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Georgia Tech team camp analysis

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.

Fitting In

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.

Arusha Hunter

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
Coach Eugene Brown addressing the Panthers after a win over St. Pius

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 Maturing
Donaven Hairston

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
Adrian Cohen lines up a foul shot

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 Impresses
Jon Young

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.

Fulton County Media Day (Boys)

Complete Video: http://www.nfhsnetwork.com/events/northview-high-school-johns-creek-ga/26883f8408


Northview
Head Coach: Steven Bombard
Region 7-AAAAAA
2015-16: 8-18

Expectations for the season: “We are pretty excited about this season. We have a really good group of guys returning with varsity experience from last year. We’ve got potentially five guys that were not on last year’s varsity roster that will be on this year’s varsity roster highlighted by Justin Brown, who has some D-I looks already. So we are really excited about the possibilities of what the season can be for us.”

On Justin Brown’s return: “You can see a big difference just in practice. He is one of the most vocal players on the court and it’s a big difference from where he was two years ago when he was just a freshman and was kind of just feeling things out.”

Justin Brown

Back at Northview and ready to be a leader his junior season: “I think coming back here my junior year at Northview, I think we will have a pretty good team and I’m ready to be a leader and just lead my teammates to have a winning season. Coming back from Milton, we had a pretty strong team but I think this year my family and I thought it would be best to come back here where I’m comfortable.”

Alpharetta
Head Coach: Jason Dasigner
Region 7-AAAAAA
2015-16: 11-18

On the dirty work that Garrett Davis does: “There’s a reason why Garrett is sitting at this table right now because he’s everything we want our team to be. I didn’t really know what I was getting with Garrett until I saw him battle with a 6-7 guy in the fall league [FGCU-commit Brian Thomas] without me having to prompt him. He brings toughness, he brings defensive rebounding and offensive rebounding. We may not run a lot of set plays for Garrett, but he could average 8 to 10 points per game by just doing the little stuff.”

What type of dynamic Alpharetta’s football players will bring once they get on the court: “In the fall league they looked decent at times and at times not so decent. I think that our football guys will bring some toughness and a little more athleticism. But I’m interested to see how they respond. They’ve been playing football, they haven’t been with us. We’ve been trying to build this community and these guys get after it every single day in practice. We’re hoping those football guys bring a little beef to the table and some athleticism, but if they don’t fall in line with what we are trying to create, then they are going to be kind of on the outside looking in.”

 

Chattahoochee
Head Coach: Kacey Martin
Region 7-AAAAAA
2015-16: 12-14

Where 6-foot-5 sophomore post Grant Van Beveren fits in this year: “Grant is young, he’s a sophomore. But he’s got some height on him and he’s very patient in the post. You get a lot of post players that get the ball and they try and do things too fast. I think that’s that old school mentality that you were talking about. He’s going to catch it, kind of feel where the defense is and decide what move he is going to make and he’s got really good instincts in the post.”

 

Tri-Cities
Head Coach: Omari Forts
Region 5-AAAAAA
2015-16: 10-14

On playing in a tough deep region: “I think the four teams that advance out of our region will have an opportunity to make a lot of noise in the playoffs. But we try and get them to focus on the process. Focus on us internally. Focus on the process and not worry so much about things down the road that you can’t totally control.”

What style of play they look to implement: “Guys that have coached and played against us the last few years will tell you we run the Triangle Offense. We put a lot of defensive focus. If I said there’s one thing we hang our hat on is half court basketball, being able to execute in the half court sets because when you get to the playoffs a lot of teams are going to force you to play half court basketball.”

 

Creekside
Head Coach: Gregory Freeman
Region 5-AAAAAA
2015-16: 12-14

Outlook for the season: “We have a young team as far as varsity playing experience but we have some older guys. We are a team made up of a lot of juniors sprinkled in with a couple seniors. We are really just trying to gel at this point. We hope the way we practice translates to how we play…We have one rising junior named Tyson Jackson who is one of the top 10 players in the Class of 2018. What I like about the makeup of our team, is they feel like they have a lot to prove.”

 

Langston Hughes
Head Coach: Rory Welsh
Region 5-AAAAAA
2015-16: 11-14

Are the Panthers ready to live up to high expectations, entering the year ranked No. 3: “To be honest, I do. This crew has a lot of experience. When they were 10th graders, we won 21 games. We finished up as a three-seed in the toughest region in the state which was Region 3-AAAAAA. Last year we kind of dipped off a little bit for a variety of reasons. We lost seven games last year by three points or less so we had a tough time closing out some of those really really close games. I think it was a big learning experience for all of us, as coaches and as players.”

Lander Nolley II

What’s different from the Chicago game and the Atlanta game: “The speed is definitely different. The style, how the game flows, it’s all different from Georgia. I just have to make that adjustment to fit in…There’s definitely a lot more running; it’s faster [in Illinois].”

Khalil Cuffee

How to go out with a bang and win a state title his senior year along with Derrick Cook: “We just got to work hard. Bring that to practice every day. Don’t take any team lightly and just come out to win every night.”

 

Roswell
Head Coach: Ty Phillips
Region 4-AAAAAAA
2015-16: 10-16

 

Important football players that will join the basketball team later in the year: “The one kid we do expect to get with our varsity is Jayden Comma. He just gave his verbal to Maryland as a 6-3 receiver. He’s a great kid that’s been in our program since the sixth grade when he started Jr. Hornet basketball. He is just a great athlete. When he gets done with [football] practice, just the other day he came in the gym and was hanging out on the side and watching. Afterwards he was joking with the guys, part of that chemistry. One of the great things for us is when you have a really successful football program, it builds such a great school vibe and spirit and we just want to take that energy and that passion and that pride from being from Roswell and continue it into basketball season.”

 

Westlake
Head Coach: Darron Rogers
Region 2-AAAAAAA
2015-16: 27-4

Is the team ready to compete in the toughest region in GHSA history:

Chuma Okeke: “I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a lot of competition with a lot of transfers coming in. I think this year we are coming in as the underdog really just because we had some graduate. I think we are going to step up to what we have to do and I think we are going to win another championship.”

Jamie Lewis: “Same thing. We lost some valuable players from last year so this year we are really going to have to step up. I’m looking forward to it because it will improve our games individually and as a team.”

Danny Lewis: “We’ve been working really hard every day and we’ve really been buying in and we hope to see it pay off.”

Do you feel disrespected opening the season ranked No. 3 in the state behind two teams within your own region:

Danny: “Not really. We just need to prove it on the court.”

 

Banneker
Head Coach: Earlando Courtney
Region 6-AAAAA
2015-16: 5-21

On freshman Sean Hazel playing varsity: “The first practice, we brought him in and he secretly reminds me of Tim Duncan. His mannerisms and facial expression won’t change at all. Whether he blocks a shot or gets his shot blocked, makes a mistake or makes a great play, it is the exact same thing. So that level of calmness and maturity – even when he makes a mistake he doesn’t get down on himself or even if he does something great he doesn’t get overhyped – that and us being deficient in size and him being 6-foot-3, I was like ok, I needed him probably more than he needed me to tell you the truth.”

 

Centennial
Head Coach: Lorenzo Withrite
Region 7-AAAAAA
2015-16: 14-13

Jay Hothersall

On a playing well in a new region: “It’s wide open. There’s a lot of new teams. We played a couple of them over the fall and the summer. I think once we get the chemistry down, I think we have the talent.”

Craig Shannon

What is the key to the season: “Heart, just because we are probably going to be considered the underdog for most of the season. We just got to have heart, compete, hustle from tip off till the final seconds of the game.”

Cambridge
Head Coach: Chip Flemmer
Region 7-AAAAAA
2015-16: 6-20

Top areas of improvement: “We are going to work really on cutting down the number of points we are giving up each night. We got to get better on free throws and most importantly, we have to cut down on turnovers. We figured it out there were several games – probably eight to 12 games – that two or three possessions cost us, so the record didn’t look so pretty but it wasn’t like we were that far off from being a lot more successful.”

 

Johns Creek
Head Coach: Keenan Temple
Region 7-AAAAAA
2015-16: 24-5

On becoming a head coach again after multiple stops along the way: “I’ve been very fortunate because I coached in Indiana for 10 years then I came here and I coached with Eddie Martin and Scott Bracco, two future Hall of Famers. I’ve learned a lot about how to run a program. A lot about how to handle different situations.”

Coming off the best year in school history, how important is it to establish the program as a top dog in a new region: “It’s important for us and it’s going to play out. These kids have worked incredibly hard, this is probably one of the hardest working groups I’ve been around in years. We want to come out firing, ready to play. I think we are one of the top teams in the region but there’s a lot of talent in the region too. I think it’s a great chance for us, because I think our region games will prepare us for the state tournament and that’s our ultimate goal.”

What people can expect from sophomore guard Neil Ilenrey: “He is a 6-foot-1 linebacker point guard. He’s explosive. He can score form anywhere on the floor. The number one thing for anyone who doesn’t know him, he’s a great kid. He’s a teammate first. All the guys on the team love him. We love having him and he’s very coachable. He’s going to turn some heads.”

 

North Springs
Head Coach: Charles Parks
Region 6-AAAAA
2015-16: 6-18

How to rebuild the program and bring excitement like there was when Jon Burke played in 2010-11: “Just to try and mold these guys’ confidence. I think that’s something that we lack due to playing time together because they come from so many different places. New faces, new bodies and so forth. So just the confidence.”

 

Milton
Head Coach: Matt Kramer
Region 5-AAAAAAA
2015-16: 23-9

How to avoid ups and downs and to peak at the right time late in the season: “Our practices right now are better than they’ve been. That’s a product of me having been here for four years; this being my fourth year. When I got to Milton, we didn’t know how to practice. One of the reasons coaches that have been places for a long time that are having great success is because there’s a culture that has been built there and that culture sets the expectation for practice and sets the expectation for how kids are supposed to act on and off the floor. We’ve got all that right now. My expectation is that we will get better every day and when you’ve got great leadership like Alex [O’Connell], the culture has been set.”

On watching Alex O’Connell grow each year on and off the court: “It’s been amazing. The first time I ever walked in the building, I came from Ohio, I went to Milton the first day and I knew I had his brother Shawn and I’m looking down at the end of the hallway and I see big tall Shawn with the little skinny ninth grader and next to Shawn he looked more like a seventh grader. I knew I was coaching Shawn. I knew there was an Alex but I didn’t know anything about Alex. To see him grow from that skinny little ninth grader to a skinny 12th grader who’s now 6-foot-6, who can do the things he can do on the floor, it’s been something I will probably never see again. There was no way to project Alex being at Duke. That’s a self-made kid right there.”

On Brady O’Connell: “He’s a point-forward. Visualize a Jalen Rose type from the old days. Left handed just like that and he’s as good a passer as you’ll ever see. He sees the floor really well.”

Alex O’Connell

On how younger brother Brady’s game compares to his: “We are definitely similar size, length. He’s probably the same height as me now but he’s sort of a different player. He’s not as aggressive downhill but he has really good court vision up the court and in half court situations. He’s a little bit of a different player. I would say he’s leaning more towards being a combo guard.”

Christian Wright

How would you describe your game: “I’m a big strong guard. I like to get the ball going down the court. I lock up; I play good defense and I can shoot the ball. I play downhill the whole game.”