Under The Radar Seniors

Some players receive college interest early on in their high school career and become much ballyhooed prospects. Some pan out while others don’t at the next level. On the other hand, there are tons of kids that have the ability to play at the college level but just need the right fit and need the right exposure. Here are a few Class of 2017 rising seniors that don’t hold dozens of major offers or are guys you might not have heard of, but most importantly are players that could contribute at the at the D-I level if the right opportunity presents itself.

Mohammed Abubukar – 6’8” – Eagle’s Landing

Not a familiar name to those in Georgia, the big fella will be his senior season after transferring in from Hamilton Heights (TN). Abubukar is well-built and can overwhelm smaller opponents inside. In the lane, Abubukar is confident with his back to the basket, displaying a quick spin and drop step to free himself. It will be interesting to see what type of impact he makes at Eagle’s Landing, but from my short glimpse I had of him at Georgia State Team Camp, I liked what I saw.

Mo Merritt – 6’7” – North Cobb Christian

Mo Merritt should attract some eyes now that he has transferred from Sprayberry to North Cobb Christian. He will learn under state championship winning coach Greg Matta and have a chance to anchor a frontline that needed an athletic and physical presence. Merritt looked very good at the Kennesaw State Elite Camp, rebounding at a high rate and altering shots. An active motor and a soft touch in the paint will do him well. His long build reminds me of current KSU Owl Jordan Jones, who starred at St. Francis and has earned a starting role at Kennesaw.

Avery Wilson – 6’3” – Forest Park

Physicality? Check. Scoring? Check. Avery Wilson hasn’t gotten as much publicity as his game warrants at Forest Park. He averaged 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior and should once again be one of the top scorers in his classification. Playing with 17U Infinite Skillz this offseason, Wilson has turned heads with his running back style of play, hitting holes in the defense and exploding for rim-rocking finishes. Wilson shot 180 free throws last year, proving he isn’t afraid of contact. He has a nice lefty three-point stroke that I hope he implements more his senior season.


Isaiah Miller – 6’0”

Another 17U Infinite Skillz guard, Isaiah Miller was second in Class AAAA in scoring as a junior pouring in 25.3 points per game in addition to his 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 1.0 block. Sources have said he has withdrawn from Eastside and might land at Jonesboro, but nothing is set in stone just yet. If this great scorer can add a reliable three-point shot (28-of-95; 29%), watch out.

Khalil Cuffee – 6’4” – Langston Hughes

Khalil Cuffee has the size and strength (200 lbs) to play guard at the next level. He has the sweet stroke to do so also, posting averages of 18.5 points and 15.5 points per game his last two seasons while shooting 44% and 42% respectively from beyond the arc. Cuffee is as battle-tested as any guard in the state, playing major minutes since his freshman season and playing in the brutal Region 3-AAAAAA, which has produced countless High Major D-I players over the past two years including Jared Harper (Auburn), Brandon Robinson (UNC), Collin Sexton and many more. He draws another deep region this year and will once again get a chance to test himself, most importantly on the defensive side of the ball. With interest from UNC-Greensboro, New Orleans, Chattanooga, Florida Gulf Coast, South Alabama and Georgia Southern, Cuffee is still waiting for a school to pull the trigger on his first scholarship offer. He is finishing up his summer circuit with the Ware Prep Raiders.


Evan Cole – 6’8” – South Forsyth

Back in March, Tennessee Tech and Mercer were two of the schools showing the most interest in Evan Cole. By the time the high school season rolls around, I have a feeling they will have company. The best kept secret in Forsyth County is no longer a secret. At 6-foot-8, Cole is a deceptive athlete that scores inside and out. When matched up against tough competition, Cole finds a way to shine. Cole carried South Forsyth against Norcross in the first round of the Class AAAAAA State Playoffs and put a scare into the Blue Devils by giving four-star forwards Lance Thomas and Rayshaun Hammonds all they could handle. Cole should become a priority for schools in the southeast if he continues his upward trajectory.


Kane Williams – 6’3” – South Paulding

A versatile lefty guard that does everything for Coach Gil Davis at South Paulding, Kane Williams is one of the more established players on this list with three offers already in hand from Middle Tennessee State, Alcorn State and Southern, but more should be on the way. Averaging 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals, Williams can help college teams on both sides of the ball. A quick athlete that glides to the hole, once Williams polishes his distance jumper, he has a chance to really take off.

Phlan Fleming – 6’5” – Cedar Shoals

Long arms and a competitive fire are two good qualities to have. Fleming can play passing lanes with ease and can score the ball as well. He is a diverse scorer in the sense that he can kill teams from three-point land once he gets hot and also is crafty enough to get into the paint and finish at the rim. Fleming was an integral piece of Cedar Shoals’ Class AAAAA Final Four run and should be the focal point of the offense his senior season. He’s gotten interest from a handful of schools but is still waiting for the scholarship offers to pile in. With a productive offseason with the Jaguars and 17U AC Georgia Phoenix, Fleming should see his recruitment pick up over the next few months.

Trevion Lamar – 6’5” – Jenkins

While Phlan Fleming might be described as a long and thin guard/forward, Trevion Lamar is the opposite. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Lamar is a bruising forward with a versatile skill-set. He doesn’t look like the smoothest athlete, but Lamar can indeed get up and down the floor and finish with authority. Down at Jenkins High School, he won a state title in 2015 and led the Warriors to a runner-up finish in 2016. The offense ran through Lamar last year, leading Jenkins in scoring (16.4), rebounding (9.5), assists (3.7), blocks (1.7) and a fraction away from leading in steals at 2.6. Lamar might be an inch or two away from being a top-end power forward at the next level, but his work ethic has done him well, exemplified by his three-point shooting. As a sophomore he went 8-of-21. As a junior, his added dimension grew to 28-of-84, still having room for improvement.

Jules Erving – 6’5” – Holy Innocents’

If good bloodlines matter, you should be sold on Julius Erving’s son. If not, he will earn your respect by his play on the court. Somewhat of a late bloomer, Erving’s best ball is still ahead of him. He earned Sandy’s Spiel Class AA Most Improved Player honors after making the most of his new found role and averaging 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. To no surprise, Erving is a smooth and above-average athlete. I caught a glimpse of his potential in Holy Innocents’ season opening game where he absolutely took over down the stretch and nearly led the Golden Bears to a come from behind victory over eventual Class AAAAA quarterfinalist Riverwood. In that game he produced 19 points and 11 rebounds. When I saw him this summer at Georgia State Team Camp, it looked like he put on some more muscle to his slender frame. Erving does a lot of his scoring inside thanks to his motor whether it be off rebounds or slashes to the hoop, but if he can consistently stretch his offensive arsenal to the three-point line, Jules can become a jewel.

Ahmad Rand – 6’7” – Lincoln County

A virtual unknown last season exploded onto the scene at Lincoln County and parlayed his play into being named Sandy’s Spiel Class A-Public Player of the Year after averaging nearly a triple-double at 15 points, 13 rebounds and 8 blocks per game. Rand’s value right now comes on the defensive side of the ball with his elite shot blocking. He is a good enough athlete to play a stretch-four or guard small forwards on defense. Rand’s game is growing every day and still has untapped potential on the offensive side of the ball. Kennesaw State, Presbyterian, South Alabama and VMI have all shown interest. Rand has the length and bounce that peers covet, it’s up to him to stay focused on and off the court to fully reach his potential.

Marcal Knolton – 6’6” – Crawford County

Marcal Knolton is another athletic forward from a small school that has put up video game numbers over his career. Not as elite a shot blocker as Ahmad Rand, Knolton has a high-energy motor that has made him one of the most feared big men in Middle Georgia. As a sophomore he averaged 17 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 blocks as the Eagles lost in the Class AA title game. As a junior he ramped up his play, posting 20 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game.

Tyreke Johnson – 6’4” – Woodstock

Kennesaw State is in on the Woodstock standout. Johnson gets the job done on both ends of the floor and is blossoming as a leader as well. He was the catalyst in the Wolverines making the state playoffs for the first time in school history (20 years) and will be asked to power the pack again. He averaged 17.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Johnson was a foul magnet, attempting a monstrous 247 free throws over his 28 games – 8.8 attempts per game. There’s no denying that Johnson can get to the basket. The next step in Johnson’s progression is similar to a lot of players listed above: a consistent three-point shot. Johnson hit 22-of-74 last year at a 30% rate. His shot is far from broke, but it’s something he will need to add to his arsenal eventually.

Tae Hardy – 6’3” – Miller Grove

The spotlight is back on Tae Hardy, now that a talented senior class has graduated. Former Miller Grove head coach and current Georgia State Assistant Sharman White told me at the beginning of last season that Hardy is “quietly kept as probably one of the best players in the state with his ability and what he can do with the basketball.” Hardy willingly took a bit of a backseat to Alterique Gilbert (UConn) and Aaron Augustin (Stephen F. Austin), averaging 9.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals, but everything worked out as the Wolverines captured their seventh state title. So how did Hardy earn this lofty praise from an accomplished coach such as White? As a sophomore at rivaling Southwest DeKalb, Hardy averaged 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. This summer Hardy has gotten back to his bucket-getting ways and has looked good doing so. Expect a potent year from Hardy.

Damion Rosser – 6’4” – Henry County

Damion Rosser has projectable size at the guard position and has helped turn the Henry County backcourt along with teammate Javon Greene into one of the most exciting to watch in the state. Rosser is an attacking guard that excels at rebounding. He plays above the rim and can be a plus defender when he wants to be. Rosser along with Greene, has had a strong summer with 17U Atlanta All-Stars and is in-line for another stat-stuffing senior season.


Evan Jester – 6’7” – Sandy Creek

Evan Jester, a stretchy and athletic forward from Sandy Creek, will have a chance to shine for Coach Anthony McKissic now that Elias Harden has transferred to Pebblebrook and Christian Turner is off to Gardner-Webb. Jester is everything you want in a player, especially off the floor as he boasts a 4.0 GPA and 25 ACT. Only Alcorn State has offered Jester who averaged 9.7 points and 8.6 rebounds as a third option. Ivy League schools are heavily involved with Cornell, Brown and Princeton leading the way while Low Majors Gardner-Webb, Wofford, VMI, Air Force and Nebraska of Omaha have checked in. Jester has a bright future ahead of him whether he pursues his basketball career or not.

Noah Gurley – 6’7” – Fayette County

A true late bloomer, Noah Gurley exploded onto the scene at Fayette County last year, winning Sandy’s Spiel Class AAAA Most Improved Player honors in a landslide after he upped his slash line of 2.1 ppg/2.6 rpg/0.7 bpg to 16.8/6.6/3.7. The lanky forward listed in March that Tennessee Tech, Kennesaw State, South Alabama and James Madison all have contacted him after his breakthrough season which saw him win Region 5-AAAA Player of the Year. Gurley has stated he feels most comfortable at the three position at the next level and is continuing to improve his handles and jumper. Gurley has one more season to raise his stock even higher.

Preston Horne – 6’6” – Tift County

Preston Horne has been a wrecking ball in South Georgia for years and has an important senior season coming up after a torn ACL ended his junior season abruptly. Before the injury, Horne, a physical presence in the low post, was averaging a team-best 16.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Tift County has had good ties to the ACC in years past with Tadric Jackson at Georgia Tech and his younger brother, Tyrie, entering his freshman season at Virginia Tech.

Georgia State Team Camp Session II Analysis P. III

Head Turner

Avery Wilson of Forest Park can flat out score the ball. I said he was 6-foot-1 in my preview, but after shaking hands with him and meeting him face to face, he’s closer to 6-foot-3 or maybe 6-foot-4 on a good day. Stock up. The explosive guard didn’t play in the first half in a loss to Westminster but decided to give it a go in the second half.

Wilson was nursing a beat up ankle but that didn’t stop him from making an immediate impact. His first two touches in the second half? Two layups in a row, charging his way down the lane. Wilson wasn’t done there. Not just a put-your-head-down-and-attack guy, Wilson banged in three threes including a four-point play. He finished with 14 points, three rebounds and one steal in one half of work. Not bad, considering he hurt his ankle late in the game and did not re-enter. He’s healthy now and will continue to get buckets his senior season. Don’t sleep on the kid from Forest Park.

Bright Future

With Malik Beasley being the 19th pick in the NBA Draft, Kaiser Gates entering year two at Xavier, 6-foot-7 forward Chance Anderson gone to San Francisco and Kobi Simmons off to Arizona after a McDonald’s All-American career, one would think the St. Francis dynasty would finally be entering its twilight right? You might want to hold off on those predictions because Coach Drew Catlett is enamored with his group, especially his young talent that has worked its way up through the pipelines.

Freshmen Dwon Odom and Chase Ellis are ready to make an impact. Odom at 6-foot-2 but still room to grow a few more inches, is a freakish athlete that has had a great year. The 6-foot-2 Ellis might not have quite the athleticism or ceiling as Odom, but he is an elite scorer, pumping in over 1,000 points over his middle school career.

Final Four

Miller Grove 27, Cedar Shoals 24

Bucket-getter extraordinaire Tae Hardy poured in 13 points and three steals, including the game-clinching steal and dunk at the buzzer. Kevin Paige continued his strong camp with four rebounds and two blocks. Cedar Shoals received 12 points from Snipe Hall and five rebounds. Phlan Fleming finished with six points and three boards.

Woodstock 28, Parkview 27 

Cam Chavers, last season’s leading scorer for the Panthers as a sophomore, dropped in nine points and talented sophomore point guard Jamiel Wright added six points but the Wolverines were able to hold on. Late blooming post, 6-foot-5 senior Cameron Crowe was able to negate Ahmir Langlais’ dominance inside (four points) and outscored him with seven points of his own. Noah Frith, an active 6-foot-4 junior when healthy, tagged on six points in the win.


Miller Grove 35, Woodstock 18
Kevin Paige and Cameron Crowe battled inside. Both players saw their stock rise at GSU
Kevin Paige and Cameron Crowe battled inside. Both players saw their stock rise at GSU

The 7-time state champion Wolverines raced out to a 9-0 lead against the first time in 20 years state playoff berth Wolverines and never looked back on their way to the Session II title. Jalen Mason, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, poured in 11 points for Miller Grove. I liked what Mason did over the course of camp as an active defender on the perimeter that keyed a lot of breakouts over the weekend. Tae Hardy scored six in the win and Kevin Paige corralled six rebounds.

For Woodstock, Tyreke Johnson did everything he could to lead the Wolverines. Johnson, who had a strong showing at Kennesaw State Elite Camp which led to an invite back to practice with KSU, continued his hot summer. The 6-foot-4 guard netted 11 points in the loss. Cameron Crowe performed admirably against the bulkier Miller Grove front line coming up with three blocks.


Georgia State Team Camp Session II Analysis P. II

Jenkins 52, Duluth 34

Simply put, Jenkins dominated this game. Senior point guard Zion Williams finished with nine points and four assists, three assists coming off alley-oops, two to junior Tyrone Scott and one off the backboard to Trevion Lamar. Scott is a good athlete at his forward position, standing 6-foot-3. He averaged 8.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as the Warriors fell in the Class AAA state finals. Against Duluth, he scored a game-high 14 points to go with his eight rebounds. Lamar scored six points.

Junior guard Adam Flagler was the only Wildcat that could find the bottom of the net for Duluth. He scored a team-high nine points and added four rebounds and two assists. Lamont Smith was held to four points while Kennesaw State Elite Camp participant Jalen Hodges finished with two points and five rebounds. Alex Powell, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, grabbed just one rebound and didn’t score. He did not see the floor in the second half with a DNP-CD.

Cedar Shoals 52, Etowah 40

A lot of chatter has come from Towne Lake about Etowah building something special to rival Woodstock. Coach Allen Whitehart got a great test from Class AAAAA semifinalist Cedar Shoals and nearly stunned the Jaguars before Phlan Fleming came to life. Etowah jumped out to an early lead behind the sharp shooting duo of Lewis Simonson and Nick Nagy. Nagy hit four threes and finished with 12 points while Simonson canned three and ended with 11.  6-foot-6 junior post Julian Baldwin notched eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

Cedar Shoals’ press eventually wore on the Eagles. Fleming caused the smaller Etowah guards nightmares, finishing with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and eight steals. Stavion Stevenson hurt the Eagles inside as well with 14 points. Snipe Hall was held to six points and five rebounds but Q’titrius Dillard provided a spark with eight points.

Etowah can be a dangerous team when they are knocking down threes. They hit six in the first half but just one in the second half when they began to struggle with the Jags’ length and athleticism.

King’s Ridge 36, Chattooga 34

The Foster twins are electric on the gridiron and hardwood

North Georgia’s finest, the Chattooga Indians who finished 23-5 last year, dropped a close game to King’s Ridge. I said in my preview that the Indians only lose three players for this upcoming season, but Head Coach Jared Groce informed me that it is now seven. The most notable loss being 6-foot-6 senior center Cameron Evans, who has swapped allegiances with now former region foe Darlington in order to be the Tigers’ starting quarterback. Outside of Evans last year, Chattooga’s tallest player was 6-foot-3 Dee McCutchins, who has since graduated.

Back for Coach Groce is the dynamic backcourt of twins Isaiah and Isaac Foster. The 5-foot-10 guards are feisty and can light up opponents that don’t take them serious. Isaac scored four points in the loss but brother Isaiah gave King’s Ridge everything they could handle. He took over down the stretch and put the Indians in a position to win before a late foul at half court diving for a loose ball damaged the Indians’ shot at winning, which resulted in King’s Ridge hitting the game-winning free throws.

Isaiah finished with 12 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. He can get to the hole with the dribble and can drain the three-ball. The Foster Bros. are must see basketball in North Georgia.

Sandy Creek 28, Therrell 26

TJ Bickerstaff (23) will be asked to take over Elias Harden's scoring role
TJ Bickerstaff (23) will be asked to take over Elias Harden’s scoring role

Without 6-foot-7 senior forward Evan Jester who was on a visit to Cornell, Sandy Creek was able to hold off Therrell. Junior guard Jarred Godfrey led the Patriots with eight points and two steals. 6-foot-6 sophomore TJ Bickerstaff contributed five points and three boards. Chris Porter had five points but my biggest game changer was the smallest man on the court; 5-foot-6 junior Kam Miller. The jitterbug lefty disrupted the Therrell guards with his quick hands, leading to four steals.

King’s Ridge 24, Centennial 21

Mountain of a man Tolu Jacobs, the 7-foot, 280-pound junior, didn’t pan out in Georgia and is now on the West Coast. Coach Scepter Brownlee is not deterred however, even with the loss of Jacobs and explosive scorer Ellis Merriweather (Alpharetta).  Senior Sean Flanigan, who missed last year with a knee injury, re-enters the fold for 2016-17. The 6-foot-2 guard scored eight points in the win and collected three rebounds, two steals and a block as well. Flanigan attacked the rim well and finished when he got there. 6-foot-5 stretch forward Eric Coleman Jr. looked good knocking down two threes. Coach Brownlee expects good things from his duo along with senior point guard Kameron Dozier.

Georgia State Team Camp Session II Analysis P. I

Ron Hunter Georgia State Team Camp Session II was held this weekend at the GSU Sports Arena. Teams from all over the state packed the loaded event. Saturday saw Miller Grove hoist the trophy as the Purple Reign continued with a championship victory over upstart Woodstock. As always, there were movers and shakers with stocks rising and stocks dropping. The Georgia State Team Camp experience this summer was top notch and is a must-attend event next offseason for teams looking to challenge themselves against some of the top competition across the GHSA.

Mountain View 50, South Gwinnett 46

Mountain View, a young team with potential to battle for their first ever state playoff berth out of Region 6-AAAAAAA, met South Gwinnett, a team coming off a 5-win season that now has first-year head coach Ty Anderson in place. The Bears were without 6-foot-4 sophomore Brandon Green who was on a visit, but Mountain View was still able to sneak past the Comets in a tightly contested game.

Coach BJ Roy’s team was bit by the transfer bug with second leading scorer Donell Nixon II (12.4 ppg) leaving to man the point guard position at Buford. It has been a learning experience for the Bears but luckily for them, grizzled vet Spencer Rodgers returns for his third year on the varsity roster. The junior led Mountain View in scoring at 15.4 points per game and showed why in the second half vs South Gwinnett.

I wasn’t sure who No. 22 was at first after he had a scoreless first half, but Rodgers announced his presence like a lightning bolt in the final 20 minutes. He caught fire hitting six threes en route to a game-high 18 points. At 6-foot-3, Rodgers can get off his quick trigger when he needs to. He sank 79 deep balls last season and fired at a 43% clip. His barrage helped stave off the Comets who wouldn’t go away behind the play of senior Brycen Lee and junior DJ Williams.

Lee, a 6-foot-4 forward, posted 11 points and two blocks while earning five of his points from the foul line. His aggressiveness around the hoop helped South Gwinnett stay in striking distance, scoring all of his points in the second half.  Williams provided a spark in the second half as well. The 6-foot-2 combo guard netted 10 points on the day. I fully expect South Gwinnett to be competitive this season with Anderson at the helm. Anderson brings over college experience at North Georgia and was coaching his team non-stop, putting his team in the best possible position to succeed.

Outside of Rodgers, Mountain View received steady backcourt play from Miles Long and Jalen Hayes. Both juniors, Long collected five assists while Hayes tallied three. Uchenna Nwagbara and Kevin Kayongo’s activity on the boards will be important to the Bears’ success, a smaller team when measured up to most Class AAAAAAA schools.

Parkview 64, Cambridge 45

In the Session II preview, I took a quick look at the Panthers and hinted at there being a lot of excitement ahead for fans in Lilburn. They did not disappoint, racing their way to the semifinals before falling short by one-point against fellow up-and-comer Woodstock.

Against Cambridge, the Panthers thoroughly dominated, resting their starters for much of the second half after holding a 40-19 halftime lead. Parkview is loaded with all sophomores and juniors that are all more than ready to make an impact this season. Everything centers around Ahmir Langlais, who makes the Panthers a dangerous team in the paint.

Get familiar with 6-7 Ahmir Langlais
Get familiar with 6-7 Ahmir Langlais

Langlais is a 6-foot-7 sophomore that has made a name for himself over the summer at individual camps and with the Atlanta Xpress. He went for 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against the Bears. The long armed lefty has excellent hands and gobbles up rebounds in his zone. On offense, he has a soft touch and has a nice baby hook over his right shoulder. As he continues to add on muscle, he will continue to be a force inside.

I liked what I saw from Justin Spencer and Truitt Spencer as well. Truitt, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, was second on the team in scoring a year ago. He finished with 11 points while Justin, a 6-foot-1 junior, added on 11 points as well. The two guards got after it in the backcourt and combined for five steals against Cambridge.

Jack Lapenta, a 6-foot-2 junior forward that posted 7.3 points and a team-leading 8.8 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game, contributed six points. His motor is what makes him successful as a workhorse on the glass. Offensively, Lapenta has nice body control when finishing through contact.  More on Parkview later.

Miller Grove 45, Grayson 33

Grayson played hard without two key guards

Tied 20-20 at the half, the Rams ran out of steam without guards Travis Anderson and Justin Fleming. Joey Chavez and Terrell Greene carried the load on offense. Chavez, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, didn’t play much last year but he is going to earn minutes this season. He is a nice stretch forward that can knock down threes. He sank three of them and finished with a team-high 11 points, Greene netted 10 points from his guard position. 5-foot-7 freshman point guard Deivon Smith was tested against Miller Grove’s bigger and more experienced guards, but he held his own with four points, two rebounds and three assists. Rising sophomore, 6-foot-5 Kenyon Jackson was quiet against the Wolverines’ frontcourt of Kevin Paige and Tworn Seals,  held to two points and five rebounds.

Speaking of Kevin Paige, his stock is trending up after this second session. The first time I watched him play, the 6-foot-7 big fella didn’t really wow me. He is still on the raw side offensively, but defensively he won the matchup with Jackson. He chipped in six points, six rebounds and four blocks. Tae Hardy netted 11 points and three steals while Maurice Harvey, a sophomore, added 10. The Wolverines turned the tides when Hardy, Harvey and Jalyen Mason began trapping at half court in the second half

More on Miller Grove in the upcoming days.

Georgia State Team Camp Session II Preview

Session II of the Georgia State Ron Hunter Basketball Team Camp is here. The first session saw North Clayton powered by center Ahsan Asadullah march its way to the title with a win over Dacula. This Friday and Saturday (June 24-25) returns an even more loaded field. If you’re in the Atlanta area and are a major ‘hoop-head’, this is a must see event but I caution you, some teams will not be at full strength with their top players out at individual elite camps or college visits, so buyer beware.

Nonetheless, the field is absolutely juiced with powerhouse programs, up-and-comers and individual standouts. To break it down for the casual fan and not to slight anyone, here’s a quick synopsis of the teams on display.

Top Tier: Greenforest Christian (A-Private State Champ), St. Francis (A-Private Runner-Up), Miller Grove (AAAAA State Champ), Cedar Shoals (AAAAA Final Four), Pace Academy (AA State Champ), Jenkins (AAA Runner-Up), Treutlen (A-Public Final Four).

2015-16 State Tournament Teams: St. Pius, Sandy Creek, Chattooga, Lambert, Tucker, Grayson, Woodstock, South Forsyth.

Those are just a bulk of the teams that have had success recently. With graduations, transfers and coaching changes, everything is subject to change. Teams like Westminster, New Manchester, Duluth, Etowah, Parkview, King’s Ridge, Therrell and more are what really make this a great field, entering as the great unknowns as to how good they can be this upcoming season.

With a majority of the teams listed, here’s a further breakdown of some interesting/subtle storylines.

Jenkins has two great seniors returning in point guard Zion Williams and Trevion Lamar. Williams flourished in his first season at Jenkins after transferring from Savannah. The lightning quick guard averaged 13.5 points and 3.6 assists. The offense centers around 6-foot-5 do-everything forward Trevion Lamar.  He averaged 16.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.7 blocks. Lamar is one of the best players in South Georgia.

Life will be different without Connor Mannion (Navy) and Ross Morkem (North Georgia), but Coach Scott Bracco isn’t conceding too much of a drop off at Lambert. Tenacious, gritty, savvy and experienced are all words that can be used to describe Andrew Melms. The senior point guard makes the Longhorns offense go, but Musa Thompson and Austin Deckard are lethal as well along with Damon Stoudamire who enters his junior season. Thompson has the measurables to become a very good player as a 6-foot-4 wing. He has a chance to put it all together his senior season.

Individual standouts line South Forsyth, King’s Ridge and Forest Park. These three schools won’t be mistaken as perennial powers in the state of Georgia, but they do hold hidden gems. South Forsyth’s Evan Cole has a shot to establish himself as the best post player in camp after a steady summer with the Atlanta All-Stars. The deceptively athletic 6-foot-8 forward should see a major leap in recruitment his senior season. The double-double machine can score all over the floor and is a threat to go coast-to-coast.

Though he hasn’t become a star at the GHSA level after battling to become eligible, King’s Ridge’s Tolu Jacobs will be hard to miss. The 6-foot-11, 275-pound rock of muscle enters his junior season. I haven’t been able to see him play, but if he is there on Saturday, you can expect to see me at his court. With size like that, there will always be college suitors. It’s up to him to determine his ceiling.

Going from big to small, Avery Wilson, a 6-foot-1 guard at Forest Park, is a fun player to watch. Wilson is uber-athletic and was one of the state’s top scorers in Class AAAAA. He poured in 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. The down-hill scorer took a whopping 180 free throws last year. If he can diversify his game and improve the confidence of his three-point shot (20-for-50, 40%), Wilson should start to gain more statewide attention his senior season.

Sandy Creek will see a lot of young faces take on big roles this season after the graduation of Christian Turner (Gardner-Webb) and the transfer of Elias Harden (Pebblebrook). The Patriots are a long team with 6-foot-7 forward Evan Jester leading the charge his senior season. Jester is no joke. He averaged 9.7 points and 8.6 rebounds a year ago but will be the focal point on offense this season. 6-foot-6 sophomore TJ Bickerstaff can play every position on the floor while juniors Jarred Godfrey, Xavier Brewer, Kameron Miller and Chris Porter have been working hard this offseason.

Etowah and Duluth look to revamp their programs with new head coaches in place. Allen Whitehart leads Etowah while Cabral Huff returns to high school at Duluth after winning a state title at St. Francis and taking a stop at Alcorn State. Both teams have played well this summer.

I have hyped Mountain View this summer and think they can still be very competitive even after the transfer of sophomore point guard Donell Nixon II to Buford this offseason. Another sophomore, Anthony Edwards, is a stud at Therrell. If the 6-foot-3 guard decides to stick it out all four years in Atlanta, he can put Therrell on the map.  He led the Panthers in scoring as a freshman and stuffs stat sheets nightly.

Looking for another super sleeper team? Parkview will build upon their 10-16 campaign. The Panthers are super young, graduating just two seniors. The youth Coach Nick Gast has is exceptional. Ahmir Langlais is a long 6-foot-7 sophomore whereas Jamiel Wright is a 5-foot-8 point guard that worked on his craft along with Langlais recently at the Under Armour Best of the Best Camp. ‘Elder statesmen’ Jack Lapenta, Cam Chavers and Truitt Spencer all return. Lapenta (7.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Chavers (10.3 ppg – leading scorer) are now juniors while Spencer (9.8 ppg) is a sophomore.

Another team with some intrigue surrounding them is Chattooga. The Indians came out of a weak Region 7 in Class AA that saw each team get swept by Region 6 in the first round of the state playoffs. The Indians opened the season 22-1 and spent time in the Top 10 but tapered off, losing four of their last five games to end the year. Only three players graduate meaning the Indians will be a strong favorite to romp through their region again. Twin brothers Isaiah and Isaac Foster are set to return for their senior seasons. Isaiah is a lethal scorer at guard that stretches defenses with his three-point shooting. Senior Jay Shropshire is back as well to provide scoring.

For more insight on a couple of teams not listed, feel free to read my previous analysis of other summer team camps.