Best players from the area descend on bottom gym

Invite Only

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It’s a random weeknight in spring or summer. Do you know where your kid is?

If your child is a basketball player who’s back home after finishing the spring semester, there’s a good chance he’s on Aubrey Street. That is, if he’s invited.

Depending on who you talk to, the evening basketball played a few times a week in Cartersville’s most well-known gymnasium is either the best or worst kept secret in town.

The bottom gym at Summer Hill can hold a couple hundred people, but on this night — a Thursday — there’s about 25. It’s more people than David Archer would prefer to have on hand, but he’s had to deal with larger crowds and knows approximately 20 hoopers is a workable figure.

“Ideally, we want 15,” said Archer, who leads the Summer Hill postgrad program when he’s not opening the gym for these invite-only sessions. "What happens is, they’ll wind up asking a few guys to come, and we’ll wind up with 20. The ideal number is 15, so they have ample time to get on the floor.

“I won’t allow them to put it on social media. It’s all calling and texting. As soon as you put it on social media, the gym is literally flooded with people. I remember — we’ve been doing this for a long time — a couple of years ago we probably had 50 people in the gym, and they were sitting everywhere. I said, ‘We can’t do it like this anymore. No more social media.’”

That doesn’t mean postgame video doesn’t sometimes make it to the internet. A video prominently featuring high school stars Ashton Hagans, a Cartersville native, and Trey Doomes, originally from Acworth, balling out in the bottom gym had over 41,000 views in just over a week.

Neither the Kentucky commit or the West Virginia signee are on hand this night, but the gym is hardly lacking in star power. 

The highest profile guys in the building are a pair of graduate transfers. Eric Lockett will be heading to North Carolina State in the fall, while Kyle Castlin attends Xavier. Some former Division-I players are also in attendance, including Stephon Jelks and A.J. Mosby, who finished up their respective careers at Mercer and Alcorn State, respectively, this year.

However, a majority of the guys playing are from the Division II or NAIA level. Mosby, though, said nobody gets looked down on when the ball is bouncing on Aubrey Street.

“We don’t look down on nobody just because of the division they’re playing in,” he said. “If you’re out here, obviously, you deserve to be out here. … We don’t discriminate. If you come to the bottom gym, you’re bound to play. That’s how we do it around here.”

Mosby graduated from Cartersville High in 2015 and played for Archer at Chattahoochee Tech for two years before completing his career in the SWAC. Mosby said he has NBA workouts lined up with Brooklyn and Houston, but he admitted the process had been a “struggle.”

He sees these run sessions as a chance to take his mind off the pressure, while also working to improve his game.

“You want to come out here and work, because you want to get better,” Mosby said. “It’s not just to come out and just play basketball. This is to play basketball, but it’s also to work on you conditioning and work on your game, as well.”

The sessions serve as a chance for those still in college to improve, as well. Archer said he sees it as a chance for guys to work on some things they might not otherwise get to practice with their collegiate teams.

“A little more dunking when the opportunity is there, maybe taking some chances,” Archer said of what he sees. “This is the time when you’re working on things that you need to improve on. Maybe you don’t attack the basket well or have the opportunity to in your structured environment, but you get to work on it here. It’s the whole improvement season thing that has become a good term in the basketball industry.”

The invite-only sessions still offer some structure, or at least some organization.

Games of five-on-five go until a team scores 12, based on a one- and two-point scoring system, or until 10 minutes of running clock plays itself out. If there’s 20-plus people and a team wins three straight games, a whole new 10 comes on the floor.

Sometimes the game devolves into individual battles, but eventually the team-concept comes into play and that tends to make the difference.

“All of us can play one-on-one ball, but, at the same time, if you want to win and stay on the court, you have to play together,” Mosby said. “That’s one of the main things when you come here, you’re going to have to play together. If you’re a good iso player, we’re going to let you iso. But we’re going to make sure others get theirs as well.”

A lot of the players who have come to the sessions this spring are currently or recently completed their collegiate career. Some used their time at Summer Hill to reach that point, and others are always looking to follow in their footsteps.

It’s seeing those guys succeed that keeps Archer coming to the gym to unlock the doors, turn on the scoreboard and hook up the sound system.

“For me, it’s the reward,” he said. “My goal as a coach has always been to help young men move on to the next level. I’m sure it’s important for all coaches, but for me, it’s the main thing. Even though Chattahoochee Tech shut its athletics program down and I’m not coaching anywhere right now, it’s still that tie-in for us to be able to help guys achieve their goals.”

Archer’s sacrifice hasn’t gone unnoticed. That he’ll keep the gym open a couple of hours “if my wife needs me home to do something” or longer when he has no other obligations, means a lot to Mosby and the others.

“Coach Archer, he’s a great guy,” Mosby said. “One of the best coaches to ever coach me. I look at him as my Pops. For him to take the time out of his day to come open the gym for us, it’s a great thing and I can’t thank him enough for it.”

So as long as Archer keeps opening the gym, expect the most talented players from Georgia, particularly those in Bartow and Cobb counties, to continue trekking to Cartersville.

The reason why is pretty clear to anybody’s kid who has ever played at Aubrey Street.

“It’s the bottom gym,” Mosby said matter-of-factly. “In my opinion, it’s one of the best gyms in Georgia. If you’re from the North Metro area, you know what the bottom gym is. It’s a great place to play, man, historical gym.”