CONYERS — Scott Avery’s desire for a change of scenery after his first three years of high school basketball paid dividends for the recent graduate Thursday afternoon.
Spending his first three years at Eastside, Avery made a switch to Heritage, where his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame was quickly put to use by head coach Vernon Denmark. Serving as a viable option off the Patriots’ bench, Avery’s services were rewarded with an offer from Oxnard College, one he graciously accepted.
“Oxnard came out of nowhere,” Avery said. “They surprised me. I told them that I wanted to go to their school and will do whatever it takes. I just want to go to college and play basketball. This is something that I love.”
After failing to land an offer worth pursuing in the months that followed Avery’s and the Patriots’ trip to the Class AAAAAA Final Four, his opportunity to play for the California-based junior college came down to a simple workout in Conyers.
“I wanted to find something late because my other options just didn’t work out,” Avery said. “I told myself that I might as well wait it out and see what happens. I went to a little workout and this coach texted me and asked if I wanted to play for him. I said, ‘yes, sir.’ I did what I had to do.”
While Avery’s senior season at Heritage failed to feature a double-digit scoring performance, it did lead to numerous strong defensive outings. In 28 games played, Avery recorded 19 blocks and secured seven or more rebounds on six different occasions off the bench.
“Scott’s energy and toughness was very infectious for us,” Denmark said. “There were a lot of games where we were in a little bit of a lul and he came out as a spark off the bench for us. In our very first playoff game at Richmond Hill, Scott played a big role for us.”
Denmark also praised his forward for his strong character as a person both on and off of the basketball court.
“He added a little bit of depth and size for us on the basketball court, but he was even more of an effect in the locker room,” Denmark said. “He was a very good kid and well manorable. Being able to give him an opportunity like he has now means a lot to me.”
Born and raised in the state of Georgia, Avery’s trip to California will be the furthest he has been away from the peach state. Which is both a scary and exciting thought, he said.
“I’ve never been outside of Georgia like that,” Avery said. “I’ve been to Florida and that’s about it. California has a great opportunity waiting for me there. I’m going to get to see some new things. It’s going to be a great experience.”
Playing mostly power forward at Heritage, talks with the Oxnard coaching staff will lead to an eventual position change for the big man.
“They want me to play the small forward position,” Avery said. “I’m naturally a power forward, but I told them that I can play the small forward position if they want me to. I’ll play whatever position that they need me to.”
Avery’s biggest learning curve with playing the new position was quite easy for him to point out.
“Ball handling,” Avery said. “Shooting wise, I’ve been working on that consistently ever since the basketball season ended. So ball handling at this point, it’s getting stronger.”
Already possessing great size and strength, Denmark thinks that two years of solid play for Avery will land him at a bigger school for his final two years of school.
“That’s what the hope is,” Denmark said. “I talked with their coach and he wants to look at developing Scott more into a wing and not just playing in the post. So if he learns how to step out on the floor and the fact that he already has a strong, physical presence, I think that will give him a great opportunity to go on and finish up his last two years at a big school.”
A humble Avery thanked the Heritage coaching staff Thursday before signing his National Letter of Intent surrounded by friends and family.
“It was a great opportunity,” Avery said on coming to Heritage. “Teammates, coaches, the entire staff, I appreciate all of them for all of the things that they’ve done for me. They helped me a lot.”
For Denmark, Avery marked the fourth member of the 2019 class at Heritage to continue their career at the next level. With the veteran coach set to take over the Stockbridge boys basketball program next season, watching his final Heritage class go out with a bang is extra special, he said.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Denmark said. “When I look at it and reflect on it, that’s why I do what I do. To try and give these guys an opportunity to play basketball at the next level and further their education. I’m really proud of the ones that I’ve sent on in the past and the ones that I’ve sent on in this class. Hopefully Scott might not be the last one that gets an opportunity out of this class.”