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Oh, brother
Family vibes a big part of Athens locker room
By Justin Graves
The Decatur Daily

Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily
Marques and Montel Shoulders, and Nathanial and Trey Potts (front to back). (Front to back) Marques and Montel Shoulders, and Nathanial and Trey Potts. Photographed Wednesday, January 30, 2013.

ATHENS — Trying his best to keep a straight face, Trey Potts painted with words the image of a little brother who has gone through life pushed around by big brother.

The allegations ranged from recent to distant past.

First, a childhood case of missing toys: In Potts’ account, the culprit was older brother Nathanial.

Now fast forward to present time. With the Athens High basketball siblings, it’s the same story, just different items.

And in Trey’s eyes, he remains the victim.

An example: Earlier this week, Trey said he packed a pair of comfortable socks for basketball practice, but by the end of the day, the socks were missing. When practice began, they were on Nathanial’s feet.

“Then, like two weeks ago, he took my money,” Trey said, trying not laugh.

“He’s a lot bigger than me. He’s been doing pushups since he was a toddler, like 2 years old,” Trey said of his chiseled, 6-foot, 200-pound brother.

Nathanial shook his head and put his version on the record.

“No. No. No. I didn’t take his money,” Nathanial said.

“I was supposed to have $10 and he was supposed to have $5, but he would only give me $5. He was trying to take my money.”

The final verdict? No one knows — but the animated discussion drew laughter from everyone in the room.

If allowed, the banter between Athens’ Potts brothers could last hours. The siblings are close — and they love the competitive jabbing of a light-hearted brotherly debate.

In Athens’ locker room, they aren’t alone with the family vibes. For the Golden Eagles, brotherly love — and all of its issues — is a theme. Four key players come from two sets of brothers, and each family has a close relative on the team.

Senior forward Marques Shoulders (6-1, 155 pounds) and junior forward Montel Shoulders (6-3, 170) are siblings, and their cousin, Kadred Langford (5-10, 165) has been another valuable member of Athens’ cast. Starting point guard Neil Malone (5-9, 170) is Trey and Nathanial’s first cousin.

The family atmosphere is translating into wins. Seventh-ranked Athens (19-7, 6-0 in Class 5A, Area 16) is on an 11-game winning streak and has won 13 of 14.

The Golden Eagles have wins against Austin, James Clemens, Columbia, Grissom and Dallas County during that span, with the lone loss to Class 2A No. 1 Tanner during a holiday tournament at Wallace State-Hanceville.

“Having so many guys who are related has been a good thing,” Marques said. “Playing on the same team with your brother and family members, there’s a close bond. You know everything there is to know about that person — what they’re going to do before they even do it. That makes for great chemistry.”

Montel agreed.

“A lot of us, we grew up playing basketball together outside,” he said. “That chemistry we have, it’s made us a better team.”

Montel isn’t exaggerating.

During a game against Russellville this month, Nathanial, a junior guard better known as “Giddy,” opened the game with a lob pass to Trey. The 6-5, 205-pound “little” brother caught the basketball above the rim and dunked it.

The play wasn’t rehearsed. Just instinct. And this season, moments like that have occurred regularly.

Nathanial averages a double-double this season, scoring 17 points with 13 rebounds per game. Trey is Athens’ second-leading scorer at 9 points per game. He averages about seven rebounds.

“There is never a dull moment,” Nathanial said of the on- and off-court relationship with his sibling. “We’re pretty close. I try to do whatever I can to help him.”

Trey can attest to that.

“He stays on me, pushing me to be the best that I can,” he said.

“He makes me stay on top of school work and things like that, and if I mess up on the basketball court, he’s going to yell at me. That’s for sure.”

The last statement is simply an aspect of life among siblings. And with Nathanial and Trey, the competitive nature and fun-loving humor make the brotherly banter animated and entertaining.

“We’re always competing,” said Trey, who claims he’s the comedian of the two. “We’ll have 3-point competitions, and I’ll win, even though he’s supposed to the specialist at shooting 3s.”

Is this true?

“Yeah, he beat me — once all the way back when I was in the fifth grade,” Nathanial said. “I always win everything.”

And the brotherly love continues.

Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at jgraves@decaturdaily.com.

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