By Gabriel Stovall
LOVEJOY, Ga. — Kiyani Anderson ended up finding his way into a college scholarship in track and field, but he’ll have to give the assist to his childhood hoop dreams.
Anderson, a graduated senior at Lovejoy, held, at one point, the top long jump mark in the state for this season. He set the bar when executing a jump of 24-feet, three inches at the Grady High School Invitational back in April.
He followed it up with Clayton County titles in both the long and triple jumps. He had a basketball offer from Division II Springhill (Alabama) College, but it’s the handwritten letter of interest from the Georgia Tech track and field coach that started him smiling a mile wide in regard to his future as a jumper.
The track success that came this past season unexpectedly consumed him — especially the top-ranked distinction he holds in the long jump.
“I was in shock, to be honest,” Anderson said regarding his state-best long jump performance. “My first jump during that meet was 21 feet-something. And my second was almost 23 feet. Someone actually beat that jump and put me in second place, so I knew what I needed to do.”
He wasn’t planning on setting breaking any records, or setting any state-best marks. But that’s exactly what he did. The 24-foot launch broke a Lovejoy school record, and caused his coach Dwight Callaway to join in with him in the disbelief.
“When they marked it, I thought I heard them wrong,” Anderson said. I didn’t believe it. I went and told coach Callaway who was watching the 4×100 team. He was watching the handoffs. I went and told hem, and he thought I heard it wrong too. We walked over to look, and he was like, ‘Wow.’ He was in shock too.”
“Yeah, I had to go and see it for myself,” Callaway said. “It was an unbelievable jump.”
But one person who wasn’t shocked is Anderson’s middle school coach whom the Lovejoy athlete affectionately calls “Coach Greeley.”
Greeley currently coaches at Elite Scholars, but he tutored jumpers at Jonesboro Middle which is where Anderson went. And while Anderson was busy trying to shape himself into a world class baller, Greeley needed only one look at the kid’s hops to know where his true potential lied.
“I’ve been dunking since eighth grade,” said Anderson, who has a video on Twitter of him taking off from just inside the free throw line on a dunk while playing for the Lovejoy basketball. “When Coach Greeley sees my jumps, he just shakes his head and says, ‘I told you.’”
For what it’s worth, Callaway said he was also convinced early on of Anderson’s track and field potential — particularly in the jumps. The veteran Clayton County track coach has guided two state champion jumpers, as well as record setter Preston Williams, now a wide receiver at Tennessee.
So he knows authentic talent when he sees it.
“When he first decided to give a full commitment to track and field I had no doubt that he would be successful,” Callaway said. “I tried to get him to come out all three seasons before hand. But he was either injured or tied up with AAU basketball. But I knew that if he ever dedicated himself to the kind of training in track I wanted to give him, it would make a tremendous difference.”
The fruits of his labor have paid off.
Shortly before the season ended, Anderson ended up accepting a track and field scholarship from Kennesaw State. And despite nursing a groin injury, Anderson was still able to pull of a jump o 22-feet, 11 inches to place ninth in the Georgia Olympics last month.
The set of achievements turned out to be the crowning jewel in Anderson’s unlikely new career as a track athlete, and a particular point of pride for Callaway, now the head boys basketball coach at Mundy’s Mill.
“He’s a great kid, and he listened to me about his future in track, despite some basketball setbacks,” Callaway said. “He went from Division II basketball to Division I track and field in a season. That’s hard to beat.”