Being a four-year varsity starter isn’t the most common feat. A few freshmen made some major impacts as ninth graders this past season and should steadily improve throughout their high school careers. Here’s a look at some names that should become mainstays in the GHSA over the next three years.
PG – Ashton Hagans – Newton – 6’3”
Ashton Hagans, the Sandy’s Spiel Class AAAAAA Freshman of the Year, was so good this year I almost forgot he was a freshman. The dazzling point guard already holds high-major division one offers and is hands down the best young point guard in the state with his advanced floor vision. He helped the Rams to the Final Four this year and returns to a loaded backcourt which will be relied upon to take Newton deep into the postseason again.
PG – Kyle Sturdivant – Norcross – 6’2”
Ashton Hagans might be the best freshman point guard in the state, but I’d be lying if I didn’t mention Kyle Sturdivant as a D-I talent too. Sturdivant may have won the award any other year if it weren’t for Hagans. The mature guard already has an offer from Kennesaw State and should continue to shine in year two.
SF – Isaac Okoro – McEachern – 6’5”
SG – Isaac Martin – McEachern – 6’4”
The Indians are loaded with players ready to take their game to the next level. Isaac Okoro already has shown brilliant flashes as a do-everything forward, hitting shots, rebounding and denying anything close to the hoop. Teammate Isaac Martin is a big shot maker. He drilled some big threes down the stretch when the Indians upset McIntosh at the Lake City Classic. Both are slated to have huge years now that Darius Jones, AJ Jones and Bryce Smith are all graduating.
PF – Kenyon Jackson – Grayson – 6’5”
Kenyon Jackson wasn’t known for his offensive prowess as a young buck anchoring Grayson’s Cinderella Elite Eight team that knocked off No. 1 Wheeler in the first round, but it is his long arms and advanced rim protecting skills that stood out. Jackson averaged a little over five points per game and close to 10 boards a night while swatting away four shots on average. He is already a battle-tested big man coming out of Region 8-AAAAAA. Jackson is a hot prospect on the football field but if he adds another inch or two and can grow offensively, Coach Geoffrey Pierce has a stalwart to turn to inside.
PG – Messiah Thompson – North Atlanta – 5’8”
Graduation and transfers hit North Atlanta hard following its 18-11 campaign in 2014-15. All that was left was a diminutive point guard on a rebuilding team that won nine games. Messiah Thompson shouldered the load and led the team in scoring with close to 12 points per game and looks like strong floor general to build around. Thompson has quick hands, picking over three steals per game this year. This summer he has manned the Atlanta Xpress 15U team at point guard. I watched him score 12 points, grab five rebounds and come away with three steals including a couple big ones late in a 54-50 victory. He finds a way to be in the right spot at the right time and is an easy lead guard to play with.
PG – Trae Broadnax – Islands – 6’2”
Islands had school record setting season going 20-7, but the Sharks still missed out on the playoffs. Who took the Savannah-based team to the next level as a third scoring option and the lead ball-handler to take pressure off 1,000-point scorer Justin Cave? It was Trae Broadnax. The freshman averaged 12 points per game and is continuing to improve. He has played with the 17U Savannah Terps, a team predominately populated with the returning Islands roster. Broadnax has good size already and a nice feel for the game. The Sharks see plenty of familiar faces in Region 3-AAA next year with Jenkins returning as the favorite. With Cave and Broadnax in the backcourt and another year of experience under their belt, it’s now or never for the Sharks to take a bite out of AAA.
SG – Alec Woodard – Morgan County – 6’1”
Alec Woodard finished with seven points and eight rebounds in Morgan County’s state championship victory over Jenkins. Not a bad way to start a career. Woodard is more known for his sharp shooting however. He banged home 10 threes in a game this year, good for a Morgan County school record. The Sandy’s Spiel Class AAA Freshman of the Year is in line for a big year as his role will increase for the defending state champs.
F – TJ Bickerstaff – Sandy Creek – 6’6”
Coach Anthony McKissic has a potential gem in TJ Bickerstaff. The long guard can play any position on the floor with his size and skillset but he looks most comfortable on the wing. If he can harness his talent and find a starting role with the Patriots, Sandy Creek could take off with Elias Harden and Evan Jester already in place. There is a lot of potential in Bickerstaff.
PG – Ryan Greer – Lovett – 5’11”
Ryan Greer made his presence known quickly as he and first-year head coach Ryan Koudele turned the Lions from a 13-15 team into a 22-7 Elite Eight team in Class AA. The Sandy’s Spiel Class AA Freshman of the Year averaged 13 points, six rebounds and six assists per game. Greer has a knack for making all the right plays and finding ways to win. He has been a standout for TNBC this summer.
G – Quinn Richey – Mt. Pisgah – 6’4”
Mt. Pisgah only won eight games this year but Sandy’s Spiel Class A-Private Freshman of the Year Quinn Richey gained some valuable playing time and led the team in scoring at 14 points per. He drained 40 of his 101 three-point attempts and knocked down 82 percent of his free throws. The pure shooter can already stroke it and will be able to take his game to the next level as he improves his handles and playmaking ability. He has already played well this summer, being named to the Norman Parker Showcase 15U All-Tournament Team by HoopSeen.
F – Jamar Moore – Loganville – 6’3″
Not a lot went right for Loganville last season as they slipped to 3-21 overall. There is however a glimmer of hope in Jamar Moore, an athletic forward who can change the game with his springs in the paint. Moore can alter shots, hit the glass and finish inside. His minutes should increase as a sophomore. As Moore polishes his game, the Red Devils will slowly improve around him.
PG – Kalen Williams – Lakeside-Evans – 5’11”
Kalen Williams, Sandy’s Spiel Class AAAAA Freshman of the Year, is going to be a popular name once all is said and done over in Augusta. He averaged 13.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists as a gritty guard with nice range. Williams is a good slasher as well and can get both feet in the paint. Jeff Williams takes over the head coaching job at Lakeside and will have a great piece to build around. Augbball.com’s Chad Cook is a huge fan of Williams’ game and has seen him play numerous times. Check out his site and videos to hear what the Guru of Augusta has to say about the young guard.
PG – Donell Nixon II – Mountain View – 5’7”
13-13 might not sound like a great accomplishment but when you take into account that Coach BJ Roy’s team was just 6-20 the year before and their .500 record is the first time in school history that the Bears didn’t have a losing record, there is reason to be excited for the future of the young school. Donell Nixon II might be little in stature but he isn’t little in game. He netted 12.4 points per game, good for second-best on the team. Nixon is a dynamo shooter from deep, hitting 69 of 154 for a 45 percent clip. He teams up with rising juniors Spencer Rodgers and Miles Long in the backcourt, a core that could be very good once they are all upperclassmen.
PG – Alex Kelehear – LaFayette – 5’10”
Sandy’s Spiel Class AAAA Freshman of the Year, Alex Kelehear, did it all for LaFayette this year. The Ramblers finished 12-13 and saw Kelehear lead them in scoring (14.1), assists (5.1) and steals (2.3) while placing second in rebounds per game at 5.6. He was able to get the job done inside and out, knocking down 44 percent of his threes and taking 85 free throw attempts.
PG – Kylan Curry – Johnson-Gainesville – 5’8″
Not related to Steph, Seth or Dell, Kylan Curry has a chance to take the reigns at Johnson-Gainesville sooner rather than later. The pass-first point guard is able to pick his spots and knows when to attack and when to get his teammates involved. The Knights are undergoing a rebuilding process and the keys to the car may be handed to Curry in due time if he keeps progressing.
PG – Ty’ree Gilbert – Northeast-Macon – 5’11”
CG – Darius Dunn – Northeast-Macon – 6’1”
Northeast-Macon took its lumps big time going 3-24, but there is reason to stay optimistic with guards Ty’ree Gilbert and Darius Dunn back to run the show. Dunn averaged 12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals while Gilbert chipped in a team-leading 14.5 points and hit 51 of his 130 three-point attempts. The Raiders are still a ways away from being competitive but at least they know who their go-to guys will be.
PF – Titus Wright – Thomasville – 6’8″
It’s hard to fathom how one could miss Titus Wright. Thomasville has a massive big man that will only improve. Wright is a sturdy 6-8 that probably pushes close to 235 pounds. He will share touches throughout his career with 6-8 sophomore Reggie Perry, and had to also take a backseat sometimes to Perry’s older brother 6-6 Alex who just signed to Tuskegee. Wright might not put up huge numbers since he will always be paired with another D-1 big man, but he could turn into something special once his four years are up.