Athlete of the Week: Bonner finds new home at Conway

No one would blame Reggie Bonner if he was having a bad year. Instead, the Conway High hoops standout is making his senior year the best yet, and not just on the basketball court.

Last summer, Bonner was informed that he would have to leave his former school, Sumter High, to live with family members due to problems at home. Now he’s found a new home at Conway.

“My mom was having some financial difficulties so I had to go live with my father or my sister in Conway,” Bonner recalled. “It was real hard at first but everybody here has been very welcoming. The first thing they asked me was, ‘Do you play sports?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I play a little basketball.’ ”

Talk about an understatement: Bonner was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week not only for his strong individual performances but also for leading his new team to the playoffs. Bonner went from the new guy to the go-to guy in a matter of months.

“I didn’t want to come in acting like more than I am,” Bonner said. “I just wanted to find my role and lead by example, and it’s just all worked out. The main thing was I wanted the team to win. If I can help us do that by scoring or grabbing a rebound, that’s what I wanted to do.”

As it turns out, Bonner has done both – repeatedly. He is averaging a double-double in region play, including 26 points and 13 rebounds per game last week when the Tigers clinched second place. He’s also made some clutch plays in close games, including eight overtime contests this season.

“We have a lot of chemistry on this team and we never give up,” Bonner said. “I wasn’t here last year but I’ve always heard Conway is a football school and nobody cared that much about basketball because they didn’t have a winning season. Now that we’re winning everybody’s excited.”

The one obstacle Bonner wasn’t able to overcome was his former school, Sumter, which swept the two-game series with the Tigers by three and four points, respectively, to win the title. But Bonner gained a small measure of revenge by earning Region 6-4A Player of the Year honors over three of his former teammates.

“I played varsity since at Sumter since the 10th grade so it was real frustrating to lose to them,” Bonner said. “I knew the matchups and I knew all their plays, but we lost close games both times. I think those losses hurt me the most, but I’m proud to be a part of this team.”

And not just because the Tigers (18-7) are on the verge of becoming the first Conway team to win a playoff game in more than a decade. The team’s new-found success has made the transition easier for Bonner, but he’s happy to be a part of the Conway family on and off the court.

“Moving to Conway has been the best thing that ever happened to me,” Bonner said. “I never really had a father figure, and Coach (Michael) Hopkins has been a great mentor to me and my teammates are like family.”

Despite the love, Bonner would like to be a Gamecock again someday – at the University of South Carolina, not Sumter High. He hopes to play college basketball and study pre-law in hopes of becoming an attorney, but first he has some unfinished business at his new home.

“I just want to help my team win in the playoffs and then I’ll start thinking about (recruiting),” Bonner said. “I don’t know if USC is going to offer me, but I want to get into a good school and play college basketball, and I feel like all my dreams are coming true.”

Photo by Joel Beachum

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