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Former NHS basketball players sign scholarships
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Three former Newton High School basketball players have signed to play at the next level - Rashad Gill, Troy Jones and Mark Thomas.

Highlighting the trio is Gill, a 6-foot-5 forward who signed a Division I scholarship with the University of North Carolina at Asheville on Thursday.

"I'm very excited," said Gill, "especially playing Division I basketball."

UNC Asheville is a public liberal arts university located in beautiful Asheville, N.C. and competes in the Big South Conference.

Last year, the Bulldogs were 12-19 overall and 6-8 in conference play.

"He has a lot of potential to be a very good player for the Bulldogs," said Newton basketball head coach Rick Rasmussen, "and is someone that a college program can trust."

Jones, a forward, signed with Miles Community College in Montana. Thomas, a point guard, will play for Merritt College in Oakland, Calif.

College scouts became more aware of their athletic skills during their Georgia AAU basketball games throughout the summer. Each player has dominated on the court for Georgia AAU head coach Gerald Alford.

"It's fun to be with them because they're serious on the court," said Alford, "but when they're off (it) they just like to have fun."

Alford has been coaching Georgia AAU basketball for 15 years now.

"I stick with it (just) to reach out and help a kid," said the self-employed Alford.

During his senior year, Gill averaged 18 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and three steals per game. In addition, he maintained a solid B-average, and had the highest SAT score among basketball players since Rasmussen began coaching 10 years ago.

Based on his performance, Gill received numerous awards at the conclusion of the 2006-07 basketball season, including All-County, All-Region (2-AAAAA), All-Area (Newton and Rockdale) and First Team GACA All-State.

"Rashad is a disciplined and very responsible person," said Rasmussen. "He's a good kid."

Gill is continuing to grow both physically and as a basketball player on the court. In fact, the 17-year-old is a year younger than most incoming freshmen because he skipped the second grade, so he hasn't completely filled out.

"It's going to be hard to replace a player like Rashad," said Rasmussen, "but I'm very proud of (him)."