Dishon Lowery (left) and Will Washington (right) have turned pain into power as McIntosh has ascended to among the state’s elite. (Staff Photos by Christopher Dunn)

IMG_0307aby Russell Cooks

The McIntosh Chiefs are having fun on the court this year as they aim towards a title, but it has not always been smiles for the team, especially for Dishon Lowery and Will Washington, each who has had to shoulder their own pain.
Watching Dishon Lowery play for the McIntosh Chiefs for the last three years, you might often wonder what is it that drives him? What is his motivation? He always plays like he had a chip on his shoulder. Every slam dunk is done with authority. Every blocked shot is done as if he owns the court, whether they are playing at home or at the opponent’s gym. After talking with Dishon and his dad, Bob Lowery, you now understand what drives him.

New Beginnings
Bob said, “I think for Dishon, it’s the fact that people doubted his decision to stick to basketball only when he was known as a football player in St. Louis.”
You see, Dishon had made his mark as a football superstar playing with a travel team in St. Louis. He was on a team that won two National Pop Warner Championships by the time that he was in the eighth grade. Then he decided that he no longer wanted to play football. He wanted to do the opposite of NFL stars Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, who both went from being basketball stars to the gridiron. Dishon wanted to follow his hoop dreams. He wanted to win at basketball at the highest level. He wanted to lead the state in rebounds. He wants to win a State Championship.
Then the unthinkable happened. His older brother, DeMarcus, was murdered in St. Louis, the city with the fourth-highest murder rate in the country according to Forbes Magazine. In the midst of grieving the loss of his older, Dishon decided he wanted to focus on basketball, despite playing for only one year. What a bold move! So now, you have a young man fighting for his new dream and after his older brother had been  killed. He was already fighting the naysayers and the coaches that could not believe that they would no longer be able to use his elite football skills.
Along with the change in sports came another move.
“I knew that in St. Louis there wouldn’t be much opportunity for me to grow as a boy and as an athlete. I would’ve still had a great family with my mom and the coaches in St. Louis, but everyone always assumed I was just a football player,” remembered Dishon. “I knew that me moving here would definitely change my life, whether it would be athletically or mentally. Surprisingly it has changed everything about me. I would not be who I am today if I would have stayed in St. Louis.”
Bob and his ex-wife, Micole Jones, talked it over and they agreed that  is was best for Dishon move to Peachtree City to live with his dad.
Dishon remembers what drew him to Peachtree City. “I came down after my eighth grade year. My travel team from St. Louis had played in the Norman Parker’s Memorial Day Classic, and my dad happened to live here. After I spent a few weeks here after the tournament, I started to think that I would be better off around my other brother Dijon and at McIntosh High School. From that moment on, my dad told me whatever I want to pursue, anything, he was going to put his all into making me the best in that. That’s when we started our journey.

The  Tribe’s Village Effect
DiShon met Will Washington, Jordan Lyons, and the rest of his McIntosh teammates during the summer before their freshman year. Dishon said, “Personally, I think Will Washington is the best all-around player that I have ever seen play. It was my first time playing with the guys, and I have been thoroughly impressed.”
When asked his initial impression of Dishon? Will replied, “My initial impression of Dishon was very high from the beginning. It was good bringing a big guy to McIntosh that could play, and he didn’t even know it. I welcomed him from day one that he came into town, and our relationship has become great both on and off the court.”
Just two weeks later, Dishon experienced another painful situation. He injured his knee and had to have surgery. A brave and courageous young man who was a year removed from losing his older brother and who decided to defy the odds and leave his home fractured his fibula through the growth plate. One can only imagine the second guessing and pain that Dishon was enduring, but in the Lowery house quitting is not an option.
With the help of the McIntosh Tribe, Mr. Lowery found the best doctors and best rehab program to get Dishon back to full strength. Teammate Chase Walter’s dad recommended Dr. Michael Cushing for the surgery, and Dreyer Rehabilitation Center for the rehab. Dishon was quickly able to see the village effect in action. His dad, his mom, his teammates, the school, his head coach Jason Eisele, and assistant coach and mentor Bob Page supported his recovery.
Dishon was back on the court and playing for the junior varsity team in October 2012. Will Washington was the point guard and the floor general of the JV team before Eisele moved him up to the varsity after only two games. Will is only the second freshman that Eisele has allowed to play varsity, the first being McIntosh’s new all-time leading scorer and Furman signee Jordan Lyons.
Both Lowery and Washington have increased their contributions to the team each and every year. Will has gone from 10.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game as freshman to 15.9 points (52 percent increase), 3.7 rebounds (61 percent increase), and 9.6 assists (417 percent increase) this season. Dishon has gone from 2.7 points, 1.3 rebounds, and .3 blocks his freshman year to 11.8 points (437 percent increase), 13.3 rebounds (1000 percent increase), and 3.2 blocks (1000 percent increase) per game this season.
Though both have developed into dominant performers, they both had questions if that would ever be the case. Dishon could have stuck with football, and Will had his own obstacles. Because of his slight frame, his quiet demeanor, and humble spirit, some people have taken Will for granted. Consequently, he has elevated his game to the highest level, and he is attacking the basket and exhibiting excellent floor leadership skills every time he hits the floor. He is content facilitating for his teammates, but he he can take over a game whenever needed. You could say that Will Washington is also playing the game with a chip on his shoulder. Before settling on basketball, Will also played football, soccer, and baseball, and it definitely makes sense because Will plays basketball with a football player’s mentality.
Flashback to 2014-2015 season. McIntosh has a 29-0 record and they are hosting Martin Luther King, Jr. High School in the state playoffs. McIntosh is a favorite to win the 5-AAAAA State Championship. They are leading by double-digits when Will goes up for a dunk, gets fouled, and falls to the court, breaking his foreman.
McIntosh ended up losing the game and their perfect season. That loss has been the fuel that the Chiefs are using to propel them to their goal of winning a state championship in 2016. The entire McIntosh team is playing with a sense purpose and focus that is second to none.
Washington was dealing with double pain, the pain of breaking his forearm and the pain of not winning a state championship. The break was so severe that it required seven screws and a plate, but the sting of losing is just as bad. Lowery was there for him all along the way.
Amanda Butler, Will’s mom, remembers, “Dishon stopped by during Will’s injury when no one else was around, and that is when I got to see a new side of him.”
There’s the McIntosh Village again.
Dishon said, “Will had by far the worst injury that I have seen in person. He also had one of the greatest comebacks that I have ever seen. I remember one day after the surgery I was visiting Will at his home and he had his cast on and couldn’t even play the PlayStation 4 because he complained that his wrist would hurt if he moved his thumbs. I played his game for awhile until he finally gave in and played. About five days after that, Will was talking about getting out of his cast and how he could move his fingers again. That really touched me and I knew at that point that he was determined to get back to full health.”
Amanda definitely knows her son. She said, “Will has always been a serious athlete on the court and on the video game. Will likes to win.”
Will was able to get back to practice for his AAU team in March, and he was back playing basketball games in April, just three months gone for an injury that typically takes five months to heal.
“I am very motivated  to win the state title this year. It’s either all or nothing from here and I know that. I feel like I let my team down last year,” said Washington
Washington’s mother added,” Every since his freshman year he has been talking about a ring. It would be a dream come true. It hurt Will a lot inside because he felt like the team’s loss was on him. So, if he plays like there’s a chip on his shoulder, that is why. He wants to lead his team to the State Championship.”
Dishon said, “Will’s comeback has inspired us all. The whole team views the game differently now. We all realize that we’ve got to take advantage of the game whenever we get to play it!”
That is what Will Washington did during a tournament over the Christmas Break when he drove to the basket and slammed over two defenders. Call it “the dunk that was seen around the world.” It was actually number two in  the Sports Center Top 10 Plays of the Day. Yes, a dunk by a high school student ranked that high!
When asked about Will’s approach to this season? Amanda replied, “This year I have seen William’s game go places it has never been before. He is playing with more confidence in himself to lead the team, as well as his ability to be able to score. He has never really focused on himself first, but is realizing that the team is more of a threat to opponents when all five guys are scoring.”
Will, Dishon, and the entire McIntosh team are truly examples of going using pain for a purpose, and their purpose is winning a State Championship. They are well on their way with a 13-2 overall record and an 8-0 mark in region play. Watch out world! The Chiefs are on the warpath!