Former left fielder whose dream of playing for the Atlanta Braves never came to fruition. Instead, worked my way through college and got a degree in journalism, pulling off a rare feat: working in the field of my degree. Began working at The Augusta Chronicle in 1998 and have covered many exceptional events since then (12 Masters Tournaments, the 2001 PGA Championship, 1998 Peach Bowl, 2002, 2010 and 2011 SEC Championships, two of USC Aiken's three golf national championships, Augusta State's 2010 and 2011 NCAA Division I golf national championships and four of Augusta State's Division II Elite Eight appearances (men-2008-2010; women-2004) and 12 Augusta Futurities -- along with myriad high school state championship games). In 2008, had a streak of 100 consecutive days of stories in the paper (from January-April). Honored to win first place in the Georgia Press Association's Sports Writing contest in 2009. I live in Augusta with my beautiful wife and our wonderful triplets.
Posted October 7, 2009 04:29 pm - Updated October 7, 2009 09:34 pm

Garret Siler's NBA preseason debut

ATLANTA -- At 275 pounds, Garret Siler looks svelte in his gray Atlanta Hawks t-shirt. The former Augusta State All-American center played his final collegiate game six months ago. In a few hours, he'll suit for the Atlanta Hawks. One small step for a basketball player. One giant leap for a guy who not only played four years of Division II basketball but also started his high school career at John S. Davidson Fine Arts School.

"Everybody asks me how long I've played basketball," Garret said about an hour ago. "I've played for about five, six years."

The inquirer usually responds with an astonished look and a "What?"

But here he is in training camp, vying for one of two spots on the Hawks roster. Garret has some stiff competition. He also has some guys who've already lined up a job in the European League. Seven guys for two spots.

Garret doesn't plan to go overseas. He wants to stay here -- here being the NBA, where a rookie will earn a minimum yearly salary of more than $400,000. 

"Some guys you know aren't going to make the team," Garret said. "Some guys have something to prove."

Garret will wear No. 35 in tonight's preseason game (7:30) against New Orleans. Coach Mike Woodson told him to be ready, expect some minutes. The starters likely will play the first half. The second half will be Garret's time to shine.

He looks to continue his strong play, and he's hoping to be on the Hawks' roster when Atlanta plays its season opener against Indiana, Oct. 28.

If nothing else, he's already earning respect throughout the league. New Orleans standout point guard Chris Paul caught a glimpse of Garret at this morning's walkthrough and yelled out, "What's up, 'Big G.'"

It's a large leap for Augusta's Gentle Giant.


Come back later for tonight's live blog about tonight's Hawks' game. My esteemed colleague, photographer Mike Holahan, is with me. He'll have photos from tonight's game. Here's a photo from a few hours ago in Garret's hotel room.


UPDATED: 6:25 p.m. -- If you've never been to Philips Arena, you're missing it. Even the top row seats in the worst section don't look so bad. Because of the close proximities here, the game should be loud -- make that LOUD -- with whatever crowd they have here.

I just visited Garret's locker, which rests in the corner between the lockers of Marvin Williams and Maurice Evans. Underneath Garret's name is his college, Augusta State. The locker room facility is pretty sweet. Walk in and the coaches offices are on the right. A little further on, the players' locker room is on the left. A door that leads to a practice gym on the right. Keep going and you'll find a dining area along with a room where players can chill and play table tennis. Count me impressed.

Coach Mike Woodson didn't want to reveal all his cards, but he did say Garret should see some time tonight. Woodson -- a golf fan who's seeking a tee time at Augusta National Golf Club -- also confirmed Garret's still a work in progress, but he has a real shot at making the team. A good effort by the big fellow tonight would go a long way.

Game starts at 7:10 p.m. Check back later.  


7:22 p.m. -- Hawks lead the Hornets, 17-13, with 5:45 left in the first quarter. Garret is one of 17 players dressed out for Atlanta. Augusta State coach Dip Metress, who is attendance with assistants Robbie McKinlay and Pat Kiscaden, said Siler being dressed out usually means he'll see minutes.

"I hope he gets in tonight," Metress said. "I think he will."

Siller is currently sitting on the floor because there are only 11 seats on the bench. Rookie guard Jeff Teague, center Zaza Pachulia and guard Jamal Crawford all have come off the bench for the Hawks. 


7:42-- I saw Atlanta great Dominique Wilkins, VP of basketball, before the game. Man, he still looks like he could go out on the court and throw down one of those patented one-handed windmill dunks. I'll take him over the very petty Michael Jordan any day.

If you're a fan of organ music, you'll get a kick out of this. I just heard Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Um, different to say the least. Better than elevator music.

Hawks 32, Hornets 24, End of 1


Halftime: Hawks 62-36. Hopefully, the blowout means Garret will get some significant minutes soon.


2:49 left in third quarter -- Hawks 80-62. Regulars still in. Atlanta coach Mike Woodson hasn't gone to the end of the bench yet. And because you're wondering about the media food, I balked at the $5 cost for the buffet. Food didn't look that great. Instead, I just polished off some SpongeBob fruit snacks (My children will never know).


For what it's worth, Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia seems like a nice fellow.


End of 3, Hawks 85-73.  The few fans in attendance are heading for the exits. This place may have been one-third full at one point, but it is preseason on a school night.

Atlanta's second team has taken the floor. Guard Mike Wilks is on the floor. So 13 of 17 Hawks have played. 

C'mon, Woodson. Put Siler in the game.


GOOD OMEN? Garret has taken his long-sleeved pullover off, exposing his white jersey with the number '35.' There's 7:30 left in the game. Keep your fingers crossed. 

Woodson is showing Siler a play on his clipboard. The Hawks are coming out of a timeout and Siler's returned to the bench. I have a feeling he'll get in soon.


Siler's waiting in front of press row to get into the game. Timeout! With 5:57 left in the game. the big guy's about to go in.

5:30 left -- Siler took a pass inside but got fouled before he could dunk. He swished the first free throw but missed the second short.

2:52 left -- Siler's been trying some pick-and-roll plays. He got called for an illegal screen on the first one. He's been defended well on the others. He's yet to get a shot off.


Hawks 108-102, Final. Well, Hawks fans didn't get to see Garret's 'A' game tonight. He may have been nervous. At least he was in good spirits coming off the court, shaking fans' hands and signing an autograph for a young girl.

My unofficial tally for Garret: 0-for-0 FG, 1-for-2 FT, 1 point, 1 rebound, 2 fouls, no blocks. He forced a few missed shots. It's hard to gauge his performance because it came in trash time, but at least he got game experience.