Great Gifts for Father’s Day

May 31, 2019 (Atlanta, GA):  Father’s Day is just around the corner.  Have you found the perfect gift for your dad yet? If not, check out some of our favorites here.

Sock Fancy: here’s one you might not have heard of before.  Sock Fancy is a sock subscription service. The socks are super high quality and have fun designs that any dad would love.  You sign up for one or two socks each month for a 3, 6 or 12 month term.  They come in a cool package with the socks hand selected by the Sock Fancy team.  The company is based here in Atlanta, so support a cool local business and give a gift that keeps on giving.

Shop here and use coupon code BTG to get a free extra pair for your father.

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Fanatics: does your dad love the UGA Bulldogs? Or maybe it’s another team for him?  Fanatics has the best selection of licensed college shirts, jerseys, and much more.

Shop here and get great deals.

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NFL Shop: maybe your father is a huge Falcons fan?  Or is there another team that he pledges his loyalty to?  Whatever team your dad loves, you can get amazing gear at NFL Shop.  They have the best selection and prices.

Buy here and let your father show his colors.

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MLS Store: who’s the hottest team in the ATL?  Well its got to be the Atlanta United. They have come to town and blown people away with their unreal game day experience.  Deck your dad out with the hottest ATL United gear today.

Shop now and get free shipping on orders over $49.

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NBA Store: the NBA playoffs are in full swing now.  Whether your father likes the Warriors or the Raptors or if he wants to support the resurgent Hawks, the NBA Store has all the coolest gear.

Shop here for exclusive playoff gear and much more.

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Did we miss out on your favorite gift for dad? Let us know what else you think fathers around Atlanta will love.

Callaway’s full-court press on life paces Mundy’s Mill success on court and in classroom

By: Rob Grubbs — sportalspace contributor

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The phrase “32 Minutes of Havoc” is not a gimmick or fancy motto for tee-shirts, it is a way of life for Mundy’s Mill Head Basketball Coach Dwight Callaway. Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas during the heyday of Razorback Head Coach Nolan Richardson’s career made lasting impressions in all facets of Callaway’s life and coaching style. When you spend time around him, his infectious personality jumps out and grabs your attention. Although the phrase in its basic form means full court pressure defense for all 32 minutes of a high school basketball game, to Callaway and his Mundy’s Mill Tigers, it is so much more.

Now in his third season at the school, Callaway has a deep and talented roster that plays his style up and down the court. The Tigers have star power in seniors Rayquan Brown and Jordan Black and junior Jalen Thrash, but the story is much richer than just wins on the court. It is about a man who took over an up-and-down program with a vision and plan to execute. While X’s and Os’ are important on game day, more important is the attitude that Callaway instills into his young men that goes beyond basketball.

Whatever it Takes Philosophy

While he is a coach, he is an educator first, he teaches Advanced Placement classes, the highest-level Mundy’s Mill offer, in Psychology and Government and he is also Gifted certified. He pushes his players to take those classes because there is a direct correlation between academic success and athletic success.

During the season, he wears multiple hats, he often DJs games played before his game starts, he washes uniforms, films the 9th grade boys’ game and constantly promotes Mundy’s Mill basketball. He currently has a full program, including the varsity, junior varsity and ninth grade teams, along with a coaching staff that he mentors. Last Thursday night he was in the top row filming and encouraging the ninth-grade team while coaching at the same time. “They recognize my voice even from up here,” he mentions as he offers encouragement to the point guard who nods back at him. Minutes later, one of his game day assistants comes to him with an issue about a fan who didn’t want to pay to enter the game. The challenges never stop, and Callaway would have it no other way.

A Man and His Families  

While coaching takes up a lot of time and the team becomes an extended family, Callaway has a homelife to be envious of. He lives only minutes from the school and spends a lot of time at the gym, especially in season, but he also has a family and his face brightens when he talks about his wife, Martina and their two daughters, Layla and Calliope. They met while both were teaching at Riverdale High School and then were reintroduced while at Lovejoy.

Of his wife, Callaway shared, “She where I get a lot of my foundation from. She is my backbone. She comes to all the games, she loves the kids, she backs what I do and supports it, which makes it easier for me to do what I do. She helps me be a smarter and better person.” She was even at the game Friday night with a fractured foot, there to cheer for her husband and her team, “She is my biggest fan,” is how Callaway summed it up.

His daughters are also athletes, Layla a softball player at MD Roberts Middle School and Calliope a soccer player. They enjoy competition, it is their family thing.

Leadership by Example

“I am basically just a Coach Carter here at Mundy’s Mill,” Callaway said, in reference to the movie character played Samuel L. Jackson. Coach Carter got the most of his basketball players by expecting more from them than just being basketball players. A key principle in leadership is to set a high level of expectation, create an environment where that level can be attained and then let the players excel in that environment.

In Clayton County, he has coached track (he won two region titles at Lovejoy High School), swimming and softball in addition to basketball. Always looking for an edge, he coached Cross Country this fall and encouraged his basketball players to join.  “I think playing good defense is contagious, I think we score a lot of points of defense and transition and you got to be in shape to do that. Cross Country helped our guys get a jump start on conditioning that we needed.”

When asked what his initial vision for success included, he offered, “The first step was to get academically sound. Make sure they were going to class, make sure they were respectful. We wanted them to be leaders. Then we moved to skill development on the court. That gave us the foundation that we are building from today.”

Star Power Doesn’t Hurt

In Callaway’s first season, he had two sophomores that he knew had a chance to be special. Rayquan Brown and Jordan Black played a lot during that initial season and suffered growing pains but are grown up now for their senior season. Callaway calls them “Our dynamic duo, they have bought into our system early.”

Georgia High School basketball expert Kyle Sandy and renowned author at Sandysspiel.com says of the two, “Jordan really picked up a lot of steam this summer and saw his recruitment pick up. He’s a 6-7 combo forward that’s comfortable playing on the wing and attacking off the bounce. He’s grown his game a ton and has his best basketball ahead of him. Rayquan is one of my favorite sleeper prospects in the state of Georgia. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a 6-5 wing as bouncy as he is. I’m shocked that he doesn’t have a handful of offers already in hand. He can score at all three levels and his long wiry frame makes him an ideal candidate to impact games on both sides of the ball. Most notably, his shot blocking prowess is elite for his position. He will be a great get late in the recruiting process.”

Callaway credited the duo for helping advance the program, “They are both ranked in the top 100 players in the state and they help sell the program, everyone is watching them to see how they develop.”

Their play has increased expectations this year, the coach said of the season, “Our goal is to win 20 games (they are already off to a 5-1 start), get to the state playoffs, and continue to bust our tails and do what we have to do to maintain a level where they can go to the next level and play.”

Building a Brand

A buzz phrase in today’s business world is “building your brand,” it is identifying who you are, why you do what you do and the go out and do it. Large corporations with huge marketing budgets spend millions in defining their brand. At Mundy’s Mill, like all schools in the county where resources are tight, the brand has been built with the sweat equity of the coach, cooperation and buy in from school leadership and young men who are up for the challenge.

The high school students of today are going to be our leaders tomorrow, and we all are going to benefit from the work that coaches like Callaway have invested in the young men in his program. You eventually come to the realization that we all need to pick up a little bit of the “32 Minutes of Havoc” philosophy and apply it to our own lives. We were built and designed to excel, not just exist. It all starts with expectations, so let’s set the bar high, adopt the whatever it takes mentality and see how this improves our quality of life and those around us. That is the essence of what Coach Callaway believes and he has the results to back it up.

King crowns Lovejoy’s championship mindset

By: Rob Grubbs — sportalspace contributor

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When it comes to a diamond, a gemologist can see potential and inner beauty before cutting and shaping the stone into a jewel.  In high school athletics, it takes the same skill to recognize an underperforming program and take it to the highest level. Head Coach Cedric King did exactly that in 2015 when he accepted the head girls basketball coaching job at Lovejoy High School, a team that won 33 games in the previous four years combined and took them to a championship last season and has them ranked No. 1 to start the current season.

The Lovejoy Lady Wildcats were the first Clayton County basketball team to win a state championship since the 1993 Morrow Lady Mustangs. But this is not a one-hit wonder, Coach King has a young, talented team with star power and a work ethic that is unrivaled.

Coach King, a native of Troy, Alabama, uses similar language as current Alabama head football coach, Nick Saban. He speaks of following the process, the day in and day out grind of practice and incremental improvement in his players that accumulates over time. King approaches the job much like a craftsman working with a precious metal, he knows exactly how the pieces need to fit together and the rough edges that need to be smoothed out.

King opened up about his philosophy, “I am always going to do what is best for this team, not things based on personal feelings. The fun is in the result, you must master the process of making the daily grind fun. It is easy for me to go to practice every day, because I am prepared. That’s what we expect.”

For a coach that is coming off a state championship, King admitted that he is still learning and not afraid to admit mistakes. Last week they had a big lead at the half and he challenged his team to reach 100 points. The challenge took the team out of their mindset as they looked to score instead of playing the Lovejoy brand of basketball.  “I realized I was wrong and I told the team that and we moved on.”

But the biggest lesson he has learned over his career is to be upfront and honest. “I am not afraid of the conflict in being honest, it is not personal. The decisions that I make are for the best of our team.”

Last year’s team only had one senior, Kayla Brown, who plays for the East Carolina Lady Pirates, but everyone else has returned. Even now, they could be considered a young team as their two stars, Genesis Bryant and Anaya Boyd are juniors. The rest of the starting lineup includes two seniors, J’Auana Robinson and Avanna Preston and sophomore Mariah Spain. King is also quick to point out that Lashanti Blount should be considered a “sixth-starter” for her contributions to the team.

King compared the two, “This year’s team is smaller, but we have more ball handlers on the court. As spread out as we are, it can be hard to defend us. We have five girls that can beat you off the dribble and we have five girls that can be a threat to shoot the three.” The competition is not far away, the Forest Park Lady Panthers are ranked No. 2 in the state right behind Lovejoy, “We may end up playing them four times this year,” King said.

One of the fruits of their hard work and championship pedigree is that they are in demand. Girls basketball teams that play at the Lovejoy Lady Wildcat level are few and far between, so they draw national attention from other programs that want to play the best. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, they boarded a plane to Dallas to play in the Thanksgiving Hoopfest Tournament in Duncanville, Texas. It’s a special opportunity for the team, as it will be many of the young ladies first time to fly.

When asked if it was harder to get to the top or stay there, King gave an emphatic, “Staying there, we are constantly fighting complacency.  We are trying to create habits and practice to combat that complacency.”

Asked to sum up the goals for this year, King spoke from the heart. “My goal is to make these ladies better people off the court, make them better basketball players, and win the last game of the season. I fight for my team to listen to me versus listening to everyone else. Play for the girl next to you, don’t play for anyone else, if you aren’t getting better you are hurting the team.” The talent and the mind set are there, it is now up to the ladies to put their “process” into play and maintain their championship form.

Following in father’s footsteps family and world travels help shape Mataio Soli

By: Robert Hydrick — sportalspace contributor

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Douglas County defensive end Mataio Soli is considered to be a chip off the old block since his father and Tigers defensive line coach Junior Soli was an all-SEC defensive tackle at Arkansas.

However, dad believes his talented son is more like his mother.

“He actually takes after his mom,” Junior Soli said.  “He has a great work ethic and he is a good leader on the football field.”

Mataio Soli has also been a dominating force on the football field through three games this season for Douglas County.

The senior has already accounted for 11 quarterback sacks including 8 ½ against Eagle’s Landing High School.

He is looking to lead his team to a region and state title this year before heading to Fayetteville to play for the Razorbacks just like his father.

“We have got to play together, disciplined and learn how to handle diversity,” Mataio said.  “I see us doing that and I feel like we can come out on top if we do all of those things.”

With the coaching from his dad and his work ethic, Mataio has become one of the top defensive linemen in Georgia.

While Junior treats his son like any other defensive lineman on the team, Mataio has no problem calling his coach ‘dad’ on the field and at home.

While some families try to draw boundaries at the high school level, football is discussed whenever needed at the Soli home.

“There is always coaching going on when we are watching college and pro games and Mataio is watching film on himself,” Junior said. “Just the other day he saw something on Twitter about taking on the double team and one of the advantages is he can ask my opinion on what to do.”

“He gets after me at home just like he gets after me on the field,” Mataio said.  “It is a good thing to have him as my coach because it has helped a lot throughout the high school.”

FOOTBALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY

Home though has literally been all over the world for Mataio and his family.

Junior started his career coaching middle school football in the metro Atlanta area before moving to Oxford, Mississippi where he got a job as assistant strength coach at Ole Miss under then Rebels head coach Houston Nutt.

When Ole Miss fired Nutt after the 2011 season, Junior packed up his family and moved to American Samoa which is where he was born.

Even though they were thousands of miles away from the United States, Mataio continued his football education with his father during their year living on the island in the Pacific.

Junior coached what he says has been his favorite team to date and says there is plenty of talented football players in American Samoa.

A team so talented that Mataio played defensive back.

“I feel like all the factors that have played out in my life right now – I am glad that it has worked out this way, Mataio said.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Mataio’s impact on the Douglas County program goes further than wins and quarterback sacks.

His leadership and work ethic serve as a motivating factor for the three sophomore defensive linemen who line up with Mataio every Friday night and who all want to become the player he is.

“We have got Kyran Thomas, Josh Robinson and Jonathan Jefferson,” Junior said.  “It is kind of an advantage coaching Mataio and his success on the field because it helps the other kids see what they need to do to be reach the level he is at when they are seniors.”

HOG HOME

Mataio knows he still has plenty of work to do in order to reach his goal of getting on the field at Arkansas where his father helped lead the Hogs to the SEC Western Division title in 1995.

The younger Soli believes enrolling at Arkansas in Fayetteville will help him reach his goal along with the knowledge he will need to get a little bigger if he wants to play in the trenches in the SEC.

“I feel like if I get a bit heavier, it will be easier to handle bigger linemen,” Mataio said. “If I put on a couple more pounds, I will be good.”

Mataio’s commitment to his dad’s alma mater was a surprise to Junior but it has the entire family, including those family members from his mother’s family who live in Arkansas, looking forward to watching Razorback football.

“It if wasn’t for Arkansas, there wouldn’t be a Mataio because that is where I met my wife,” Junior said.  “To tell you the truth that is one of the last places we thought Mataio would go but we took him on a recruiting trip and it felt like home to him.”

While Mataio hopes to become the second Soli to earn all-SEC honors at Arkansas as a defensive lineman, Junior points out to his players that he was an offensive lineman at Spencer High in Columbus where he was paving the way for future Kentucky Wildcat and Minnesota Viking running back Mo Williams.

“It is a different game today than it was when I was playing as Mo, Richard Hogans and me never came off the field,” Junior said.  “But our job as coaches to put the best 11 we have on the field and Mataio actually lined up at tight end for a couple of plays in our last game.”

While Mataio has big dreams of success at Arkansas, he is also preparing for his life after football.

He says he is planning to major in Economics with the goal of one day becoming the President of the United States.

And after watching Mataio for the last four years, it wouldn’t surprise anyone at Douglas County High School if they one day saw him walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Starks sparks Southwest DeKalb to upset victory

By: David Ewalt — sportalspace contributor

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One of the biggest upsets across the state of Georgia last weekend was Southwest DeKalb’s shocking 21-14 overtime win over Stephenson, breaking the Jaguars’ streak of seven-straight wins over the Panthers. The sportalTV Game of the Week showcased seemingly endless star talent on both teams, but none shined brighter than Southwest DeKalb senior Jamel Starks.

Widely considered a Top 100 recruit in the state, Starks had an impact in all three phases of the game in this DeKalb County instant-classic (Game Highlights). At the end of the first half, the consensus three-star recruit took a handoff in the red zone and went racing towards the goal line where he leapt high in the air and breathtakingly somersaulted over two Stephenson defenders to give Southwest DeKalb a 7-0 lead right before the half. Starks began the second half like a stick of dynamite, exploding down field on the initial kickoff 96-yards to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead. On the defensive side, Starks stuck his nose in the trenches frequently, helping bottle up Stephenson’s high-powered rushing attack to just 14 points.

No doubt, the talented Starks’ impact on the game was instrumental in Southwest’s major upset and that same impact is why so many colleges around the country are after him.  The unanimous Preseason All-State pick at safety has a litany of Power 5 offers from schools such as Minnesota, Syracuse, West Virginia, North Carolina, NC State and Nebraska. At this point, Starks said that his recruitment is still wide open, but Cornhusker fans will be pleased to know that on September 8th, the 2019 recruit will take an official visit to Lincoln.

Outside of his one official visit, Starks said that he is primarily focused on the season and has no other visits planned. Starks told sportalNews that this season and his passion for the game is dedicated to his brother, who passed away three years ago on August 27th.

“That’s who I play for – that’s my why,” Sparks said.

With his team 2-0 and Starks playing the best football of his life, it is easy to see his recruitment heating up with local Power 5 programs swooping in this fall to offer the electrifying Southwest DeKalb star, so stay tuned and follow Jamel Starks’ Twitter to hear the latest.

Versatile Enright fuels North Forsyth attack

By: Andrew Garner — sportalspace contributor

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The North Forsyth volleyball program is gearing up for another stellar run. Last year saw the Lady Raiders, led by coaches Drew and Kelly Cecil, reach new heights. They compiled a 39-10 record on their way to the state quarterfinals while their players shattered school and region records. Those lofty record setters are long gone, but there remains a player who quietly put together a gem of a season. Outside hitter Mary Ellen Enright was the only player in the state of Georgia who recorded at least 400 kills, 400 digs and 60 aces last year. She finished with First Team All-Region and First Team All-County accolades. She’s poised to take on an even bigger role for her final season.

As the lone senior she is immediately stepping into a leadership role that is new to her. She is also playing with a handful of girls that she doesn’t know well yet.

“Usually when new girls come in they have to find ways to connect to you, but I’m having to connect to them because I only knew two or three before this year,” Enright said. “I’m excited to make new friends and bond with them.”

Enright believes she leads in a friendly way that encourages other girls to lead as well; her coaches seem to agree. “When it’s game time, she’s as good of a leader as we have ever coached,” Coach Drew Cecil explained. “She loves to compete and expects her teammates to do the same. We love her for that.”

Leadership roles aside, Enright will be relied upon heavily during game time. Much of what the team runs will be through Mary Ellen according to Cecil. She is more than a dominant force as an outside hitter as she can clearly impact the game as an all-around player. She could easily surpass last year’s numbers and reign as the only player in Georgia to have 400+, 400+, 60+ kills, digs and aces respectively.

While focused on the regular season, Enright’s eyes are still looking towards the postseason.

“To get back there, go as far as possible in the playoffs – that’s definitely one of my goals.”

The coaching staff isn’t comparing this year’s team to its predecessor. They feel that this team’s enthusiasm, character and work ethic makes up for their lack of experience. Their expectations remain high for this season. Having a player the caliber of Enright can help turn those expectations into reality.

She has drawn interest from a slew of NCAA Division II and III schools including Shorter and Maryville (TN), along with some NAIA Division I schools.

“She played in the shadow of last year’s class,” mentioned coach Kelly Cecil during practice, “she hasn’t had the spotlight on her yet.”

That’s about to change.

Who Does He Play Like?: Jayce Moore

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The height might not be comparable but make no mistake, Jayce Moore and 14-year pro and current Fox Sports analyst Corey Maggette have some similarities outside of the appearance of a physically strong slasher with an arm sleeve. Moore, a 2019 6-foot-2 shooting guard from Coffee, was a Class 6A First Team All-State selection last season after leading the Trojans to the Elite Eight behind averages of 19.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. Moore was a workhorse for the South Georgia power and has unfinished business to attend to in 2019.

Both he and Maggette pass the eye test, imposing big guards that attack the basket relentlessly. Moore got to the line on average 7.07 times per game, comparable to Maggette’s 6.8 career average. Moore attacks the glass as well and overwhelms weaker guards. And like Maggette, Moore’s bread is buttered in the paint. Maggette was a hesitant three-point shooter over his career, averaging 0.6 made attempt per game for an average of 32%. Maggette’s weakness is one that Moore shares as well, hitting only 14-of-87 from beyond the stripe for at 16% clip.

Moore might not end up at Duke or play in the NBA, but he and Maggette bring the fierce will to win to the hardwood like Maximus did to the gladiatorial arena.