2017-12-06 / Front Page

SW GA Academy Dedicates Gym Court to Lea Henry

Lea Henry, Coach David Byrne, and Headmaster Matt Dalrymple. Lea Henry, Coach David Byrne, and Headmaster Matt Dalrymple. Southwest Georgia Academy honored Lea Henry on Tuesday night, November 28, as the school dedicated the gymnasium floor to her. Henry was a 1979 graduate of the Academy. She was the captain of the United States Olympic basketball team which won the gold medal in 1984. She graduated from the University of Tennessee where she was coached by the legendary late Pat Summitt. She has since coached in Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia and won numerous awards, set records, and has been chosen to the Basketball Halls of Fame in Tennessee and Georgia.

Her career began at the age of two when her dad W. T. Henry began bringing her to the gym when he was the basketball coach at Damascus High School. She continued until she graduated from SGA in 1979. During her high school years, she accumulated many honors and records. She averaged 23 points per game, was selected to the Kodak All-American Team, named a Parade Magazine All-American and became SGA’s all– time leader in scoring, steals, and assists. She scored over 2000 points, and her retired jersey #34 hangs in the lobby of the gym.

Before graduation from high school, Henry had already become nationally and internationally known because of her participation in the Pan American games in Latin America and the Junior Olympics in the U.S. After her junior year, she had received scholarship offers from Auburn, Florida State. Georgia, UCLA, Louisiana Tech, and many others. She chose to accept the offer of a scholarship from Coach Summitt and enrolled at the University of Tennessee. During her years as a Lady Vol, Henry was chosen as a member of the All-SEC team and was a two-time Academic All-American while earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physical education. In 2005, she was inducted into the Tennessee Lady Volunteer Hall of Fame.

After traveling the world as a national team member during the collegiate summers, Henry was chosen to captain the U.S. Olympic basketball team for the games in Los Angeles in 1984. According to Henry, “The Olympics was such a special time for our entire family. It was as if we had all accomplished this pinnacle in my career, and the best part about it was that my entire immediate family was there except for my grandparents. But one of my most special memories is when I found out that Daddy Jeff stood in his living room with his hand over his heart when the American flag was raised when our team received the gold. Later my 6-year-old sister Kristen probably said it best when we were riding down the road one day listening to the radio which was playing the song, “Once in a lifetime.” She commented, “That’s us, Lea----we had a “once in a lifetime at the Olympics!” Henry played professionally for a year, then decided to coach. She did at University of Tennessee and Florida, Mercer University, and Georgia State in Atlanta, where she won three conference champions and played in three NCAA tournaments. She was the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division One Coach of the Year in 1997-98 and was the Atlanta Tip-Off Club’s Division One Coach of the Year in 1998. 2000 and 2002. Henry retired after 16 years at Georgia State, but then was hired to coach the Lady Cavaliers at Darton College in Albany, where she and most of her family reside. As a Georgia Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Henry is considered among the most elite minds in women’s college basketball.

Henry is married to another outstanding basketball player, former University of Maryland standout Greg Manning. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. After college he played for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. Since 1984, Henry has directed the Lea Henry Camp of Champs. Then in 2005, she and Manning established the L & G Camp of Champs, Inc. a motivational program which teaches character education in an educational and recreational setting on the basketball court. In 12 years, Henry and Manning have worked with over 50,000 youth from all over the country. In 2014, they established the L & G Character Education Foundation in order to provide the program each summer to students in five surrounding counties. Henry is currently serving as Athletic Director of the Dougherty County School System.

In addition to her husband, attending family members included her father, W. T. Henry and wife Ruth; Mary Rentz, her mother; brother Bo, his wife Kate, and sons Hank and Sam; sister Kristen Culpepper, husband Adam and sons Caughey and Henry; Buck MDonald, a second cousin, his wife Raven and daughter Stella; uncle and aunt, Ferrell and Arleeta Henry; Martha Houston Everson, grandmother; uncle Larry Everson; cousins Jimmy Everson, Debra Jones, Joy Hayman, and Ronnie and Jan Rentz. Present in spirit were maternal grandmother Minnie Lee Rentz and paternal grandparents, Jeff and Ludie Henry.

In her closing remarks of appreciation, Henry said that it felt that she had never left SGA. There were so many friends, and classmates, who were in attendance. She recognized her SGA coaches, Donnie Crawford and Jimmy Sealy. One of the attendees remarked that it was just like a family reunion, and so it was.

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