avery didn’t have much—but he had basketball. He was only 6 years old when he started playing with a bunch of kids from the neighborhood. The slap of tennis shoes on concrete, the swoosh of the ball as it went through the rim, the sighing of the wind in the trees surrounding the park on Wheeler Road where they played—he still remembers it all.
He remembers too being one of many talented young players from Sand Hills—but one of the only ones to make it. Avery has played professional basketball both here in the U.S. and abroad. In many people’s minds, that would have been the apex of their careers. But Avery always had a bigger goal in mind: to come back to Augusta and work with other talented kids like him, who might otherwise not have a mentor or role model to help them get a good education and build a better life.
Making It Big
Avery’s talent on the court shone throughout his high school career. After three years at Westside High School, he finished with a record of 92 wins (including 52 straight wins) and only eight losses—and during that time, he also helped take his team to the final four three times, including winning the state championship one year. He spent his senior year at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, one of the top basketball programs in the country. All that time, Duke University was calling—inviting Avery to become a Blue Devil and be among the nation’s top collegiate teams.
The Duke experience, he says, was amazing. “The neighborhood I grew up in, it’s not everyday that you see people going to college,” he says. “And, Duke basketball I think is second to none…It’s a great atmosphere to be in, both on and off the court…And it’s even more fantastic, being part of that Duke family, now that I’ve moved on.”
During his sophomore year, he averaged 15 points and 5 assists—and his team won an ACC championship before heading to the final four and losing the national championship against his former high school teammate (also from Sand Hills), Ricky Moore, who was playing for the University of Connecticut.
Life sped up then. He entered the NBA draft that year as the 14th overall pick, signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The three years he spent as an NBA basketball player were an eye-opening experience for the 19-year-old. “The NBA is a business first, then it’s basketball,” he says. “I was more frustrated because I wasn’t playing as much as I felt I should or wanted to. That’s what happens when you have older guys on your team who’ve been around longer than you have.”
So after three years, Avery decided to take his chances overseas. He spent nine years playing for various teams in Europe, living in Spain, France, Greece, Israel, the Ukraine, Turkey and Poland. “It got back to basketball being fun,” he says. “Then I got to see the world.”
Still, every summer, he would come back home to Augusta. By the time he was in his early 30s, with a growing family—his wife Chastity and daughters Yasmine and Autumn—it was time to come home, for good.
Fulfilling a Dream
For the past two years, Avery has been doing the work he always dreamed about—working with kids. Together with another high school friend and basketball player, Chad Cook, Avery coaches middle school basketball players with the Greater Augusta Independent School Eagles, a nationally ranked team made up of home-schooled kids. He also has the opportunity to offer tutoring and teaches classes in math, English and history as part of the program.
“I was already doing stuff with kids,” explains Avery. “When Chad asked me if I would be interested in coming on board and being a part of what they’re doing, once I found out more information, I thought it was a great thing they were doing, as far as helping kids with their education and also providing a place where they can play sports.”
Being a mentor—especially to kids from his old neighborhood—is also important to him. “We didn’t have those people to inspire us to make us want to do really good things like attend college and go on and do well in life,” he says. “So I wanted to be that person that came back and inspired kids and helped them have a better life.”
Last Thanksgiving, he offered a Hoops for Hunger basketball clinic for local kids, where the entry fee was 10 canned goods, which would go toward the Sand Hills Community Center’s Thanksgiving meal. The clinic hosted 90 children, whose 900 canned goods helped feed 75 at Thanksgiving.
The question he most often gets from his kids is this: How can they make it? His answer is always the same: Even if you do make it, the most important thing is to concentrate on your education. “That’s my main message to them, ‘Enjoy this game, chase the dream, but catch an education,’” he says. “When you’re growing up and into sports, everybody just tells you how good you are. They never really talk to you about real life. They never tell you even if you’re good, you’ll only be doing this for 10 or 12 years, then you’re going to be 30 years old and you’ve gotta do something else with your life.”
Today, Avery doesn’t hit the courts much—just every once in a while with the kids he coaches. “I’m good with that,” he says. Or he’s on the sidelines. His daughter, Yasmine, is playing basketball at Riverside Middle School. “Eight wins and only one loss,” says the proud father. “My daughter always jokes with me—she says I’m old—she challenges me to play all the time. That’s how that works,” he adds with a chuckle.
Even though his name and face still come up every so often in conversation or even on old basketball cards, for Will Avery, this is real life. “I really want to start some sort of mentorship program where these kids can just see me in person a couple times a week, so they can see someone that grew up in the same environment, the same neighborhood they’re in, doing positive things…If I can help one kid, that makes me feel good. If I can keep one kid from going down another path where it might lead to trouble, I feel good about that. I know you can’t save them all, but you just hope to help one and hopefully it has a domino effect on the rest of them.”
To read Will Avery’s blog and to keep in touch on his plans to start a mentor program, visit augustabasketball.com.
Danielle Wong Moores is an Augusta freelance writer and frequent contributor to Augusta Family Magazine, Augusta Magazine and The Augusta Chronicle.
Avery's Georgia Sting loaded with local talent
Posted: Mon 10:34 PM, Jul 27, 2015
By: Andrew Schnitker
Two weeks back, it was Peach Jam taking center stage in North Augusta. The top boys high school basketball players in the country in town for a week. This week, the fellas take a seat and the girls take the attention at Nike Nationals.
July 27, 2015 GROVETOWN, GA-- Two weeks back, it was Peach Jam taking center stage in North Augusta. The top boys high school basketball players in the country in town for a week. This week, the fellas take a seat and the girls take the attention at Nike Nationals.
Hundreds of basketball players hitting courts all over Augusta and Aiken. The Georgia Sting is one of those teams and are made completely from local talent, including their head coach.
Former NBA and Duke player Will Avery has put together a talented bunch of CSRA stars winning their sessions championship on Monday night. Avery's done it by staying in tune with the local hoops scene.
"I started following you all(media), seeing who's hot and who's not...looking at Maxpreps. Then, I started going out and watching girls play. For me sometimes it's not about the best players. It's about the best fit for my system," Avery said.
"This team is the best players around. They're on this team. I have people on my team that might be better at something else and playing against them helps," Cross Creek junior Alana Davis said.
Davis had a summer to remember with the Sting. Two years of high school ball remaining, Davis picked up her first two scholarship offers from North Carolina A&T and College of Charleston.
Staying with the College of Charleston, the Cougars picked up a Laney player on Monday afternoon. Soon-to-be senior Zep Jasper announced his commitment to Charleston through Twitter.
Last season, Jasper averaged about nine points and four assists helping Laney reach the GHSA-3A State Championship game.
Will Avery's Hoop4Hunger Thanksgiving Day Service