Harold Doby III smiled as he ran around the court, enjoying the first day of basketball practice Oct. 15 at Christenberry Fieldhouse.
Almost nine months ago, there were no smiles. No basketball. Instead, he wondered what went wrong.
The Georgia Regents junior forward found himself in jail on a gun charge that was eventually dropped. But the damage had already been done.
Doby spent three days in jail drinking juice and eating chips – instead of eating meals of bologna sandwiches. With his future uncertain, Doby tried to remain positive.
“That was one of my biggest life-changing moments,” he said. “I was just wondering what was next.”
What’s next for Doby now is sunshine and flowers compared to that day in January. In two weeks, he’ll play his first game since his arrest. In seven months, he’ll graduate with a communications degree.
But at the beginning of the year, his future was uncertain.
Jaguars coach Dip Metress has always said Doby is easy to coach. One of the reasons for that is his unselfishness. Doby doesn’t care to be the team’s leading scorer, he’d rather give an assist to a teammate.
That unselfishness came back to bite him Jan. 16. According to a Georgia Regents University incident report, police were called to the Jaguar Way apartment complex to investigate an earlier complaint of drugs. A maintenance employee called authorities after he went into the apartment to replace a bulb and found a marijuana grinder.
The students who live at the apartment – all members of the basketball team – were at practice when police arrived, but another man, Dorian O’Bryan Sabb, was there. Police asked Sabb to leave, at which time Sabb entered Doby’s room to get his belongings.
The report stated Sabb told police he had stashed marijuana under the bedsheets. Officers found 8.4 grams of marijuana. Sabb was issued a Richmond County citation for possession of marijuana and a criminal trespass warning from all Georgia Regents University properties.
Later, Doby consented to a search of his room. There, officers found a .38-caliber Colt revolver in a white sock between his mattress and boxspring. Police said the revolver was loaded with five bullets and one spent round. Doby was soon suspended from the basketball team and from school. After he was taken to jail, Doby said his initial bond was denied, leading to a longer stay.
“It’s a humbling experience,” he said. “It taught me that jail ain’t a place for me – the food, the environment. You’re in there with people who really have a problem, that really need that type of help in that environment. I wasn’t comfortable.”
Throughout, Doby maintained his innocence, stating the gun wasn’t his. He wasn’t even living in the apartment – he said he let his friend, Sabb, a former teammate of his at Laney, stay there. Doby lived with his mom in the inner-city Augusta home where he grew up.
Doby, 22, told authorities he owns a gun, one he has a permit for – a different gun than the one found in the apartment. He keeps his gun at his mom’s house for protection, he said.
“People read the news in the paper every day – people getting robbed, home invasions, murders,” Doby said. “Call the police and they don’t get there in time sometimes when your family needs help. You have to think safety.”
Doby said he wasn’t sure whose gun the authorities found. He added he’s only spoken to Sabb “from a distance” since the incident, and hasn’t asked Sabb whether that was his gun.
“I try not to speak on the past. That conversation really never came up,” Doby said. “To be in that situation and know that whoever it was, if they didn’t stick up for it then, it doesn’t matter now.”
Doby was deemed the responsible party because his name was on the room. And though it wasn’t his weapon, he still was at fault.
“He takes full blame for not knowing, but that is the campus rule,” Metress said. “If you have a weapon on campus, you’re dismissed from school and campus housing. Whether it’s yours or not, it doesn’t matter.”
Doby said: “When I told them it wasn’t mine, it was still mine because it was my room and my name’s on it and I’m supposed to be living there. ... They say you’re innocent until proven guilty, but they still lock you up before you’re proven guilty. I’m just happy we’re over it and everything was dropped.”
After leaving jail, Doby learned he was indefinitely suspended from the basketball program and banned from campus. He withdrew from school and began taking online classes.
“They could take basketball away from me, but they couldn’t stop my education,” he said. “That’s what helped me to keep pushing. That’s what kept me positive. I just kept praying.”
While education is a big deal for Doby, basketball has always been a part of his life. The only son of Cynthia Walker and Harold Doby Jr. – former Laney basketball players – the younger Doby played his first recreation game at age 7. At the same time, his father was sentenced to prison time on a drug conspiracy charge – he will be eligible for parole in 2025.
The two grew closer after the younger Doby spent time in jail. Now, he and his dad chat by phone or e-mail on a daily basis.
“He’s big on this friends thing. That’s why he’s in the situation he’s in,” Doby said. “He’s always in my ear now about making good choices.”
His mother, who Doby calls his biggest critic, also distills regular advice. She said one of her son’s faults is he’s too unselfish.
“His heart always wants to go out to people,” she said. “He’ll always give his shirt to someone if they need it. I tell him he has to take care of himself. You have to watch the company you keep. Sometimes, people who can be for you can also be against you.”
With his easy smile and workmanlike effort on the court, Doby has made plenty of friends since his days starring at Laney, where he earned Region 3-AA co-MVP honors his junior season. After playing a year at Oldsmar Christian, a prep school in Florida, he signed on to play at Division I Georgia State. Before his sophomore campaign, he returned to Augusta to play for his hometown school.
Doby has started all 38 games of his career with the Jaguars. The team won its first six games last season, climbed as high as No. 12 in the Division II rankings and was 8-3 until Doby’s arrest.
At the time, he averaged 11.8 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds a game. But without their 6-foot-6, 205-pound forward, the Jaguars had little inside presence and lost 10 of their final 16 games.
Doby said he’d watch games online, but only portions. The pain of the situation, he said, was too much.
“Last season was like a roller coaster. We started going up, got to the peak and just dropped,” Doby said. “To see it all go down the drain in a split-second hurt.”
In May, Doby was exonerated of the gun charge and was allowed to return to campus. He took a summer class at the school and immediately returned to basketball activities. During his suspension he worked to improve his weaknesses, especially his shooting range. He said he now feels more comfortable making shots up to 15 feet.
When the Jaguars play Tusculum at 7 p.m. Nov. 9, Walker said her son will have about 100 friends and family supporting him. Also in the stands likely will be Doby’s 4-year-old daughter, Laziyah, a source of inspiration for him through the entire ordeal.
“She helped me stay up through the situation,” Doby said. “I couldn’t be down. I just had to stay positive and keep a smile on my face for her.”
Doby said he understands opponents aren’t going to be as kind to him as his daughter. When the Jaguars play this season, he wants to show everyone he’s matured and won’t get rattled by a little taunting. Besides, the worst is behind him.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove,” he said. “I want to show people I can stay straight through the entire season and not let little things get to me. I know I’m going to have a lot of challenges this season with fans and even players. I need to show them they’re not going to bother me. I’m going to keep playing and keep pushing.”