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Davis: Beastly ballers make big impression
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A beast, in sports lingo, is a no holds barred type of player.

The term isn’t necessarily indicative of someone with a big body, but of someone with a big will.

Jerome Bettis, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was a beast. He wasn’t the fastest and he certainly wasn’t the quickest, but he was a stubborn runner.

Tiger Woods is a beast, as evidenced by his performance in the U.S. Open last year. Woods has won plenty of championships and throwing in the towel when hobbled by a knee injury would have been understandable. Instead, his competitive spirit willed him to a win.

In high school basketball, it’s usually the finesse players that standout: the shooters, passers and steal-happy perimeter defenders.

The beasts, however, are the difference between winning and losing.

In Gainesville’s impressive dismantling of No. 3 Franklin County last Tuesday, Red Elephants’ big men Nick and A.J. Johnson were paint dominators.

While Blake Sims and George Manomano were doing the scoring, the Johnsons were making sure the Lions got only one shot per possession and doing just the opposite on the offensive end.

When the game was over, Gainesville coach Todd Cottrell made no bones about the importance of his two starting inside players.

He was also quick to point out that it isn’t just their play that makes them special.

"The most important thing about Nick and A.J. is that they are great young men," Cottrell said.

"Did they hit shots when they needed to? Yes. Did they do a great job rebounding? Yes.

"But they’re coachable young men who want nothing more than to win."

The Johnsons have a will, a desire and a toughness. You’ll never see one or the other take a possession off and they never ask to come out.

They’re unfazed by the prototypical basketball player who garners accolades, like Franklin County’s Georgia commit DeMario Mayfield.

Nick and A.J. Johnson are beasts whose only goal is winning, and they play as though nothing else matters each and every game.

West Hall’s Shunquez Stephens is an interesting kind of beast.

As a perimeter player, a position known for the aforementioned finesse, a shot doesn’t leave his hand without perfect rotation and arc.

Nor does it leave without the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Stephens barreling after it, on the off chance it clanks off the rim and needs rebounding.

It’s that hustle, that incessant need to leave nothing to chance, that makes Stephens a beast.

Chestatee’s Lamar Brooks will never be the tallest player on the court, nor the most agile.

What he brings to his team is a mentality, a beastly mentality.

Brooks is one year removed from a season-ending knee injury which not only required surgery, but also requires him to wear a bulky brace.

The knee injury keeps Brooks from being as quick as he could have been without it and the brace limits his lateral movement, but neither can touch his mentality, and there isn’t a game he plays in that he doesn’t dive for at least one loose ball.

In case the trend has gone unnoticed, the mentality of a football player translates to the basketball court.

Luckily for us, those who enjoy watching beastly determination trump pure skill, football players play basketball too.

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