A humble champion returned home to be celebrated Friday night.
Jefferson City honored "one of its greatest athletes," OG Anunoby, by retiring his No. 5 during halftime of its game against Rock Bridge.
Anunoby stole the spotlight, but not by any effort of his own doing. Before walking onto the field to be recognized, Anunoby stood inconspicuously in the corner of the sidelines, dressed casually in all black. While he willingly signed autographs for the eager little kids who found him, he seemed most comfortable laughing and chatting with his former teachers and supporters.
The humility and grace demonstrated by Anunoby came as no surprise to those who've known him and followed his career.
Garrett Parker, a former high school teammate of Anunoby, highlighted Anunoby's "nonchalant and kind" attitude.
"He's a really good dude."
On the court, Anunoby emerged as a impressive offensive threat his junior year of high school. He averaged 21.3 points, but his season was cut short because of a wrist injury. As a senior, he averaged 19.1 points.
"He just blew me away," Parker said, recalling the first time he had to face Anunoby on defense. "He's just crazy."
After graduating from Jefferson City in 2015, Anunoby went on to play at Indiana for two seasons before being drafted by the Toronto Raptors in 2017. Anunoby has been in Toronto for his entire career and was a member of the Raptors' 2019 NBA championship team. Most recently, the 2020-21 season cemented him as a multitalented guard, as he averaged 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
In addition to retiring his jersey, Jefferson City mayor Carrie Tergin Sept. 10 to be "OG Anunoby Day."
Celebrating fellow Jefferson City Jaybird @OAnunoby at Friday night's Jay Football game with "OG Anunoby Day" in the Capital City! Congratulations and so proud of you! #JCMO #JCHS #MayorTergin #SelfiewiththeMayor ❤🖤🏀 pic.twitter.com/101pMWR2Ak— Carrie Tergin (@CarrieTergin) September 11, 2021
"We're so very proud of him," Tergin said affectionately. "We appreciate his career, but we mostly appreciate him as a person."
By honoring Anunoby's athletic and personal excellence, Jefferson City athletic director Ehren Earleywine hopes to inspire young Jays.
"He's a role model," Earleywine said. "I hope little kids will use him as an example of a way that they should maybe try to live their lives."