It was a perfect match.
A disgruntled basketball player coming to a basketball program in discontent.
And when former University of New Mexico guard Kavossy "Scoot" Franklin came to Augusta State last August, something clicked. Maybe it was magic.
Franklin, the only senior on the team, has helped transform the program and put the Jaguars (17-8, 13-2 Peach Belt) in position to win their first-ever Peach Belt Athletic Conference title.
"My expectations were to turn this team around," said the 23-year-old Franklin, who proudly displays a "Scoot" tattoo on his upper right arm -- a nickname his father gave him as an infant. "Coming from a Division I program, I wanted to be a leader and inspire these players."
It was on Dec. 12 when the Jaguars saw how much of an inspiration Franklin would be. He poured in a Peach Belt and Augusta State record of 49 points as the Jaguars defeated North Florida 124-120 in double overtime.
For his efforts in that game, Franklin won his first of two Peach Belt Player of the Week honors. Currently, he stands as one of the top candidates for Peach Belt Player of the Year.
Franklin is ranked in the PBAC's top ten in eight categories. He is second in scoring (20.7 points per game), second in free-throw percentage (81 percent), third in assists (4.64), third in assist-turnover ratio (1.71), fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (43 percent), sixth in 3-point field goals made per game (2.28), tenth in steals (1.84) and tenth in field goal percentage (51 percent).
But a year ago, no one could see this coming. Not even Franklin, especially after two disheartening years at New Mexico. During his first year, he broke his foot. His second year, the 1996-97 season, he redshirted while trying to find that confidence with which he once was brimming.
"I guess after I broke my foot, I just lost a lot of confidence in my game," he said.
So, he decided to take a year off from the game he loved.
"My eligibility as far as Division I was up," he said. "I could have went to a couple more Division II schools that were calling. But I just wasn't ready to play for any teams. At New Mexico, things didn't go as I expected. I just didn't have any confidence as far as playing for another coach."
But before this season began, his wife was transferred to Fort Gordon and Franklin soon found a home.
"Before I wrote coach (Gary) Tuell on the Internet, I sat down and talked it over with a couple of friends," Franklin said. "I just wanted to evaluate whether I was ready for this. If I did go to any school, it didn't matter if I came here or not, my main thing was to just to have fun and play.
"When I was at New Mexico, those years weren't fun years; they were frustrating years. It didn't matter where I went, I just wanted to have fun. Plus, it was my last year playing and I just wanted to have a smile on my face, and better yet, a smile in my heart knowing that I went out and did all that I could to help my team."
And that team, which was picked to finish 11th out of 12 teams in a preseason PBAC poll, has surprised everyone by winning the PBAC North Division. Augusta State also is in position to receive its first Division II Tournament bid since the 1977-78 season. Those accomplishments have been aided by the confidence Franklin has supplied.
"If it's close late in the game, with Kavossy in there, they don't feel they can lose," Augusta State coach Gary Tuell said. "And that's kind of how the Bulls played with Michael Jordan. When you have Jordan you don't worry about things at the end of the game. You know he can get it done. And we feel that way with Scoot."
When the season ends, Franklin will finish his communications degree -- but not at Augusta State.
"When I transferred here I had a lot of credit hours taken away from me," he said. "So it wouldn't allow me to graduate this May. So I'm going to try and transfer back to New Mexico in the summer and finish up my degree."
From there, he has his heart set on playing basketball at the professional level.
"If I can just get a chance, I feel I can go in there and open up some eyes. I still have some things I need to work on. But I feel like if I can get them intact I can survive on the professional level."
And wherever Franklin goes, Tuell hopes Augusta State always will be in his heart.
"It's been a great marriage for the both of us," Tuell said. "When he looks back on everything, I'm hoping that he thinks of us first and that we're his first love."
Chris Gay can be reached at (706) 868-1222 or email@example.com.
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