“Mr. Versatile” Donovan Gregory shines for App State basketball


Hiatt Ellis

Junior forward Donovan Gregory releases a free throw in a 72-57 win over Little Rock Jan. 29, 2022.

Zach Smith, Reporter

Anybody who’s attended an App State men’s basketball game this year has noticed number 11. The six-five recreation management major has played the game since he was just three years old, and the forward has become an instrumental part of the App State men’s basketball team. 

Donovan Gregory’s family and coaches have led him to continued success on the court. His parents, who also played basketball, gave him unwavering support through both the good and the bad. Gregory noted that his coaches and family members motivated him, partially by telling him “stuff that I might not always want to hear.”

Gregory named Byron Dinkins, who coached Gregory for three years of his high school career at Northside Christian Academy and Carmel Christian High School, as someone who was influential in his progress as a player. Dinkins is now director of Player Development at Charlotte, a position he still holds. 

“Just my freshman year, he’s just always had confidence in me and told me how good I could be,” Gregory said. “He was like a mentor to me.”

Coming out of high school, Gregory held scholarship offers from five schools, including App State, while also listed as a three-star recruit. Schools like Charlotte and future Sun Belt Conference competitor Old Dominion were among the other offers. Gregory listed a few reasons for choosing App State over other schools.

Junior forward Donovan Gregory slams home a two-handed dunk against Troy Feb. 17, 2022. (Travis Holshouser)

“It was just close to home, you know. College, you usually want to go somewhere where you can trust the coaching staff,” Gregory said. “I just felt like I could trust the coaches here, and it ended up working out in my favor.”

Head coach Dustin Kerns has prided himself in player development. He pointed out that not only has Gregory improved each of his three seasons on the court, he’s shown great character off the court as well.

“Donovan has gotten better each season. Another great kid from a great family,” Kerns said. “So when you have high character people in your program, good things are going to happen to them. They’re going to get better because they want to be coached. They buy into what you’re doing.”

Gregory played a key role in the 2020-21 season for the Mountaineers, leading the team in rebounds for the season. Those rebounds played a key role last March, when App State won four games in four consecutive days to clinch their first-ever Sun Belt championship, as well as their first NCAA tournament berth since 2000.

 Gregory earned a career-high 14 rebounds in the conference semi-final game against Coastal Carolina and later grabbed 10 rebounds, tied for third most in his career, in the championship game against Georgia State. Gregory credited the team and their underdog mentality for the unlikely run to the conference title.

“We came into the tournament as a six seed, so we were already the underdog in pretty much every game. But the hardest thing to do is win the first game, so after that, I think that just gave us confidence to keep moving on,” Gregory said. “We were playing really good basketball, and we were just so together as a team. That’s what helped us win all those games.”

With the tournament win, App State punched their ticket to the school’s first NCAA tournament in over two decades. For Gregory, the realization of the accomplishment didn’t come into play until the Mountaineers’ first and eventually only, game of the tournament against Norfolk State.

“I don’t even think it really hit me until you get there and then, boom, you’re playing, and it’s like ‘Woah, I’m really here,’” Gregory said. “You just gotta embrace moments like those, make the best of them because it’s something you’ll remember forever.”