Originally created 11/10/05

Butler standout opts for South Carolina



Austin Steed, the big fish in the Augusta area talent pool for the NCAA's early signing period for perspective athletes, was landed Wednesday at Butler High School.

The 6-foot-8 Steed signed his letter-of-intent to play college basketball at South Carolina. The sleek forward prospect will join 2004 Josey standout Dominique Archie in Columbia next fall.

Steed, who likes to play away from the basket, blocked 15 shots in a game last year as a junior.

"Their staff has been real high on him," Butler coach Rob Johnson said. "The whole Carolina staff came down and evaluated him last year."

Steed's teammate, Brenton Harris, signed with Peach Belt Conference member Lander on Wednesday. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior averaged nine points and eight rebounds last year.

The other high-profile area signing this week is expected today at Greenbrier. Standout Rich Poythress will sign a letter-of-intent to take his first baseman's mitt and bat to Georgia.

Harris and Steed weren't the only top hoops players to sign during the beginning of the early signing period. Cross Creek center Shay Rawls signed her grant-in-aid papers with Georgia State on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-2 Rawls averaged 17 points and 15 rebounds per game last year.

She isn't the only area athlete excited to play for the Panthers and go to school in downtown Atlanta.

Westside catcher Bradley Logan had a great fall on the showcase circuit that picked right up where he left off in the Class AA state baseball playoffs last June.

Logan is expected to sign to play college baseball for Georgia State next week.

Cross Creek outfielder Kyle Rice is also expected to sign with USC Aiken next week.

Silver Bluff pitching ace Matt Key also accepted an offer to play for USC Aiken with a signing at the school Wednesday.

RECOVERING RED DEVILS: Lincoln County quarterback Brandon Barden looked fine at practice on Tuesday.

He was hobbled against Jefferson during the first round of the playoffs with the same high-ankle sprain that has pestered his game all season.

Junior Ricardo Norman is the bigger concern. The defensive back and running back went head-to-head on a first quarter interception try with teammate Darrell Norman. He's questionable this week against Gordon Lee.

"We'll have to get approval from his doctor and his mother to play him Friday," Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell said.

This week's opponent is 6-5. But the Trojans have been tested by both Bowdon and Bremen teams, two of the best in Class A, earlier this year.

"A lot of people are going to be fooled because Gordon Lee has lost five games," Campbell said. "But all five teams they lost to are still in the playoffs. Their region is the only region in Class A football where all four teams won and advanced to the second round. That's the only region in any classification that I know of that won all four."

Campbell said Gordon Lee looks similar to the Trion team that it took a late touchdown pass on a post-corner route from Travis Clark to win in the 2003 state semifinals in the Georgia Dome .

PEP TALK: Some of the fire Thomson displayed in its first-round playoff game came from Athens, Ga. But it was born and bred in Thomson.

Thomson's Danny Verdun Wheeler, a 2003 Thomson alumnus and current Georgia Bulldog, was invited by coach Luther Welsh to speak to the team before last Friday's game.

Wheeler's words involved the pride in playing for Thomson and what it meant to a young man who now plays for the Georgia Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference.

"He said he at least equated playing in Sanford Stadium to playing in the Brickyard at Thomson," Thomson assistant coach John Barnett said.

"He said a lot of great things to the team. I told him after he spoke that I'd never been prouder of him."

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com.