GHSA Basketball Transfer Recap and Overview

As there is every year, there was some major offseason movement among some of the best basketball programs in the state of Georgia. Unlike football, there is an AAU circuit that plays nearly year round with the best players in the area joining forces to make a run at Nationals. Playing with players from other schools gives players a chance to bond with one another and learn each other’s game. The success on this summer circuit sometimes prompts players to decide to transfer to be able keep playing together. Where it hurts the schools where they transfer from, it helps build powerhouse programs elsewhere. It truly has turned into the Wild Wild West during the offseason, with the entire outlook of programs changing with the loss or the import of one or more transfer(s).

Here is a rundown of some transfers I have heard through the grapevine and a summary of what the addition means. If you know of anymore or any that are incorrect, please shoot me a tweet @KyleSandy355 or leave a comment or an email at Ksandy@Scoreatl.com. Thanks!

Class AAAAAA

SO Chris Parks – 6’6” 210 lbs – (5A Lanier to Collins Hill)

SR Romello White – 6’8” 215 lbs – (IMG Academy, FL to Wheeler)

SR Darnell Rogers – 5’2”135 lbs – (Indian Land, SC to Shiloh)

JR Collin Sexton – 6’2” 160 lbs – (Hillgrove to Pebblebrook)

JR Chuma Okeke – 6’7” 210 lbs – (Langston Hughes to Westlake)

SR A.J. Cheeseman – 6’6” 210 lbs – (Duluth to Collins Hill)

JR Kendrick Summerour – 5’9” 155 lbs – (5A Kell to Milton)

JR Greg James – 6’4” 162 lbs – (Alpharetta to Shiloh)

SO Reikan Donaldson – 6’2” 160 lbs – (1A Calvary Day to Wheeler)

JR Zach Cooks – 5’8” 140 lbs – (Norcross to Berkmar)

SO Justin Brown – 6’0” 165 lbs – (Northview to Milton)

SR Kyrin Galloway – 6’8” 200 lbs – (4A Buford to Milton)

JR Jay Estime – 6’5” 180 lbs – (Peachtree Ridge to Berkmar)

SR Al-Wajid Aminu – 6’6″ 185 lbs – (Coral Gables, FL to Wheeler)

SR Ronald Bell – 6’5″ 175 lbs – (5A North Atlanta to Westlake)

SR Teshaun Hightower – 6’5″ 180 lbs (3A Towers to Collins Hill)

SR Reece Anderson – 6’2” 185 lbs – (5A Chapel Hill to Douglas County)

JR David Swillum – 6’0″ 175 lbs – (Milton to Alpharetta)

SR Keishon Kershaw – 6’2″ 175 lbs – (Milton to Alpharetta)

SR Khalil Richard – 5’11” 165 – (St. Frances, MD to Shiloh)

SR Robert Hill – 6’9″ 240 lbs – (Duluth to Berkmar)

JR Elafayette Stone – 6’8″ 245 lbs – (Copperas Cove, TX to East Coweta)

JR JJ Smith – 6’4″ 195 lbs – (E.E. Smith, NC to Pebblebrook)

JR Thurman Massenburg – 6’7″ 210 lbs – (Home School Augusta to Shiloh)

SO Trevin Wade – 5’11” 155 lbs – (Hillgrove to South Cobb)

SO Landers Nolley – 6’4″ 175 lbs – (Lovejoy to Curie, IL)

JR Brandon Blair – 5’10” 155 lbs – (Shiloh to Duluth)

SR Amir Butcher – 6’2″ 170 lbs – (Norcross to Tucker)

Class AAAAA

SR Aaron Augustin – 5’11” 170 lbs – (6A Peachtree Ridge to Miller Grove)

JR Tae Hardy – 6’3″ 150 lbs – (Southwest DeKalb to Miller Grove)

SR Cameron Cox – 6’3″ 170 lbs – (Creekview to Sequoyah)

SR Isaac Kellum – 6’4″ 170 lbs – (Fayette County to McIntosh)

SR Tyler Scott – 6’10” 215 lbs – (Gainesville to Greenville, SC)

SR Colin Young – 6’3” 185 lbs – (3A Laney to Miller Grove)

SR Marquis Traylor – 6’5″ 180 lbs – (Knob Noster, MO to Houston County)

JR D.J. Young – 6’1″ 180 lbs – (6A Milton to Discovery)

SR Madison Williams – 6’3″ 170 lbs – (SCISA Augusta Christian to Academy of Richmond County)

SR Chris Stone – 6’0″ 155 lbs – (GISA Augusta Prep Day to Evans)

SR Jo’el Grant – 6’0″ 165 lbs – (SCISA Augusta Christian to Evans)

SR Khamron Gordon – 6’2″ 195 lbs – (1A Aquinas to Cross Creek)

SR Theo Benn Jr. – 6’0″ 180 lbs (6A Berkmar to Discovery)

SO Chima Ogboi – 6’3″ 175 lbs (1A Mt. Paran to Allatoona)

Class AAAA

SR Jacara Cross – 6’6” 220 lbs – (3A Cedar Grove to Lithonia)

SO Alex Jones – 5’9” 155 lbs – (6A Alpharetta to Buford)

SO D.J. Brittian – 6’0″ 160 lbs – (5A Miller Grove to Grady)

SO Kris Gardner – 6’1″ 170 lbs -(6A Lee County to Westover)

SR SanAntonio Brinson – 6’7” 200 lbs – (1A Aquinas to Thomson)

SO Corderius Hastings – 6’0″ 165 lbs – (Griffin to The Potter House, FL)

JR Kovi Tate – 6’4″ – 218 lbs – (5A Woodland-Stockbridge to Henry County)

Class AAA

SO Lamont Smith – 6’1” 185 lbs – (4A Buford to East Jackson)

JR Zion Williams – 5’8” 155 lbs – (Savannah to Jenkins)

SR Dylan Curry – 6’4″ 165 lbs – (Oak Hill Academy, VA to West Hall)

SO Gabe Bryant – 6’8″ 225 lbs – (Dorman, SC to Dawson County)

SR Ric’Quail Smoot – 6’8″ 230 lbs – (Butler to The Potter House, FL)

SR Jalen Holbrook – 6’2″ 170 lbs (1A Aquinas to Butler)

SO Travis Anderson – 5’10” 165 lbs – (2A Holy Innocents to East Jackson)

JR Nick Hargrove Jr. – 6’0″ 170 lbs – (GCAA Bible Baptist Christian to Southwest)

SR Korbian Bell – 6’7″ 220 lbs – (5A Morrow to South Atlanta)

Class AA

SO Isaiah Kelly – 6’8” 195 lbs – (SCISA Augusta Christian to Pace Academy)

SR Alex Perry – 6’6″ 190 lbs – (Maclay, FL to Thomasville)

Class A

SR Anthony Showell – 6’2” 165 lbs – (6A Duluth to St. Francis)

SO Cameron Gardner – 6’3″ 180 lbs – (3A Hephzibah to Aquinas)

SO Gerald Merriweather – 5’7″ 140 lbs – (3A Hephzibah to Aquinas)

JR Demiere Brown – 6’4″ 200 lbs – (5A Hiram to North Cobb Christian)

Class AAAAAA Impact Transfers:

One player might shift the balance of power in 6A and especially in Region 3. Chuma Okeke and his 22.8 points and 8.3 rebounds shift from Langston Hughes to Westlake. Hughes was primed for a big season chock full of juniors. An astronomical 12 sophomores suited up last year for coach Rory Welsh and it was Okeke along with guard Khalil Cuffee (18.2 ppg) that ran the show as super sophomores. Now Cuffee will have to shoulder the complete load with Okeke gone. The highly sought after forward joins an already talented roster that stumbled to a 13-15 record in 2014. Big man Michael Durr, shooting guard Raquan Wilkins and point guards Danny and Jamie Lewis along with Okeke make the Lions one of the most intriguing teams for a huge rebound season. Westlake has also added North Atlanta stand-out Ronald Bell. Bell can play both forward positions and has a high motor which he uses to go after loose balls and rebounds.

The Tigers added a strong combo guard in Reece Anderson, who will join an already potent backcourt. Anderson was a key contributor last season for the Chapel Hill Panthers and now will slide in to play with highly sought after swingman Brandon Robinson. Anderson is a big physical guard who has improved his handle and jumpshot throughout his high school career. Anderson will be relied upon to produce in the ultra-competitive Region 3-AAAAAA, which is home to state runner up Pebblebrook, the reloaded Westlake Lions and the talented young Langston Hughes Panthers. Anderson was an honorable mention selection in Region 4-AAA as a sophomore in 2014 and has the upside to garner similar honors or better his senior season.

Collins Hill picked up some great size inside to help add to a team that could use some toughness in the low post. Chris Parks and AJ Cheeseman will bring just that. Parks averaged 8.0 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman with Lanier. Cheeseman knows Collins Hill well, as his Duluth Wildcats split a pair with the Eagles during the Region 7 regular season. Cheeseman averaged 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds as a junior.

The Eagles also nabbed Teshaun Hightower from AAA Towers High School. The combo guard has great athleticism and can become a big time scorer in the right system. Last season as a junior he averaged over 12 points per game and has yet to reach his ceiling. He has nice lift on his jumper and should start to rack up the scholarship offers with a productive senior season. Hightower broke out with a big summer circuit and was originally set to join Grayson High School before settling on Collins Hill.

Shiloh added some dynamic players to its backcourt in Darnell Rogers and Greg James. Rogers averaged over 28 points per game in South Carolina and became a YouTube sensation for his acrobatic and jaw dropping play as the smallest player on the floor. He played with new teammate Josh Okogie on the AAU circuit on Team CP3 and decided to follow him to Georgia to play their senior season together. James is strong outside shooter with nice size and is receiving looks from low to mid-major programs.

The Generals added another dynamic guard with Division-One talent in Khalil Richard. A strong guard who banged home 45% of his three-point attempts last season, Richard announced on Sept. 15 that he committed to Siena. At St. Frances Academy as a junior he averaged 12.9 points per game and 3.0 assists. He joins Darnell Rogers and Greg James at Shiloh, a team that lost just one game in-state as they finished 28-4.

Hillgrove took a major blow in losing Collin Sexton. The rising junior was a major piece to Hillgrove’s 23-win season and was a big-game performer when the Hawks needed him the most. He will join last season’s state runner up Pebblebrook, who needs to reload after losing Ty Hudson (Clemson), Derek Ogbeide (UGA), Trhae Mitchell and glue guy Kevin Murph. Sexton will team up with Auburn-bound point guard Jared Harper and will form one of the best back courts in the state.

The Pebblebrook Falcons swooped in late in the transfer scene and landed a potential game changer in the already deep Region 3-AAAAAA picture. Jatrious “JJ” Smith has transferred from E.E. Smith, NC. The four-star guard who is a Top 50 national recruit, was originally slated to play at Word of God Christian Academy in North Carolina according to the Fayetteville Observer , but today (10/7) Shun Williams of OnTheRadarHoops broke the news that the ultra-talented scorer is coming to Georgia. Last season as a sophomore he averaged 19.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. ACC and SEC schools have been hot after the guard, who gets to the line at will, averaging almost six freethrow attempts a game last year. Smith played with the Southern Stampede of the EYBL which sported the likes of Al Durham (Berkmar) and Jay Estime and Zach Cooks who transferred to Berkmar to play with Durham this year. The addition of Smith makes Pebblebrook the owner of arguably the most talented backcourt in a a state that has seen the balance of power shift with each move. Smith, Jared Harper (Auburn) and Hillgrove transfer Collin Sexton are a lethal trio for coach George Washington.

The big winner of all this moving-and-shaking has to be Milton, who vaults itself back into state prominence if all the pieces come together. Kendrick Summerour brings his slick And-1 type handles to the Eagles after averaging 14.1 points and 4.1 assists as a sophomore at Kell. Justin Brown averaged 15.1 points a night as a freshman at Northview, while Kyrin Galloway brings size inside. This new trio will team-up with Harvard bound big man Chris Lewis and the rapidly improving Alex O’Connell.

Although Milton added a plethora of talent this offseason, they also lost some key pieces that saw a lot of time on the court last year. Senior Keishon Kershaw and junior David Swillum will bring their abilities to Alpharetta. Kershaw started half the season for the Eagles and provides energy on the perimeter. Swillum led the JV team in scoring and has been groomed to make a contribution right away in his first season playing full-time on varsity. Fellow junior DJ Young has left for first-year school Discovery and should be thrust into a role which will see him as a primary option on offense. When he gets the opportunity to set his feet, Young can be lethal from outside with his three-point stroke.

Wheeler has added the younger brother of NBA’er and former Norcross star Al-Farouq Aminu. Al-Wajid is a 6-foot-6 forward with long arms which will help Wheeler’s defense right away in both the passing lanes and on the interior. Now a senior, as a sophomore Aminu averaged 9.4 points, 9.0 and 1.8 blocks per game at Coral Gables, FL.

The Wildcats also picked up four-star forward Romello White, late into the transfer scene. Initially, it was being reported by sources that White, who started his high school career at Peachtree Ridge, would be back with the Lions, but he indeed has landed with Wheeler. @CoryintheSource looked like the first to break it, and had his tweet retweeted by White himself. On Sept. 14, Shun Williams of OnTheRadarHoops tweeted that Iowa State was at Wheeler to see both Darius Perry and White work out. White committed to Tennessee on Jan. 5, but later de-committed on April 14 after the coaching change.

Berkmar could be in line for a resurgence this season behind junior guard Al Durham and three important transfers. Guards Zach Cooks (Norcross) and Jay Estime (Peachtree Ridge) should revamp the Patriots backcourt. Both are juniors and can knock down the three-ball. Cooks is a quick little point guard who can push tempo and find the open man. Estime averaged over 10 points per game and led the Lions in three-pointers made last year. The perimeter should be a strength for the Patriots, but the interior got a major boost as well adding big man Robert Hill Jr., who comes over from Duluth. Hill stands 6-foot-9 and has started to blossom into a reliable low post presence. Two years ago Hill, who is also training to become a pilot, moved in halfway through the season and had to sit out. With Obinna Ofodile and A.J. Cheeseman getting the majority of the minutes inside in 2014 at Duluth, Hill’s move to Berkmar should see him take on a major role as a top option in the low post for coach Greg Phillips.

East Coweta suffered through an abysmal 1-25 season last year, but new head coach Royal Maxwell will have a nice addition to work with in the powerful Region 3. Elafayette Stone, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Copperas Cove, TX, will be asked to be the focal point for the Indian offense this upcoming season. Stone is a true back-to-the-basket post player and uses his 245-pound frame to carve out space down low. Stone has soft hands and is an efficient rebounder with the potential to become a double-double machine.

The Rest of the State Impact Transfers:

Aaron Augustin averaged 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Peachtree Ridge a year ago, but now teams up with UConn-commit Alterique Gilbert at Class AAAAA power Miller Grove to form yet another great Peach State backcourt.

Tae Hardy will join Gilbert and Augustin in a now crowded, but loaded backcourt. He comes from Southwest DeKalb where he averaged 16.5 points per game last year as a sophomore.

A third guard has landed at Miller Grove in Colin Young. Young was a part of the break out Laney Wildcats who won 29 games and put together the most impressive resume in all of the state with wins over the likes of Morgan County, Pebblebrook, Norcross and eventual state champ Jenkins last year. The 6-foot-3 guard was named Region 3-AAA Second Team after pitching in 11 points per game. Young is a knockdown shooter who led the Wildcats with 49 threes, connecting at a 46% clip. He will get plenty of opportunities to spot up with Gilbert and Augustin running the show up top.

McIntosh, who has blossomed into a Class AAAAA power after a 29-1 record last year, returns 10 players including the Chiefs’ top four scorers. 2015-16 will be the season the Chiefs make a deep run into the playoffs after adding Isaac Kellum. The senior averaged 13.8 points per game at neighboring Fayette County High School and will slide into the starting three spot. He brings great athleticism and may be the missing piece needed for the Chiefs to capture their first ever state championship.

Houston County continues to trend upwards after adding Marquis Traylor from Knob Noster High School in Missouri. The Bears finished the regular season 0-7 in Region 2-AAAAA, but stunned cross-region foe Grovetown (17-7, 9-1) in the region tournament and sent the Warriors home early without a state playoff berth. The Bears featured just four seniors last year and Traylor should help with his athleticism. As a junior he averaged 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds while showing off his hops, blocking 1.3 shots per game.

After a 13-13 regular season in Class AAAAA, Academy of Richmond County (ARC) returns some good pieces, but the best might have come via transfer in Madison Williams. At 6-foot-3, Williams is an athletic combo guard that joins the program after starring at Augusta Christian. An ability to get to the rim and nice range on his jumper makes Williams a high-scoring guard with a lot of mid-major interest. He will be expected to take the reigns of the Musketeers offense and lead them into the state playoffs after missing out a year ago.

Jacara Cross’ move from Cedar Grove to Lithonia makes the Bulldogs one of the top dogs in AAAA.  Couple him with Tyleen Patterson, Rodney Chatman and Tyheem Freeman and you have a dynamic team that already is coming off a 27-win season.

Alex Jones graded out as one of the best freshmen in the state last year and was named AAAAAA Freshman of the Year by HoopSeen. He helped lead Alpharetta to a 25-6 record and 18-0 Region 6 record. The floor general averaged a double-double in points and assists and was a lock down defender on the perimeter. Jones will fill in for Tre Hansbrough, who signed to play at Tennessee Tech after averaging 23 points per game his senior season at Buford.

Kris Gardner will bring stability to the Westover backcourt this season after transferring from 6A Lee County. In his freshman season Gardner was named All-Region 1AAAAAA First Team. Now at the AAAA level, Gardner brings strong ball handling and decision making to a Westover team that was bounced in the first round of the state playoffs last year.

Griffin (20-8 in 2014) has suffered a big loss in its hope to reach the AAAA playoffs for the second straight season. The Potter’s House, FL has struck again and plucked another fine young talent out of the state of Georgia in rising sophomore Corderius Hastings. The talented guard averaged 15.1 points per game along with 4.8 assists and 3.9 steals. The shifty guard can bang home the three and get to the rack on offense while supplying sticky defense to ball handlers. He joins Ric’Quail Smoot, a 6-foot-8 Butler transfer, in Florida. Smoot is a bruiser inside that finishes well around the rim. He averaged nearly a double-double last season and has improved his jump shot, showing a feathery touch around the baseline. The Potter’s House was 13-10 last year while playing a national schedule as a part of the Sunshine Independent league.

A pair of guards should improve backcourts in AAA. Lamont Smith joins super sophomore Drue Drinnon for East Jackson while Zion Williams replaces Jenkins graduate Eric Johnson, who hit the game winner to lift the Warriors to a state championship last season with just seconds left. Williams averaged 10.3 points and 6.8 assists as a sophomore.

In a turn of events, Travis Anderson has landed at East Jackson after originally going to Grayson after a successful season at Holy Innocents’ which led to the playmaking guard being named by HoopSeen as the Class AA Freshman of the Year. Anderson proved he could score and pass at a high-rate and was tabbed to make Grayson a contender in Region 8-AAAAAA with Austin Dukes and Alphonso Willis. Instead, after playing with Grayson this year in the HoopSeen Fall League, today (10/5/15) Shun Williams of OnTheRadarHoops broke the news that the talented guard will be teaming up with Drue Drinnon and Buford transfer Lamont Smith in the Eagles’ backcourt. The addition automatically makes East Jackson a player to make a deep run in state if the front court can be productive as well.

Dawson County landed a huge player with big time upside in Gabe Bryant. The 6-foot-8 big man comes from South Carolina and will make an immediate impact with the Tigers, who won just 7 games last season (7-19). Bryant protects the paint with ease and can rebound outside of his zone. His offense has continued to improve and he will enter Dawsonville as the Tigers’ go-to guy on day one.

The dynamic Nick Hargrove Jr. will be given the keys to the car to try and drive Southwest High School to its first winning record since 2009-10. While at Bible Baptist Christian in Hampton, Georgia, Hargrove Jr. did everything. The 6-foot junior averaged 30.6 points per game, 9.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 6.1 steals. Hargrove cracked 40 points three times and will now bring his free-scoring mentality to the GHSA ranks. He definitely is a player to keep an eye on and may quickly become a fan favorite in Middle Georgia.

Isaiah Kelly provides Pace head coach Demetrius Smith with an embarrassment of riches inside. Kelly will join top nationally ranked big man Wendell Carter Jr. and will likely give the Knights a say when it comes to the state championship. As a freshman, he averaged 16.2 points and 10.5 rebounds.

Class AA Thomasville landed a key piece to add with Jordan Willis and the 22-9 Bulldogs who fell to eventual state runner-up Crawford County 80-65 in the quarterfinals after being tied 47-47 heading into the final frame. Alex Perry is a long, versatile forward who can stretch the floor and score inside. Perry averaged over 17 points and 10 rebounds last season as a junior at Maclay High School in Tallahassee, FL. He joins Willis, a strong point guard that averaged more than 14 points per game last year.

Dual sport star Anthony Showell averaged 16.6 points per game for Duluth last season and suits up alongside 5-star guard Kobi Simmons.

Aquinas suffered a major loss with the transfer of SanAntonio Brinson. The long senior has the ability to play 1-4 and has a unique skill set that can blend into any system. At first there were rumblings he would head to Thomson, but instead he landed at 22ft Academy in South Carolina. Now, as of 9-21-2015, SanAntonio went to Twitter to announce that he is indeed heading to Thomson for good after spending time with the 22ft program this offseason. Brinson is an interesting prospect who should see a major bump in his recruitment now that he is playing on a bigger stage with more exposure. He has improved his range and handle and is coming off an All-State Honorable Mention campaign in 2014. Thomson is coming off an 8-21 record and will turn the keys over to Brinson to get the Bulldogs back into the postseason. In 2013-14, Thomson lost in the second round of the state playoffs and finished 19-5.

What Football Means To Kennesaw State

The weather is starting to cool down, the air is beginning to get a little crisp. That can mean only one thing: College Football is here and more importantly, a new tradition will begin in Kennesaw, Ga.

Just eight days from now, Kennesaw State University will kick off its first ever football game. What a ride it has been to get here. Founded in October of 1963, the long arduous journey to blossom into something special and gain the respect of neighboring schools and nationally is finally starting to come to fruition.

Kennesaw State is no longer a joke. The ribs and jabs of calling it “High School 2.0” or “13th Grade” is over and has always been a fabricated over exaggeration. Students in the area complain about it being a small school, they whine that it is too close to home, they laugh about the athletics program not having a football team and they scoff at the idea of Kennesaw having a night life.

Sorry, but the worm has turned. Kennesaw State is not some nobody school in the middle of nowhere. It is less than an hour away from the internationally known metropolis of Atlanta. If the city is your thing, you are right there within arm’s reach. Heart of the city not your style? Don’t worry, you still have that hour cushion and don’t have to mess with driving through downtown.

“The school is too small.” KSU is closing in on 33,000 students. That’s right. I didn’t add an extra 3. Kennesaw is knocking on the door of becoming the LARGEST school in the state of Georgia and with football coming, possibly a revitalized basketball program with a former NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR and an expanding campus, the sky is the limit for the unknown gem of the south which features a beautiful campus.

And yes, I might have mentioned, Kennesaw State will be fielding a football team. The memories that will be made here will be countless and the students and alumni will be visiting Fifth Third Bank Stadium in droves. Myself, a May 2015 graduate, will just have missed out on all the fun. Will I be able to attend some games? Who knows. A busy work schedule which often leaks into the weekend will most likely prevent me from going to games and also the growing distance between myself and friends in the area will play a factor.

But for those who live in the area or go to school still, this is a golden era of Kennesaw State. Every time I drive past campus, there are new buildings being constructed and new projects in the works. New exits are being built to bring you directly into the heart of Kennesaw. Who would have thought that 20 years ago?

The growth of KSU is constant
The growth of KSU is constant

Football brings a feeling of hope and optimism in the air. Major sports can do that. Sports are not just players lining up playing a game. They are student-athletes doing something they have strived to do for years and realizing the achievement of playing college ball, a goal they have had since they were three and four years old, is something they can never have taken away from them.

Sports bring people, cultures and communities together. It is a rallying point. In war torn countries, groups visit and bring soccer balls or footballs or anything with them to get the youth and even adults involved. It is an escape from the real world which sometimes can be scary. All this competition and involvement helps keep kids off the streets and gives them something to look forward to. Sports can heal and sports can advance.

As Kennesaw State ushers in this new era, think about the big picture. Don’t count wins and losses the first year. This is a program under strong and passionate leadership of Brian Bohannon. He understands what this is. This is not just football and recording wins and stats, this is a process of building men and building everyone involved with the program.

It is a chance to connect with the community and raise morale. The baseball team did this two years ago, but it was too late in the season and the fan base wasn’t aware of the chance to jump onto the bandwagon. It was short-lived, making it to the College World Series, but again, it is sports bringing the community together to rally behind something.

With football on the horizon, the area will continue to grow. Tailgating on Saturday mornings and a sense of pride will run rampant in Kennesaw. No longer will students have to wear garb of other schools. No more wasted trips to Athens, no more bandwagon hopping of whoever the No. 1 team in the nation is. This area will now have a team they can call their own, through thick and thin. The football program has people excited and ready to buy into what this school can now sell.

For those still in college, cherish the moments that are soon forgotten and overlooked. That random Saturday day game vs. Point University may not seem significant at the time, but the excitement, preparation, trials and tribulations of getting ready to go to a game in Kennesaw’s inaugural season is something you can tell your kids forever. The importance of living in the moment is something we lose as a society. Heads buried in phones, noses stuck in social media in a rat race to get the most likes; sometimes it really is better to stop and smell the roses and take life day-by-day and try not to take for granted all the little things in life.

A beautiful campus, a top ranked cafeteria in the Commons, a continually growing Greek Life system, an athletics program that finally looks to be on the right track, this looks like the perfect time to buy stock in Kennesaw State and see what happens. These next five years will be crucial for the development of Kennesaw, but the sky is the limit for this once over looked University.

Sandy’s Spiel’s Super Sleepers (Football)

Every year in every sport there is that one team that comes out of nowhere to surprise people. In the NBA it was our Atlanta Hawks. Last year in the MLB it was the Kansas City Royals. But who are some potential sleepers for this upcoming high school football season? It’s not as easy to predict with stats and info not being readily available for every school, but taking a stab in the dark can still be fun. I’ll try to run down some teams who I think have a chance to surprise people this year, picking a team from each classification. Also, I’ll try to avoid notoriously strong programs that just had a down year.

Class AAAAAA

North_Paulding_Logo_smallA team that took its lumps after moving up to 6A is North Paulding (4-7). The Wolfpack won a record 11 games in 2013 in their final season at the 5A level, but found out that playing with the “big boys” was a whole other animal. Scott Jones is a strong coach with experience coaching at the highest classification after a 10-year run at Kennesaw Mountain. The Wolfpack return an experienced group ready to take the next step. Senior quarterback Kyle Banks (MTSU) threw for 3,498 yards and 32 touchdowns in his first year starting last season. His two favorite targets also return with seniors D.J. Owens (67 receptions, 1,157 yards, 12 TD’s) and NC State-commit, tight end Dylan Autenrieth (468 yards), back to make big plays. Another reason I like North Paulding is the fact that linebacker Javier Williams returns after totaling 97 tackles. A big loss however is William Craig, who has transfered to Buford after notching over 100 tackles in 2014.

Class AAAAA

9856363Paulding County (5-5) took a momentous step forward last season and coach Scott Hamilton has the team believing a playoff berth is within their grasp.The Patriots recorded their first winning season since 2003 and have nearly everybody returning on offense. Senior Bailey Johnson and junior Marquis Tre’von Lewis split time at quarterback last year and combined for 2,069 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Lewis added 500 yards rushing and 10 scores as well. Caleb Sailor returns to the backfield after a broken collarbone ended his season after four games. He and Dondre Ledford will see the bulk of the carries. Ledford did most of his damage at receiver in 2014, catching 42 balls for 413 yards, but the top option will remain Antonio Gandy-Golden, who comes off a 54-catch, 891-yard season.

Class AAAA

Under head coach Sean Gray, Southeast Whitfield (6-5) captured its first winning season since 1986. Screen-Shot-2012-07-26-at-5.42.32-PM1That is 28 years! The Raiders return their top running back Tyler Brown along with dual-threat quarterback Will Swantic. Linebacker/running back Devin Fields brings back a two-way talent that could help spark the Raiders back into the playoffs. Pickens County should fall back to the pack with the graduation of Shannon Brooks (Minnesota) and Northwest Whitfield loses star quarterback Caleb Shiflett which gives reason to believe that Southeast Whitfield could find itself in the playoff picture again.


Class AAA

Coaching is critical in high school football and one of the best in the business to never win a state title brings his 20 years of head coaching experience to the Dawson County Tigers (2-8). DTigerSid Maxwell has compiled a 128-83 record and has only suffered five losing seasons as a head coach – three coming in his first three seasons at Sequoyah back in the mid-90’s. Maxwell runs a Wing-T offense and spent his first 15 years coaching at Sequoyah before moving to Lambert for five years to coach his son. He took off last season, but Dawson County should see success under the strong leader.

Class AA

Wesleyan 1247866013_wesleyan_wolves(6-5) was extremely young last year and started freshman Banks Ramsey at quarterback. The Wolves’ top two running backs return along with top receiver, junior Harrison Cook. Drew Aspinwall led the team in tackles as a junior at linebacker with 99 stops. Jordan Mack is a Virginia-commit and plays both offense and defense for the Wolves. Coach Franklin Pridgen’s group played teams tough last season. They lost to quarterfinal participants Pace Academy 23-17 in overtime, Lovett 30-24 and Heard County 28-21. These young pups look to become full-grown wolves this season with some bite.

Class A

Stratford Academy imgres(6-5) and its dominant rushing attack (293.6 yards per game) can steam roll opponents. Dual sport standout Quintez Cephus controls the offense from under center while senior O’Showen Williams is coming off a 1,060-yard, 21-touchdown season. The Eagles lost close games to strong programs Aquinas 28-27 and to Lincoln County 21-20.

The Curious Case of Krysten Hammon

Coach Trent Miles and staff thought they had a winner last season. Krysten Hammon, a Dickinson, Texas, product looked to be the running back of the future for the Panthers. The freshman ran for 74 yards on 13 carries in a 38-37 win over Abilene Christian in week one and followed it up with a 123-yard, two-touchdown game against New Mexico State. It seemed like quarterback Nick Arbuckle would have a reliable running game to balance his passing attack. Wrong. Hammon would get dismissed from the team, but still his total of 197 yards would rank him as Georgia State’s third-leading rusher in 2014, highlighting the fact that in his absence the Panthers could not move the ball on the ground.

Hammon was suspended at first, but then was granted his release from his scholarship as he tried to transfer. Eventually Hammon enrolled at Blinn Community College and then at Kansas, but he only took one one-hour class and paid his way. According to Doug Roberson of the AJC, “Despite his absence, he was frequently in contact with coach Trent Miles. Miles had steadfastly refused to allow him to return until a few days ago when he was meeting with everyone involved with the program.”2937150

This was August 5 when Hammon apparently re-joined the team. Just three days later, the reunion ended as quickly and as out-of-the-blue as it occurred. Less than a week into camp, the coaching staff had had enough. “We tried to give Krysten a second chance, but he did not live up to the standards necessary to be a part of our program,” Miles said. “We wish him the best.”

So what is next for Hammon? Clearly he is a talented back but cannot seem to see eye-to-eye with coaches. Even though there is depth at running back, quality always trumps quantity and the Panthers have just lost their best running back yet again.

Hopefully Hammon can find peace at his next stop if he so chooses to continue to play football. College is a time for growing and understanding who one really is. Right now Hammon’s reputation is being called into question for his struggles to stick with a school. It will be interesting to see where this mercurial talent resurfaces and when.

Sandy’s Spiel’s NCAA Football Preseason Top 25

Preseason Top 25

  1. TCU (12-1)
  2. Ohio State (14-1)
  3. USC (9-4)
  4. Oregon (13-2)
  5. Baylor (11-2)
  6. Alabama (12-2)
  7. Florida State (13-1)
  8. LSU (8-5)
  9. Stanford (8-5)
  10. Michigan State (11-2)
  11. Auburn (8-5)
  12. Wisconsin (11-3)
  13. Georgia (10-3)
  14. Oklahoma (8-5)
  15. Ole Miss (9-4)
  16. UCLA (10-3)
  17. Clemson (10-3)
  18. Virginia Tech (7-6)
  19. Notre Dame (8-5)
  20. Utah (9-4)
  21. Oklahoma State (7-6)
  22. Georgia Tech (11-3)
  23. Miami (FL) (6-7)
  24. Boise State (12-2)
  25. Louisville (9-4)