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June 26, 2014

Grant takes over boys basketball at Irwin

TIFTON — A new chapter has opened for the Irwin County Indians boys basketball team. Levon Grant, recently hired from an assistant job at Griffin, has taken over the reins from Chuck Folker.

It has been a long time since someone other than Folker has been in charge at Irwin. So long, that even Folker was not sure had long it had been; his best estimate was 18 or 19 years.

The move from Folker to Grant has been a positive for both. With his children growing older and increasingly involved in athletics and activities, "it was a good time to step away," he said.

Grant said his reception in Ocilla has been great. "The whole Indian family has welcomed me with open arms," he said.

Since his arrival, he has held a summer camp that drew 50 potential players. Standouts have included Jakyron Young, who he described as his leader, and Bernard Pitts.

"I'm trying to get the kids excited," he said.

Grant brings plenty of experience to Ocilla, both on the court and in the coach's box.

He is a native of Daytona Beach, Fla., where played at Mainland High with Vince Carter. After starting his collegiate basketball career at Daytona Beach Community College, Grant received a scholarship to Georgia Southwestern.

Outside of his college days, and time spent as an assistant at Americus-Sumter, he does have some familiarity with this area of south Georgia.

He spent two seasons at the helm at Colquitt County, which did include one crossover into 2-A when the Packers played Turner County.

"I know about Turner, Wilcox and Lanier," he said of his future region opponents. "They're the strong figureheads." But rather than worry about them, he said he wanted to keep the team's focus on themselves. "We want to make some noise in the region," he said.

Grant said he was finishing up a schedule for the upcoming season.

Football season and a big region limited Irwin's out-of-conference games, but even with an addition to the region coming in (Atkinson County), he wants to expand it. "I'd like to bring back some local flavor," he said. He has eyes on playing schools such as Tift County. While a regular season game with the Blue Devils is still up in the air, he has already secured one trip to Tifton. The team was going there today to participate in a summer shootout.

Before his stint at Colquitt, Grant led a pair of programs to the postseason. In his first head coaching job at Warren County, he took the Screaming Devils to the first round. Two years later, he repeated that achievement with Howard High of Macon.

Irwin last reached the state playoffs in 2006. Their last tournament win was in 2003.

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Jensen Rainey (left) and Josie Arant will both be participating in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship next week in North Carolina.

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