ABAC's Wimberly sees much progress as jump to NAIA nears

Apr. 10—TIFTON — Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College athletic director Chuck Wimberly is dealing with the nuts and bolts of transitioning his sports programs from NJCAA to four-year NAIA.

Some of those nuts and bolts have been literal lately. Gressette Gymnasium has a pair of new scoreboards, backboards, rims and new side goals. While some tasks would be quite mundane to most people, Wimberly thrills at each and every detail.

"To be honest," said Wimberly, "it has been a lot of fun watching something happen and unfold in front of your face."

Every last bit of the process thrills Wimberly. It's another step towards their goal. and that goal is approaching fast. Beyond the most visual aspects, he mentioned new water fountains, lights and ceiling tiles.

Wimberly looked at basketball uniform designs last week; sideline chairs and a scorer's table are on their way. Basketballs and ball-hoppers arrived a couple of weeks ago. The stands and the shell of Gressette Gym itself may be the only bits that aren't new for basketball.

"The block walls and the bleachers is probably about the only thing that I probably haven't put my hand on to try to change," he said. "The beauty of all this is Dr. (Tracy) Brundage is supporting what we're doing."

Brundage, ABAC's President, has not only been supportive of everything, but Wimberly said she has been just as excited to see it happening, right down to the new handrails for the bleachers.

The intriguing thing for him coming to ABAC, Wimberly said, was Brundage's desire for a four-year school, wanting to grow the school and athletics.

"I have to thank her a lot for giving me the opportunity to be part of something new and fresh," he said.

Basketball is not the only sport to benefit. Softball unveiled a new scoreboard in 2024 and baseball has new windscreens in the outfield.

Wimberly said everything they are doing shows ABAC's growth. He wants to make sure the college athletics experience is a very positive one for incoming students. "You're trying to show them you're working hard to help them have the best they can possibly have to be the best they can possibly be," he said.

Some additions, like the new speaker system in the works for Gressette Gym, will be equally beneficial for sports and graduation.

Besides his athletic director post, Wimberly will be head coach of the revived Fillies basketball team. Calvin Sinkfield is leading the Stallions. Both teams will hit the hardwood for the first time since 2008.

Recruiting is going very well for the Fillies. Wimberly said 12 players have already committed to the program and he had visits scheduled with two out-of-state athletes interested in joining ABAC's program.

"It's amazing how many people have shown interest in the program for the men and the women," he said. Expect that to go through the roof as Wimberly and Sinkfield are going to host tryouts for basketball.

Wimberly laughed about the ease of ABAC's first women's basketball commitment. In February it was his daughter, Brianna Wimberly, a 1,500-point scorer at Robert Toombs Christian Academy.

Recruiting across all sports, he said, is being heavily boosted by being four-year programs. "So many people want to be at a four-year school," he said. A two-year school requires a move for a four-year degree.

All of his signees — which added Tift County's Faith Hillmon Tuesday — are bright players, he said.

"We're not just trying to have a team," Wimberly said. "I'm trying to build a program." Love of the game is a huge aspect for him. He reminds everyone that building teams will take time.

He doesn't expect to compete for a national championship in year one.

Wining the first game will be monumental, Wimberly said, as it will be something that has not been done in ABAC basketball in a long time. He said recruits are thrilled to have the chance to be part of building up ABAC. Athletes from California and Indiana have reached out to ask about opportunities at ABAC.

So many people have helped ABAC and helped Wimberly in his visions. Dr. Alan Kramer and Shirley Wilson have been huge, plus many, many people Wimberly said he doesn't even know.

"I've not had one person that I've talked to who has not been willing to help me get where I need to get to for these kids," said Wimberly. "That's a truly awesome testimony for ABAC."

Four-year sports are back, but not completely new to the campus' history. They were played here under the name Georgia State College for Men. That changed in 1933 when the University System of Georgia massively overhauled its colleges and universities. Georgia State College for Men became ABAC and it shifted to being a two-year institution focusing on farming.

The last four-year athletics predates the NAIA itself, which was founded as the NAIB in 1940 — the 'B' standing for basketball, the organization's early focus.

"ABAC is thriving right now," said Wimberly. "I'm glad athletics is part of the enthusiasm that is helping build ABAC."