TUNNEL HILL —
Dustin Stanley didn’t make the basketball team his freshman or sophomore year at Northwest Whitfield High School. But he kept trying because he loves the sport and wanted to get better.
The Bruins senior will get a chance to keep on improving after committing to Georgia North-western Tech-nical College on Friday.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to keep playing a game that I love,” Stanley said during a celebration at Northwest attended by family, friends and coaches.
“I am the first in my family to accomplish anything like this, and I am thrilled.”
Stanley played in the shadow of Northwest center O’Shea Hill, who was named the Region 7-4A Player of the Year after leading the Bruins to the region title this season. But Stanley, a 6-foot-5-inch center, shined when given the opportunity.
“The thing about Dustin is he is a late bloomer, but he never gives up and is always working to get better,” Northwest coach Ryan Richards said. “The last two months of the season he was tearing the rim off and giving us a lot of good, quality minutes. A lot of people forget he had 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game during the Christmas tournament, but playing behind O’Shea limited what he was able to do.”
Stanley said playing against Hill — who has signed with Dalton State College — every day in practice was a big help in gaining maturity as a player.
“I am glad to have gone up against O’Shea,” Stanley said. “That helped me out a lot in learning shot selection and being physical under the basket because he can be a physical guy.”
It was Stanley’s physical nature that caught the eye of GNTC men’s basketball coach David Stephenson.
“Obviously Dustin’s a big kid, but one thing we like about him was not only his size but that he played football,” said Stephenson, who is also the school’s athletic director, in a phone interview on Thursday. “The combination football/basketball player tends to be a lot tougher and grittier. That’s not always the case but often is, and one thing we’re going to focus on next season is getting a lot tougher and grittier on the defensive end.”
Per National Junior College Athletic Association Division III rules, GNTC doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, but Steph-enson said other types of aid generally result in full scholarships for student-athletes. The Bobcats, who compete in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association, went 8-19 overall and 0-9 in league play this past season.
Stephenson spoke highly of Stanley’s character and priorities, which go beyond basketball and into the classroom.
“We feel like we’re getting a really good kid,” Stephenson said. “A lot of those 6-5, 6-6 guys have kind of peaked, but with Dustin we think his best basketball is still in front of him.”
Daily Citizen Sports Editor Marty Kirkland contributed to this report.