On Thursday, the Jonesboro Cardinals’ boys basketball team assembled one more time as a team during a school pep rally exactly one week after its 55-50 win over Carrollton in the Class AAAA championship game which netted the Cardinals their second straight state championship.
In the midst of a gym full of students, coaches, the players themselves, of course and an assortment of media types was Jonesboro alum, and former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas, Jr. On Monday the Titans reached a 3-year deal with the former Louisville Cardinals standout.
Despite his hectic itinerary, Douglas found time to attend every Jonesboro state tournament game, as well as Thursday afternoon’s pep rally where he could be found playing one-on-one pickup games with Jonesboro students.
He also stopped long enough to chat a bit with Southern Crescent Buzz editor, Gabriel Stovall.
STOVALL: How does it feel for you to come back to where it all started for you and see the success of your high school alma mater?
DOUGLAS: “Man if feels good, starts with the coach, Coach Maehlman does a great job since I’ve been to school here. He does a great job prepping and getting those guys ready for these games. And I tip my hat off to the guys. To win one state championship is hard enough, but to come back and repeat, that says a lot about the kind of guys we have on this team.”
STOVALL: Did being here throughout the state tournament bring back memories of your time playing basketball for Jonesboro?
DOUGLAS: “Yeah, man. We got close when I was here. A Final Four and a championship game away. I fell short when I was here in the championship game, and the year before it was the Final Four. But, you know, it i what it is. I’m just so happy to be with these guys. I know the feeling being in those situations, but again, to be able to win it and do it two years in a row, says a lot of people around this program.”
STOVALL: Sometimes Clayton County schools get kind of a bad wrap of not having great school and community spirit. That doesn’t seem to be the case here at Jonesboro now. Has it always been that way?
DOUGLAS: “Oh yeah, when me and my brother (Tony Douglas, point guard with the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans) was here people were just everywhere. The gym was always packed out every night, and we just always had that support. At Jonesboro we don’t have that problem. We love it here. That’s why me and my brother give back and wanna be a part of everything, man.”
STOVALL: How priceless is it to be able to come here and hoop with the kids and just be a touchable figure for them, despite all your NFL success?
DOUGLAS: “It’s something money can’t buy. Whenever you can come back here, hoop with the kids, have fun, play around and just put a smile on these kids’ faces, man, money can’t buy everything. Money can’t buy that. So I appreciate 100 percent being able to come back and kick it with the guys.”
STOVALL: I have to ask. You recently agreed came to an agreement to play with the Tennessee Titans next season. How strange will it be to not be in a Falcons uniform next year?
DOUGLAS: “You know that’s a part of life, you know. A lot of times people see change as being bad, but change can bring about a lot of great things. From my standpoint, I’m excited and ready to get to work. It’s like there’s this new hunger within me and I’m ready to go up there and make it happen.”
In addition, Jonesboro basketball coach Dan Maehlman sounded off on Thursday’s festive atmosphere and what all the success and accolades means to his program.
Here are a few of Maehlman’s comments:
ON JONESBORO’S MUCH PUBLICIZED SUCCESS: “It’s all about the kids. That’s what it’s all about. It’s the kids and the positive things they do. I could care less if I’m on the news or whatever. What I get out of it is that it’s about what these kids do positively versus what they do negatively in the community. So yeah, of course, I want it all over everything. Not for the purpose of just Jonesboro basketball, but for the purpose of kids in the (South side of Atlanta) doing good things being promoted.”
ON HARRY DOUGLAS’ SUPPORT: “It goes back to what we spoke on earlier about the character of the kids that come through here. Of course Harry is not a kid anymore. He’s a grown man. But the character kids get, whether it’s before they get here, while they’re here, our family atmosphere here. It just goes a long way.
“People on the outside don’t see that, but people who come here see it when you see all the kids come back, whether from college or the pros. How many times do you hear of a professional football player coming back to every game when you’re in the state tournament? That speaks volumes of the kind of kids that come out of our school. And it’s a testament to the families and administration here. The teachers, coaches, community that support, it even goes to the different reporters that come around here more than maybe they go somewhere else. All of that has a molding affect on these kids.”
ON DEPARTING SENIORS: “I’m Just trying not to think about (them leaving). I’m trying to enjoy it for right now. I’ll probably think about it the first time we step on the court this summer for that first summer league or whatever, wherever we’re at, and I look out there and I don’t see Austin (Donaldson) and I don’t see D-Mack (DeAntre Mack) and I don’t see Tracy (Hector), that’s probably the first time it’ll hit me to where I’ll say, ‘They’re gone, buddy. We’ve gotta move on.’
“I don’t want to yet, and I’m not going to until I absolutely have to. And what I mean by moving on, I mean, even though they’ll be gone, I’m going to be in their lives and their gonna be in mine until we’re no longer on this earth, because that’s the kind of relationship we have.”
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