Prep notebook: Former Waccamaw tennis coach Brown continuing annual charitable bike ride

07/28/2014 7:59 PM

07/28/2014 8:01 PM

Former Waccamaw tennis coach James Brown left the area near the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

He didn’t abandon his annual fundraiser for one of his former players.

Brown, now living in New Jersey and teaching and coaching at two different schools, started this summer’s Ashley G. Ride in Manhattan, N.Y., last week and will wrap up the eight-day, 800-mile trek this Friday at his home in Surfside Beach. The ride serves as a way to honor Ashley Gaines, who played for Brown from 2004-2006 and died in 2008 from Diffuse Large B Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Brown, 53, previously conducted rides from Waco, Texas, to Surfside beach (1,265 miles) and another from Huntington Beach, Calif., to South Carolina, a trip that spanned 2,650 miles from start to finish.

The first two rides raised approximately $40,000 for the Ashely G. Foundation.

While so much has changed for Brown since leaving the area, he never considered ending the ride or his affiliation with the foundation.

“One thing that was ironic was that she passed away up here,” Brown said Thursday before he started. “The school I teach at is four miles from there. I ride right by there every day. I ride right by the place where she died. That was the last place I saw her at. That’s a reminder for me.”

Brown planned to navigate approximately 100 miles per day with the current ride. It started at Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, where Gaines died. He is slated to start the final leg in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., on Friday morning and arrive in Surfside Beach at 6 p.m. that evening.

Three days later, he is scheduled to have surgery on a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder.

“I slipped on some steps on the subway and tried to catch myself,” Brown said. “Who would have thought I would have said something like that?”

Brown retired from the S.C. school system in 2013 when his wife, Sonja, accepted a marketing director position at an electronics company in Hoboken, N.J. James Brown spent 17 years at Waccamaw and another six at Socastee.

He led the Warriors boys and girls tennis teams to eight combined Class AA state team titles and members of those teams to nine individual tournament state titles.

For more information on his current ride, information for his welcoming party or to donate, visit the organization’s website at

Fall sports seasons open Friday

Following a few more days of a dead period, fall sports in South Carolina can open on Friday.

Football, swimming, girl tennis, volleyball, girls golf and cross country will have between three and four weeks to lock down rosters, set lineups and prepare for their first contests.

For football teams, the opening days of practice are slightly different due to heat and contact acclimation. Players are are restricted to helmets and shorts (no other pads) for the first two days, followed by two days of helmets and shoulder pads.

On the fifth day, coaches can utilize full gear throughout the rest of the second week. During that span, teams can also maximize up to five hours of organized practice on alternating days, with a three-hour cap set on the others.

On day 15, the restrictions are lifted.

SCACA all-sports clinic

Coaches from every sport are in Greenville this week for the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association annual meetings and clinics.

Two area coaches received special recognition during ceremonies on Sunday, the first day of the conference. Former Georgetown baseball coach Mike Johnson was officially inducted into the SCACA Hall of Fame, and Myrtle Beach’s Jeri Himmelsbach was honored as the SCACA girls tennis coach of the year.

Johnson, who retired after the 2013 season, spent 43 years at Georgetown, Winyah and Howard. At those schools, he piled up 740 career wins, the second-most in South Carolina High School League history.

He led Georgetown to the Class AAAA state title in 1988 and Class AAA Lower State championships in 1998 and 1999. He also coached Winyah to the Class AAA Lower State title in 1980.

Georgetown’s baseball field was renamed Mike Johnson Park in 1989.

Johnson was one of seven inductees into the Hall of Fame this year, a class that was originally announced in April.

Himmelsbach’s team advanced to the Class AAA state title match last fall despite an expanded playoff field that included twice as many teams as the previous year.

Edwards continues recruiting rounds

Conway receiver Bryan Edwards still has two years of high school football ahead of him.

It could be a very busy two seasons, on and off the field.

Edwards spent a portion of the weekend in Columbia on an unofficial visit to the University of South Carolina. It’s one of many he has taken or will take in the future.

Edwards started gaining traction from his first game as a freshman when he caught a touchdown pass in the first quarter against Georgetown. He started receiving offers from schools around the Southeast shortly after. So far, he has offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Florida, Virginia Tech and North Carolina, among others.

As a sophomore, Edwards had 66 receptions for 680 yards and eight touchdowns.

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