BASKETBALL: Chester hoping to make his mark at GNTC

Recent Cass High School graduate Mark Chester (seated, second from left) signed his letter of intent on Thursday to play basketball for Georgia Northwestern Technical College. Also on hand for the ceremony in the school’s gym was (from left) former Cass head coach David Brock, Bridgett Covington and Ian Franks. On the back row was GNTC head coach David Stephenson, Justice Hayes, Cass coaches Drew McKaig and Stephen Page and Cass Athletic Director Nicky Moore. (Photo by Scott Herpst)

Throughout his 11-year run as head coach of the Georgia Northwestern Bobcats men’s basketball team, head coach David Stephenson has always had an eye out for self-motivated players to bring into the program.

And with that in mind, Stephenson believes he has uncovered something of a hidden gem with his latest recruit.

Recent Cass High School graduate Mark Chester is the newest Bobcat after signing his letter of intent in front of family and former teammates in a ceremony at the school on Thursday, May 31.

“Mark has come to our open gym workouts on his own,” Stephenson explained. “He contacted us and showed a lot of initiative. We’re looking forward to him coming in and doing some good things with all the other defensive-minded people that we’ve signed this year.”

The soft-spoken guard called it “a very important day” for him.

“I’m getting to do something that a lot of other people don’t get to do, which is getting to play basketball at that next level,” he said. “I’m just blessed I’m going to get to do it and I’m blessed that my mom is here with me today.”

“He’s a high-character kid,” said David Brock, who coached Chester for three seasons at Cass before stepping down to take the boys’ post at Dalton in the off-season. “He’s had to overcome some things in his life and he and his mom are really close. You’re never going to have to ask him to do something. He’s self-motivated and he’s going to get it done.”

Chester said he feels like he can bring a high basketball IQ to the Bobcats.

“I can be a shooter and somebody who will play defense,” he said. “Hopefully I can do a little bit of everything for them. I really like my new teammates so far. They’re all kind and nice. The first day I went there, they were very open and welcoming. I think we’re going to do really good next year.

“I think we all have the same kind of mindset. (Coach Brock) stressed similar things, like taking smart shots and slowing it down, so it’s not been that hard to adjust.”

“He doesn’t do anything bad to hurt you,” Stephenson added. “He’s used to playing defense and he can handle the ball, so I think his best basketball is still in front of him.”

Chester earned second team All-Region honors in Region 7-AAAAA last season as he put up 11.5 points a night to go with 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He shot 36 percent from behind the 3-point arc and averaged over 16 points in his final eight games to help the Colonels make the state playoffs.

Brock said it was a pleasure to watch Chester grow as a player in the past three seasons.

“He was a great guy for us,” Brock continued. “He’s a knockdown shooter and he’s not afraid to take the big shot. He hit two big free throws for us with about a second left against Carrollton to get us into the state tournament. He’s your typical 3-point shooter in that he really doesn’t know if he made or missed the last one. In his eyes, he’s always open, there’s always a use for guys like that who can score the ball.

“He’s long and kind of sneaky athletic and I think he’ll be good for Georgia Northwestern. I think he’ll be able to carve out a role for himself.”

Chester said he is considering sports medicine, pharmacy or marketing as courses of study.