GE8TOC Recaps

7A No. 8 Westlake 78, A-Private No. 1 St. Francis 75

St. Francis got out to a hot start leading 10-2 behind an aggressive Dwon Odom but Westlake worked its way back behind freshman Dillon Hunter who scored seven of his 11 points in the first quarter to close the opening eight minutes with the Lions trailing 23-15. Westlake’s isolation offense started to click with Rice-commit Quincy Olivari (4), Kaleb Wallace (5) and Clemson-commit Chase Hunter (4) finding the bottom of the net, but it was the steady play of 6-foot-4 senior wing D’Antaye Page that kept the Lions intact. Page netted seven of his team-high 18 points in the quarter to give Westlake a 38-35 lead at the half. Page continued to pour it on in the second half, but it was his rebounding that eliminated any second chance opportunities for the Knights, double-doubling with 12 rebounds to his credit. With Sean Paradise lost for the season with a dislocated knee, St. Francis was in search of someone to step up. Chase Ellis did just that, the reliable undersized forward totaling 21 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block. The Knights went back and forth with the Lions after heading into the fourth quarter down 55-53 until Westlake secured a lead midway through and continued to fend off any St. Francis efforts to regain control. Odom scored 13 points in the final frame but Olivari’s gutsy shot in the lane with 47 seconds to play proved to be the dagger, pushing Westlake’s lead to 73-68.

Top Performers
Westlake
D’Antaye Page – 18 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Chase Hunter – 17 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Quincy Olivari – 17 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal
Dillon Hunter – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Kaleb Wallace – 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists

St. Francis
Dwon Odom – 29 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Chase Ellis – 21 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block
CJ Riley – 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist
Kai Simmons – 6 points, 3 rebounds

 

No. 3 Meadowcreek 70, No. 6 Wheeler 54

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The new-look defending Class 7A state champions clamped down on Wheeler, holding the Wildcats to 17 points in the second half to coast to victory. Wheeler led 17-16 after the first quarter and in the second quarter the game got chippy with technical fouls, jawing and a lot of clapping. Through all the gamesmanship, Damien Dunn (Temple) shined the brightest, dazzling in his Georgia debut. Dunn dominated on the wing, scoring at all three levels and cleaning the glass. He finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists, giving Meadowcreek anything they needed whenever they needed it. As good as Dunn was, it was the role players that proved to be the difference makers. Kedrick Green, a starter as a freshman, came off the bench and showed his championship mettle, collecting 2 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. Even with Green’s positive influence on the game, Wheeler still maintained a 37-33 lead at the break with Sam Hines scoring 12 of his team-high 14 points in the opening half. The Mustangs and Wildcats traded body blows in the third quarter before Meadowcreek stole momentum with the three-ball to quickly distance themselves from Wheeler. The Mustangs hit four threes in a row to close the third quarter, senior Emmanuel Collier drilled two of his five during the stretch while Corey Blissett added one and Dunn sank a contested leaner at the buzzer to balloon the lead to 55-47. Collier finished with 17 points, sniping from the corner as Wheeler failed to run him off his sweet spot. Dunn and Jamir Chaplin combined for 11 points in the fourth quarter, outscoring Wheeler (7) by themselves to kick off their title defense with a win.

Top Performers
Meadowcreek
Damien Dunn – 26 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists
Emmanuel Collier – 17 points, 2 assists
Jamir Chaplin – 15 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block

Wheeler
Sam Hines – 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists
Roscoe Eastmond – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
Malachi Rhodes – 9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block
Charles Smith IV – 9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists

 

No. 2 McEachern 75, Holy Spirit Prep 72

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Nip-and-tuck until the final buzzer, Class 7A No. 2 McEachern used a late 9-0 spurt to race past GISA superpower Holy Spirit Prep and stun the Cougars in front of a capacity crowd. McEachern held an 18-17 lead after the first quarter behind a balanced attack that saw Sharife Cooper score seven points and Isaac Okoro (Auburn) and Jared Jones (Northwestern) add four apiece. Consensus five-star junior Anthony Edwards had a quiet start for the Cougars and elected to get his teammates involved instead of hunting his shot. Edwards had two points and two assists with Ahmir Langlais scoring six points inside. In the second quarter, Edwards and DeAndre Brown got hot. The duo combined for 16 points, hitting three three-pointers between them and grabbing a 30-24 lead at the 3:36 mark. The Cougars settled for a 33-31 lead at the half. In the third quarter, Edwards continued to break away after Okoro did a nice job defending him to open the game. Three rim-rocking dunks highlighted by one right before the buzzer gave Holy Spirit Prep a 50-48 advantage heading into the fourth. The Indians stuck tight with the Cougars and weathered the Edwards storm the best they could in the third behind Cooper’s slick passing and Okoro’s attacking play. Alyn Breed (4) and Quinton McElroy (5) came up huge in the quarter to give Coach Mike Thompson some offense from his fourth and fifth scoring options. Holy Spirit Prep was in good shape in the fourth quarter even though Langlais hardly saw the floor with foul trouble. The Cougars led 61-55 before Cooper flipped the switch and scored his first points since the first quarter at the 4:28 mark to cut the lead to four. Hemmed up for two quarters struggling to finish in the lane and settling for setting up his teammates, Cooper began to take over. He tied the game at 61 but Ibrahima Jarjou hit a jumper and two free throws as the Cougars clung onto a 65-63 lead with 2:22 left before the levee broke. Cooper exploded and ignited a 9-0 run to shellshock the Cougars, burying a three to give the Indians the lead for good before Breed scored on a putback to all of a sudden give McEachern a 68-65 lead with just 94 precious seconds remaining and the crowd frenzied. The sudden deficit and the atmosphere rattled the Cougars as Holy Spirit Prep rushed quick shots and abandoned the offense settling for pull up threes which led to easy breakouts for the Indians, McEachern capping off their run to take an insurmountable 72-65 lead with 30 seconds remaining. Cooper finished with a team-high 23 points, dropping 16 in the fourth quarter. A Brown three at the buzzer wasn’t enough as McEachern survived a 31-point outburst from Edwards.

Top Performers
McEachern
Sharife Cooper – 23 points (16 in 4Q), 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal
Isaac Okoro – 19 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Jared Jones – 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Alyn Breed – 8 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist
Quinton McElroy – 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist

Holy Spirit Prep
Anthony Edwards – 31 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal
DeAndre Brown – 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Ahmir Langlais – 8 points, 4 rebounds
Ibrahima Jarjou – 6 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

Spielin’ & Dealin’ Ep. 58: Preseason Boys State Rankings

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GHSA basketball practices are back in session and so are the state rankings. Kyle Sandy breaks down the polls and discusses sleepers and teams that just missed the cut.

Class 7A [3:08]
Class 6A [12:40]
Class 5A [16:32]
Class 4A [22:24]
Class 3A [29:43]
Class 2A [33:31]
Class A-Private [36:02]
Class A-Public [40:53]

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2018-19 Preseason Boys State Rankings

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Class AAAAAAA

1. Norcross
2. McEachern
3. Meadowcreek
4. Grayson
5. Discovery
6. Wheeler
7. Mountain View
8. Westlake
9. Lambert
10. Pebblebrook

Class AAAAAA

1. Alexander
2. Dacula
3. Tri-Cities
4. Coffee
5. North Atlanta
6. Langston Hughes
7. Heritage-Conyers
8. Tucker
9. South Cobb
10. Sequoyah

Class AAAAA

1. Southwest DeKalb
2. Buford
3. Eagle’s Landing
4. Lithonia
5. Cedar Shoals
6. Fayette County
7. Columbia
8. Woodland-Stockbridge
9. Starr’s Mill
10. Carrollton

Class AAAA

1. Upson-Lee
2. St. Pius X
3. Sandy Creek
4. Westover
5. Woodward Academy
6. Baldwin
7. Carver-Columbus
8. Henry County
9. LaFayette
10. Americus-Sumter

Class AAA

1. GAC
2. Morgan County
3. Johnson-Savannah
4. Cedar Grove
5. Pace Academy
6. Dawson County
7. Liberty County
8. East Hall
9. Westside-Macon
10. Redan

Class AA

1. Therrell
2. Woodville-Tompkins
3. Washington County
4. Thomasville
5. Metter
6. Northeast-Macon
7. Swainsboro
8. Elbert County
9. Chattooga
10. Dublin

Class A-Private

1. St. Francis
2. Mt. Bethel
3. Greenforest
4. ELCA
5. Holy Innocents’
6. Trinity Christian
7. Walker
8. North Cobb Christian
9. Whitefield Academy
10. Darlington

Class A-Public

1. Wilkinson County
2. Georgia Military College
3. Macon County
4. Drew Charter
5. Treutlen
6. Wilcox County
7. Lanier County
8. Calhoun County
9. Pelham
10. Greene County

Welcome to the 2018-19 Preseason State Rankings. More often than not in the evolving climate of high school basketball, state championship contenders are bred in the offseason by skill development, maturation and yes – transfers.

Class 7A

Class AAAAAAA has proven to be the steepest mountain to climb, even for the heaviest of favorites. This year, after two disappointing state title defeats in back-to-back seasons, No. 1 Norcross will open with the target on their back. A star-studded group has new faces and old. The All-State backcourt of Southern California-commit Kyle Sturdivant (17.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.9 apg) and five-star 6-foot-6 junior Brandon Boston (16.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.2 bpg) is hard to bet against. The Blue Devils are deep at guard with the additions of 6-foot-5 senior shooter Isaac Martin and 6-foot-3 sophomore Jaden Harris, who was named First Team All-Region 7-A last year at Stratford Academy. 6-foot-3 junior guard Caleb Murphy has grown his game over the summer and parlayed his play into offers from Kennesaw State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Tulane and East Tennessee State. 6-foot-3 Kevon Eskridge also enters his junior season as a lethal three-point shooter that can carry the Blue Devils from deep. In the frontcourt, 6-foot-9 senior Issa Muhammad has shown flashes of his potential, but consistency is still needed from the imposing big man. The late offseason addition of Xavier-commit 6-foot-8 Daniel Ramsey from Deerfield-Windsor pushes the Blue Devils to the top. Ramsey didn’t quite dominate like one would expect in the GISA but the toolsy forward did post 16.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and played against the best this summer with Team Thad. Norcross also gets the nod over No. 2 McEachern after hammering the Indians 75-55 in the Elite Eight. McEachern’s lack of shooting was exploited in the playoffs and ended another nationally ranked season short. It’s been a busy offseason for the Indians as 6-foot-10 shot blocker Babatunde Akingbola (Auburn) exhausted his eligibility and both Cal-commit Charles Smith IV and Devin Gordon dispersed to other Cobb County powers. McEachern quickly reloaded however by dipping into the Carolinas adding four-star 6-foot-6 forward Christian Brown and AOT point guard John Michael-Wright. Brown is a high energy high-flyer that averaged 22 points per game at Lower Richland, SC while battling injuries. Michael-Wright should fit in easily with his AOT teammates. Point guard Sharife Cooper set the EYBL on fire over the offseason with a Collin Sexton-like meteoric rise scoring the ball. The All-State junior will pair once again with All-State wing Isaac Okoro. The physical 6-foot-5 Auburn-commit can get to the rim at ease but his free throw shooting and outside touch must be improved for the Indians to win big games in February. Skilled 6-foot-9 stretch-four Jared Jones has committed to Northwestern. Senior Quinton McElroy and junior Alyn Breed will need to be ready when their number is called. After winning their first-ever state title by clamping down on Norcross, 56-43, No. 3 Meadowcreek has retooled for seconds. The Mustangs won it all last year with defense, using since graduated anchors 6-foot-9 Amari Kelly (Duquesne) and 6-foot-7 Cory Hightower (Presbyterian) to stop anything in the paint. This year’s version will be more guard oriented as the Mustangs plucked three more players from Stackhouse Elite to stay in title contention: 5-foot-11 Jalen Benjamin (UAB), 6-foot-4 Damian Dunn (Temple) and 6-foot-6 junior Jaimonnie Watkins. Dunn opens as a Preseason All-State pick along with 6-foot-5 wing Jamir Chaplin (USF). Dunn averaged 17.5 points, 6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals in Jerry Stackhouse’s hometown of Kinston, NC. Chaplin averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals as a two-way standout. Sophomore point guard Kedrick Green was cool under pressure in big games last year and will have more help handling the ball. No. 4 Grayson has turned into one of the most consistent winners in Gwinnett County without the use of High Major stars. The Rams are coming off consecutive appearances in the Final Four, last season losing to eventual champion Meadowcreek 57-55. Coach Geoffrey Pierce has churned out a seemingly endless line of tough-nosed guards. This season it will be junior Deivon Smith and senior Reco Hallmon’s turn to lead. Smith, an electric 6-foot point guard, plays bigger than his size and is coming off a 7 point per game season. Hallmon, 6-foot-4, is best in transition and is Coach Pierce’s go-to perimeter defender. Four move-ins bolster the attack headed by 6-foot-1 senior Jevon Tatum from Tucker. Tatum was DeKalb County’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game while collecting 1.9 steals. 6-foot-4 junior Josh Smith averaged 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks while earning First Team All-Region 5-A honors at Holy Innocents’. 6-foot-4 senior Xavier Ayres is back in Gwinnett County after starting at Discovery and playing at Greensboro Day, NC last season while 5-foot-10 sophomore Ashton Malone comes from Norcross and should help as an on-ball defender. Inside, the Rams have bruising double-double threats in 6-foot-6 forwards Taje Kelly and Ian Schieffelin, both sophomores. 6-foot-6 senior forward Kenyon Jackson has been one of the county’s top rebounders and shot blockers over the course of his career. It will be interesting to see if the Texas A&M wide receiver commit plays basketball this season. Heading into Year 4 of the program, No. 5 Discovery has seen talent and inconsistent success. The Titans fell to 11-15 last year after a school-best 17-9 campaign in Year 2. While depth may be a concern compared to other elite teams, the Titans should be able to deploy one of the more talented starting fives in the classification led by 6-foot-4 junior point guard Jaden Walker. The sharpshooter has earned offers from Georgia Tech, Howard, Middle Tennessee State and Mercer. 6-foot-4 senior Hasahnn Reynolds shined this offseason after moving in from Immokalee, FL where he averaged 17.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.3 steals. The playmaker has a knack for passing and can play on-ball or off. Continuing the trend of big guards, 6-foot-4 senior Ian Hardy is an athletic lefty and physical slasher while 6-foot-3 junior London Riley is a floor stretcher that just picked up an offer from North Carolina A&T. 6-foot-8 lengthy athlete Leslie Nkereuwem is a Longwood-commit that has slowly developed over the years. No. 6 Wheeler battled their way to the Elite Eight before falling at Newton, 87-81. Three D-I signees depart including McDonald’s All-American EJ Montgomery (Kentucky). The Wildcats got back to business and saw 6-foot-5 Charles Smith IV (Cal), 6-foot-7 Malachi Rhodes (Bucknell) and 6-foot-6 junior Sam Hines all transfer in from the Game Elite family. Rhodes was named Class A-Private First Team last season after averaging 14.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while Hines was a First Team All-Region 6B-A selection with averages of 12.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Pass-first 5-foot-9 senior point guard Roscoe Eastmond and 6-foot-7 widebody junior Darius Gaddy round out a strong core that should see its bigs do damage around the rim. No. 7 Mountain View set a school-record for wins, going 22-6 with a Sweet 16 berth. The legacy-leaving 2018 Class has graduated but Coach BJ Roy has Preseason All-State guard Nahiem Alleyne back to lead the charge. The playmaking 6-foot-3 southpaw can create his own shot and still get others involved. He averaged 13.5 points per game last year before tearing it up this offseason as the newfound No. 1 option. Alleyne will have new running mates in Cam Rowland and Elijah Wilson. Rowland, a 6-foot-1 shooter from North Gwinnett, averaged over 12 points per game as a junior. Wilson, a 6-foot-4 senior, is a proficient jump shooter with length defensively that played at Collins Hill. 6-foot-6 junior Sean-Pierre Akers-Kennedy comes from Lindbergh, MO. He is a strong presence in the paint that can rebound and knock down the 15-footer from the baseline. Senior point guard Jaws Razeq is a heady extension of the coach on the floor while 6-foot-5 Eric Jones is a late-blooming senior forward that came on strong over the summer after breaking his hand last season. Jones’ inside-out consistency could play an important role in determining how good the Bears can be. It’s hard to understand how No. 8 Westlake finished 15-14 and 4-6 in Region 2 with more than enough talent to excel, but the past is the past and the Lions turn the page on a disappointing season that still ended with a Sweet 16 appearance. The transfer bug bit the Lions as five players left the program highlighted by second-leading scorer Koby Isaac (9 ppg – Creekside) and 6-foot-10 star sophomore Franklyn Anselem (Lincoln Prep). All-State combo guard Chase Hunter (Clemson) will rally the troops after posting 15.6 points per game as a junior. Fellow seniors Quincy Olivari (7.6 ppg) and D’Antaye Page (5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg) have blossomed this offseason. Olivari turned himself into a Rice-commit while Page, 6-foot-4, has proven to be a tough-shot maker with a knack for scoring. 6-foot-4 senior shooting guard Kaleb Wallace has enviable size and athleticism and should improve on his 5.3 point per game average. 6-foot-3 freshman point guard Dillon Hunter, younger brother of Chase, is expected to log big minutes from Day 1 after participating in Team USA Minicamp. Before playing a varsity game, the “reclassed” Hunter already holds offers from Florida State and Clemson. Seemingly a shoo-in to win 20+ games every season, No. 9 Lambert has done so over the past five years recording a 120-27 record. The Longhorns finished 22-6 with a tough loss against Meadowcreek 56-47 in the Sweet 16. The uber-important trio of Damon Stoudamire Jr., Jordan McIlwain and Austin Deckard has graduated but Preseason All-State point guard Mitch Ganote is back for his senior season. Tough as nails, the gritty maestro dazzles with the ball on a string and is a nightly threat to compile a triple-double after averaging 13 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals with four triple-doubles and the record for single-season assists and steals. Inside, 6-foot-8 junior Colin Granger is on the verge of cementing himself as a legitimate D-I recruit following a 10-point, 9-rebound per game season. 6-foot-6 junior Luke Champion is a three-point specialist from the corner while senior Cameron Nayebi is a defensive-minded glue-guy and Thomas Hickey provides versatility as a 6-foot-4 senior wing. Junior backcourt members Braxton Beaty and Will Baker should see increased roles along with 6-foot-6 junior center Kedric Barrett, a physical low-block scorer when engaged. 6-foot-2 freshman Chance Thacker has a bright future and could sneak in minutes Year 1 if needed. No. 10 Pebblebrook exceeded expectations and soared to a 26-3 mark before losing in the Elite Eight to Grayson, 73-66. 6-foot-5 senior wing Devin Gordon transfers in from McEachern with big-game experience and the ability to chip in in multiple ways. The Falcons will turn to homegrown talent this season led by senior Jalen Harper, a smooth 6-foot guard that can score off the bounce and has patiently waited his time to become a top option. The sophomore class of guard Danny Stubbs along with long 6-foot-6 wings Tyler Shirley, Jamall Clyce and Kaleb Washington have a chance to keep Pebblebrook playing at a Top 10 level.

Class 6A

The state champion the past two seasons has come out of Region 5 in Class AAAAAA. The trend could continue this year as No. 1 Alexander starts atop the heap. The Cougars finished 16-12 with a Sweet 16 berth and see 6-foot-8 All-State senior center Brady Spence return after posting 10.1 points, 9 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per game. Junior point guard Jaylon Brown averaged 9.7 points, 4.8 assists and 2.3 steals as a sophomore while fellow 2020 backcourt member Austin Slate chipped in 4 points per game and hit timely shots. The Cougars ascend to the top spot thanks to two transfers in 6-foot-2 All-State combo guard Malik Battle and CJ Hawkins. Battle was a First Team All-Region 5 selection at Douglas County, averaging 15 points per game and hitting 41-of-103 threes. Hawkins, in from Maryland, is a physical 6-foot-5 swingman that brings toughness and athleticism. Hawkins will help Spence in a big way on the glass and give Coach Jason Slate a hardnosed slasher. No. 2 Dacula saw a coaching change early in the season but still underachieved with a 16-11 record and an 84-67 Sweet 16 exit against Tri-Cities. The Falcons struggled to string together consecutive stops on defense when needed but were able to overwhelm most opponents with their electric backcourt. The Preseason First Team All-State duo of guards Brenden Tucker (College of Charleston) and Mekhail Bethea leads the charge for Coach Byron Wilson. Tucker, a human highlight reel, averaged 18.1 points and 4.2 rebounds while Bethea, one of the smoothest point guards in the entire state, tossed in 14.6 points and 4.7 assists. 6-foot-6 junior Quincy Ademokoya showed flashes of why he holds offers from DePaul and Saint Louis, but struggled with consistency at times. He still managed to chip in 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1 block per game. Defense and depth around the Dacula big three will determine how far the Falcons go. The second team in from Region 5 is No. 3 Tri-Cities. The Bulldogs lose star guard Eli Lawrence (MTSU) to graduation, but benefit from transfers to help support Da’Marcus Johnson (15 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.5 spg) and Class 6A Freshman of the Year Peyton Daniels (8.5 ppg) who alone compose one of the top shooting backcourts in the state. Out of four new faces into Coach Omari Forts’ system, 6-foot-4 junior Demetrius Rives, 6-foot-6 senior Alex Bean and 6-foot-1 sophomore Davon Cottle are most impactful. Rives was named Clayton County Underclassman of the Year and All-Clayton County First Team after posting 15 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game at Drew. Bean is back at Tri-Cities after spending a year at The Heritage School while Cottle moves in from Westlake. Coach Forts still has 5-foot-11 senior Titus Hunter (7.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.6 spg) and 6-foot-5 sophomore Eli’sha King (4.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) at his disposal. At Fulton County Media Day, Forts called Hunter the most underrated player in Region 5 due to his ability to guard multiple positions. Known for their toughness and athleticism, No. 4 Coffee represents South Georgia. The Trojans must replace the Jefferson twins in the backcourt along with bouncy forward Dalrone Donaldson, but Coach Pernell Smith has two All-State anchors in 6-foot-2 senior swingman Jayce Moore and 6-foot-7 Georgia Southern-commit Mackenzie McFatten. Moore, a fearless slasher, averaged a double-double at 19.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 3 steals and 1.1 blocks. McFatten, a multidimensional two-way player, contributed 11.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 2.3 blocks. The supporting cast highlighted by Jordan Moore, Yuserian Landers and Nic Clements will see increased roles. Clements, a 5-foot-8 senior, is a quick ball handler with an outside shot. No. 5 North Atlanta caught fire down the stretch last season, winning 10-straight games before losing to Heritage-Conyers in the Elite Eight 58-53. The Warriors finished 20-11 and carried much of that moment into the offseason, but the loss of top forward, 6-foot-5 Jaylen Bates (Ramsay, AL), is a bit of a setback. Life goes on however with All-State point guard Messiah Thompson ready to orchestrate the offense. The 5-foot-8 playmaker flourished in the offseason after averaging 16.6 points, 8.4 assists and 2.4 steals as a junior and parlayed his play into a Campbell commitment. Thompson has a veteran group around him with 6-foot-3 senior Andrew Robinson (10.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg), 6-foot-4 senior Josh Johnson (5.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 6-foot-3 senior guard Sam Jennings. 5-foot-7 junior point guard Jarontez Garrett transfers in from Jamestown, VA and will provide the Warriors with another trustworthy ballhandler when teams try to keep the ball out of Thompson’s hands. Garrett can ease the scoring burden as well – he averaged 16 points per game as a sophomore. No. 6 Langston Hughes captured back-to-back state championships on the shoulders of Virginia Tech’s Landers Nolley. The state’s most prolific scorer will need to be replaced, but Coach Rory Welsh has just the guys to fit the bill. 6-foot-5 senior swingman Tyrel Morgan (12.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.6 spg) was a Second Team All-Region 5 pick last year while 6-foot-4 junior guard PJ Carter chipped in 6.7 points, 3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.2 steals. Carter could emerge as the Panthers’ top scoring option once all is said and done with his length and three-point prowess. The frontcourt consists of 6-foot-5 junior Josh Butts (4.7 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.4 bpg) and 6-foot-7 senior Papa Samba (3 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Freshman point guard Kobe Davis is a highly touted prospect that should help Langston Hughes. 6-foot-6 sophomore Justin Hall averaged 6.5 points, 4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks at Whitefield Academy before transferring in.  No. 7 Heritage-Conyers flew under the radar last season and exceeded expectations by a mile after losing their top three scorers but still managing to maneuver their way into the Final Four before getting hammered by Gainesville 102-86. Coach Vernon Denmark now has an experienced core in the backcourt that sees three of their top four scorers return for their senior seasons. 5-foot-11 guard Trelan Scott was an All-Region 3 selection after leading the Patriots with 14.5 points per game. 5-foot-9 Josh Guilford (11.3 ppg) and 6-foot-1 Ryan Clements (8.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.7 spg) round out the trio. 6-foot-3 senior Adrian Boykin will likely see an increased role after averaging 3.6 points. 5-foot-10 senior Jorden Wiggins moves back to Heritage after spending a season at Columbia while 5-foot-10 junior Christian Davis transfers from Newton. Scott Avery, 6-foot-5 225 pounds, brings size and physicality from Eastside for his final season. A proud and prestigious program, No. 8 Tucker hasn’t made it out of the first-round of the state playoffs since 2015 when current Auburn Tiger Bryce Brown led them to the Final Four. The Tigers finished 17-12 last year but lose DeKalb County leading scorer Jevon Tatum to Grayson. Coach James Hartry is expected to still have a senior-laden team this year led by All-State 6-foot-7 forward Nathaniel Ogbu, who picked up steam this offseason and earned offers from Florida A&M, USC Upstate, Sam Houston State and Stetson. Ogbu is joined by three-point specialist Nic Watson, who averaged 14.6 points and led DeKalb County in three-point shooting drilling 93-of-170 attempts (55%). 6-foot-5 junior wing Jermontae Hill transfers in from Grady where he earned Region 6-AAAAA Second Team honors after averaging 12.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, helping the Knights to a 5-20 record. Hill picked up offers from Florida State, Ole Miss, Missouri, Kansas State and Texas Tech over the spring and summer months. 6-foot-3 Derrick McLendon is expected to return to the hardwood. The 228-pound four-star defensive end is committed to Florida State and can help out inside and out. No. 9 South Cobb comes off an 18-9 season out of Region 6 where they earned the top seed heading into the state tournament. The Eagles fell 55-42 in the first-round to Tri-Cities. Coach Greg Moultrie has a guard-heavy rotation that relies on speed, effort and defense. First Team All-Region picks Demetrius Bowen (8.2 ppg) and Jaiden Diamond (7.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.1 spg) enter their senior seasons along with Markeith Browning (9.3 ppg), who should be fully healed from a finger injury and Raejon Jones, an electrifyingly quick 5-foot-9 guard. A lack of impactful size may hurt the Eagles down the road, but if they can play their style of ball and control tempo, South Cobb will be a headache to deal with. Sneaking into the Top 10 in the final spot is fellow Region 6er, No. 10 Sequoyah. Coach Allen Carden’s decision to go young and run off those without the same vision back in 2016 has paid off. The Chiefs have gone from 3-23 in his first year to 13-14 last season, a game away from a state playoff berth. With his nucleus now upperclassmen, the Chiefs have two seasons to break through a take ahold of the region. The 2020 junior class consists of 2016-17 Class 6A Freshman of the Year Donovan Shipp and 2017-18 Class 6A Most Improved Player Jackson Greco. Shipp, 5-foot-11, runs the offense averaging 14.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.8 steals. Greco, 6-foot-2, raised his scoring output from 4.2 points as a freshman to 19 points per game as a sophomore and has blossomed into one of the state’s most dangerous shooters, hitting 85-of-197 threes (43%). Football standout Myles McGee emerged as the Chiefs’ third option, the athletic 6-foot guard averaging 13.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 steals while breaking the 30-point barrier twice against Harrison. Another footballer, 5-foot-10 DJ King, is the lone senior that plays a key role. He averaged 8.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 steals, but his sneakily elite court vision (4.9 assists) is what makes him so valuable. 6-foot-4 sophomore Ayden Watson moves in from Holy Spirit Prep and if cleared to play, will bring much needed size and athleticism for Coach Carden to move around the floor. Much like South Cobb, the lack of a post presence could come back to haunt the Chiefs.

Class 5A

Transfers have changed the landscape of Class AAAAA. After getting bit bad by the transfer bug last season losing four key players, No. 1 Southwest DeKalb has brought in five new faces this year, highlighted by the late summer moves of Maurice Harvey and Terrence Edwards from Region 5 rival Miller Grove. The Wolverines’ two best players turn in the Purple and White for Blue and Yellow, making the path to a region championship that much easier for Coach Eugene Brown. Harvey, a 6-foot-3 All-State senior point guard, was Region Player of the Year after posting 14.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Edwards, a 6-foot-5 junior wing, pitched in 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. The two join All-State 6-foot-1 junior KD Johnson, who exploded last year to hang 17 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.5 steals per night and has finally garnered national attention for his play. Johnson carried the Panthers to an 18-12 finish but blew a big double-digit lead in the Sweet 16 and lost to Hiram in overtime 42-41.  Fellow 2020 running mate Eugene Brown III has sprouted up to 6-foot-5 and hit 49-of-154 threes (32%) en route to averaging 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds. Inside, Coach Brown has a plethora of big bodies to throw at opponents anchored by skilled 6-foot-6 forward James Glisson III (12.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.4 bpg). 6-foot-6 sophomore quarterback Rion White, 6-foot-6 senior from Keystone Prep, FL Jalon Pittman, 6-foot-5 junior Dajon Dancil from Clarkston and 6-foot-8 junior Mohamad Diallo from Arabia Mountain will all vie for playing time. No. 2 Buford entered last season as a heavy favorite to repeat as state champs, but instead the 24-5 Wolves were stunned in the Sweet 16 by Miller Grove, 79-75. Coach Eddie Martin returns seniors 6-foot-6 All-State forward Marcus Watson and 5-foot-8 All-State point guard Donell Nixon II. Watson led Gwinnett County in scoring at 22.4 points per game while snatching 6.7 rebounds a night. Nixon averaged 14.3 points, 3 assists and 2.2 steals. The Wolves added All-State 6-foot-6 senior swingman Eric Coleman Jr. (High Point) from King’s Ridge Christian, who can help score at all three levels and pick up the slack on the glass. Seniors Ashton Young, Karston Miller, Bobby Miller and 6-foot-4 Brandon Green will rotate in the backcourt. 6-foot-7 senior Tommy Kamarad should serve as a valuable stretch-four when called upon. No. 3 Eagle’s Landing has had a great influx of talent over the past three seasons compiling a 66-19 record, but the Eagles don’t have much to show for when it comes to the postseason, failing to reach the Elite Eight – last year’s 22-7 team losing to eventual state champion Warner Robins in the second-round 99-82. Coach Elliott Montgomery’s team will be led by four-year varsity veteran, 6-foot-4 wing Christopher Hood, a smooth scorer on the perimeter. Elloie twins Rashad and Randon are back for their senior seasons, Rashad, 6-foot, earning All-Henry County Third Team recognition after averaging 10 points and 6 assists. Junior Keith Lamar is a 6-foot-5 wing that should play an increased role, as well as expected to be eligible 6-foot-9 245-pound senior center Josh Nwafor, a raw space eater that rebounds. Junior 6-foot-3 210-pound wing Kirshon Thrash is a bowling ball that moves in from Mundy’s Mill. He will be a valuable stat sheet stuffer for the Eagles. No. 4 Lithonia improved from 13-17 to 23-7, winning the Region 5 championship and taking state champion Warner Robins to the brink in the Elite Eight, falling 67-64. Preseason All-State guard Eric Gaines enters his junior season as an electric spindly highlight maker. Senior guard Brison Rockcliffe brings veteran experience. 6-foot-7 senior forward Justin Myles is a big-time rim protector, averaging 6.2 rebounds and a DeKalb County-best 2.9 blocks per game. 5-foot-10 senior guard N’Kyzie Hawkins reportedly has moved in from Arabia Mountain where he averaged 13.4 points per game. No. 5 Cedar Shoals underwent growing pains, sinking to 10-18 after playing for the state title in 2016-17. Coach L’Dreco Thomas still scheduled tough and took some lumps along the way, but managed to score a signature 65-64 regular season win over Buford and earned a state playoff berth. Only three seniors graduate, albeit important veterans. The 2020 core enters their junior season led by Preseason All-State guard 6-foot-1 Tyler Johnson, a high energy playmaker that sticks his nose in every play and racks up the stats. 6-foot-6 forward Quincy Canty is a double-double man with a knockdown 15-footer. He picked up his first offer from UAB in late July. 6-foot shooter Demetrius Glenn is a sniper from deep. Senior Quintyis Dillard has heard his name called over the years and will be asked to produce once again as a 6-foot-1 backcourt member. No. 6 Fayette County is set to return its top eight players from last year’s 16-13 team that lost to Stockbridge in the first-round. The Tigers have three-point marksmen in 6-foot-2 senior Ricky Knight (15.2 ppg) and 6-foot-1 junior Jekobe Coleman (11.4 ppg). Knight hit 86-of-255 threes (34%) while Coleman sank 79-of-245 (32%). Senior Josh Dupree is an athletic 6-foot-2 guard that averaged 11.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals. 6-foot-3 Terrell Bradley chipped in 8.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists as a junior while Fayette County Freshman of the Year 6-foot-3 Will Richard averaged 4.7 points a night. Dr. Phil McCrary has had a bumpy return to the sidelines at No. 7 Columbia. The Eagles have gone 40-17 since his return, but haven’t been able to reach their potential, losing in the Sweet 16 in 2017 and getting eliminated in the first-round last season by Maynard Jackson after a 19-9 campaign. Columbia has been hemorrhaging talent the past two seasons, this time losing star 6-foot-8 forward Josh Taylor to Greensboro Day, NC, RJ Noord to Greenforest and Jorden Wiggins to Heritage-Conyers. Left is 6-foot-2 junior Devin Longstreet, 6-foot-7 bruising junior post D’Kwon Harris and 6-foot-4 sophomore point guard Liron Thomas, who earned an offer from Marist this summer. No. 8 Starr’s Mill elected to let go of Coach Brandon Hutchins after the program’s best two seasons in school history including last year’s 22-8 record with an Elite Eight appearance and dipped into the college ranks to nab Charlemagne Gibbons from Florida Atlantic, formerly a state championship winning head coach at Morgan County. Gibbons sees All-State 6-foot-5 junior forward Jamaine Mann follow him to Starr’s Mill after posting 10.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.5 blocks per game at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy. Mann joins All-Region 3 Second Team selection 6-foot-2 senior Julian Lynch (12.2 ppg, 5 rpg) and Navy-commit 6-foot-7 senior power forward Nate Allison (10.4 ppg 7.3 rpg, 1.2 bpg) who has struggled to stay healthy. Expect the Panthers to play fast under Coach Gibbons. No. 9 Woodland-Stockbridge navigated their way to an 18-9 season and a state playoff berth. The Wolfpack finished 13-3 in the deeply competitive Region 4 but slipped to the fourth-seed and lost at Starr’s Mill 43-41. Leading scorer 6-foot-1 Curtis Perdue is back for his senior season after averaging 13.4 points. 5-foot-9 junior Diallo Wilburg chipped in 9.1 points per game while 5-foot-9 senior Dwayne Chester averaged 6.9 points, 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals. With mountain of a man Shakeel Shaw graduated, 6-foot-8 Rahim Whitehead will have to pick up the slack his senior season after averaging 4.3 points and 3.2 rebounds. Second-leading scorer Jalen Mason, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, put up 10 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game, but may focus on football and skip basketball this season. No. 10 Carrollton returns everyone but Robert Simmons and 6-foot-7 Tim Green, who elected to graduate early – a novel concept – and begin his collegiate career at Dalton State. Coach Tim Criswell is back on the sidelines after a scary biking incident kept him in the hospital. Criswell returns to a strong group that finished 15-11 out of Region 7. Juniors Marcellious Lockett and Melvin Edwards are the driving force for the Trojans. Lockett, 6-foot-4, was First Team All-Region and opens the 2019 season as a Preseason All-State pick. The talented scorer can fill it up from all over the floor. Edwards, 6-foot-6, is a combo forward that can knockdown the three-pointer but also plays above the rim and helps out rebounding and protecting the paint. Discovering a consistent third option will be crucial for Carrollton.

Class 4A

Class AAAA belongs to No. 1 Upson-Lee until some one comes and takes it away from them. Winners of back-to-back state championships and 63-straight games, the Runnin’ Knights race on without two-time Class 4A Player of the Year Tye Fagan (UGA) and key starters Cameron Traylor and JaCorey Smith. Preseason All-State First Team selections seniors Zyrice Scott and Travon Walker anchor Coach Darrell Lockhart’s veteran group. Scott, 6-foot-1, averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 assists and 2.5 steals as a junior and will be asked to carry more of the scoring load this season. Walker, 6-foot-5, is the state’s best rebounder and the ultimate difference maker for the Knights inside, posting 12.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.8 blocks a night. 6-foot-2 senior guard Jarrett Adderton averaged 4.2 points but came up huge in the state championship when the Knights needed it most, collecting 16 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Respected arch-nemesis, No. 2 St. Pius X opens right behind the Knights, exactly where they’ve finished the past two seasons as State Runner-Up. The Golden Lions must replace the heart and soul of the team, three-point marksman Everett Lane. All-State senior point guard Matt Gonzalo is one of the most experienced ball handlers in the state and the engine that makes Coach Aaron Parr’s team go, both offensively and defensively. Brother Brian Gonzalo along with 6-foot-3 energy man Zach Ranson, 6-foot-4 wing Patrick Snipes, 6-foot Niko Broadway and late boomer 6-foot-4 wing Riley Costas all enter their senior seasons. Costas picked up steam late during the Live Period and looks ready to fit in and be the prototypical do-everything-needed-to-win type player for the Golden Lions. Freshman guard Chase Cormier is a potential X-Factor. Expect Cormier to fill the void left behind by Lane as an elite three-point shooter. No. 3 Sandy Creek was as close as it gets to dethroning Upson-Lee in the Final Four, losing 52-51 after missing at the buzzer. The Patriots held a 37-30 lead at the half and went back-and-forth in the second half before Tye Fagan split a pair of free throws with 30.3 second left to win the game. One of the top players in the classification, 6-foot-8 swingman TJ Bickerstaff (Drexel) enters his final season. The All-State guard/forward averaged 15.5 points, 9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals. He will be the de facto No. 1 option for Coach Jon-Michael Nickerson after the graduation of Jarred Godfrey (IPFW). 6-foot-4 senior guard Julian Alexander averaged 8.2 points and played extremely well over the summer before injuring himself late. If healthy, Alexander can provide a big scoring lift on the perimeter. 6-foot-9 sophomore Jabari Smith is a lanky stretch-four with a good skill set and offers from Georgia, Arkansas-Little Rock, Georgia Tech and UAB while 6-foot-5 sophomore DeShon Proctor is a sturdy rebounder and physical presence on the low block. Senior point guard Kendric Miller follows in the footsteps of older brother Kam and should provide energy and aggressiveness for the Patriots. 6-foot-2 junior guard Keith Williams III moves in from Newnan where he averaged 16 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. No. 4 Westover has been trying to bust down the door and announce themselves as a title contender out of Albany for the past two seasons, but the Patriots haven’t been able to escape the second-round. Last year Westover went 22-7 and won the Region 1 championship but struggled to beat a 15-11 Perry team 63-58 and then unraveled against 15-9 Burke County, 73-71, outscored 32-17 in the fourth quarter. With leading scorer and assist man Kris Gardner graduated, it’s now or never for a veteran group led by Preseason All-State Second Team guard Jordan “Snow” Brown. The 6-foot shooter averaged 15.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.5 steals as a junior while drilling 78-of-211 threes (37%). Mike Isler, a 6-foot-4 senior, plays extremely hard as a slashing combo forward. He averaged 10 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2 steals and 1.9 blocks. 6-foot-8 sophomore Isaac Abidde didn’t make much of an impact his freshman season, averaging 2.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1 block, but holds an offer from Mississippi State. 6-foot-2 senior AJ Jackson transfers in from Father Lopez, FL. An athletic freak of nature, Jackson is the state’s bounciest guard and best dunker. He netted 13.2 points per game as a junior and will bring highlights to a well-balanced Westover team. No. 5 Woodward Academy finished 20-9, winning the Region 4 championship and earning a Sweet 16 berth where they lost to Carver-Columbus 58-53. Five-star All-State 7-foot center Walker Kessler headlines an important junior class. Kessler, the Region 4 Player of the Year, carried the War Eagles by hanging 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game while knocking down 38-of-87 threes (44%). 6-foot-5 Jacorrei Turner (9.8 ppg) brings athleticism while 5-foot-10 Michael Whitmore (5.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4 apg, 2.6 spg) is relied upon heavily to organize the offense. 6-foot-8 senior Kevin Powell has never quite developed but is still a quality high school player that chips in 4.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. 6-foot-3 senior DJ Gibson and 6-foot-4 junior Will Demorest figure to help out in the backcourt. No. 6 Baldwin went 24-7 and battled their way to the Final Four where they were eliminated by St. Pius in a classic 66-61 thriller. The loss of Brenden Robertson (14 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Region 3 Player of the Year Rodney Walker (10 ppg, 7.2 rpg) will be difficult to deal with, but Coach Buck Harris has an All-State guard in Donte Justice. The athletic 5-foot-10 senior poured in 13.4 points per game and collected 2 steals a night on defense. 5-foot-9 senior point guard Torez Hicks (8.5 ppg, 3.7 apg) is a scrappy defender and floor general. 6-foot-7 senior Justin Webb will be the X-Factor again for the Braves. Webb has teased over the first three years of his career as a potential breakout player but the long swingman has never found consistency. He showed flashes of his potential with Team Georgia Magic this offseason and now the onus is squarely on his shoulders to improve upon his 4.3-point and 2.3-rebound per game average from last season. No. 7 Carver-Columbus led by All-State scoring dynamo 5-foot-10 senior AJ Watts, clawed their way to the Elite Eight before running into St. Pius and losing 77-65. Only four players graduate from last year’s 22-win team but one is Xai Jacobs, an All-Region 1 Honorable Mention selection. Devin Flowers, a 5-foot-9 senior, was a Third Team All-Region pick and will be Watts’ main running mate. Expected to take a major drop off after losing D-1 guards Damion Rosser (New Orleans) and Javon Greene (George Mason), Coach BJ Thomas came in from Monticello and did an exceptional job as No. 8 Henry County posted an 18-11 record with a state playoff appearance. With a previously inexperienced group a year older, the Warhawks could be a sleeper to make a deep run at state. 5-foot-9 senior Josh Steele returns as the team’s leading scorer after netting 12.2 points per game, hitting 67-of-143 threes (46%). 5-foot-10 senior Wisdom Uboh ignites the offense averaging 10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals. 6-foot-3 senior Semaj Rice (5.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.2 apg) is a versatile glue-guy willing to chip in in different ways. Juniors Jeqhuan Carter and Lay Davis are game-changers after seeing limited minutes as underclassmen. Carter, 6-foot-4, is a physical presence on the block with a nose for the ball. He’s a strong rebounder that can score around the rim. Davis, 6-foot-7, is a long shot-blocker that moves well. Offensively, he does a good job sealing and once he gets used to the physicality of the varsity level, can become a very important piece for Coach Thomas. No. 9 LaFayette broke school records last year and made the rest of the state a believer after a 25-3 season with an Elite Eight berth. The Ramblers ran into the Upson-Lee buzz saw, but have a bulk of their core cast back outside of All-State forward Jon Morgan. All-State point guard Alex Kelehear is the centerpiece for the Ramblers. The 5-foot-11 senior was Region 6 Player of the Year after posting 19.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Coach Hank Peppers’ supporting cast consists of 5-foot-11 center Dee Southern, combo guard Tyrese Marsh, shooting guard Vyshonn Daniel and 6-foot-2 three-point specialist Andrew Pendergrass, all seniors. The Ramblers’ inability to challenge themselves during the non-region schedule may put a glass ceiling on their ranking. No. 10 Americus-Sumter pieced together a 25-4 season but lost in the Region 1 championship to Westover 67-57 and fell in the Sweet 16 to Baldwin 60-59. The graduation of Eric Hall Jr. (15.6 ppg, 5.3 apg) is a huge loss but Coach Michael Hoffpauir does return reigning Class 4A Most Improved Player 6-foot-7 senior Joshua Lusane. The inside-out forward is skilled in the paint and on the perimeter. He tacked on 15.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. 6-foot-1 junior Traveon Brown (9.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3 apg, 1.9 spg) must fill the void left by Hall while the Panthers still need role players to step up to recreate last year’s success.

Class 3A

With nearly everyone back from their eighth state championship winning team, Class AAA will see No. 1 Greater Atlanta Christian open with the target on their back. The Spartans proved their mettle, holding off Pace Academy in the second-round 57-54 and outlasting Morgan County in a classic Final Four showdown 73-71, hitting 13 threes to eliminate the Bulldogs before blowing past Jenkins in the second half for a 67-53 state championship victory. Ultimate floor general 6-foot-2 All-State senior point guard Hunter McIntosh (20 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 spg – 4.57 GPA) has ice water in his veins when the game is on the line. Preseason All-State selection 6-foot-4 Belmont-commit Ben Sheppard took his game to the next level, posting 13.7 points, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. 5-foot-11 senior Roy Dixon is the third head of Coach David Eaton’s balanced attack averaging 11.3 points, 2.5 assists and 2.1 steals. 6-foot-4 280-pound future Michigan defensive end Chris Hinton (7.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is a punishing force on the low block with great hands and nimble feet. The trio of 6-foot-8 senior center Shawn Ohuabunwa, 6-foot-4 junior Cole Perusek and 6-foot junior Clifton Baskerville highlight some of Coach Eaton’s most important role players. 6-foot-1 sophomore LaMarr Randolph transfers in from Arabia Mountain to provide the Spartans with another floor spacer while 6-foot-5 senior Payton Aiken, from West Forsyth, is a steady forward. No. 2 Morgan County was the heavy favorite to win state all of last season, but in the blink of an eye, GAC tilted the balance of power. Coach Jamond Sims graduates his top frontcourt options from his 29-2 team but replaces them with 6-foot-8 senior Nolan Causwell, a raw big that can help in spurts, and 6-foot-6 physical specimen Malik Crawford, a talented player that has seen inconsistency plague his career. Both won’t be asked to do too much as the All-State tandem of 6-foot-4 Tyrin Lawrence and 6-foot-3 Alec Woodard (Austin Peay) is back for another crack at a state title. 5-foot-9 scrapper Stevin Greene rounds out a senior-laden core that has elite big game experience. No. 3 Johnson-Savannah finished 26-3 in ever-colorful Utaff Gordon’s final season, losing at GAC 75-61 in the Elite Eight. The Atomsmashers were set to return just three players from last year’s team but Rico Campbell slid over to Head Coach and a swarm of transfers poured into Sunset Boulevard. All-State scoring guard 6-foot-1 Shamar Jones (19.4 ppg) is back for his senior season along with 6-foot-2 sophomore Emondre Bowles (10.4 ppg), the lone holdover from the incredible Bowles bloodline. Arguably the best college prospects in the Savannah area from surrounding Region 3 rivals Beach, Jenkins and Islands all move-in with the additions of 6-foot-6 four-star junior wing Brandon Harris, 6-foot-8 senior Lamont Sams and 6-foot-7 sophomore Jalen DeLoach. With a new head coach and shot-hungry players used to being the top options on their teams, managing shot attempts and other surrounding factors will make the Atomsmasher season one of the most interesting storylines in the state to track. No. 4 Cedar Grove fell to Jenkins in the Elite Eight 72-65 and loses a huge senior class highlighted by breakout star Jamari Dean (Georgia Southwestern State). Back in the fold for Coach Miguel Patrick is wily veteran 6-foot-2 point guard Devon Barnes, a four-year starter. 6-foot-5 senior wing Kanaris Cummings started to put it together over the summer and will be a major contributor his senior year as a high-motor multi-positional athlete that’s relentless attacking the glass and willing to defend. Bruising 6-foot-6 245-pound three-star defensive end Tworn Seals enters his senior season while raw 6-foot-8 Chris Carter is now a junior and has shown signs of being able to handle more responsibilities in 2018-19. Challenging Cedar Grove in Region 5 will be No. 5 Pace Academy. Sharman White is back on the sidelines and will try to build around Preseason All-State 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Cole Middleton and 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Madison Durr, a transfer from St. Francis. 5-foot-11 senior point guard Myles Todd is ready to step out of the shadows cast by the post-oriented play from the likes of Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago Bulls) and Isaiah Kelly (Yale), and played exceptionally well at the lead guard position over the offseason with the Ballin’ Blazers. Sophomore guard Josh Mininberg logged major minutes as a freshman and should continue to get better as he matures both physically and with his skill set. Unforeseen circumstances have led to Coach Chad Pittman welcoming a suddenly stacked roster in north Georgia at No. 6 Dawson County. Improving from 14-14 to 19-10 in Year 2 with a 64-52 loss in the Sweet 16 at Cedar Grove, the Tigers have momentum and newfound firepower. The closing of former GICAA power, Dawson Christian Academy, has led to the Eagles’ top players migrating to Tiger Country headed by 6-foot-5 Preseason All-State wing Luke Chism along with 6-foot 215-pound positionless bowling ball senior Ahmad Kamara and 6-foot-5 junior forward Eli Burruss. Dawson County also picked up 6-foot-1 junior point guard Jasper Gibson, an All-Region 8-AAAA pick at Jefferson where he averaged 18.7 points per game before his dad accepted an Assistant Principal/Athletic Director role in Dawsonville this spring. 6-foot junior Campbell Reed is still in Coach Pittman’s backcourt after earning All-Region 7 Honorable Mention accolades. Four-star Will Richardson (Oregon) left No. 7 Liberty County in the dust last year leaving for Oak Hill Academy, but the Panthers still managed a state playoff berth with a 12-13 record. Coach Julian Stokes is expected to return his top seven players led by the senior backcourt of 6-foot-2 Jaden Young (16.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.7 spg), 6-foot-1 Arieus Taylor (13.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.1 spg) and 6-foot Keannon Taylor (12.3 ppg, 3 rpg, 2.2 spg). Juniors 5-foot-10 Albert Dock (6.6 ppg) and 6-foot-4 LaDarrius Mack (6.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg) provide diversity to the offense. The improvement of 6-foot-6 senior Donte Oliphant gives Coach Stokes an athletic rim protector along with 6-foot-5 junior post David Thomas. Longtime Head Coach Joe Dix stepped aside and left for Collins Hill, paving the way for Coach Seth Thompson to inherit a deep and talented group at No. 8 East Hall. The Vikings posted a 17-12 record finishing 11-2 in Region 7 play with a sparkling 88-74 win over eventual state champion GAC early in the season. East Hall fell to Hart County in the opening round of the state playoffs 65-50 and will be in a season-long dogfight in a region that places three Top 10 teams to open the year. The Vikings return All-Region picks 6-foot-6 Jay Rucker and shooter Luke Holtzclaw for their senior seasons. Honorable Mention senior guard Kylan Curry is back alongside blossoming sophomore point guard Imre Earls. 5-foot-8 junior TJ Campbell provides steady play on the perimeter. Junior bigs Malachi Vance and Walter Dixon stand 6-foot-5 and can battle in the paint. No. 9 Westside-Macon snaked their way to a Final Four appearance without Khavon Moore (Texas Tech) and narrowly lost to Jenkins 52-49. The Seminoles must replace Moore (22.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.2 spg, 1.8 bpg) and Gregory Holloway (18.5 ppg, 11.9 rpg – Mississippi Valley State). Sophomores Javian Mosley (8.3 ppg) and 6-foot-5 shooting guard Kowacie Reeves Jr. (5.8 ppg) saw invaluable experience as youngsters. Reeves, an elite three-point shooter that continues to sprout up, cashed in on a Florida offer this offseason and will need to prove he warrants the High Major attention now that teams will game plan for him over the next three seasons. 6-foot-1 senior Desmon Foston (6.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.2 spg) will help tutor his young backcourt members as one of the most experienced players in the program. No. 10 Redan is the third team from Region 5 to crack the poll. The Raiders finished 14-14 overall and 7-7 in region with a 45-41 win over Calhoun in Round 1 of state before getting eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Hart County 62-39. 5-foot-10 sophomore guard JaVen Smith is a Preseason All-State pick after lighting the state on fire as a freshman pouring in 18.2 points per game – second-best in DeKalb County – and 3.2 assists while drilling 74-of-170 threes (44%). Coach Greg Wood has even more options in 6-foot-1 senior Siah Gray (14.1 ppg, 2.6 apg), 5-foot-11 senior Jordan Whitening (4 apg), 6-foot-5 junior Linard Cole (1.4 bpg) and 5-foot-11 senior Jordan Davis (49-of-125 threes [39%]).

Class 2A

One of the best kept secrets in the state of Georgia resides in Class AA in Atlanta. Tucked away right under our noses, No. 1 Therrell has pumped out talent but not wins until last year. The Panthers have been pilfered by the transfer market like none other in Class AA over the past three years losing consensus five-star No. 1 player in Georgia, Anthony Edwards (Holy Spirit Prep), 6-foot-9 Kennedy Willis (St. Pius X/Middle Georgia Prep) and most recently All-State scoring guard Deandre Brown (Holy Spirit Prep), but Therrell keeps ticking. Brown’s 18.3 points per game will need to be replaced but the Panthers, who entered the state playoffs ranked No. 1, are a year older and look poised to take a deep run after a 20-8 campaign and Elite Eight exit. Preseason All-State selection Roman Son, a 5-foot-10 junior, is a true point guard that is cat quick when getting to the basket. He averaged 11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.9 steals. Relentless 6-foot-4 sophomore power forward Robbie Armbrester earned a Preseason All-State nod as well after being named Class 2A Freshman of the Year following averages of 11.4 points and 10.6 rebounds. 6-foot-5 junior Cameron Fortson is another physical presence under the basket, the 215-pound big man collecting 10.8 points, 8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a night. 6-foot-5 junior wing Ra’Sean Frederick (9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.9 spg) is a potential X-Factor with All-State level talent. The powerful lefty can score at all three levels and could push the Panthers over the top. Up from an Elite Eight trip in Class A-Public, No. 2 Woodville-Tompkins is a burgeoning power under Coach Lenny Williams down on the coast of Savannah. The Wolverines improved from 16-11 to 25-4 and are now firmly entrenched in the state title hunt in just Year 5 of the program and Williams’ second season as head man. 6-foot-5 senior Preston Crisp is an All-State double-double threat and the Wolverines’ leading scorer at 17.1 points per game. Woodville-Tompkins in fact returns their top four leading scorers with tough-nosed senior point guard Charleston Willingham, Region 3-A East Player of the Year, back to orchestrate the offense averaging 13.3 points. 6-foot-6 junior small forward Benard Pelote (10.8 ppg) has yet to scratch the surface of his potential while senior Deante Green (9.9 ppg) and freshman Alfred Coaxum help stabilize the backcourt. No. 3 Washington County had ups and downs during their 18-9 season which ended in the second-round against state runner-up Vidalia 52-46 after beating Dublin for the Region 3 championship. A deep balanced scoring attack graduates options one (Curtis Brown – 10.5 ppg) and six (Connor Frazier – 5.4 ppg) but has nearly every other key cog back in place. 6-foot senior Jamarius Dixon (9.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg), thick 6-foot-4 senior Jawan Dukes (9.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1 bpg), 6-foot junior Jarden Maze (6.1 ppg) and 5-foot-9 senior Lazerionta Taylor (5.8 ppg) have all taken turns leading the Golden Hawks in scoring. Long-armed 6-foot-7 senior center Keith Foster (5 ppg, 5 rpg) is a quality option in the paint. After falling short of their goals in back-to-back seasons, No. 4 Thomasville exercised the demons and throttled a scared Vidalia team in the state championship 66-31. The Bulldogs got stronger as the tournament went on and helped send off McDonald’s All-American Reggie Perry to Mississippi State with a title. Preseason All-State pick Vonterius Woolbright is a big guard that will have to carry the load his senior season. Seniors Quindarius Thomas and 6-foot-9 Titus Wright will be focal points of Coach Benjamin Tillman’s offense. No. 5 Metter pieced together a 20-11, 7-7 season out of a brutal Region 2 that saw Swainsboro go undefeated in region play in the regular season, Jeff Davis capture the region championship and Vidalia sneak their way into the AA title game – and don’t forget that Woodville-Tompkins now replaces Benedictine for 2018-19. The Tigers clawed their way into the Sweet 16 but got dumped by Laney 65-55. Metter graduates third-leading scorer Markeevious Byrd, but brings back the rest of its offense. 6-foot-3 senior Keondre Williams (13.5 ppg, 8 rpg) was a Second Team All-Region 2 selection while 6-foot junior Immanuel Hackett (11.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) was Coach William Altman’s second option. 6-foot-1 junior Lane Young (9.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and 6-foot-1 sophomore Ean Royal (6.8 ppg) round out the core. No. 6 Northeast-Macon has improved every season since All-State combo guard Darius Dunn stepped foot on campus, going from 3-24 to 6-21 to 18-11 last season with a state playoff appearance – the first since 2015. Coach Kevin Grooms will turn to his high-octane backcourt for one last time with Dunn (15.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3 apg, 2.5 spg) and Ty’ree Gilbert (13.6 ppg) entering their senior seasons. 6-foot-2 junior Cameron Cherry (10 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.9 spg) will be asked to take his game to the next level along with senior Kendall Green (4.9 ppg). After getting run out of the gym in the 2016-17 state championship, No. 7 Swainsboro returned nearly their entire roster and looked poised to have another shot at a state title following a perfect 14-0 finish in Region 2, but the Tigers stumbled to the finish line losing their final four games of the season including dropping all the way to the No. 4 seed which set up a first-round matchup on the road with eventual state champion Thomasville. Swainsboro gave the Bulldogs their toughest test of the tournament but ultimately fell 56-50, finishing with a 20-7 record. All-State scoring machine Jaylan McKinney (South Georgia Tech), First Team All-Region guard Trevino Jones and double-double man Eddie Roberts have graduated. The spotlight will now be on 6-foot-3 senior wing Jamil Watkins, a Second Team All-Region pick, and physical sophomore twins Cedric and Fredrick Seabrough, a pair of 6-foot-4 forwards. The Tigers will have to claw their way to another state playoff berth in a top-heavy region. No. 8 Elbert County exploded onto the scene last season, improving from 14-15 to 23-5 with a Sweet 16 appearance in Year 2 under Coach Don Hurlburt. Limited in size, the Blue Devils swept Region 8 power Banks County in the regular season before losing to the Leopards in the region championship. All-State do-everything forward AJ James is the X-Factor for the Devils. Standing around 6-foot-3 on a good day, James is able to play every position on the floor and is a double-double machine. Senior guard Ty Hill returns after an All-Region season along with energy man Jamison Syphore, another experienced senior that plays bigger than his size. Football star Metrius Fleming is expected to return for his senior season after an injury knocked him out last year. Elbert County’s toughness and quickness proved it can carry outside of the region, taking Therrell down to the wire in the second-round losing 67-63. In one of the rare cases that winning a region title was a bad thing, No. 9 Chattooga captured another Region 7 championship and in favor was rewarded with a date with lethal Region 8 four-seed Monticello. In an ugly defensive slugfest, the Indians were eliminated at home 49-44. Coach Jared Groce, who’s gone 72-11 over the past three seasons with a 42-4 mark in region play, returns all of his key contributors from last year’s 23-4 squad led by 5-foot-6 star senior Jundraius “Nuk Nuk” Adams. The playmaking guard bombs from deep and sneaks into the paint to drop passes off to open teammates. Seniors Malachi Mack and Devin Price provide athleticism for an undersized team whose tallest player stands 6-foot-3. Senior Clayton Johnson is a streaky three-point shooter while junior Jamarious Mosteller is one of many duel-sport athletes that shines on the football field. Senior wing Glenn Walker flirted with LaFayette in the offseason and will provide Coach Groce with another tough-nosed defender and outside scorer if eligible. Unlike other dominant small schools in north Georgia, the Indians have decided to load up the schedule and test themselves playing the likes of No. 2 Woodville-Tompkins at the SportalShowcase, Class 6A’s No. 10 Sequoyah and Alpharetta at the War Lodge Invitational along with up-and-coming GICAA standout The King’s Academy. A Sweet 16 loss to Thomasville ended a great season for No. 10 Dublin. All-State fixtures Kam Pauldo (Columbus State) and Clarence Jackson (Middle Georgia Prep) must be replaced by Coach Paul Williams. Second Team All-Region 3 pick Steven Linton is back for his senior season, a powerful 6-foot-5 212-pound center that moves opponents out of the way. 6-foot-4 junior guard Quay King has the potential to be the next big thing out of Dublin.

Class A-Private

Last year in Class A-Private, it was a revolving door of contenders and pretenders with extreme parity outside of the top three or four teams in the state. The classification gets much stronger with the addition of a two-time defending GICAA state champion and a 28-win GISA program, but with new faces entering the fray, No. 1 St. Francis still gets the top spot. The Knights were the classification’s most consistent team from opening tip to final buzzer, but a bad third quarter sank St. Francis in the title game 65-60. So close to capturing the program’s third state championship and first since 2015, instead two key cogs in the nucleus decided to jump ship in 6-foot-6 junior Sam Hines (12.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg – Wheeler) and 6-foot-3 sophomore Madison Durr (Pace Academy). The Knights are in good hands however with Coach Drew Catlett and All-State 6-foot-1 Xavier-commit junior point guard Dwon Odom (15.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.9 apg, 2 spg). 6-foot-3 running mate Chase Ellis is back for his junior season after compiling 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds a night. 6-foot-1 senior CJ Riley is a lights-out lefty shooter that chipped in 11.8 points per game, drilling 47-of-123 threes (38%). 6-foot-3 senior Sean Paradise (4.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.1 spg) is an ageless veteran that helps out as a premier glue-guy. Sophomores 6-foot-5 Jusaun Holt and 6-foot-6 Kai Simmons will see massively increased roles this season, Holt flourishing over the summer as a high-energy inside-out threat. 6-foot freshman Jordan Brown will see big minutes replacing Durr. Brown is a smooth scorer that can hit the three and create his own shot when getting to the bucket. 6-foot-1 freshman Seth Hubbard projects to be another floor spacing three-point shooter. New to the GHSA is No. 2 Mt. Bethel Christian, who won back-to-back GICAA titles and will now be in Region 6B with St. Francis. 6-foot-8 junior pogo stick Jordan Meka is a developing big man who is still best at blocking shots, but knows how to finish with a bang around the rim. 6-foot-3 senior point guard Coleman Boyd is a good-looking prospect that organizes the offense and understands how to get teammates open. While Meka and Boyd get much of the attention, 6-foot-5 senior forward Stanley Eze is the most important piece. A non-stop relentless athlete, Eze pounds the offensive glass all 32 minutes and brings great effort on both sides of the ball. Primarily a slasher and garbage man on offense, Eze can keep defenses honest from the mid-range. 5-foot-8 sophomore point guard Jayce Harrison transfers in from Fellowship Christian where he averaged 14.9 points, 2 assists and 2.2 steals. For another season, No. 3 Greenforest will field nearly an entirely new roster, pounding the transfer market hard again. A disappointing 16-12 finish last season saw the Eagles improve by leaps and bounds before ultimately losing to Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy for the third time in four tries in the Elite Eight, 69-61. Greenforest adds 6-foot-6 All-State junior guard Lamar Oden (20.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg) from Southwest Atlanta Christian along with 6-foot-10 Christian Fussell (Holy Spirit Prep) and 6-foot-2 sophomore RJ Noord (Columbia). Junior 6-foot guard Dylan Pritchett (7.1 ppg) is expected to still be in the picture but blossoming 6-foot-8 senior center Ibrahima Jarjou has left for Holy Spirt Prep. Addition by subtraction is the reoccurring theme for No. 4 Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy. The Chargers rolled to the Final Four with a 27-4 record, but a lack of outside shooting and poor free throw shooting haunted them in a 47-41 loss. The All-State frontcourt of 6-foot-7 Malachi Rhodes (14.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg – Wheeler/Bucknell) and 6-foot-5 Jamaine Mann (10.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg – Starr’s Mill) bailed this offseason but Coach Derrick Mason has hungry new rim runners in 6-foot-5 senior Felix Uadiale and 6-foot-7 junior Izzy Momodu. The late-blooming hard-working Uadiale is a bundle of energy on both ends of the floor, catching alley oops and swatting away shots. Momodu, new from England, will be a project to keep an eye on. With the frontcourt working itself out, make no doubt that ELCA will be more guard oriented led by College of Charleston-commit 6-foot-4 guard Trevon Reddish (9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.2 spg). Reddish blew up over the summer as a stat sheet stuffer and will now have the offense run through he and 6-foot-4 senior shooting guard Mekhi Cameron (9.9 ppg). 6-foot-4 senior KJ Jones (9 ppg) is an immensely important shooter that hit 41-of-102 attempts from three (40%) last season. 6-foot-2 senior Kamari Smith and much improved 6-foot-6 versatile junior swingman Jordan Smalls round out a long ELCA lineup. No. 5 Holy Innocents’ had a great season with a young core, making it all the way to the Final Four before running into the St. Francis buzz saw 83-54. All-State sophomore Garrison Powell shined, winning Class A-Private Freshman of the Year pouring in 15.5 points per game. His top option Josh Smith (13.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg) has left for Grayson however. Incoming sophomore 6-foot-4 Chance Moore moves in from Chamblee. The smooth scorer earned D-I offers over the summer and should form one of the best 2021 backcourts in the entire state of Georgia with Powell. 6-foot-3 senior Alex Hyatt (11 ppg) is a nice piece that helps the offense click. Finding a true pass-first point guard will be important after graduating big-shot maker Matt Meadows (11.6 ppg). Up from a Final Four trip in the GISA, No. 6 Trinity Christian will look to improve upon a 28-7 finish, this time against much stiffer competition. The Lions graduate a handful of key pieces but their results against GHSA competition were wildly impressive, going 9-1 with wins over Woodward Academy (67-54), Holy Innocents’ (73-65) and Class 3A State Champion GAC (62-57). The junior trio of 6-foot-5 inside-out threat Brady Burnett, 6-foot-4 Maclean Hoekwater and 6-foot-7 Dominican National Team member Giancarlo Bastianoni will power the Lions in Region 5, joining the likes of Greenforest, ELCA and Holy Innocents’. Reigning Region 6B Coach of the Year Bryce Brickhouse returns all but one key contributor for No. 7 Walker. The Wolverines improved from 11-14 to 19-9 and spent time in the Top 10 after a 10-4 mark in region play. A junior class led by All-Region Second Team selections 6-foot-4 Chandler Baker (13.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and 6-foot-6 Burke Chebuhar (13.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg) pace the Walker attack with Honorable Mention selection 5-foot-5 Omar Cooper (10.9 ppg, 4.2 apg) running the offense. No. 8 North Cobb Christian enters 2018-19 coming off an Elite Eight trip and 23-6 record. A lot graduates and shifty guard Myson Lowe transfers to Whitefield Academy, but senior Justin Day, junior Josiah Scott and 6-foot-9 junior Caleb Crumly are expected back. Scott is an electric playmaker that should see the offense run through him while Crumly is a low block presence that can hit the open jumper. No. 9 Whitefield Academy struggled as a young and inexperienced team in Coach Courtney Brooks’ first year on the job, finishing 10-17 with a first-round state playoff loss at Stratford Academy. 6-foot-6 junior Drew Thomas has left for Campbell, but the Wolfpack add 5-foot-8 junior guard Myson Lowe from North Cobb Christian as a No. 1 option on the perimeter. Lowe slides into a deep 2020 class headed by 6-foot-4 AJ Hopkins (9.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg), 5-foot-8 Devonte Watson (9.2 ppg) and 6-foot-1 Rees Pickell (6.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.2 spg). 5-foot-10 senior Julian Munoz was a Team Captain and chipped in 5.5 points. No. 10 Darlington looks poised to improve upon a 14-11 season that ended in the Sweet 16 with a 65-62 loss at North Cobb Christian. All-State 6-foot-6 senior forward JD Hull (17.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg) has recovered from a concussion that left him sidelined for months. 6-foot-3 seniors Barrick Wade (9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and Andrew Land (8.8 ppg, 4 rpg) are three-point marksmen, Wade hitting 44-of-136 (32%) and Land nailing 58-of-160 (36%). The senior-heavy group sees 6-foot Eli Brooks mobilize the offense, averaging 4.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.7 steals as a junior. Freshman Wit Szymanski, 6-foot-2, moves in from Poland where he was a member of the National Team.

Class A-Public

Ten-time state champion and winner of three-straight and five of the last six titles since Class A-Public split from A-Private, No. 1 Wilkinson County, will begin the year as the assumed favorite. Until someone proves they can beat the Warriors when elimination is on the line, its hard to pick against the Blue Storm. Wilkinson County graduates important pieces like Devin Jones and 6-foot-6 Tylan Grable, but All-State senior guard Jalen Lamar is back after dumping in 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting in Wilco’s 71-68 win over Montgomery County in the state championship. Region 7-West Honorable Mention selection 6-foot-2 Jacob Crockett is expected back for his junior season along with 6-foot-2 Christian Lamar. Senior Raequan Smith comes back with experience in the backcourt as well. Rumors swirled around the Lamars transferring to Jones County, but last reported it seems they have decided to stay in Irwinton. There have also been reports that Dr. Aaron Geter has stepped down as coach to be replaced by assistant Xavier Whipple. No. 2 Georgia Military College enters the season with momentum, coming off a 24-4 season, a Sweet 16 appearance and two summer camp titles. The Bulldogs improved from 12-10 and excelled in Region 7, going 16-2 with a late season 53-43 win over the defending Class A-Private state champions before falling to Wilkinson County in the region championship 58-54 and losing at Woodville-Tompkins 62-51 in the second-round. All-State 6-foot-1 senior Malik Foston (20.3 ppg, 6 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.4 spg) has been a talented scorer since his freshman season. Fellow senior, 5-foot-11 Jalen Milner, is Robin to Foston’s Batman, pitching in 15.9 points and 4.1 rebounds a night. Coach James Lunsford will have to find scoring outside of his dynamic backcourt duo as options three through five graduate. If a third scoring option doesn’t materialize, repeating last year’s success may be difficult. No. 3 Macon County powered their way to a 20-6 overall record and 15-1 mark in a deep Region 4 but saw their season cut short in the Elite Eight by region rival Central-Talbotton 72-61 after beating the Hawks 53-46 earlier in the year. Fearless All-State southpaw Clayton Jenkins (17.6 ppg) must be replaced on offense. 5-foot-11 junior Lakeviyon Walker is a tough-nosed football standout that brings his gridiron mentality to the hardwood, playing bigger than his size to average 14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals. Walker, much like Jenkins, is a lethal deep-ball threat, hitting a team-best 52-of-146 threes (36%). 6-foot-4 senior Makevion Bonner (11.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.2 spg) is an improving forward that has started to get more aggressive on the wing. Graduated starters 6-foot-3 Trey Brown and 5-foot-10 Jamaal Rice II are big pieces that need to have their 20.8 points, 12.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists combined replaced. Rising 6-foot-3 junior Shamari Gaines showed flashes of his scoring prowess over the summer and could be in-line for a major uptick in production after netting just 3.8 points per game. Still a young program, Coach James Williams improved No. 4 Drew Charter from 11-12 to 16-13 in his first year and led the program to their first-ever state tournament win, heading down to Homerville to eliminate Clinch County 66-60 before falling in the Sweet 16 to Wilkinson County 74-53. A rare Class A-Public school in Atlanta, the Eagles play arguably the toughest schedule in the classification having to deal with Region 5 private schools such as ELCA, Holy Innocents’, Greenforest, Mt. Vernon Presbyterian, Wesleyan and WD Mohammed, all who spent time ranked in the Class A-Private Top 10 last season. Drew Charter more than held their own, posting a 9-6 region record with wins over Greenforest and Wesleyan before dropping in the region semifinals to ELCA 70-56. Things won’t get easier as Trinity Christian enters the GHSA, giving Region 5 five teams in the preseason polls. The Eagles will be battle-tested and have loaded up the non-region schedule as well. While they might not finish with a sexy win-loss record like other public schools, the Eagles are a serious threat come February. Only three players graduate from a now senior-laden lineup. 6-foot-4 Preseason First Team All-State guard Marcus Foster enters his final season after earning interest from multiple Mid-Major schools this offseason. He is joined by versatile inside-out wing 6-foot-4 senior Asher McGee, who can slash to the rim and hit the outside shot. 6-foot-5 junior Solomon Adams has good tools and can play multiple positions in Coach Williams’ frontcourt. Seniors 5-foot-9 Jacquez Denny and 6-foot-3 Jaydin Beasley are reliable options. Following a dominant run in Region 3, No. 5 Treutlen lost its grip and finished 19-9 after a 27-1 season. The Vikings were blown out at home by Fulton Leadership Academy in the opening round of state, 65-48. With Woodville-Tompkins moving to Class 2A and state runner-up Montgomery County graduating its star power, Treutlen has to be considered the favorite to take back over. The Vikes graduate just three players and have Preseason All-State 6-foot-6 senior forward Arkavias Lovett returning along with Region 3-West First Team pick junior Kamron Jordan and Second Team selections senior Tafarjae Jordan and junior guard KaSabian Mitchell. Coach Tyree Coney should be able to rack up the points and the wins with Treutlen’s fast-paced style of play. No. 6 Wilcox County posted a 21-8 record out of Region 2, but got upset in the state playoffs by 12-14 Randolph-Clay, 64-63. The Patriots are expected to bring back their top four scorers, part of a talented 2020 class. 6-foot workhorse forward Desmond Tisdol, a star running back, is a double-double threat inside for the Patriots. 6-foot Cameron Patterson, Jordan Brown and Keyshawn Howard round out an athletic core that plays multiple sports. No. 7 Lanier County exploded from 14-13 to 25-4 in Year 2 under Coach Ty Randolph. The Bulldogs won the Region 2 championship, beating Wilcox County 69-59 but ultimately falling in the Elite Eight to Montgomery County 81-74. Lanier County graduates its top two scorers in Jay Foster (13.3 ppg) and Ny’Jel Bacon (12.3 ppg) but bring back seniors 6-foot-2 James Green (11.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg), 6-foot-5 Tyquan Baker (11.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2 spg, 1.6 bpg) and 6-foot-8 junior Amaree McGriff (6.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.2 bpg). Finding reliable guard play to pair with a long frontcourt will be crucial to the Bulldogs’ success. No. 8 Calhoun County is the last team not named Wilkinson County to win a Class-A Public state championship, coming in 2015. It’s hard to believe that the Cougars only won one with two-time Player of the Year 6-foot-6 Rashun Williams (USF). Since Williams stepped foot in Edison, Calhoun County compiled a 104-17 record, going 56-5 over his final two seasons. After falling 66-53 in the 2017 state title game to Wilkinson County, the Cougs were upended by Montgomery County in the Final Four 80-78. Williams departs with a four-man 2018 class. Senior guards 6-foot Roney Moore and 6-foot-1 Juwaun Wiley have major experience. 6-foot sophomore Tykevious Curry has a high ceiling and should be in position to do damage over the next three seasons while 6-foot junior Jahmad Wiley has been a reliable scorer. No. 9 Pelham finished 23-6 and lost in the Sweet 16 at Manchester, 57-47. Leading scorer Dewaun Jones (12.4 ppg) has graduated but the rest of the offense is back for Coach John Hamilton. 6-foot-4 senior forward Ke’Monterius Byrd is a raw rugged athlete that averaged 11.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks. Juniors Kendrick Patterson (8.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Darrell Starlings (6.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.1 spg) balance the offense. Patterson is a 6-foot-4 215-pound quarterback while Starlings, 6-foot-1, runs the point. Its easy to lose No. 10 Greene County in the shuffle in Region 7, but the Tigers recorded their best season (15-10, 11-7) since finishing 23-6 in 2014-15. Coach Gregory Freeman takes over the program after a stint at Class 6A Creekside. He will inherit All-State junior point guard 5-foot-7 DJ Wright, a scoring dynamo that is in the debate for best player in the classification. Wright can fill up the box score but for the Tigers to make the state playoffs for the first time since 2016, they will need to find a supporting cast to help lift the burden off Wright’s more-than capable shoulders.

2018-19 Preseason Girls State Rankings

sportal

Class AAAAAAA

1. Norcross
2. Collins Hill
3. Westlake
4. Cherokee
5. Brookwood
6. Hillgrove
7. Pebblebrook
8. McEachern
9. North Forsyth
10. Parkview

Class AAAAAA

1. Lovejoy
2. Forest Park
3. Douglas County
4. Dacula
5. Northview
6. Tucker
7. Lanier
8. Stephenson
9. Pope
10. Valdosta 

Class AAAAA

1. Villa Rica
2. Buford
3. Harris County
4. Southwest DeKalb
5. Eagle’s Landing
6. Lithia Springs
7. Rome
8. Decatur
9. Woodland-Stockbridge
10. Starr’s Mill

Class AAAA

1. Spalding
2. Carver-Columbus
3. Flowery Branch
4. Henry County
5. Madison County
6. Baldwin
7. West Laurens
8. Westover
9. Burke County
10. Luella

Class AAA

1. Johnson-Savannah
2. Beach
3. Hart County
4. Peach County
5. Dawson County
6. Greater Atlanta Christian
7. Sonoraville
8. Morgan County
9. Cook
10. Pace Academy

Class AA

1. Josey
2. Dodge County
3. Swainsboro
4. Rabun County
5. Early County
6. Laney
7. Fitzgerald
8. Banks County
9. Douglass
10. Bryan County

Class A-Private

1. Wesleyan
2. St. Francis
3. Holy Innocents’
4. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy
5. Landmark Christian
6. Stratford Academy
7. Lakeview Academy
8. Paideia
9. Athens Academy
10. Prince Avenue Christian

Class A-Public

1. Telfair County
2. Wheeler County
3. Marion County
4. Calhoun County
5. Georgia Military College
6. Bowdon
7. Greenville
8. Taylor County
9. Turner County
10. Pelham

Class 7A

Unlike last year, there won’t be an odds-on heavy favorite to win Class AAAAAAA, but No. 1 Norcross seems like a logical place to start. The Lady Blue battled adversity and countless injuries last season but still managed a 26-4 record and a trip to the Elite Eight where they fumbled a golden opportunity to eliminate the then four-time defending state champs McEachern. Norcross should have motivation to finish the job and has enough firepower to do so, led by Class 7A Player of the Year Morgan Robinson-Nwagwu, an Auburn-commit. The point guard averaged 15.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 4.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. Fellow senior Myra Strickland led the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game as a dangerous floor stretcher that also picked up 3 steals a night. Post players Tionna Carter and Yamani Paul both have collegiate futures. The improvement of sophomore Mariah Baltierra gives Coach Dani Wright another talented young ball handler that makes good decisions. No. 2 Collins Hill has pushed out D-I players in Jaron Stallworth (Mercer) and Jada Rice (North Carolina State) and still has Bria Harmon (Purdue), Javyn Nicholson (UGA) and Katherine Fourie in place but it has not yet resulted in a state title. Nicholson is regarded as one of the state’s top prospects after averaging 11.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while Harmon has been a producer at the varsity level since Day 1. Fourie is a premier shooter, but the Eagles will need to find one more scoring option and some defensive difference makers to finish the trio’s career with a title. No. 3 Westlake welcomed a handful of transfers and a dynamic freshmen duo to capture their first state championship in 2018. Not many will argue that sophomore point guard Raven Johnson is likely the best guard in the state regardless of classification and grade. The 5-foot-8 star had ice water in her veins as she posted 15 points and 11 rebounds in Westlake’s 60-45 state championship victory over Newton, highlighted by her game-clinching offensive rebound off her missed free throw and putback with 1:13 left to put the game out of reach. 6-foot-2 sophomore Brianna “Snoop” Turnage showed flashes of what she could become throughout the season and will now have a full-time role as being a top option in Coach Hilda Hankerson’s offense. Junior Carlyse Hooks should also see an up-tick in production. No. 4 Cherokee was one of the great “what-if” teams last year after the Lady Warriors went 26-3 with a two-point loss to eventual state runner-up Newton in the Elite Eight. The Warriors lost star forward Sydne Watts in the region tournament and also saw guard Olivia Herrera go down with an ankle injury. Cherokee will be at full strength this season with senior Lacie McCoy, a Preseason All-State First Teamer, pacing the backcourt. Juniors Chatham Brown and Ashlyn Andrus provide athleticism while space-eating post Kate Johnson, a sophomore, came on strong in Watts’ absence in the state tournament. Cherokee only graduates Laiken Wade from last year’s team and will be the team to beat in Cherokee County and a “dark horse” to spoil the state championship party which has been dominated by Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett. No. 5 Brookwood had good moments and bad moments in Coach Carolyn Whitney’s first season, going through growing pains together. Malia Grace and Jalyn Bell are out the door via transfer, but tough-nosed senior point guard Alea Spears moves in from Mountain View where she averaged 10.6 points, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Spears played with now teammate Kiki Adams with the Lady Rebels this offseason. Adams, 6-foot-1, is a versatile senior that averaged 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals. The on-going development of 6-foot-4 junior Selma Kulo may determine how good the Broncos can be. Now with offers from Duquesne and Radford in hand, Kulo, who has played basketball since just the seventh grade, is molding herself into a future D-I player. With fellow twin tower Malia Grace gone, the onus to protect the rim and control the boards fall squarely on the still far from finished product’s shoulders. No. 6 Hillgrove quietly put together a solid 2017-18 campaign out of Region 3. The Lady Hawks still haven’t been able to solve rival McEachern, losing all three meetings, but Hillgrove still marched their way to the Elite Eight before dropping 68-63 to North Forsyth. Coach Susan Milam’s strength lies in the backcourt with smooth combo guard Michelle Smith. The GCSU-commit makes things happen with the ball in her hands, able to handle pressure and know when to hunt her own shot or get teammates involved. She has shooters in Logan VanArsdale and Breah McGrady to flank her. If the 2019 trio can get some help elsewhere, they could be in the mix to make another playoff run. No. 7 Pebblebrook returns their top six players from a young but now seasoned core. Juniors Milana Holmes (15.1) and Ravyn Madaris (11.9) combined for 27 points per game. Seniors Jalicia Bass (11.5) and Meliyah White (8.7) help round out the scoring with junior Azaria Alexander also chipping in 7.9 points. No. 8 McEachern’s string of four straight titles was finally broken last year. The Indians overachieved considering they lost star post Kemia Ward, Chanel Wilson (Indiana) and Daelyn Craig to injury, but still managed to make it to the Final Four where they fell apart against Newton in the second half. Ward has since transferred to Holy Spirit Prep leaving a few question marks about who will carry the load. Sophomores Denim Deshields and Sianny Sanchez along with juniors Mikaylin Glover and Craig should be integral pieces for the next two seasons. The transfer of Catherine Shope changed the trajectory of No. 9 North Forsyth last season and thrusted them into the picture as a statewide contender, finishing 28-3 with a hard-fought 52-44 loss to Westlake in the Final Four. The Raiders graduate All-State picks in Shope and Cassie Markle but return a nice 2020 group. Guard Caroline Martin is the offensive engine, able to knock down the three and weave her way to the basket. McCall Thomas helps out with ball handling and stretching the floor. Sophomore Kate Perryman is a big athletic target inside at 6-foot-2. No. 10 Parkview was young and exceeded expectations winning 17 games. Hannah Sadler is off to Old Dominion but sophomore posts Sacha Washington and Sussy Ngulefac made major impacts in Year 1. Washington, 6-foot, averaged 8.6 points and 7.7 rebounds while Ngulefac, 6-foot-2, contributed 8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a night. Gabby Jester and transfer Jalyn Bell should help balance the backcourt.

Class 6A

The heaviest favorite in Georgia to repeat as state champions is Class AAAAAA’s No. 1 Lovejoy. After nearly seeing their dream season come to an end in the Elite Eight against All-American Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Winder-Barrow, the Wildcats rallied to win in overtime and went on to blowout Northview (70-42) and Harrison (57-41) to capture their first state title. Everyone is back for Lovejoy outside of rebounding machine Kayla Brown (Western Carolina). The All-State junior backcourt of Genesis Bryant and Anaya Boyd is the best in the state. Seniors J’Auana Robinson and Avanna Preston have logged big minutes and perfectly compliment Bryant and Boyd. Lovejoy’s elite guard play and defense puts them in a league of their own. The Wildcats play in the toughest region in the classification, Region 4, pacing four teams in the Preseason Top 10. The biggest shock and disappointment in Georgia last year was No. 2 Forest Park. The Region 4 power was in the Top 10 for the entire regular season before getting upset in the region tournament as the No. 4 ranked team in Class 6A, 37-36, by 8-win ML King. The Panthers finished the season 21-5 and 13-3 in region play but had no playoffs to show for it. Luckily their top seven options are set to return to atone for last year’s premature elimination. Seniors Sarah Matthews (12 ppg) and Alana Denson (10 ppg) pace Forest Park from the backcourt while 6-foot-3 sophomore center Sania Feagin is regarded as one of the state’s top post prospects after averaging 11.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 4 blocks per game. 6-foot-1 sophomore Jasmine Stevens is another long presence that averaged 7.1 points and 4.9 rebounds as a freshman. The Panthers added 6-foot-3 All-State center Destiny Thomas from Tri-Cities, solidifying Forest Park as the top frontcourt in the classification and one of the best in the state. Thomas averaged 15.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.1 steals and 6.8 blocks as a junior. No. 3 Douglas County is led by one of the state’s most versatile players, Clemson-bound forward Amari Robinson. The Lady Tigers started the season 1-3 before hitting their stride. Robinson averaged 24.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. Douglas County returns its top five scorers. Juniors Desirae Jackson (8.9 ppg) and Dymon Cook (7.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) will be important to the Tigers’ success along with senior Michaela Cope (7.0 ppg). If teams focus on playing physical with Robinson like Harrison did in the Final Four, others will need to step up and prove they can carry the load. No. 4 Dacula looks set to make the jump from scrappy middle-of-the-road program to a serious playoff threat with a steady core returning and impactful newcomers fresh to Broad Street. The Falcons consistently proved throughout last season that they could hang with anyone. Leading scorers Aiyana Hamilton (9.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Valdosta State-commit Kendall Bollmer (9.6 ppg) are back along with junior point guard Nyla Moore (3.1 apg). 6-foot-2 freshman center Lazaria Spearman already holds offers from UGA, Miami, South Alabama and Troy. Losing star sophomore and best three-point shooter Eden Sample to a torn ACL dampens the outlook for No. 5 Northview, but the move-in of Markiema Lancaster gives the Lady Titans an athleticism and versatility on the wing they haven’t had since Shannon Titus (Mercer) graduated in 2017. The 5-foot-10 transfer from Johns Creek is an active defender that will also help out in a big way handling the ball. Lancaster will bring some toughness on the glass too. Everything will still start with All-State forward Ashlee Austin (Rice). The 6-foot-2 senior averaged 16.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.7 steals as a matchup nightmare. 6-foot-1 center Maya Richards (9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg – Charleston Southern) is physical on the low block and has gotten better at staying out of foul trouble. Junior point guard Asjah Inniss (8.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.8 spg) is now fully healthy after a nagging shoulder injury. Coming off of back-to-back Final Four appearances, depth and handling pressure will dictate how far the Titans will go. No. 6 Tucker is the third team out of Region 4 to open in the Top 10. The Tigers had an unprecedented controversial finish to the season, being disqualified after the Sweet 16 for using illegal players throughout the season. The Tigers are still dealing with major eligibility issues, but if they ever get cleared, they should have one of the more athletic teams in the classification. Tucker’s top five scorers are set to return for their senior season. Jasani Buchanan paces the attack at 11.8 points per game while Kerrigan Johnson is coming off a season in which she posted 10.1 points a night. 6-foot-1 Amariah Stanard (Louisiana Tech) averaged 6.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 2 blocks while wiry 5-foot-10 wing Summer Dilwood (UNC Asheville) contributed 7.5 points. Devyn Lockhart rounds out the attack as a reliable rebounder, grabbing 5.7 per game last season. Head Coach Tim Slater is back on the sidelines stepping into a good situation at No. 7 Lanier. 6-foot-4 junior Christabel Ezumah is a workhorse post that should thrive in Slater’s offense. She averaged 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game as a sophomore. Seniors Kalen Surles (8.3 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.3 steals) and Nala Lawrence will lead from the backcourt. No. 8 Stephenson marks Team 4 out of Region 4. Only two players graduate from last year’s 18-win group. Junior combo guard Kassidy Broussard earned an All-State Honorable Mention selection as a sophomore after averaging 10.3 points. Junior Sierra Wynn was a double-double threat at 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds. Senior Nikki Culbreath balances the offense at 10.2 points per game. She finished third in DeKalb County with 50 made threes.  Twin sisters Kennedi and Kerrington Larkins are stingy perimeter defenders that bring toughness. No. 9 Pope pieced together a Sweet 16 appearance under Region 7 Coach of the Year Bill Blythe. The Greyhounds return their core with guards Teya and Cheyenne Holloman and seniors Talia Cloud, Abby McKinley and Kara McKiernan. Teya, a senior, is one of the top passers in Cobb County and can control the tempo. The Greyhounds will have plenty of cracks at proving themselves a Top 10 team in a Region 7 that has gotten stronger over the past three seasons. Their true litmus test will come against Northview, who beat them all three times by 20+ (20, 20, 22). No. 10 Valdosta took a trip to the Elite Eight where they were blasted by Douglas County 86-63, but the Wildcats still proved they were one of the top teams in South Georgia finishing at 22-8. Playmaking guard Asia Harrison (Augusta State) has graduated but scoring options 2-5 are back. Senior Nia Allen averaged 9.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 4.5 steals and 1.1 blocks as a 5-foot-10 forward. Junior Ja’mya Johnson averaged 9.4 points as a sophomore. The Wildcats possess raw size inside in 6-foot-1 junior Jayla Cody (6.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.1 spg, 4.1 bpg) and late blooming 6-foot-2 Esmeralda Castillo (1.3 bpg).

Class 5A

In Class AAAAA, it might finally be time for a changing of the guard as No. 1 Villa Rica opens up with the top spot. The Wildcats return a good chunk of their Final Four team led by the classification’s best player, 6-foot-2 Deasia Merrill. The do-everything Kentucky-commit has a good cast around her headed by guards Tee Windom and Aliyah Hindsman. If Merrill is to go out with a bang, her and the rest of the state will have to find a way to knock off two-time defending state champion No. 2 Buford. The Lady Wolves pulled away from the Wildcats in the Final Four, 60-46 and ultimately handled rival Flowery Branch for the fourth time last season in the title game 60-49. Buford loses 10 seniors highlighted by Class 5A Player of the Year Tory Ozment (Michigan State) and Audrey Weiner (Air Force). The trio of Ebony Grant, Preston Reid and Tate Walters bring back the vast majority of the returning experience. No. 3 Harris County enters the 2019 season fresh off a Final Four trip where they couldn’t maintain an early lead and fell to Flowery Branch 72-55. Even though star center Jessika Carter is now at Mississippi State, the Tigers have a bruising front court led by All-State senior power forward Taziha Fanning. The thick 6-foot low block scorer overpowers her way in the paint and is coming off a junior campaign in which she averaged 15.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.8 blocks. 5-foot-11 senior forward Ny’Azjha Carter has seen her recruitment heat up over the summer as an inside-out multi-positional player. She averaged 8.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists last season. Following in the Carter lineage, 6-foot-5 junior ZiKeyah Carter should see more minutes in the paint. The long-armed shot blocker is far from a finished product but should improve upon last year’s averages of 2.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. The Tigers guard play has improved from two years ago and once again must be steady for Harris County to compete with the elites. Following a disappointing to their standards season capped by a Sweet 16 appearance, No. 4 Southwest DeKalb looks ready to rebound from a 17-13 finish. Only two players graduate for Coach Kathleen Richey-Walton. Senior Lanee Edwards returns as the Panthers’ go-to player averaging 15.2 points. Junior guard Jayla Kimbrough runs the offense while 6-foot sophomore Taylor Christmas and 5-foot-8 senior Raven Thurman provide some scoring inside the arc. No. 5 Eagle’s Landing must replace backcourt members Ashley Foster (Western Carolina) and Kiera Howard (Augusta State). Junior Jaleah Storr (9.5 ppg) and Emmanuel College-commit Reyonna Hopkins (8.2 ppg) will see the offense focus more around the rim. The 2020 class of Mariyah Fletcher, Jasmine Atkins and Brianna Maison will become even more of a focal point in the offense. No. 6 Lithia Springs flew under the radar before capturing the Region 6 championship by beating Maynard Jackson. Their trip to the Sweet 16 may have been a year ahead of schedule and now the Lions have invaluable post season experience. Blossoming big Demeara Hinds has grown by leaps and bounds. Still new to the game, the 6-foot-3 junior averaged 12.8 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 2.5 blocks as an agile force both offensively and defensively. Senior Sheryl Sarpong (7.9 ppg), sophomore Jordynn Webster (7.2 ppg) and 6-foot-1 senior Adaora Onwumelu (7.1 ppg) round out Lithia Springs’ top four returning scorers. No. 7 Rome will have a senior-laden group led by 5-foot-10 Tarrah Gibson and 5-foot-9 forward Tamiya Griffin. Juniors Amberly Brown and Justyce Moore are two-way threats. Coach Jason Harris’ 2022 class may pay dividends sooner rather than later. Six of No. 8 Decatur’s top seven scoring options are set to return led by senior Olivia Stephenson, a 6-foot forward who averaged 13.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. 5-foot-6 senior Alia Bolden has quick hands defensively, swiping a team-best 4 steals per game to go with her 9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Junior bigs 6-foot-2 Kamari Edwards (6.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.4 spg, 1 bpg) and 6-foot Lily Kostka (6 ppg) provide length around the rim. No. 9 Woodland-Stockbridge brings back leading scorer, junior guard Amia Brown (7.9 ppg). Inside, 6-foot junior Mya Gaddis does the dirty work, posting 6.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. 5-foot-1 senior point guard Kyra Hart is a sparkplug and leader for the Wolfpack. The floor general chipped in 5.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game. No. 10 Starr’s Mill fell to Woodland-Stockbridge 54-51 in the opening round of the state playoffs and find themselves once again nipping on the heels of the Pack. 5-foot-8 junior Alice Anne Hudson is turning into a big-time player, averaging 14.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 3.3 steals while fellow 2020 Ashtyn Lally is the team’s second returning leading scorer at 8.3 points. Replacing Region 3 Freshman of the Year Ali Rumpel will be a difficult task. The 6-foot post transferred to Athens Academy after averaging nearly a double-double.

Class 4A

Toughness and defense led to No. 1 Spalding winning their first ever state championship in Class AAAA last season and with four of their top five scorers set to return, the Jaguars rightfully open atop the heap. 6-foot-1 forward Corriana Evans had a coming out party her sophomore season, averaging 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds while wrecking Henry County in the championship with 19 points and 17 rebounds to blow past the Warhawks 58-46. Senior Kayla Milner (7.2 ppg) and sophomore Kierstyn Milner (7.2 ppg) are trustworthy guards. Hard-nosed senior Aniaya Jester (7.1 ppg) is a fearless competitor at point guard and exemplifies Coach Tykira Gilbert’s hallmark grit. No. 2 Carver-Columbus had the best team on paper in the classification last year, but saw their Final Four showdown with Spalding slip through their fingers in the blink of an eye, 58-51. All-State 6-foot-3 junior center Olivia Cochran is a double-double machine while senior Jailyn Shaw is a physical forward that plays bigger than her size. Senior Janya Love-Hill is a microwave scorer that can carry the Lady Tigers from the perimeter. No. 3 Flowery Branch drops down from Class 5A to Class 4A. The Falcons don’t have as much star-power as last year’s group, but Flowery Branch still has firepower and experience. Seniors Caroline Wysocki, Ashley Scott and Ashley Woodroffe have seen it all over their first three years in the Falcon backcourt. Wysocki emerged as a gamer that rose to the occasion on the biggest stages and now can officially be considered the face of the team. 6-foot-3 sophomore post Ashlee Locke showed flashes of becoming a stalwart inside for Coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez for years to come. No. 4 Henry County fell in the title game last season and loses an important senior class headlined by Auburn’s Brooke Moore, the Class 4A Player of the Year. Back in the fold however is a strong core of seniors. Janiya Jones averaged 12.3 points and 7.1 assists while uber-athletic forward Amaiya Jackson collected 10.1 points and 8.1 rebounds. Inside, 6-foot-3 Usoreia McWhorter protects the rim. 6-foot-2 Paris Mullins moves in from Westlake for her senior season and provides Coach Greg Shook with another big physical body to clog the paint and score down low. No. 5 Madison County graduates two players from last year’s Elite Eight team that lost on a controversial buzzer beater to Spalding, 55-53. While replacing guard Adryana Maxwell will be tough, Coach Dan Lampe has a blossoming star in Preseason All-State sophomore point guard Kayla McPherson and All-State sturdy inside-out forward senior Jordan Bailey. The dynamic one-two punch should carry the Red Raiders deep into the playoffs. Behind rising senior Crystal Corley, No. 6 Baldwin burst onto the scene with a 25-4 record and Sweet 16 berth. Corley, an athletic scoring guard, averaged 16.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 steals as a junior. Second leading scorer Akirah Robinson graduates her 11.6 point-per-game average, but options three through seven are back, paced by junior MiKayla Waller, a 5-foot-9 post that chipped in 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds a night. Coach Oliver Griffeth turned No. 7 West Laurens from a middling 13-16 team into a dangerous 16-12 group that hung with Carver-Columbus in the first round of the state playoffs before falling 57-42. The Lady Raiders made major strides and now return their entire roster led by the three-headed scoring attack of senior Calmela Mack (14.3 ppg), junior Makayla Murray (13.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and junior Ja’Kerra Wilbur (13.2 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg, 3.9 spg). No. 8 Westover had one of the biggest turnarounds in the state, going from 6-19 to 20-8. The Patriots are expected to return their top three players, all seniors, in Region 1 First Team selection Shamya Loman, Second Teamer Sh’Myia Jones and Third Teamer Jasmine Jenkins. No. 9 Burke County loses their leading scorer in Quin’DeJa Hamilton, but 6-foot-2 senior Kianni Westbrook is back to roam the paint. The long and agile athlete averaged 13.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 1.7 blocks. Senior Qua’Nesha Hamilton posted 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2.3 steals as a junior. 6-foot-1 junior Tyasia Freeman is another shot blocker that averaged 6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. The development of 5-foot-3 junior point guard Trinity Wright will be imperative for the Lady Bears’ success. No. 10 Luella had one of the most explosive scoring trios in the state, but now only 5-foot-10 junior Keely Brown returns. Brown, an All-State pick, averaged 17.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.1 steals. Senior post Shakira Lowery tacked on 5.6 points and 9.1 rebounds. It is a big year for 5-foot-6 senior guard Imani McNeal. As a sophomore she averaged 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds before getting injured. Last season, McNeal returned for 11 games and provided 7.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2 steals per game. If McNeal is healthy, she can bring a much needed second scoring option and outside threat.

Class 3A

In Class AAA, No. 1 Johnson-Savannah won their first state title behind the dominant defensive play of 6-foot-5 Giana Copeland, beating GAC 62-50. Copeland is gone along with All-State guard Bubbles Williams, but the Atomsmashers still open at No. 1 thanks to a strong 2019 class and the addition of junior guard Antalazia Baker from Woodville-Tompkins. Preseason All-State picks J’mya Cutter and Jasmine Thompson balance Johnson’s attack. Cutter averaged 12.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.8 steals as a junior while Thompson provided some toughness, averaging 11 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Senior Checobia Hugie is in-line to improve upon her 6.8 point per game average while Baker moves in as one of the better guards in the area. She posted 8.8 points per game as a sophomore at Woodville-Tompkins. The past two championships have run through Savannah’s Region 3 and it likely could again as No. 2 Beach will try to reload. The Bulldogs split with Johnson-Savannah last year 2-2, winning in the Region Championship 58-39 but falling to GAC in the Elite Eight 55-45. Leading scorers Tatiannya Morris and Jabreika Bass graduate but sophomore Kaila Rougier and junior Madison Evans compose a lethal backcourt. Rougier averaged 7.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2.5 steals as a freshman while Evans helped orchestrate the offense with 6.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.2 steals. Junior Jaida Burrgess is the third prong of the attack coming off a season where she chipped in 6.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.6 steals. No. 3 Hart County had some ups and downs last season playing a difficult schedule. The Bulldogs finished 19-9 but lost at East Hall 63-52 in the opening round of state. Coach Mike Edwards returns his top three scorers led by Class 3A Player of the Year candidate Torrion Starks. A Western Kentucky-commit, Starks is a 5-foot-8 guard with size and athleticism that averaged over 20 points per game. 6-foot sophomore post Taniya Alexander and 5-foot-7 junior Shakendra Grove round out Hart County’s big three. Injuries could have derailed No. 4 Peach County’s season last year, but instead the Lady Trojans plowed through adversity to win another Region 4 title and dance into the Elite Eight before being stopped at Franklin County 55-44. Senior Da’Nasia Shaw flourished in the absence of since graduated Daishai Almond (Southern Mississippi) posting 13.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 3.7 steals and 1.3 blocks as a junior. The All-State pick will look for help to replace Deja Holland’s team-leading 14.7 points per game. Junior Telecia Taylor (6.1 ppg) and senior Maiyah Willis (4.2 ppg) figure to play bigger offensive roles. Legendary Head Coach Steve Sweat has No. 5 Dawson County back in contention after a midseason injury stopped the Lady Tigers from ever hitting their stride. All-State selection Kaylee Sticker is healthy for her senior season after a severe ankle sprain led to ligament damage and an injured achilles. The 5-foot-11 Clemson-commit is one of the most versatile wings in the state, averaging 17.6 points and 6 rebounds. She has a mixture of youth and veterans around her in senior post Anna Lowe, junior guard Sophia d’Oliveira and sophomore ball handler Madison Anglin. No. 6 Greater Atlanta Christian was an early favorite to race away with the state title before Auburn-commit Robyn Benton saw her injury plagued career cut short after 10 games. The Spartans rallied behind their three other D-I seniors to make the state championship but ultimately fell short. It will be a rebuilding year for Coach Lady Grooms but the cupboard isn’t completely bare. All-State senior point guard Kennedi Williams led Gwinnett County in assists at 5.9 per game to go with her 8.7 points and 3.7 steals. Williams has committed to play at Liberty in college. Senior swingman Maya Timberlake averaged 4.2 points and 3.5 rebounds as a junior and has committed to USC Upstate. Outside of Williams and Timberlake, the Spartans will need to find production from an inexperienced cast. No. 7 Sonoraville quietly enjoyed one of the biggest turnarounds in the state last year, improving from 8-22 to 18-9 under Coach Stephanie Caudell. The Phoenix rose to 11-3 in North Georgia’s deep Region 6, with their best win coming early in the season against 27-3 Haralson County, 60-51. Sonoraville earned the No. 2 seed out of Region 6 but lost on the road at Cedar Grove 40-39 in Round 1 of the state playoffs. Only three players graduate from a year ago. The Phoenix return All-Region picks 5-foot-10 junior forward Maliyah Parks and sophomore star Alexa Geary. Known for scheduling extremely tough, No. 8 Morgan County was much better than their 14-15 record suggested. The Bulldogs collected an 8-3 record in Region 8 and went 2-1 against Hart County. A 53-42 loss to Haralson County in the Sweet 16 ended Coach Josh Reeves’ season, but the ‘Dogs return firepower in All-State selection Lou Reid. She is the lone holdover from Morgan County’s 2015-16 state championship team. The 5-foot-4 senior is joined by 5-foot-8 guard Miranda Powell, a fellow All-Region 8 pick that averaged 14 points per game and is regarded as one of the best shooters in the classification. No. 9 Cook floated under the radar with a less than spectacular 15-14 record out of a weak Region 1. The Hornets did provide the occasional sting however, beating Class 2A semifinalist Fitzgerald (60-55), 20-8 Westover (45-39) and Long County in the opening round of the state playoffs. Cook is expected to return their top three scorers and seven of their top eight, paced by senior Rodrica Styles (19.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 2.3 spg). Seniors Taliyah Carter (9.3 ppg) and Brannon Allen (7.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) will be crucially important. No. 10 Pace Academy took advantage of a down Region 5 and pieced together a 16-9 season and an 11-3 mark in region play with zero seniors. The Knights earned the No. 2 seed heading into state, but were upset by Coahulla Creek 53-44. The Knights return the All-Region senior trio of Ann Rafeedie, Kayla Ross and Joelle Zelony. Rafeedie is a tall 5-foot-10 shooter while Zelony is a physical inside-out threat that has committed to Tufts University.

Class 2A

Just when you thought Augusta’s reign of terror in Class AA was over, here comes No. 1 Josey. The Eagles had five cracks at two-time defending state champion Laney including in the state title game but Josey finished the year 28-5, all five losses coming to their Region 4 rival. The Eagles lost 63-40 in the championship but unlike Laney, return their top three scorers for their senior seasons led by All-State selection Tykedra Rolland. The powerfully built 5-foot-11 guard averaged 16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks while sister Rhykeria Rolland, 5-foot-9, chipped in 11.6 points and 4.3 rebounds. While they have physically imposing frames, both love to bomb from deep, Tykedra hitting 45-of-104 threes (43%) while Rhykeria rained in 50-of-140 (36%). Third scoring option Ebony Clark is a 5-foot-8 senior that averaged 7.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals. The on-going development of 5-foot-3 sophomore point guard Deajah Houck will be integral to Josey’s success and ability to handle Laney’s full court pressure. She scored five points in the title game off the bench and averaged 4.2 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 steals. All-Area Honorable Mention selections senior Jakiyah Parker (15 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.4 spg – Richmond Academy) and junior Amani Jones (10.2 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.6 spg – Cross Creek) move in to bolster the Eagle attack. After teasing with greatness the past two years looking like a sure-fire title contender at times, its officially now or never for No. 2 Dodge County. Nobody quite racks up the South Georgia wins like the Indians do in the small school ranks, but the four-time state champions haven’t hung a banner since 1987. Dodge County has piled on the sexy resume victories over the past two seasons, last year beating the likes of Class 5A Wayne County 2x (16-9), Class A-Public semifinalist Telfair County (27-3), Class A-Public quarterfinalist Wilcox County 2x (23-6) and Class 2A Sweet 16 Washington County 2x (20-8). In the end, the Squaws finished 25-5 and went 10-3 in Region 3, losing twice to 16-8 East Laurens who finished just 7-6 in region play. In the state tournament Dodge County breezed past Jefferson County, then survived Early County 73-65 before losing in the Elite Eight to Model and South Carolina-signee Victaria Saxton, 79-63. Coach Cassandra Hamilton’s group is loaded yet again this year, with only one seldom used post player graduating. The core four of seniors consist of All-State picks Europe Brown (17.2 ppg) and Destanee Wright (16.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg) along with Zannesia Mitchell (13 ppg) and LaShauna Coley (7.3 ppg, 4 rpg). No. 3 Swainsboro came out of a grueling Region 2 nearly unscathed, posting a 23-5 record and 15-1 mark in region play, their only loss in the Region Championship to Metter 71-68. That loss doomed the Tigers as they had to travel to Laney in the Sweet 16. Swainsboro gave Laney their biggest scare of the tournament as they entered the fourth quarter trailing 50-49 before the Wildcats outscored them 26-11 to pull away for a 76-60 decision. Three of Coach Alexandria Parker-Roberson’s top four scorers return highlighted by All-State guard Dynesha Brown. The versatile high-energy 5-foot-7 guard averaged 17.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 5.7 steals and 1.1 blocks and hung 14 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and 1 block against Laney. Senior Charlsey Kelly is back after averaging 10.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.6 blocks. Aaliyah Hughes chipped in 9.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.9 steals as a junior. No. 4 Rabun County battled the rigors of a potent Region 8 and snuck away with the No. 3 seed. The LadyCats finished their season 24-7 with a 70-65 loss at Fitzgerald in the Elite Eight. All-State scoring guard Georgia Stockton is back after earning Blitz Sports Player of the Year, averaging 22.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.9 steals as a junior. The Presbyterian-commit will be joined by a now healthy Brooke Henricks. The 5-foot-10 wing returned late in the season from an ACL tear. Her versatility when healthy gives Coach DeeDee Dillard a multi-positional player that can score and affect games defensively. Senior guard Kaitlin Coleman and junior guard Laken Stiles return from All-Region Honorable Mention campaigns. One dominant Class 2A post presence graduates in Model’s Victaria Saxton and another emerges in No. 5 Early County’s Makayla Timpson. The 6-foot-2 star sophomore was unstoppable as a freshman, posting 19.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 4.8 blocks per game. Much like Saxton did at Model, Timpson has placed Early County on the map and will have the Bobcats a state title contender over her next three years. Timpson is a High Major recruit that already is a First Team All-State pick and the best prospect in the classification. Her supporting cast will determine how far Early County can go. Senior Janya Williams averaged 11.5 points and 3 steals while 5-foot-11 junior Ta’Ziaya Jones chipped in 8.3 points and 5.6 rebounds. All signs point to No. 6 Laney finally relinquishing their grip on Class 2A, but don’t expect the two-time defending state champions to let their 62-game winning streak end that easily. The Wildcats graduate 50.8 percent of their scoring as two-time Class 2A Player of the Year De’sha Benjamin (22.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 3.7 spg, 1.8 bpg) is now at Alabama and Jhessyka Williams (16.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 4.8 spg, 1.2 bpg) is at Gardner-Webb. 5-foot-9 senior guard Jaiden Hamilton was the third head of a devastating trio that averaged 54.4 points per game. Williams returns her 15.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3 steals. It is a major question mark as to who will fill the roles left behind by Benjamin and Williams. No. 7 Fitzgerald got revenge against Rabun County in the Elite Eight but fell to Josey in the Final Four, 61-47. The Lady Canes will have to replace all-time leading scorer Kirstin Crook and her 1,552 points. The All-State guard is now at Talladega after netting 18.2 points per game her senior season. Scoring options two through four are back however led by junior Trinity Jones (11.7 ppg). Seniors Hayleigh Ross (10.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.6 spg) and Keyara Boone (8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.7 spg, 1.1 bpg) are veteran presences. Rising junior Kyah Crook, younger sister of Kirstin, averaged 4.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals as a 5-foot-10 sophomore. No. 8 Banks County was as good as anybody in the classification (outside of Laney) last year. The Lady Leopards compiled a 25-6 record with a plethora of big wins out of a brutal Region 8. They hosted Laney in the Elite Eight but couldn’t muster enough offense to top the Wildcats, losing 54-38. All-State forward Allison Smith has graduated while Maddie Thomas has transferred to Cherokee Bluff, but the Leopards still have plenty of experience in point guard Kailynn Gilstrap and GCSU-commit Jaycie Bowen, who averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds. 6-foot senior Amber Williams provides size around the rim while newcomer Heather Vaughan slides in from Habersham Central where she averaged 15 points per game as a sophomore. Region 6 Player of the Year, All-State selection Nekiyah Thompson leads No. 9 Douglass into the Top 10. The Lady Astros finished 18-7 with an Elite Eight loss to Josey, 57-39. Coming out of a weak region, Douglass had to earn their respect and they did just that behind Thompson, a scoring dynamo that averaged 22.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. The Astros will shoot for the stars as junior Ashley McKee and senior Kayla Pruitt, two All-Region picks, are both back in support of Thompson. Only one senior graduates from No. 10 Bryan County, who finished 22-7 and 11-5 in Region 2. The Redskins battled the likes of Swainsboro (23-5), Metter (22-7) and St. Vincent’s (20-10) in a top-heavy grouping. Coach Mario Mincey’s squad lost in the first round at Fitzgerald 73-52 but returns their big three led by All-State selection junior Olonna Rawls. The high scoring guard receives help from seniors Jay Black and Shelby Gunn.

Class A-Private

There is one Final Four spot open in Class A-Private as the three traditional powers jockey for the top three seeds. Opening in pole position is No. 1 Wesleyan. The 13-time state champions won their second straight, breaking Holy Innocents’ heart again after playing rope-a-dope and losing all three games to the Golden Bears in the regular season by an average of 13.6 points, before drilling their Region 5 rival 61-44 at McCamish Pavilion. Only two seniors graduate but they are big ones in Amaya Register (Old Dominion) and Sutton West (Furman). All-State forward AC Carter enters her junior season after averaging 13.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.2 steals. Sophomore point guard Paige Lyons was electric and showed she is more than capable of running the team without Register as she put up 7.2 points, 2.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Lone senior Callie Weaver will provide outside shooting for a young team anchored by sophomores and juniors. Juniors Lauren Hill and Izzy Larsen will play more prominent roles along with sophomore forward Alyssa Phillip and guard Nicole Azar. If 5-foot-9 Alanni Brown is cleared to play after transferring from North Gwinnett, she will provide another scoring option coming off a 12 point per game season. Loaded with talent year-in and year-out, its hard to believe that No. 2 St. Francis hasn’t played for a title since 2016. With multiple D-I prospects on last year’s team, the Knights were failed in the Final Four, inexplicably blown out by Wesleyan 71-49. This year’s reincarnation will be starred by Savannah Samuel, an All-State pick already on her third school in three years. Samuel emerged as a star at her home school of River Ridge, averaging 20.1 points and 5.7 rebounds. She joins forwards Jordan Isaacs (13.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.2 spg) and Amirah Abdur-Rahim (9.5 ppg) in a long and talented front court that suffocates most opponents with their length on the press. Sophomore guard Mia Moore (9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 4.2 spg) shined as a fearless leader that scored 17 points in the Final Four. The Lady Knights will have the deepest roster in the state again, but now have to find their way back to the title game. No. 3 Holy Innocents’ failed to seal the deal after a great season. They lost in the Craig Sager Classic title game to Buford 57-45 but more importantly, in the championship against Wesleyan for a second year in a row. The Golden Bears should be in good shape over the next three seasons however as 6-foot-4 forward Jillian Hollingshead is still in the mix. The All-State big was an elite rim protector as a freshman and has continued to polish her game offensively to be regarded as one of the highest ceiling prospects in the 2021 class. Hollingshead can play positions two through five with her agility and ability to put the ball on the floor. She has to make sure she doesn’t stray away from the paint too often, but Hollingshead has the makings of becoming a state championship centerpiece. Junior guard Jada Farrell and sophomore Rachel Suttle round out a young yet experienced core. New to the scene and ready to crash the Final Four is No. 4 Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy. Led by possibly the best one-two punch in the classification, the Lady Chargers have two All-State standouts in Weronika Hipp and Rice-commit India Bellamy. Hipp carried ELCA to a 19-8 season and a Sweet 16 appearance as a freshman and lit the state on fire. The Polish import dropped 27.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game. She now has a running mate with the return of Bellamy, who posted 14.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3 steals at Dutchtown. Coach Andy Whitlock returns to the sidelines. ELCA may not have enough to win a state title outside of Hipp and Bellamy, but they can put pressure on the big three and look like a favorite to secure the final spot in the semifinals. Keslynn Oxendine, a Woodland-Stockbridge transfer, could be an X-Factor as a sophomore. No. 5 Landmark Christian showcases All-State guard Elizabeth Gibbs one last time. The 5-foot-7 playmaker averaged 21.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.8 steals as a junior. Gibbs has plenty of help as the War Eagles return their entire roster including senior Paige Aronhalt. The 5-foot-11 shooter has the ultimate green light hitting 87-of-213 threes (41%) while averaging 15.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks. Seniors Julia Allen (8.2 ppg) and Katelyn Lee (6.8 ppg) round out the scoring attack.  The War Eagles were bounced in the Sweet 16 by No. 6 Stratford Academy. The Eagles put together a sparkling 26-3 record with their only losses coming at Landmark Christian in the regular season 59-56, vs. Washington County 51-40 and to Holy Innocents’ in the Final Four, 51-32. Stratford Academy deftly avoided the big three until hitting their ceiling in the semifinals. The Eagles return junior guards Nadia Reese and Mary Elaine Mitchell along with senior Drake Miscall as key pieces. After a down for their standards season, No. 7 Lakeview Academy gets a shot in the arm as Eliza Snyder transfers in from St. Francis along with freshman sister Joelle. Eliza, a Preseason All-State selection, will get a chance to shine after averaging 8.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.4 steals with the Knights. The 5-foot-10 shooter with a Mercer offer in hand has a college-ready body and should instantly make a major impact in Region 8. Younger sister Joelle led St. Francis Middle School in scoring. The two slide into Coach John Carrick’s winning culture on a team that has just two players graduate from last year’s 17-10 finish. Senior Sadie Thrailkill was First Team All-Region while senior Savannah Kinsey and junior Maddy Towles earned Honorable Mention accolades. Head Coach Monique Dawson takes over for Paul Meiere as leader of No. 8 Paideia. The Pythons took a trip to the Elite Eight where they hit their glass ceiling, losing to St. Francis. Paideia returns their top three players in 2017-18 All-State selection Kai Carter along with deceptive scorer Christina Walker and Hunter Furman. Carter, 6-foot-1, is a long senior wing that can play any position on the floor. Her versatility is paired with Walker, a junior guard with a high IQ and steady scoring touch. Region 8 fills the bottom two spots in the Top 10 with No. 9 Athens Academy and No. 10 Prince Avenue Christian. The Spartans of Athens Academy went 1-2 against the Wolverines, losing in the Region 8 Championship 38-31. Leading scorer Gabby Mastandrea graduates, but 5-foot-9 senior Greer Moseley (11.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2 spg) and 5-foot-10 sophomore Rose Bone (8 ppg, 6 rpg) balance the offense. The addition of 6-foot sophomore Ali Rumpel looms large, figuratively and literally. Rumpel was a force at Starr’s Mill where she was named Region 3-AAAAA Freshman of the Year after posting 10.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. The defending region champion Wolverines took a trip to the Elite Eight where they were clipped by Stratford Academy 44-34. Prince Avenue was set to return their top four players from their 25-3 campaign, but All-State selection Ansley Hall left for North Oconee in the offseason. The pressure will now be on seniors Maddi Britt and Janie Henderson along with sophomore Karlee Armstrong to create their own offense and get others involved.

Class A-Public

Down in Class A-Public, it’s been back-to-back seasons of close but no cigar for No. 1 Telfair County. The Lady Trojans have gone 27-3 in consecutive seasons, losing to Pelham in the 2017 title game and falling last year to eventual champion Greenville in the Final Four, 73-62. While Telfair County might have lost a little off their fastball with the graduation of All-State Honorable Mention guard Ny’Asia Howard (13.6 ppg), Coach Shalonda Troupe still returns two All-State selections in senior India Wells (19.5 ppg) and Brandy Mackey (12.7 ppg). Senior Tanajawa Graham is important as well, chipping in 8.9 points per game. Chasing the Trojans will be rival No. 2 Wheeler County. The Bulldogs lost twice to Telfair, 64-59 and 75-64. They rumbled their way to the Elite Eight before getting stopped by Greenville 71-62. The loss of All-State guard Brianna Hinton hurts, but senior Natera Perkins is a Preseason Second Team All-State pick after averaging 11.3 points and 3.4 steals. Juniors Keonya Mincey (9 ppg), Sameria Bryant (8.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 4.6 apg, 4.7 spg) and Lela Wright (8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.2 apg, 2.6 spg) solidify the nucleus. No. 3 Marion County finished 25-6, losing in the championship to Greenville 73-52. The Eagles were battle-tested going 10-5 out of Region 4 and overwhelmed opponents with their frontline. Janiya Crowell and Torriunna Myers graduate but All-State 6-foot-1 senior center Ansley Whitley returns with her twin sister Ashley. Junior point guard Jameisha Williams will lead the backcourt along with Taylor County transfer Taylor Greene, a floor stretcher. No. 4 Calhoun County improved from 11-14 to 18-11 with six freshmen on the roster and just one senior. The Cougars went 14-4 in Region 1 and went toe-to-toe with some of the classification’s best, falling short against Wheeler County (51-49), Pelham (45-41; 50-40), Greenville (62-55) and Telfair County in the Sweet 16, 63-54. No. 5 Georgia Military College posted a 24-4 record, improved from 15-10, but lost three of their last four games including at Bowdon in the Sweet 16, 48-37. The Bulldogs went 10-0 with 5-foot-9 sophomore Deandria Stephens at the helm as a freshman. She averaged 13.7 points, 7 rebounds and 3.6 steals before missing the remainder of the season. Preseason All-State selection Cire Foston returns for her senior season after averaging 10.3 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals. Junior Kennedy Davis (10.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 spg) and senior Cade Bass (10.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg) compose a reliable cast for Coach Shawn Dennis. No. 6 Bowdon graduates two All-State selections from last year’s 23-6 Elite Eight team, a group that saw a 14-win increase from 2017. The Red Devils will lean on junior Dasia Wyatt to control the backcourt. 5-foot-10 junior Tavania Gay, 5-foot-10 sophomore Trista Gay and 6-foot sophomore Tanesha Kirk give new Head Coach Jan Fendley great size to work with. Life without Brittany Davis begins for the defending state champs, No. 7 Greenville. The 2021 class came up big last year and the eight rising sophomores will be asked to do so again. Sophomores Shabrica Leslie (14) and Jabrika Leslie (12) rose to the occasion in the state championship, combining for 26 points. Nuriyah Slaton (6.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.1 spg) and Andrianna Perdue (5.4 ppg, 3.4 apg) will have to help out in a by committee approach to scoring the ball now that Davis’ 31.9 points per game are gone. No. 8 Taylor County loses two players from last year’s 15-11 team that lost to Terrell County in the Sweet 16, 47-45. The Vikings went 10-5 in Region 4 with five freshmen and six sophomores on the roster. They were live dogs, pushing some of the region’s best to the brink. The young Vikes won at Marion County 47-42, their best win of the season. No. 9 Turner County finished 19-9 and 12-4 out of Region 2. They ran into the Greenville buzz saw in the Sweet 16, 90-55. The scoring output from Zakiyah Office needs to be replaced. Junior point guard Miya Byrd is an All-State pick. She is a sturdy ball handler with good court vision and zip on her passes. She averaged 16 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 3.7 steals. The development of Jalaysia Office will be important alongside Byrd. The 5-foot-8 sophomore averaged 7.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.5 steals as a freshman. No. 10 Pelham finds themselves in an unfamiliar position: at the bottom of the Top 10 and without Antonia Tookes as head coach. The Hornets went 27-3 last year but lost at Marion County in the Elite Eight, 65-54. The Hive has a lot of new faces now that Mahogany Randall and shot blocker Willeshia Kemp have graduated. Jeray Randall takes over as Head Coach after serving as the boys assistant. Juniors Kenaiya Young, Kenjanae Brown and Shanell Byrd along with sophomore Quedasha Ervin will try to keep Pelham’s winning tradition alive.


Spielin’ & Dealin’ Ep. 57: Preseason All-State

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The boys are back!

Kyle Sandy joins Rameen Forghani to discuss the recently released GHSA Preseason All-State Boys & Girls Basketball Teams and the importance of promoting student-athletes.

Class 7A & 6A Boys [3:45]
Class 5A & 4A Boys [11:08]
Class 3A & 2A Boys [15:35]
Class A-Private & A-Public Boys [23:39]
———————
Class 7A & 6A Girls [29:04]
Class 5A & 4A Girls [32:37]
Class 3A & 2A Girls [35:59]
Class A-Private & A-Public Girls [39:38]

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