I had the pleasure of visiting Johns Creek High School for the second day of their team camp. I got a look at some of the teams that I missed out on yesterday, including the host team, North Gwinnett, Alpharetta, and Brookwood, who made their first appearance at the camp.
Alpharetta was matched up with the Buford Wolves, who I profiled yesterday, in their first game of the afternoon. Losing only one senior and coming off of a 17-8 overall record last year, the Raiders will be young but confident in the upcoming GHSA season. From what I saw Thursday, they’ll rely heavily on the three-headed monster of Juju and Gogo Maduka, and Kendall Phillips. The Maduka sisters, both long and lanky with incredible reach, are rising seniors, while Phillips, who has no shortage of length herself, will be a junior. Juju, on several occasions, grabbed boards that seemed out of reach and put them back up for easy scores. Gogo exercised more of her mid-range game both vs Buford and Brookwood. She took a couple of nice pullups, able to rise up over smaller defenders. Coach David Walden certainly has some players with potential to work with.
Brookwood is adapting to life after N’dea Jones as the standout forward transitions to Texas A&M to further her basketball career. Kiera Adams played some point/forward for the Broncos in their matchup with Alpharetta. Obviously the most aggressive player on the floor for Brookwood, Adams will be a rising junior looking to attack the basket and get to the line. Malia Grace and Hannah Farr are two sophomore posts who are pretty good at finishing around the rim. Grace at 6’1” got her hands on a ton of rebounds and when she wasn’t able to put a shot up, kicked it back out for an extra possession. I’m interested to see how the Broncos adjust to their new lineup.
Despite only seeing six wins last year, Head Coach Amanda Heil and North Gwinnett are optimistic about the process of getting better. Sydnee Jackson brought high energy for the Bulldogs, attacking and handling the ball very well. North was without Alanni Brown, daughter of NBA star Dee Brown, and sister of Lexie Brown, the Duke guard who helped build the program up before graduating in 2013. With quite a few young players, Coach Heil is focused on getting the program back to where it was just a few years ago.
Johns Creek’s Markeima Lancaster, a 5’8” SF, could not be stopped in the Gladiators matchup with North Gwinnett. Johns Creek ran a four-out, one-in offense that put Lancaster in the best position for her to succeed. Markeilla Lancaster, Markeima’s sister, also performed well. A post presence and vocal leader for the Gladiators, Markeilla cleaned up any offensive boards and hit a few short jumpers. Coach Kirk Call will look to make some noise in 6A Region 7.
Johns Creek hosted a camp Wednesday afternoon in which seven other teams including Buford, Northview, Alpharetta, and Lambert all participated. The camp was strictly held for the purpose of getting reps according to Johns Creek Head Coach Kirk Call. For that reason, scores were not kept and the scrimmages consisted of each team getting 10-minute segments of offense, half-court only.
In my most anticipated matchup of the afternoon, the Buford Wolves and Northview Titans were pitted against each other in a battle of 27+ win teams. The two juggernauts definitely came to play. Northview started with their 10-minute offensive stint first. The Titans had it going early, executing effectively and getting quality possessions. The starting five has a tangible chemistry about them that is a joy to watch. The group is led by senior guard Megan Cistulli, who showed proved to be the vocal presence on the court.
Northview has a solid tandem of 2019 prospects on their hands as well. Ashlee Austin, fresh off her first D1 offer from Ole Miss, shot the ball especially well from deep on Wednesday. Offensive rebounds were there for the 6’1 PF as well as she looks to build on her game.
Maya Richards, Austin’s fellow junior post presence, also had a strong outing. Richards, the bigger and stronger of the two, had her way with just about anyone in her vicinity. A killer drop step got her to the bucket more times than not.
Rounding out the Titan starting five were Asjah Inniss, an aggressive PG who had about as many assists and as she had threes (and she hit several). Another young guard, Eden Sample, found her stroke from deep as well.
Buford was without its star player Tory Ozment who was out for precautionary reasons, but Coach Gene Durden wasn’t worried about her absence at all. Said Durden, “We know what Tory can do…we want to see about some of the others.”
The others certainly showed what they were made of against a very solid Northview team. A player that I was personally impressed with was young Tate Walters, the Wolves’ sophomore point guard. For the most part, Buford ran a drive and kick offense and on several occasions, Coach Durden had them spread the floor so that Walters could go to work. She did just that, and on several defenders. Her ability to break down defenders and get to the cup was phenomenal. At 5’7” Walters has the vision to see open teammates who drop to the block after she penetrates. It’ll be exciting to see how she progresses in the Buford girls basketball program.
Rising senior Jessica Nelson had the task of guarding Northview’s talented post players. She put as much presence on them as they put on her. Nelson arguably had the best post moves I saw all day.
The Lambert Longhorns looked good coming off of a 26-3 season. The Longhorns were one of the few teams to get up and down the court in their scrimmage with Northview. Senior posts Sidney Chase and Jaleah Greene were a fun duo to watch take on the Northview Titans. M.E. Craven, a long SF, had quite a few nice finishes at the rim to help the Longhorns’ scoring.
Coach David Walden of Alpharetta and Coach Amanda Heil of North Gwinnett brought their respective teams to Johns Creek for some summer work. Both fairly young teams got up and down the floor in hopes of getting some good reps. Coach Heil is entering her first year as the head coach of the Bulldogs, replacing Bryan Sellers who she had previously been an assistant coach for.
I was able to see the Gainesville squad at both Georgia State early on Friday and then at Georgia Tech on Saturday and Sunday. Although they were without KJ Buffen, the team was still impressive and showed why they were an Elite 8 team this past season. I loved the game of Xavier Bledson, a big guard with terrific passing ability. Bledson also absorbs contact easily when he drives inside, displayed confidence shooting from the outside this weekend, and plays with an edge about him.
To go along with Bledson, the Rosser twins (Jarred and Jarrel) really used their length and athleticism well on defense, in transition, and on the offensive glass. Bailey Minor is another key player for the Red Elephants. Minor provides toughness and a nice inside-out game for the team at the forward spot with good touch around the basket and a smooth shot from deep. When all 4 of these guys get going and fulfill their roles, Gainesville is a tough team to stop. Expect Gainesville to be a contender for a state championship once again with their surplus of versatile weapons.
The Warriors only had 7 players available for most of Saturday but that did not stop them from being one of the most active and energetic teams at the camp. North Atlanta has gained a big-time addition in Messiah Thompson, who went to NAHS his freshmen year before transferring to Pebblebrook for his sophomore season. Thompson is a shifty guard with quick handles and solid overall scoring ability for his size. He also plays feisty defense and gets out in transition whenever possible; his pace set the tone for the North Atlanta team and the others followed suit.
The Warriors were missing one of their leading scorers from last season, Dominic Ham, but 2019’s Josh Johnson and Andrew Robinson stepped up in his absence. Johnson and Robinson have similar games on the wing for North Atlanta. They both have good athleticism and strength that they use to attack the basket and rebound for this under-sized Warriors team. Johnson may have an edge in scoring between the two right now, but they will both give nice boosts to this team because of their activity and toughness. It would help if a few other players emerge for the Warriors as most teams will try to key in on Thompson, who will be the go-to guy. It will be interesting to see how this team develops before the winter.
Holy Spirit Prep
The reigning GISA state champion came to GT without 3 main players and faced some of the bigger GHSA teams in attendance. Although it’s just summer league, HSP proved that they can hold their own against these teams, which some have doubted. The Cougars got a huge pickup with Anthony Edwards, a 2020 guard who is one of the leading scorers on the 16U UAA circuit. Edwards has good size at 6’5” and everything looks effortless for him on offense where he dominates opponents with an impressive combination of athleticism, power, and touch.
The Cougars have another stud in 2018 Kamani Johnson, a 6’8” forward who has been on the rise since coming to Georgia. Johnson displays a lot of versatility for his size; he can post-up effectively, slash from the wing, and push the ball himself in transition. If Johnson continues to develop as an outside shooter, it will be scary.
2019 guard Kye Jeremiah will also be a key contributor for HSP this year. Holy Spirit is trying to mold Jeremiah into a PG, which could be a good spot for him with his size and strength. If you combine Jeremiah’s attacking ability with more experience and instincts at the point position, he could be a very nice prospect. Pairing these 3 with George Maslennikov and Miles Wallace (both out this weekend) will form a core group that will spell trouble for any GISA team.
Leading returning scorer Arusha Hunter was dominant for the Falcons throughout the weekend, as expected. Hunter had a full offensive skill-set on display at Tech, highlighted by his ability to draw contact on drives and get to the free-throw line at will. With one of their main guys in Mekhail Bethea being hampered by injury, other players also stepped up for the Falcons.
I was intrigued most by Quincy Ademokoya and Reggie Horton for Dacula. Ademokoya created some buzz by moving in from Illinois and showed he will be a nice piece on the team. After a rough game against North Atlanta on Saturday, Ademokoya responded with a strong game on Sunday. At 6’6”, he hit multiple corner 3’s and used his length to rebound and slash from the wing for finishes at the basket. Horton may lack size but the guard was not afraid to go inside amongst bigger players. Horton exhibited some very impressive athleticism when he attacked by elevating, hanging, and adjusting for difficult layups multiple times. Dacula has firepower on the perimeter that will be a problem for opponents this upcoming season.
The Bulldogs have 3 players with excellent scoring ability in Damarcus Johnson, Eli Lawrence, and Jonathan Young. Johnson runs the point for TC and while he is lethal from outside, he also knows when to mix it up inside to create for himself and his teammates. Lawrence has good size on the wing for the Bulldogs and is efficient with his scoring opportunities. The smooth lefty has a quick release off the catch and also utilizes mid-range shots off the bounce where he elevates for easy looks.
Young is a new member of the team and caught the attention of many during the weekend with his play. Young comes in to form a dangerous backcourt duo alongside Johnson, he has good shooting ability and showed that he can put it on the floor and penetrate as well.
Zach Morgan is another player to keep an eye on for the Bulldogs team. Morgan is a forward with a strong, athletic frame that provides toughness and rebounding for TC. He also was not afraid to put the ball on the deck himself and if he can become another viable scoring option for the team, that would be huge. With their current weapons, Tri-Cities will not have any problem putting up points this season.
I made it out to Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Here are the camp’s biggest takeaways.
The Return of the Messiah
Messiah Thompson was one of the top performers at camp. The 5-foot-9 2019 point guard started his career at North Atlanta before transferring to Pebblebrook for his sophomore season. Now back home at North Atlanta, Thompson resumes the role as lead dog. Thompson plays with a chip on his shoulder and is the unquestioned engine for the Warriors. He posted 18 points, five assists and three steals in a blowout win over Harrison and followed up with a 17-point showing against Dacula. Thompson has a good feel for the game and court vision which allows him to make his teammates better. He scored from beyond the arc and when attacking the basket.
North Atlanta should be much improved from their 7-18 mark not just because of the return of Thompson, but the addition of fellow Pebblebrook transfer Andrew Robinson, who brings energy at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4 junior Joshua Johnson who was mightily impressive in his first impression. Josh is extremely active and athletic which helps him finish around the basket and rebound. He had 11 points and eight rebounds against Harrison. The nucleus of 2019 players could have North Atlanta competing in Region 7-AAAAAA sooner rather than later.
Quincy Ademokoya suited up for Dacula after recently transferring in as a highly touted 2020 prospect from Illinois, but it was easy to see that Ademokoya is not yet a finished product, though he showed flashes of a solid skillset. He was passive in Dacula’s 54-53 win over North Atlanta. The 6-foot-6 wing finished with three points, seven rebounds and two assists. Both Dacula and Ademokoya are still in the feeling out process as to where he best fits in. Once he finds his role and synergy with his new teammates, Ademokoya should be able to gel. He is in good hands with Dr. Russ Triaga and an established core of Falcons.
One player who had no trouble taking charge was 2018 shooting guard Arusha Hunter. Hunter has continued to rise his game to the next level. After averaging just 4.2 points per game as a sophomore, Hunter turned in 17.3 a night his junior season leading to Class AAAAAA Most Improved honors. Against North Atlanta the 6-foot-2 scorer poured in 26 points, assaulting the basket. Hunter went 16-of-18 from the foul line, crafting his way into the paint at will. With Mekhail Bethea sidelined with a leg injury, Hunter shined and got buckets when needed.
See Ya Seniors
Four seniors with major experience and a combined 29.8 points per game between them have left the Southwest DeKalb program. The mass exodus is quite ponderous, but Southwest has more than enough to be competitive with talent dripping from the Class of 2020.
Point guard KD Johnson is a fierce competitor that makes all the plays down the stretch. Johnson seemingly has a magnetic pull to the rim, always finding a way to slice and dice his way to the cup and finish strong. Johnson has the chance to be one of Georgia’s best finishers by the time he’s a senior. While he is a respectable three-point shooter, if he can improve his stroke even more, it will be tough to stop him.
Eugene Brown III is still a gazelle on the floor and looks taller every time I see him. Brown is about 6-foot-3 and has a chance to squeeze at least two more inches out of his frame. Brown can handle the ball in transition and covers ground quickly with his long strides. Playing key minutes as a freshman alongside Johnson will bode extremely well over the course of the twosome’s career.
6-foot-6 rising junior James Glisson III showed promise in the Panthers’ 47-44 comeback victory over St. Pius. Glisson finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Senior Demarion Johnson will be asked to provide leadership on a young team. He was active against St. Pius, using his 6-foot-3 build to snag nine points and five rebounds.
Same old St. Pius
With nearly everyone back from last year’s Class AAAA state runner-up roster, St. Pius is still one of Georgia’s most efficient offenses that maneuver with precision cuts and passes. Everett Lane looks ready to grab ahold of the No. 1 option title if there is one in St. Pius’ balanced attack. Lane has thrust his way into the discussion as one of the best shooters in the Class of 2018.
Floor general Matt Gonzalo enters his junior season and continues to orchestrate the offense at a high clip and handle opposing ball pressure. He is the type of player who won’t wow you with big numbers, but if you see him in person you will truly be able to appreciate what he brings to the table.
The Golden Lion forwards had a nice weekend. Zach Ranson played above the rim and finished around the hoop. Rising junior Patrick Snipes caught my eye with his work out of the post, facing up and using his quickness to get by defenders and create advantages.
Milton is looking to restore their momentum after an interesting season resulted in just a 14-14 record, but good enough to steal a Region 5 title away from Lambert. Gone is Duke-signee Alex O’Connell, meaning the keys to the car officially belong to rising sophomore point guard Christian Wright. Wright had just six points against St. Pius, but he showed he could turn the corner and get in the lane when he felt like it. Teams will surely key in on slowing him down this year meaning Donaven Hairston will have to step up. The 2019 point guard is slight of frame but still can sneak past defenders and score in traffic. He turned it on in the second half against St. Pius, scoring 17 of his game-high 18 in the frame.
Cherokee County’s Finest
Etowah is now the team to beat in Cherokee County after peaking at the right time and capturing a Region 4-AAAAAAA championship and a Sweet 16 berth. Coach Jason Dasinger takes over as head coach and will look to continue to ride the momentum that Milton head man Allen Whitehart put in motion. Dasinger inherits a very good group headed by Jaxon Etter, Adrian Cohen and Julian Baldwin.
Etter, a late blooming 2019 who really came out of nowhere last year, is a steady 6-foot-3 guard with deceptive quickness. He works all levels of the floor and can score the ball. Etter uses controlled dribbles, backdowns and head fakes to ensure he gets clean looks. He poured in 23 points and five rebounds in a 52-51 loss vs. Tri-Cities.
Cohen is a 6-foot-5 wing that has been putting it all together and has a chance to stamp himself as a Low Major prospect with a good senior season. His three-point shot is now a weapon after diversifying his game from just being a slasher.
Baldwin was not in attendance at camp meaning Carter Ingersoll took his minutes. The rising senior is an old school post that uses positioning and body control to score inside. He takes his time and is methodical while working the pivot and showcases some nifty post moves. He finished with 11 points and nine rebounds against Tri-Cities.
Tri-Cities can shoot the ball when they are on. The surprise Class AAAAAA quarterfinalist used a difficult Region 5 to prepare themselves for the state tourney. The Bulldogs have some firepower coming back and see some new faces join the roster as well.
DaMarcus Johnson is a microwave scorer at point guard. The 2019 shooter can catch fire from deep. He is 6-foot on a good day but makes the most out of his size with his quick burst and ability to create his own shot. To play at the next level, Johnson will need to continue to work on making his teammates better.
One teammate who should easily benefit is 6-foot-4 senior Eli Lawrence. The lanky lefty is lights out when he gets going. He dropped in 15 points in a win over Etowah. Lawrence will be joined by Jon Young, who was fabulous in the first half, scoring 16 of his 18 points. Young was on fire, drilling threes and scoring off the bounce. He will benefit from Johnson and Lawrence’s scoring threat. Young is now on his third school entering his senior year. He began at Westlake and bounced to New Manchester for his junior season before coming to Tri-Cities.
6-foot-7 Zachary Morgan brings an interesting dynamic to the Bulldogs. He is a grown man inside strapped with muscle. He didn’t get many opportunities to score the ball, but he showed he could face up and attack the hoop. Defensively, he can alter shots and clean the glass.
Tre Gomillion is a 2018 guard out of Aquinas High School in Augusta, Georgia. He averaged 20 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals as a junior and was named Class A-Private Second Team All-State. This is his off-season journal. This is The Process.
Everybody in life faces adversity, lately I have been challenged a little more than usual. In the past few weeks, I found out some family health issues dealing with my sweet grandma , my uncle , and today … I found out some issues with me.
Today is the day that I went in for my follow-up appointment dealing with my knee. No more than 2 weeks ago while working out I felt a pop in my right knee, I went to the doctor the following day which they later set me up for an MRI. As the pain in my knee went down and the swelling went down it was time for the results. And on June 12, 2017 the doctors told me that I have a decent size tear in my meniscus.
It was hard to swallow, but as the doctor explained the options to heal it, I realize more and more that this all apart of God’s plan. All I can do now is stay positive and just trust the process, trust God’s plan. Because at the end of the day, there’s way worse situations I can be going through. Now it’s time to recover and come back stronger than I’ve ever been.