Olonna Rawls is a homebody and she won’t apologize for it. “Why wouldn’t I come home in the summer,” Rawls said in a recent interview. “I’m from Pembroke and I love Pembroke. This is home and it always will be.” Rawls was at the Bryan County High School gym watching the Redskins play one of the numerous summer games Coach Mario Mincey schedules for his team.
“I work out with them and watch them as much as I can,” said Rawls who was spending a day off from her summer job in the gym. “I love Ashanti (Brown) and Kayley (Wedlow). They’re good players and I think they’ll help Coach (Mario) Mincey have another good season. I keep up with them.”
Wedlow is a rising senior point guard who led the Redskins in scoring last year and was the Region 3A-D1 Player of the Year. Brown was a double figure scorer and rebounder last year as a sophomore.
Rawls, one of the best athletes, boy or girl, to come out of Bryan County High School, is prepping for her COVID junior year at Columbus State where she has developed into a solid player for the Cougars who play in the Peach Belt Conference.
Every Redskins fan knows Rawls’ high school numbers but a quick refresher is in order: she scored a school record 2,276 points, had 878 rebounds, 511 assists and 418 steals while leading the Redskins to a 94-21 record including a school record 26 wins in 2019 and four state playoff appearances.
As a three-time all-stater who was also region Player of the Year twice, she drew attention from several Division I schools but chose Columbus State because of the opportunity to play right away in one of the strongest DII conferences in the country.
Plus, she was getting the opportunity to play for a coach, Matt Houser, who had experience playing professionally in Europe which has been one of Rawls’ goals from the outset.
Her career at Columbus State—her freshman season was limited to eight games due to COVID—has been solid from the start. She’s averaging 12.2 points per game for her career and this past season was the Cougars’ third-leading scorer at 13.3 points per outing, led the team in rebounding at 6.8 and in steals with 85.
“It was a definitely a big adjustment when I went to Columbus State,” Rawls said. “When you get to college everybody is going to be good. You have to learn and work at improving from day to day.”
And working at getting better is first and foremost on Rawls’ agenda this summer.
“I’m definitely looking at playing overseas,” said Rawls. “I’ve got to improve my transition pullup jumper and my threepoint shot. That’s what I’m working on. If I do that, I believe the opportunity will be there.
“I just want to see what the next two years bring me. Then I’m going to have a decision to make.”
This past season Rawls shot a respectable 48 percent from the floor on two-point attempts, but only 25.3 percent (24-95) from behind the arc. For her career she is a 28.1 shooter from long range.
The biggest challenge she’s faced, Rawls said, came her freshman year when she had to deal with COVID.
“I don’t every want to go through anything like that again,” Rawls said. “That year was definitely different for me, having to do tests every three days, wearing masks, being spread out on buses and the bench.
“I think we’re going to be a lot better this year,” Rawls said. “We want to win the PBC tournament and make a run in the NCAA tournament.
“Meantime I’m going to enjoy being home. I know wherever I go Pembroke will go with me.”