2009-10 WILLIE BOSTON AWARD WINNERS: Three of a kind, Part 1 (INCLUDES: Herald All-Area, All-Metro Boys Basketball Team)

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

Go ahead and try to label Robert Arnold.

Take your time. Think about it.

What ... can't do it?

Don't feel alone, because anyone who saw Arnold play for Monroe's boys basketball team knows there is simply no way to define Arnold on the court.

That's the kind of season Arnold had, the kind you don't forget. No player carried any team in Southwest Georgia the way Arnold carried Monroe.

Sure, you can look at his 19.5 points a game and his 11 rebounds a night, but those numbers don't begin to tell Arnold's story, because he gave Monroe everything, and anything on every given night.

And that's why he's the 2010 Albany Herald Willie Boston Player of the Year for boys basketball.

"I just tried to do whatever I could to help the team win,'' Arnold said.

No one would argue that -- especially not his coach.

"He was the glue of Monroe High School basketball this season,'' Monroe coach Marquis Davis said. "When he played well, we played well.''

Not even Davis could pinpoint just what Arnold does on the court.

"He's just a complete player,'' Davis said. "There are very few times you can say someone is just a player, but he is. I always tell people, he's not a guard, he's not a forward, he's not a center. He's a player -- a true basketball player. He's just a complete player. It's very rare you can say that.''

There are so many snapshots of Arnold this season, doing all the little things, and big things, to push Monroe past opponents. He's the biggest reason Monroe ripped off a 20-0 start and spent a good part of the season ranked No. 1 in the Class AAA state poll and spent all but two weeks at No. 1 in The Herald's Top 5.

He was a force all over the court, a power forward who not only dominated the glass and made teams pay inside, but Arnold could go outside, pull up and hit smooth jumpers, or drive to the basket. He was that versatile, and always played bigger than his 6-foot-4 height.

You could also see Arnold diving for loose balls or making steals at midcourt and then leading a fastbreak.

"Rarely do you find guys who will make the sacrifices and do well, but he did,'' Davis said. "At the beginning of the season we had him at the 2 (shooting guard) and the 3 (small forward) and he ended up playing the power forward for us.''

Davis knew from the beginning Arnold was going to make a difference at Monroe. After all, Arnold's older brother, Alexander Johnson -- a former FSU star who recently signed a deal with the Houston Rockets on Monday -- was the Herald's Player of the year when he played at Dougherty. Arnold was in Houston two years ago and then moved back to Albany for his junior year in high school.

"When he came to us last year -- after the first practice -- I knew we had something special because of his tenacity,'' Davis said. "You could see it right away. He is one of the hardest workers I've ever had in practice.''

It was that unrelenting desire to win that drove Arnold, who found different ways to beat teams all season. He won at least four games with crucial free throws in the final seconds, and even though he had never taken a 3-pointer, he launched one in the final minute against Terrell County to lift Monroe into the lead and an eventual 41-37 victory.

"I just felt I had to take the shot,'' said Arnold, who was always looking for a way to win.

That 3-pointer and Arnold's ability to nail down free throws to win games added to his reputation as a go-to guy no matter what the situation.

"There were (three or four games) where he was on the line at the end of the game and he knocked down free throws for us to win,'' Davis said. "That shows he's a prime-time player. He's definitely a clutch player.''

He was a clutch player in every big game, though ironically his finest game might have been in a loss -- Monroe's first of the season, which came against rival Westover. No one could have blamed Arnold, who was the best player on the court that night. He scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and was, at times, unstoppable while leading Monroe runs all evening.

Arnold helped Monroe reach the second round of the playoffs, where the Tornadoes lost a one-point game to unbeaten and No. 1 ranked LaGrange, which eventually played for the state title.

"We accomplished a lot, but we didn't accomplish what we wanted, a state title. That was a tough loss (to LaGrange)," said Arnold, who is still undecided what college he will play for. "It was a good year."

It was a memorable year at Monroe with the 20-0 start, first regular-season top state ranking and the buzz about how this team might have been good enough to win the state title. And in the middle of it all was Arnold.

"I've told people you can put him on the court with four other guys and he will find his way,'' Davis said. "I kind of hate to call him a blue-collar player because people tend to look at that the wrong way, but he is a special player. He had a great attitude, and great character. I will really miss him.''



First Team

Devon Baulkmon, Bainbridge

6-foot-4, Junior, Forward

WHY HE'S HERE: This is a no-brainer. Just a junior, Baulkmon put the surprising Bearcats on his shoulders and led them to the Class AAAA Final Four with one big effort after another. He averaged a double-double for the season (21 points and 10 rebounds a game) while helping Bainbridge run off a 20-game winning streak, and he was even better in the playoffs. Just look at his game against Evans in the second round when Baulkmon led the comeback by scoring 20 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter. He later scored 23 in Bainbridge's 50-46 state semifinal loss to Mays.

Alre'k Brown, Terrell County

6-foot-6, Senior, Center

WHY HE'S HERE: Was there a better shot-blocker during the state playoffs than Brown? It's hard to imagine anyone swatting away shots the way he did as he helped lead the Greenwave to the Final Four. He blocked eight shots against No. 1 ranked Wilkinson County in the state quarterfinals and then came right back to block nine shots against Whitefield Academy in the Final Four. Brown, who was an inside force for the Greenwave in every game, finished with a double-double season, averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds a game and averaging 5.5 blocks in 2009-10 -- and 7.0 blocks throughout the state tournament.

Terel Hall, Terrell County

5-foot-11, Junior, Guard

WHY HE'S HERE: His courageous performance in the state semifinals when he played for almost three quarters on one leg after falling and twisting his knee in the opening minute of the second quarter against Whitefield Academy would have been enough to get him on this team. But there was so much more to Hall's season as he proved over and over to be one of the best point guards in this part of the state. His quickness and court awareness was at the heart of the Greenwave's run to the Final Four. He simply tore down some of the best pressure defenses in the state, running the offense and scoring with blink-of-the-eye drives, and shredding defenses with highlight-tape passes. Hall averaged 10 points, four steals and seven assists per game -- including his unforgettable game-winning pass to Markez Dotson, who scored at the buzzer to beat Greenville, 76-75, in the second round of the playoffs in Dawson.

Onochie Ochie, Westover

6-foot-6, Senior, Forward

WHY HE'S HERE: Nobody in Southwest Georgia dunks like Ochie, but that's not the only reason he's on this team. Ochie came back from a serious fall (Jan. 8) against Monroe and a shoulder injury to help lead Westover to the Final Four. He's smooth around the basket, and stepped up against taller opponents in the Patriots' run at state. Ochie, who signed with Southeast Louisiana early, finished the season averaging 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks a game.

Malcolm Sapp, Westover

6-foot-3, Junior, Forward

WHY HE'S HERE His 16-points-a-game scoring average doesn't begin to tell the story, because no one shoots better in the big game than Sapp, who always seemed to be at his best in the big showdowns. He scored 47 points in Westover's two victories against Monroe, and scored 21 -- including 20 in the second half -- in Westover's 67-62 overtime victory against South Atlanta in the Elite Eight. Then he fired in 18 in the Patriots' 65-58 semifinal loss to eventual state champ Columbia, which was arguably the best team in Georgia, regardless of class.

Arabian Williams, Dougherty

5-foot-7, Senior, Guard

WHY HE'S HERE: It's impossible to keep the quick-silver point guard off this team, just like it's impossible to stop him on the court at times. His quickness, ball-handling skills and court savvy are the heart of Dougherty's fast-paced offense, and he was a big reason the Trojans marched to the Elite Eight. Williams averaged 17 points and four rebounds (yes, even at 5-foot-7, he grabbed four rebounds a game), while handing out five assists and making three steals a night.

Second team

Kentavius Silas, Mitchell County, Senior

Devario Thomas, Bainbridge, Senior

Justin Harris, Bainbridge, Senior

Will Martin, Miller County, Senior

Knyhiah Zachary, Calhoun County, Senior

Deonte Fulks, Americus-Sumter, Senior


First Team

Josh Alford, Worth County

6-foot-3, Senior, Guard

WHY HE'S HERE: Alford was the leader and leading scorer for the Rams all season, and carried his team every game. Alford opened the season with a 30-point night against Colquitt County and then poured in 27 in the next game against Lee County. He later had a career-high 31 points against Perry. Alford averaged 20.1 points and four rebounds a game and almost two steals a night.

Macarthur Gaines, Dougherty

6-foot-1, Junior, Guard

WHY HE'S HERE: All you had to do was look at the way Dougherty improved down the stretch. Gaines emerged as a scoring threat, and was inspirational during Dougherty's drive in the state playoffs. He averaged 16 points per game, but averaged more than 20 in the post season, helping lead the Trojans to the Elite Eight.

Second team

Brandon Johnson, Monroe, Senior

Chris Wheeler, Westover, Senior

Shevren Keaton, Westover, Senior

Brandon Blakely, Monroe, Senior

Markez Dotson, Terrell County, Junior

Michael Matthews, DWS, Senior

Reggie Brown, DWS, Senior

BOYS Coach of the Year

John Davis, Terrell County

WHY HE'S HERE: The Greenwave lost seven seniors from the 2009 team that made it to the Elite Eight and no one thought this year's team -- which had only one senior starter -- had a chance to do much. But Davis did a remarkable job and said this was his most gratifying year as a coach. The Greenwave faced one giant obstacle after another, but just outplayed some of the top-ranked teams in the state, beating then-fifth-ranked Lanier to win the Region 1-A title, then toppling state-ranked Greenville (also No. 5 at the time of this win) in the second round of the playoffs before shocking everyone in Georgia with a victory over unbeaten No. 1 ranked Wilkinson to earn a trip to the Final Four.

Before his team faced Wilkinson, Davis said: "I know it's David and Goliath. I hope we have a pretty good slingshot.''

The Greenwave did. They also had a pretty good coach to sling the rock. Davis was not only inspirational in the way he drove his team, but his players exemplified class and dignity that came straight from their coach, and handled a bitter overtime loss in the Final Four in which four Terrell County players fouled out and another was knocked out of the game by a vicious elbow, with the kind of class that Davis displayed day in and day out.

Coach of the Year RUNNER-UP

Gordy Gruhl, Deerfield-WIndsor

WHY HE'S HERE: Gruhl was named the GISA Coach of the Year after winning the Class AAA state title and leading his team to a 28-1 record. He did an incredible job this season, not only molding a machine that made it look all too easy at times, but pushing his team over the top to the state title that had recently eluded DWS. After all, the Knights had been in the last two state title games and the last four Final Fours without a title before this year.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If a Herald All-Area basketball player is also considered one of the best in metro Albany, his or her stats will not be duplicated on the highlight list -- it is merely inferred that they also made the All-Metro Team. Players of the Year -- Robert Arnold for the boys, Destiny Mitchell and Alexis Burke for the girls -- stand alone with their honors and do not appear on the lists, which are in alphabetical order.