Banks hoops trio put pen to paper

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If you were still wondering just how special Mike Cleveland’s Banks County boys basketball program was this past season, perhaps this brings it more into perspective…three of the starting five penned letters of intent to play at the next level.

Darius Bonds (guard), Gabe Martin (guard) and Dylan Orr (forward) all signed recently to play collegiate basketball. Bonds is heading to Bob Jones University, while Martin will play at Young Harris and Orr at UNG.

The seniors were part of Banks County’s winningest senior classes ever, going 96-21 since the 2014-15 season. Each year the Leopards have been a top-ten ranked team, including as high as #2 this past season. This includes three regular and/or tournament region championships (two tournament championships in 2016-17 and 2017-18) and four consecutive Sweet 16 runs.

Bonds, a stellar ball-handler and elite passer, averaged 9.4 pts, 7.8 ast, 3.4 reb, 2.2 stl and 1.1 blk per game in his senior year. Martin, who was lights out from long distance, connected on 43% of his 3-pointers. He closed with a stat line of 11.5 pts, 4.3 reb, 1.8 ast and 1.1 stl per contest.

Orr, a near 1,000-point scorer, was one of the most electrifying players in the state in punishing the rim on a nightly basis. The 2017-18 BLITZ Player of the Year had 22 double-doubles and four triple-doubles in an incredible season. He posted 16.1 pts, 12.4 reb, 4.8 blk, 1.5 ast and 1.8 stl per game.

The trio is just the latest to play college ball. They follow in the footsteps of Austin Venable (c/o 2015), Zez Steeple (c/o 2016) and Zac Orr (c/o 2016). Zac Orr is Dylan’s older brother and was a 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound player. Venable, Steeple and the elder Orr all eclipsed 1,000 career points, while Venable and Steeple were named BLITZ Player of the Year in their respective senior seasons.

Ironically, Venable, who played two seasons as Presbyterian College, transferred for this past season, his junior year, to Erskine, where Steeple and Zac Orr were playing. Steeple and Venable played alongside each other again this past season, but Steeple recently announced his transfer to UNG for his final two seasons – which means he will now team up with Dylan Orr once again.

It’s worth mentioning that another Banks great, Kahmal Wiley, the 2016-17 BLITZ Player of the Year, was also a 1,000-point scorer and set to continue his career before a tragic car accident that ended his playing career. Wiley still is involved in basketball, however.

Here are the recent Banks County basketball standouts who went on to play at the college level:

  • Jordan Barnett (’15) – Emmanuel College
  • Jacob Blalock (’12) – Young Harris College
  • Gatlin Boswell (’14) – Truett McConnell University
  • Darius Bonds (’18) – Bob Jones University
  • Gabe Martin (’18) – Young Harris College
  • Dylan Orr (’18) – University of North Georgia
  • Zac Orr (’16) – Erskine College
  • Kendrick Simmons (’16) – Emmanuel College
  • Zez Steeple (’16) – University of North Georgia / Erskine College
  • Austin Venable (’15) – Erskine College / Presbyterian College


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