Originally created 07/03/96

Avery stands by decision



William Avery never feared the long days in the classroom, in the weight room and on the court. Discipline and a structured atmosphere is something he now admits he desperately needs to fulfill his hoop dreams.

"It was a hard decision to make, but I know it was best for me to change my environment," said Avery, the heavily recruited Augusta basketball product who transferred from Westside High to Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., two weeks ago. "I wanted to finish my career at Westside, but I want to play college basketball more than anything. I needed to come here to make it."

Considered by recruiting experts to be the top high school senior point guard in the nation, Avery departs Westside after an illustrious, yet shortened three-year career. During his tenure, the Patriots went 84-8 and won a state championship in 1995.

Avery also leaves behind new Westside head coach Marvin Fields, named as Ken Wright's successor last month.

Wright left in May to accept a Gatlinburg, Tenn., prep coaching job, after leading Westside to a 113-33 record in five seasons.

"I'm sorry he's going, I would have liked the chance to coach him," said Fields. "All I can say now that it opens up an opportunity for a younger player to step up and help this program rebuild."

The 17-year-old Avery said he decided to leave home and redirect his focus on his grades. Avery's grade point average currently would not qualify under NCAA eligibility guidelines.

"Basketball is very important to me, but grades are top priority now," Avery said. "It was hard leaving my mom and getting used to the environment here at first, but I`m really happy now. Coach (Steve) Smith and everybody here have been good to me, and I actually appreciate the discipline."

Avery's busy summer schedule at Oak Hill includes a pair of three-hour long classes, mandatory evening study hall sessions, and several hours on the court and in the weight room with coach Steve Smith.

Though his grades have affected his stock as a blue-chip recruit, Avery said he plans to qualify for Duke, which he says has emerged as the frontrunner for his collegiate services.

Though he earlier expressed an interest in each ACC school, as well as Kentucky and Syracuse, the 6-foot-2 star's visit to the Duke campus last month for the Bob Gibbons/Nike Tournament of Champions explains his recent leaning toward the Blue Devils.

"I loved the atmosphere there," Avery said. "Right now, that's where I want to go to school and graduate from."

For Smith, who has led Oak Hill to a USA Today national prep ranking in the top 11 in each of his 11 seasons, Avery's decision was a welcomed surprise.

"He's a great kid who wants to do extremely well in everything he does," Smith said. "He has shown me that he is very dedicated to doing well in the classroom now that he's here. His drive on the basketball court has always been a given."

Oak Hill finished last season with a 32-4 record, and a No. 11 ranking in the final USA Today poll. The school's list of famous alumni include Portland TrailBlazers guard Rod Strickland, and former North Carolina star Jerry Stackhouse, now with Philadelphia.

The team plays an extensive road schedule and, last season, traveled to nine states, including Nevada and California.

"Playing basketball on a national level is something that definitely attracted me to Oak Hill as well," Avery said. "I think that is also very important to get me ready for college."

As for his plans for the remainder of the summer, Avery will return to Augusta later this month for the Nike Peach Basket Classic, July 25-27. He leaves for Indianapolis this Saturday to attend the renowned Nike Camp, July 8-12. He also plans a trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the Adidas Summer Shootout July 27, and said he may play for the Georgia Stars AAU team in the national 17-and-under AAU tournament in Charlotte, N.C., July 15-21.