After winning their seventh straight state basketball title, the Crusaders at Faith Baptist know a thing or two about team work. The small, private school in Ludowici developed a wealth a talent on the court. They are receiving attention from college scouts and recruiters due, in part, to up-and-coming Crusader standout Jaquez Motley.
Motley is ranked 136th in the nation, according to Rivals.com, and is drawing the attention of schools like College of Charleston, Clemson, University of Miami and the University of Georgia.Crusaders coach Jared Sellars said they were blessed when Motley transferred to Faith Baptist two seasons ago from Savannah’s Urban Christian. The coach said he took the opportunity to build a talented team around Motley’s abilities.
"We’ve had some good teams in the past but, in a way, this team has been built around him since he’s been here," Sellars said.
The coach said Motley has flourished because he stays active in the sport all year round. As soon as the Crusaders’ season is over, Motley slips into his AAU Atlanta Celtic uniform or uses the free time to develop his skills under former South Georgia Kings coach Jessie Fleming. At home, Motley’s mother, Vicky Motley, keeps him focused on his schoolwork, and when he’s not on the court, the athlete supports his friends who play for Liberty County High School, Bradwell Institute and First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
Sellars said it’s a group effort, but one well worth it if it means a Faith Baptist student gets an opportunity to play at the next level.
"The AAU circuit under his coaches Jessie Fleming and others has done a lot for him," Sellars said. "We just try to keep his head on straight in the classroom and keep his grades where they need to be. And on the court we keep him focused and keep pushing him toward where he needs to go. Push him hard at practice and, even when our season is over, we need to keep him working hard at AAU. He works hard. He’s already on track we just want to keep the train rolling steadily on the track."
Motley, a 5’11", 152-pound-point guard, said he first picked up a ball when he was about 7.
"I watched the Knicks play then I went outside and got started," he said. "I’ve been at it ever since."
Motley said this season has been a whirlwind with so many school recruiters coming at him. He plans to wait until after his summer season with the Atlanta Celtics and coach Horace Neysmith before he decides on a school.
However, he knows what he’s looking for in a college
"When they talk to me I don’t want them to tell me everything about basketball," Motley said. "I want them to tell me what they can do for me educationally, which will help me stay on the team. I don’t want to be red-shirted or end up on academic probation, so it will be a school that helps me educationally first and basketball second. Miami wanted me and they were talking to my mom. They stressed education first, but after this year a lot of other schools have expressed interest and I have not made a decision at this point."
Motley said he will work hard to earn and keep a spot at Division I school.
Motley’s mother said the attention is like a double-edged sword.
"The positive thing is he’ll have a lot of schools to choose from," she said. "And he can research which one he wants to go to, but at the same time, he has all these schools coming at him and, for a while, he’s going to be confused about which one he wants to pick. I’m hoping for him to go somewhere where he can benefit from education and not just somewhere that wants him for his skills on the court. A school that is interested in what he wants to do career-wise."
Vicky Motley said the hard part is letting go.
"It’s his choice and I’m here to support him," she said. "But I would love for him to stay no more than six to eight hours away. That’s far away enough."
For now, Motley is working on his game pace. "I like to push the ball. You can make a lot of things happen. I like to get it out quick, push it up. I just like playing up-tempo ball. I don’t like to slow it down."
He said that is one of the reasons he plays for the AAU Celtics.
"Normally, I play for Jessie and the Kings," he said. "But this season they don’t have a 17U team and I like the Celtics. They have high-caliber players and it gives me a chance to travel to places I’ve never been to, like Arizona."
Neysmith said Motley is fast and has a high "basketball IQ."
"I’ve watched him play since he was a ninth-grader for the South Georgia Kings and I have a good relationship with Jessie (Fleming) and we talked about him playing with us as he got older," the coach said. "He’s a talented kid. He defends well he attacks the rim. Those are the qualities you notice about him right away."
Neysmith said the best college for Motley would be one that runs an up-tempo game, the style Motley is accustomed to.
Motley, who has a 3.2 gpa, said he is concentrating on his schoolwork and the Crusaders’ run at nationals in Tennessee next week.
Sellars said keeping the rising star focused during his junior and senior years of high school is a priority.
"We have to keep them focused," he said of his players. "There are some many kids in our area, Hinesville, Ludowici, Jesup, that are so talented and nobody stays on them about their grades. They end up going to junior college for one year and suddenly they end up back here. We want him to go to the right school for four years, get that degree and have something to fall back on. Maybe one day get paid to play basketball."
And while many scouts are looking at Motley, his talent has opened doors for other players.
"Aaron (Power) has played well and he is looking at possibly playing at a smaller college in Pensacola," Sellars said.
The coach said Tracy Jester and Jamil Donovan are searching for the right college programs. When Urban Christian tipped off against Faith on Feb. 5, Donovan and Motley were both approached by the College of Charleston. Motley said they made him an offer on the spot.
The Crusaders’ future is bright with Aaron Scott, Derrick Brooks, JJ Frazier and others slated to come back next season. Frazier, who is only a freshman, is already creating a buzz.