• Stinchcomb makes College Football Hall of Fame
Former Parkview and Georgia Bulldog lineman Matt Stinchcomb, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame during the National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner. The two-time All-American and NFL first-round pick now has a permanent display at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
• McCann returns to Braves
Duluth native Brian McCann signed with the hometown Atlanta Braves in November, returning to the franchise that gave him his start. The seven-time all-star catcher enjoyed his best seasons with Atlanta, where he played his first nine seasons after being drafted by the club in 2002. He played for the Yankees and Astros after leaving Atlanta, winning a World Series with Houston. The young Braves will count on the 34-year-old for leadership with a young, improving team.
• Football shut out from finals
Most high school football seasons Gwinnett County produces a state champion. In 2018, the county didn’t have a team in the finals. It marked the first slate of state championship games without a Gwinnett team participating since 1999.
• Parkview’s spring of titles
Parkview’s baseball team completed an impressive spring trifecta with a rain-delayed, championship series win over Mill Creek. The championship was the third of the spring for the Panthers, who saw their girls soccer and boys track and field teams win state titles on the same day prior to the baseball series.
• Change at GM for Gwinnett Stripers
The Gwinnett Stripers lost longtime general manager North Johnson after the minor league baseball season, and replaced him with Adam English in November. Johnson, who headed up the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A affiliate since 2010, resigned in September, as did assistant GM Shari Massengill. English joins the Stripers after six seasons leading the ticket sales department for the Sacramento River Cats, the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A franchise.
• Pyle back with Glads
Jeff Pyle returned as the head coach of the Atlanta Gladiators, a role he held for the franchise’s first eight seasons in Gwinnett County. Pyle left in 2011 when he was hired to coach the AHL’s Texas Stars. During his tenure, the Gladiators were 309-210-17-40 and made the playoffs six straight times with a trip to the Kelly Cup finals in 2005-06. He ranks third all-time in ECHL wins.
• Buford, Wesleyan hoops titles again
Another basketball season brought more state championships for the girls powerhouse programs at Buford and Wesleyan. Head coach Jan Azar led Wesleyan to its astonishing 13th state title in 17 years with a 61-44 over rival Holy Innocents’. Buford and head coach Gene Durden won their sixth state championship in a 10-year span.
• Meadowcreek boys beat Norcross for first basketball title
The Meadowcreek boys basketball program won the second Georgia High School Association-sanctioned state championship in school history with a 56-43 win over rival Norcross in the Class AAAAAAA finals. The Mustangs reversed three earlier losses to Norcross during the season behind 16 points and eight rebounds from Dequarius Nichols and 12 points and eight rebounds from Amari Kelly.
• GGC tennis rolls to more national titles
The Georgia Gwinnett College tennis programs continued their domination at the NAIA National Championships, sweeping the titles once again. The Grizzlies won their fifth straight men’s national championship, as well as their third straight women’s title. It also was the fourth title in a five-year span for the women, earning Chase Hodges national coach of the year honors again.
• Change at the top for Mill Creek football
Shannon Jarvis, the second-longest tenured head football coach in Gwinnett, resigned from the program to transition into an assistant principal role at the high school. He is the only head football coach in Mill Creek history, starting the program in 2004, and went 102-68 in 15 seasons with two state semifinal appearances. Those two Final Four teams went 10-0 in the regular season and won back-to-back region titles.
• Heyward returns to Pro Bowl
Peachtree Ridge grad Cameron Heyward played in his first Pro Bowl in 2018, then was voted into his second straight appearance later in the year. Heyward has become one of the NFL’s top defensive linemen for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who made him a first-round pick in the 2011 draft.
• Williams named NBA Sixth Man of the Year
The 2018 calendar year featured a number of memories for South Gwinnett alum Lou Williams, who won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award for the second time in his career. He averaged career highs with 22.6 points and 5.3 assists, earning the honor for the second time — he also won with the Toronto Raptors in 2014-15. The guard also reached the 10,000-point milestone for his career and dropped 50 points in a win over the NBA champion Warriors.
• Francoeur leads Gwinnett Sports Hall of Fame class
Longtime MLB outfielder and former Parkview star Jeff Francoeur was among the five-person class selected for the Gwinnett Sports Hall of Fame, which celebrated its ninth class of inductees. Francoeur, who played 12 MLB seasons and was a first-round draft pick of the Braves, led Parkview to two football and two baseball state titles his final two seasons. He was joined in the class by former NFL and Georgia punter Drew Butler (Peachtree Ridge), former Georgia Tech basketball player Joyce Pierce (Norcross), former Georgia softball pitcher Michelle Green (Duluth) and successful pro and amateur golfer James Mason (Duluth).
• Kamara named NFL’s top offensive rookie
NFL Honors Night included a huge honor for Norcross product Alvin Kamara, who was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Saints running back, also a Pro Bowl selection, led all rookies with 1,554 yards and 14 total touchdowns, in addition to his 81 catches, the third-highest total by a running back in NFL history. He joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Gayle Sayers as the only NFL rookies to have at least five rushing TDs, five receiving TDs and a kickoff return TD.
• North’s Blackmon an all-star again
North Gwinnett grad Charlie Blackmon made the National League All-Star Team for the second straight season and third time in his MLB career. The Rockies outfielder’s selection was the highlight of a season that saw him hit .291 with 29 home runs and 70 RBIs.
• Another banner year for Maya Moore
Maya Moore fell short of another Minnesota Lynx championship, but the Collins Hill grad was named the WNBA All-Star Game MVP. Off the court, Nike created a poster for her that recreates Michael Jordan’s legendary “Wings” pose and unveiled a Jordan Brand shoe in Moore’s name. It wasn’t the only big WNBA news for Gwinnett as Norcross’ Diamond DeShields and North Gwinnett’s Lexie Brown were first-round draft picks.
• Bart headlines MLB Draft class
Buford alum Joey Bart, fresh off a stellar career at Georgia Tech, made Gwinnett history in the MLB Draft, which saw 17 players from the county drafted over the course of three days. Bart was picked No. 2 overall, the highest MLB Draft selection in Gwinnett history, by the San Francisco Giants, who gave him a signing bonus of $7.025 million, the largest up-front amount given to a position player in MLB Draft history.
• Timberwolves draft Shiloh’s Okogie
Former Shiloh and Georgia Tech star Josh Okogie was taken in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Okogie, drafted 20th overall, averaged 18.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 2017-18 as a sophomore. He entered the draft early and impressed even more at the NBA Combine, where he posted one of the event’s top vertical leaps.