East Hamilton Sees First Basketball Signee Head to Georgia Northwestern

           

(Hamilton County, Tennessee) – Now enjoying his summer vacation, standing tall at 6-foot-9, this basketball veteran is still without his first NBA title. However, still in his late 20’s, there are things East Hamilton High School’s Boy’s Head Basketball Coach Michael Stone would rather have than the world championship which continues to escape NBA star LeBron James. The one which currently means the most is the signing of his school’s first-ever collegiate basketball signee in Hurricane student-athlete Brandon Pratt.

            “He’s the first of our student-athletes to make the decision to head to college and play collegiate ball,” said Stone. “At East Hamilton, we’ve had a lot of firsts in our two years of existence. This is a first I’m extremely proud of.” Pratt is a six-foot-tall guard who holds the career assist record for the young school. Planning to become a coach one day himself, Pratt will be enrolling in the Early Childhood Education program at GNTC.

            Pratt’s decision is an all too familiar one for Coach Stone. Ten years ago, Stone was a skyscraping forward for North Georgia Christian School. NGCS is a private school whose basketball program made history during his years of play. At the helm in those three seasons between 1998 and 2001 was a younger David Stephenson; the current head coach of Georgia Northwestern Technical College. And you guessed it, GNTC is the same college East Hamilton’s Pratt has now signed with.

            “I’ve known Coach Stephenson since the seventh grade,” said Coach Stone. “If you go in my office today, you’ll find a picture of my signing day. In the picture, you will see Coach Stephenson on one side of me and my coach from Bryan (College) on the other side. I’m really happy Brandon will be playing for him, too.” Stone signed his letter of intent and received a scholarship to begin attending Bryan College in the fall of 2001.

            In 1998, when Pratt was only five years old, his high school coach was a high school sophomore at NGCS and one of the cornerstones of a Stephenson squad that made it to national tournament play. Running rough shot in their conference, NGCS went a perfect 22-0 before receiving their invite on the national level. “We weren’t able to accept the invite in our classification due to conflicts,” said Stephenson. “However, the decision was made to extend us an invite for a final slot in a larger classification which played at a later date.”

            Stone and Stephenson would see their squad go 2-1 versus the larger schools at the national tournament, ending their season at a historic 24-1. “I saw Michael (Stone) dunk for the first time in a game during our third-place game at that tournament. That’s a great memory.” If that’s not enough of a basketball circle of life, Michael’s dad, Duke, also had basketball in his blood. He once played collegiate basketball at the former Tomlinson College located in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Fast forward 13 years to a East Hamilton High School squad which went 10-18 in their second season of play in Tennessee’s tough District 6-AA. “Brandon’s been a part of a different kind of historic run as he’s helped build this new program,” said Stone. “He brings a mentality most others his age haven’t developed yet. It’s his quiet leadership. He has this steadiness about him.” When asked what he’ll remember ten years from now about Pratt, Stone said he’ll remember that he always worked hard and was extremely confident and mature for his age.

Walking the halls with Pratt on his signing day, there was no shortage of classmates congratulating him. From football players doing indoor drills to fellow ball players helping run a basketball camp for grade-schoolers inside the gym he helped make history in, you immediately sense a lot of pride in Pratt’s decision to continue his career. “I’m proud of you, man,” shouts out a classmate.

“He’s set the bar for future student-athletes here,” said Stone. “It’s going to be nice to point to the wall and show his picture from his signing day and be able say he was able to move to the next level. You can shoot for it, too.” Of the seven seniors the Hurricanes carried on the roster this past season, Pratt is the only one who made the decision to continue his career and head to college. “I couldn’t be more proud that it’s Brandon,” said Stone. “It’s great for everyone involved. It shows incredible decision-making ability on his part.”

East Hamilton High School’s (TN) Brandon Pratt is his school’s first-ever collegiate basketball signee. The Hurricane standout is pictured center with Georgia Northwestern Men’s Head Basketball Coach David Stephenson, left, and East Hamilton Boy’s Head Basketball Coach Michael Stone, right. Standing from left are C.J. Pratt, Brandon’s older brother, and Claudius Pratt, Brandon’s father.

            Pratt also has a lot of support from a strong family. However, he doesn’t get a lot of competition from his siblings. “I’m the only one that does athletics,” said Pratt. When asked what part his family has played in his high school career, Pratt said with a chuckle, “Well, they know where the gym is.” He quickly added, “They really do support me, though.”

            For a young man who says his favorite memory on the court was actually a game-winning buzzer-beater that a teammate hit, you get a sense that Brandon Pratt is truly someone who puts others first. “Not a bad character trait for someone who wants to be a teacher and a coach,” said Stephenson. “He really carries himself with confidence. He proved what Coach Stone had already told me before I got a chance to meet him. He brings ability under pressure. That’s something most freshman don’t have coming in to the program.”

            Stephenson enters his 25th year of coaching this season. Currently, he has 474 career wins at only 44 years of age.  “We’d almost have to run the table for me to hit 500 this year,” said Stephenson. “I’m more concerned with getting a group of young men who are hoping to better themselves and proudly represent our college and our communities. The wins will come with time.”

            If the past 25 years have taught Stephenson anything, it’s that good people outweigh good players on his roster. “Coach Stone has incredible character,” said Stephenson. “Because of that, if Michael (Stone) says he has a student I should take a look at for our program then that carries a lot of weight coming from him. He definitely knows what to look for when it comes to character.”

            Official tryouts for men’s and women’s varsity basketball at Georgia Northwestern will take place after the fall semester begins this August. Practices will begin October 1. Lady Cats Volleyball will soon announce its first dates for tryouts and scheduling in the coming weeks. All Cats Country athletic information is available on the GNTC.edu website.

              For more information on Bobcats and Lady Cats Basketball and Lady Bobcats Volleyball programs at Georgia Northwestern, contact the Office of Sports Information at 706-764-3813. You may also e-mail Don Foley in the Office of Sports Information at dfoley@gntc.edu. For more information on Georgia Northwestern Technical College, visit their website at GNTC.edu.