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August 18, 2003

The best in the Class of 2006?

When it comes to recruiting it's never too early to start scouring the country for the nation's best prospects. While it's true that most prospects begin to attract attention as juniors, the really special ones sometimes are noticed as young as their freshman and sophomore years. One such prospect is Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson product Marcus Ball.

Stephenson High is one of the best schools in the entire country for producing D-I talent year in and year out. Each of the last three years, Stephenson has had no less than five players sign D-I scholarships.

This year the Jaguars have eight Division I prospects, two of which (Josh Johnson and Michael Grant) have already received a prestigious four-star ranking by Rivals.com.

With all the schools and various recruiters that come through Stone Mountain in a year it is easy for underclassmen to get overlooked.

Not Marcus Ball.

"He's special isn't he?" said Stephenson coach Ronald Gartrell as he watched his squad run offensive drills.

"You know, we've got kids playing college football all over the country, and we'll have quite a few guys sign this year, so we've seen a lot of guys around here get hyped up by the media and with good reason. But I don't think we've seen anything like what we'll see when this kid is a senior (Marcus Ball)."

That's right Ball is just a sophomore, who will be a member of the 2006 signing class. By that time Marcus should be an expert with the recruiting process.

You see Marcus' older brother Reggie Ball signed with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in February 2003 and is now vying for the starting quarterback position as a true freshman.

His brother Raeshon Ball is currently a senior for Stephenson and is receiving interest from schools all over the South as a defensive back.

"Marcus is going to be rotating at linebacker with Josh Johnson and Ja Ja Walker this year," Gartreel said. "They are both going to sign with major D-1 schools, but he's as good as either of them.

"We may play him in the secondary some, too. We've got to find a way to get him on the field. I mean you can look and see how well put together he is and top of that he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 flat. He is the strongest kid on this team hands down and that includes Josh Johnson, Michael Grant, Ja Ja Walker, Geoffrey Woods and the others."

Ball is already receiving interest from some major programs and is fully aware what kind of attention and expectations come from being one of the nation's best young stars.

"I'm already getting mail from all the SEC and ACC schools," said Ball. "I haven't even begun to think about who I'm interested in or whatever. I just want to get better and make sure that I stay on the right track and not get hurt or something.

"Reggie went through a lot of hype last year and Raeshon is getting a lot of attention right now, so I've been through this with my brothers and I just don't want to be the one to not go play football in college. I have a lot to live up to with Reggie and Raeshon being so good."

While Ball may have some big shoes to fill and large expectations to meet, Gartrell is very confident that this special player is going to be just fine.

"As you can see there is a lot of talent on this field right now, a lot of these guys are going to be playing college ball and Josh and Michael are definitely special players," Gartrell said.

"But with Marcus, there is special and then there's Marcus Ball. If he stays on the right track and works hard, there is no doubt in my mind he'll be considered one of the best players in the country when he is a senior."


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