DeKalb County Media Day

DeKalb County has been a stronghold for state champions in basketball. It is now 13 straight years the County has won a state title after the Miller Grove boys and Southwest DeKalb girls continued the winning tradition by claiming the Class AAAAA championships, the Wolverines’ seventh and Panthers’ fifth all-time. On October 25, Tucker High School held Media Day highlighting plenty of storylines to follow in 2016-17.

The Doctor is in

Dr. McCrary has five state titles
Dr. McCrary has five state titles

Dr. Phillip McCrary returns to the sidelines at Columbia after spending 25 seasons (1988-2012) on the bench, compiling a 546-185 (.746%) record and winning five state titles. He joins a difficult Region 5-AAAAA that holds defending state champion Miller Grove, Southwest DeKalb, Lithonia, Arabia Mountain, Chamblee, Clarkston and Cross Keys.

“I enjoy the game and sometimes you just got to go back to what you really love,” explained McCrary on why he decided to return to coaching after serving an administrative role as Assistant Athletic Director for DeKalb County Schools. “I like administration but I love the game of basketball. Once I was able to see that side and weigh the option, basketball outweighed the administration end.”

Being able to view coaching from the opposite end of the spectrum has given McCrary a better understanding and respect for both sides.

“It’s totally different. I see the error on both parts. I can see the errors that the administration was actually trying to do for the game of basketball in DeKalb then when I was on the coaching end, I would see the things that we would complain about what they weren’t doing and they really were doing, so I can see both ends of it.”

On the court, the Doctor has more than enough talent to work with which could equate to some major success in short time for a Columbia program that slipped to 14-13 last season.

“Kenton [Eskridge] is a good kid. He’s a real strong leader. [James] Hartry did a great job with him and showing the kid how to be a leader and how to play the game,” said McCrary about senior guard Kenton Eskridge who led Tucker in scoring as a junior before transferring to Columbia in the offseason. “He brings that tenacity that we need at the top of the offense and defense.

“We have Jalen Cobb who we’ve been starting over the past three years. Jalen has always been a great player. That basketball pedigree runs through that family because I remember coaching against his father when his father was playing at Therrell. And then his older brother JerShon ended up at Northwestern, so basketball runs through that family,” said McCrary on his senior guard who led the Eagles in scoring last year at 11.7 points per game.

A 6-foot-7 potential difference maker is back at Columbia for his senior season after playing at Pius XI in Wisconsin last year.

“We got Reyhan Cobb back. Reyhan brings us back a stretch-four guy that plays inside as well as pops outside.”

McCrary’s junior class boasts a pair of high upside wings that played with the Southern Stampede over the summer, one who the Doctor notes as an X-factor.

“We have Lorenzo McGhee, who is about 6-foot-5 and is a real hardnosed type player that does the dirty work for us and gets rebounds and runs the floor. Then we have (TJ) Terrance Boykin. Lord knows if that kid – when he puts it all together – that’s going to be a sight to see on that floor. Because out of the whole team, that’s the kid with the most talent that can really make that team go. If we get Terrance going, you’re going to see Columbia going a long way.”


Panthers looking to get over the hump

SWD has the right balance to go far
SWD has the right balance to go far

Southwest DeKalb has become one of the premier programs in DeKalb County, amassing an all-time 714-548 record including a 25-6 season last year with a trip to the Elite Eight, but the one accomplishment that has eluded the Panthers has been a state title. Southwest DeKalb has seen their rival Miller Grove repeatedly hoist the trophy as the Wolverines have been the ultimate thorn in the Panthers’ side. Housed in the same region yet again, Coach Eugene Brown continues to push his group to finally slay the dragon and hang a banner of their own.

“You just keep grinding. We’ve been working since I got here three years ago, building the program. It takes time to build a program if you’re going to do it the right way,” explained Brown as he has seen growth each season since taking over in 2014, increasing the Panthers’ win total each year from 7 to 18 to 25 last season. “We feel like these guys know our system now and know what’s expected of them and their ready to take it out with them onto the court. We got a lot of leadership, a lot of youth and senior experience so we are ready to go.”

It won’t be easy, but Brown is looking forward to the challenge of Region 5-AAAAA.

“All [the coaches] are really good friends of mine and I know they work extremely hard. I’m definitely looking forward to the competition. That’s why I came back into DeKalb County, for these types of games with this caliber of talent.”

In order to compete and push for a state title, Brown will lean on a talented and experienced group of upperclassmen.

“Let me tell you, every one of these guys played AAU basketball. Every one of them had a personal trainer. My job is to just bring that all back together and get them on the same page for what we’re trying to do. They’ve all improved their individual games and all have gotten better and closer as a team.”


Arabia tries to climb the Mountain

Darius Giles (11)
Darius Giles (11)

Now in Year 8, Arabia Mountain is still in search of its first winning record. The Rams finished 10-16 in Region 6-AAAA last year, the best region in the classification, and now will try their hand in Region 5-AAAAA.

Coach Dedrick Whiting looks for his Rams to get out and run in 2016-17.

“We are probably going to play a little more up-tempo this year. A different style of basketball, more exciting. We are going to shoot the three a little bit more than we did last year. We aren’t going to be as big,” explained Whiting. “We are going to let our guys get out and go. And we are going to step up the pressure a little bit on defense. Our guys are going to be a little bit more of a VCU Rams aggressive type of team.”

Senior guard Darius Giles led the Rams in scoring with over 14 points per game as a junior and will once again key the offense.

“He has been a great leader. He has been in our program for four years. First year he played varsity and he hit some key shots for us and helped us win a few games his freshman year. This is going to be his year to show us how good of a leader he is going to be. We look for him to be a great leader, put himself in a great position to hopefully get a basketball scholarship and just have a great phenomenal senior year at Arabia.”

Giles’ goals are in-line with Whiting.

“As a team I want us to have our best year we’ve ever had at Arabia Mountain. To do that, we have to crack the state playoffs. That’s our goal as a team,” said Giles.


Tyonn Stuckey: The Glue to Redan

Tyonn Stuckey: A true Under The Radar Senior
Tyonn Stuckey: A true Under The Radar Senior

At 5-foot-11, senior guard Tyonn Stuckey is looking to boost his collegiate stock heading into his final season. As a junior at Redan, Stuckey earned First Team All-Region honors after averaging 14.6 points, 5.4 assists and 2.8 steals. He led Redan to a 16-9 mark in Region 6-AAAA, against state powers Lithonia, Grady and St. Pius.

Things don’t get any easier for Stuckey as Redan now calls Region 5-AAA home along with the likes of defending Class AA state champion Pace Academy, Lovett, Cedar Grove and Westminster, all four teams with over 20 wins last year.

“That’s what high school basketball is about. Putting on a show,” exclaimed Stuckey on facing elite talent night in and night out this upcoming season.

Stuckey plans to put on a show by fitting into Coach Greg Wood’s system.

“Just do what I have to do to help my team win. If that means going down there rebounding or doing everything on and off the court; just better myself as a player and lead my team. Be a team player and make everyone around me better.”

Stuckey butters his bread with a high energy type of play which often wears opponents out come the fourth quarter.

“Speed, quickness, leadership skills; you will not go home disappointed,” stated Stuckey on his exciting style of play.

Right now, Stuckey fits into the mold of an Under the Radar Senior. He lists Point University and Tennessee State among those showing interest, but with his focus, the list is soon to grow.

“There’s a lot of schools showing interest but I’m just worried about the season. I’m really focused on my school right now. I try not to get too caught up in the hype.”

GHSA Class AAAAAAA Preview



Region 1

Tift County (26-3)
Camden County (21-6) 5A
Lowndes (15-14)
Colquitt County (8-15)

Tift County opens as the favorite in Region 1 after falling to Milton in the Sweet 16, 56-54. The graduation of Tyrie Jackson (Virginia Tech) hurts the Blue Devil backcourt after averaging 16.1 points. Luckily Coach Eric Holland returns a healthy Preston Horne after the 6-foot-6 forward tore his ACL mid-way through the season. When healthy, the physical presence in the paint is one of the toughest covers in South Georgia. He averaged a team-best 16.9 points and 8.1 rebounds. While Horne was sidelined, Fred Lloyd picked up the slack. The 6-foot-5 senior finished the year averaging 7.2 points and 5.7 rebounds. He and Micah Johnson, a 6-foot guard that averaged 8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists as a junior, will be asked to help carry the Blue Devils. Johnson committed to Alabama State recently.

Camden County takes the leap from 5A to 7A but will be without the core of their Region 3 championship team. The Wildcats’ top five scorers all graduate leaving guards CJ Sullivan (5.2 ppg) and Brandon Shelton (4.3 ppg) big shoes to fill in their senior seasons. The Wildcats were upset in the first round of the state playoffs, 66-62 by Jones County.

Diminutive point guard Octavius Fudge powers the Lowndes Vikings offense. The 5-foot-7 guard averaged a team-high 13.4 points as a junior and works the backcourt alongside fellow senior Christian Knight, the team’s leading assist man at 3.1 per game. Lowndes clinched a playoff berth last year, but were blown out by McEachern, 87-57.

Colquitt County lost 41-39 in the opening round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs to North Cobb and returns a young team that boasts a handful of football players who will miss the beginning of the season. When on the hardwood, Coach Andy Harden expects junior point guard Cameron Singletary to be one of the team’s leaders while senior forward DaNas Andrews has emerged as a key piece this summer.


Region 2

Westlake (27-4)
Pebblebrook (23-10)
Wheeler (22-6)
Campbell (21-9)
Newnan (11-15)
East Coweta (5-22)

Region 2 is the strongest region the state of Georgia has ever seen in history. Period. Loaded with blue-chippers, Westlake highlights the field as the defending state champions after defeating Pebblebrook in the finals, 68-58 in overtime. The Lions transformed from a 13-15 team to a state champion after landing a slew of transfers. High-Major standouts 6-foot-7 senior Chuma Okeke (Auburn) and 6-foot-3 junior Jamie Lewis pair up with lethal three-point shooter Danny Lewis (UCF). 6-foot-9 senior Michael Durr has transferred away to Oldsmar Christian, FL, leaving 6-foot-9 Kelvin Simeon a major opportunity to burst onto the scene his final season. Entering the fold will be sophomore Chase Hunter, a talented guard who missed time last year due to injury. At 6-foot-3, Hunter is an above-average athlete that is tenacious on defense when guarding the ball.

Pebblebrook has bolstered their lineup surrounding emerging megastar Collin Sexton. Upon transferring to Pebblebrook from Hillgrove last year, Sexton poured in 28.3 points per game to lead Class AAAAAA and parlayed his play into breaking the single-season scoring record in the EYBL with the Southern Stampede by pumping in over 30 points per game. That performance led to making the 17U USA team and winning MVP honors and garnering 5-star recognition. Sexton also averaged 7.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals during the high school season. High Major recruits 6-foot-6 Elias Harden (Xavier), point guard Drue Drinnon and 6-foot-9 Auburn-commit Jared Jones all join the Falcons this upcoming season. Harden averaged 20.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals at Sandy Creek while Drinnon posted 21.3 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists a night at East Jackson. Uber-athletic high flyer JJ Smith has decommitted from Ole Miss and has transferred back to North Carolina. Still in the mix are young scorer Dwight Murray and bouncy 6-foot-6 forward Mervin James. Sophomore point guard Messiah Thompson moves in from North Atlanta and will provide another crafty passer manning the ball handling duties.

Wheeler was bounced out of the first round of the state playoffs by Grayson, 59-58 and has done some soul searching as they now enter the gauntlet known as Region 2. To keep up with the Joneses, Wheeler has surrounded rising 4-star senior guard and Louisville-commit Darius Perry with 6-foot-5 USC-commit Jordan Usher (Sequoyah), 6-foot-10 Auburn-commit EJ Montgomery (Montverde, FL) and 6-foot-6 budding star Terry Armstrong (Carman-Ainsworth, MI). Montgomery, a junior, is a highly touted 5-star power forward that will fill the role left behind by Romello White (Arizona State). Armstrong is regarded as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2019. He is a high flyer that can handle, rebound, block shots and pour in baskets from all over. He might have the highest ceiling out of anyone on a star-studded roster. Usher racked up 18.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while at Sequoyah. For good measure, the Wildcats went out and nabbed the No. 39 ranked player in the nation, 6-foot-7 Jordan Tucker, who averaged 17.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks at Archbishop Stepinac, NY. Also in are 6-foot-6 junior Brandon Younger, who averaged 11 points per game at Mt. Pisgah and a pair of McEachern move-ins, 6-foot-8 junior Austin Johnson and 6-foot-5 sophomore Isaac Martin, making it seven transfers this offseason. Still in the fold is Stetson-commit Kenny Aninye, who will battle to see the floor his final season as an off guard. Last year point guard play was Wheeler’s achilles heel as the Grayson backcourt got the best of the Wildcats. The new additions should help move Darius Perry back to the lead guard position his senior season and all but erase any glaring weaknesses on Holt Road.

Campbell was as scrappy as they come last year, beating Westlake once and forcing Pebblebrook into overtime before bowing out 104-101. Overall against the two state finals contenders, the Spartans finished 1-4 with their losses coming by a combined 26 points. Campbell marched their way to the Elite Eight, dropping out against Milton 94-83. The Spartans should take a step back however as Laz Walker (20.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Mike Olmert (15.4 ppg, 8.9 apg), Randy McClure (10.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Jovahn Dunham (5.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.3 bpg) all graduate. 5-foot-9 point guard Tyree Crankfield will be asked to carry the load his senior season after posting 11.9 points per game in 2015-16.

Newnan suffers a devastating loss, losing 6-foot-6 twins Jarred and Jarrel Rosser to Gainesville and 6-foot-9 Jannson Williams to the college ranks at Marshall. Khalil McCoy is also gone after averaging team-best 18 points per game at guard. Senior guard Nick Parks returns with plenty of experience.

East Coweta finished 0-14 in the region last year and will be up against it again to score a win this season. Coach Royal Maxwell enters Year 2 of his slow rebuilding process. Team captains Jamir Williams and Mark Mitchell own valuable experience around 6-foot-9 senior center Elafayette Stone who committed to Indiana State on October 21.


Region 3

McEachern (26-4)
North Cobb (15-14)
Kennesaw Mountain (15-14)
Marietta (13-12)
Hillgrove (14-15)
North Paulding (8-18)

McEachern rolled its way into the Elite Eight before running into buzz-saw Pebblebrook, 78-71. The Indians boasted the perfect combination of veterans and youth last season, but are now without Bryce Smith, AJ Jones and Darius Jones. Isaac Okoro will be the focal point on offense and defense as a versatile 6-foot-6 forward that contributes in all facets of the game. Sophomore Babatunde Akingbola is now eligible and presents a game-changing defender in the paint at 6-foot-8. The big man has a Georgia Tech offer in hand. Freshman point guard Sharife Cooper is supposed to be an impact player with his passing and scoring ability. The tiny guard is shifty and creative with the ball in his hands, able to find baskets around the rim against bigger defenders. Both Cooper and Okoro earned scholarship offers from Auburn in late August. Isaac Martin is a big loss after the 6-foot-5 rising sophomore guard hit some big shots during his freshman season. He is now at Wheeler. Seniors Tre Peoples, Robert Clemons and Chris Freeman are all reliable pieces for Coach Mike Thompson.

A massive 10-man senior class graduates from North Cobb’s playoff team, leaving the roster prime for opportunities to be seized. Junior point guard Nayari Dampier will be asked to steer the offense. Dampier needs to facilitate and score when asked to keep the Warriors’ offense in motion. Junior Keanu White and sophomore Kevin Hester should anchor the interior. Hester, a physical 6-foot-6, 210-pound big man, is force rebounding the ball.

Kennesaw Mountain was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by Lee County and now need to replace Brian Vonck (GCSU), Marcel Ellis (Brewton-Parker) and Cory Newman. There is youth on the roster however as five underclassmen were listed on last year’s roster. Class of 2019 guard Jalen Knight stands 6-foot-4 and has a nice future. The Mustangs have a star in the making in the form of 6-foot-6 sophomore Jalyn McCreary. As of now, he will not be eligible to play varsity. Whenever the lefty does get the green light, he is a region changer with his ability to shoot the three, rebound and defend. McCreary shined the brightest at the HoopSeen Fall Preview, dropping 23 points and 9 rebounds against consensus top 2019 recruit Terry Armstrong of Wheeler. Couple McCreary with fellow sophomore Christian Ramsey and the Mustangs have a very bright future.

Marietta narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season but return junior 6-foot-4 guard Fionn Brown, who led the team in scoring and 6-foot-6 senior Malik Brown.

The transfer of Collin Sexton zapped Hillgrove of an elite scorer and in the process saw the Hawks plummet from 23-6 to 14-15. The offense runs through rising senior Demeirre Black who carries the team at times. Trey Stevens is another senior that can give teams fits from the perimeter. Stevens is a very active and versatile 6-foot-1 guard that played well at the HoopSeen Elite Preview, pitching in 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals against stiff competition

North Paulding is not void of talent, but they have been of wins as the Wolfpack search for their first state playoff berth since the school opened in 2007. Senior Chad Terrell is a standout in both football and basketball as a 3-star wide receiver and an important presence in the paint. If Terrell chooses to focus solely on football and forgo his final season on the hardwood, it will be a big loss for Coach Ryan Dyer. Terrell led the Pack with 14 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Senior Ethan Reid is a two-way player, known for his defensive prowess. He can score the ball too, averaging 12.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. If Terrell returns and Reid can fortify his three-point shot, there’s no reason why North Paulding shouldn’t have a puncher’s chance to clinch a postseason berth.


Region 4

Woodstock (14-15)
Etowah (14-14)
Cherokee (12-14)
Roswell (10-16)
Walton (10-16)
Lassiter (3-22)

There is no dominant team in Region 4 as annual contenders Wheeler, Milton and Pope have all dispersed leaving six programs trying to start building consistent winning ways. The presumed favorite will be Woodstock. The Wolverines punched their ticket to the state playoffs for the first time in school history (20 years) after eliminating rival Etowah at Etowah in the region tournament. Returning is one of the best players in school history, Tyreke Johnson. The 6-foot-4 senior guard has taken his lumps throughout the years but has worked hard throughout the process and has seen it come to fruition. Johnson averaged 17.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals as the go-to guy on offense and lock-down defender. Johnson is a foul magnet, taking 247 free throw attempts; fifth in the state. The scoring burden should be lifted as Dylin Hardeman transfers back into town after spending time at St. Francis. The junior has an alpha dog mentality and can get his own shot off. Georgia Tech baseball-commit Brant Hurter anchors the paint at 6-foot-6 while late bloomer Cameron Crowe, a 6-foot-6 forward, has impressed this summer with his activity around the basket. Crowe stood out at the SEBA Atlanta All-Star Shootout. He is a sneaky good three-point shooter from the corners and scored a 31 on his ACT. Covenant College, Huntingdon University, Methodist University, Grinnell and Oxford of Emory have all checked in. Hurter has a soft left-handed touch and can stretch defenses out to the three-point line when he isn’t bruising away on the low block. Woodstock has developed playable depth with juniors Quentin Doby, Sid Mesumbe, Will Allen, Noah Frith, Nate Garner and Dominic Hewitt all capable high school players. Senior Jacob Laconi doesn’t score much but he is a steady defender at point guard.

Etowah will try to spoil the party and steal Woodstock’s thunder as the team to beat in Towne Lake. Head Coach Allen Whitehart arrives with a resume filled with winning games and coaching talented players. The Eagles have deadly shooters in Lewis Simonson and Nick Nagy outside while Julian Baldwin gives Etowah a potential-laced big body inside at 6-foot-6. Adrian Cohen has shown flashes of brilliance over the summer, but the well put together 6-foot-4 junior slasher needs to find consistency.

The third Cherokee County based team, Cherokee, has one of the best coaches in the state roaming the sidelines for yet another year in Roger Kvam. Kvam maximizes each player’s talent and keeps the Warriors in games they should have no business winning, like when they upset eventual Class AAA state champion Morgan County 57-52 in the third game of the year at the Battle at the Rock tournament. Senior Phillip Cirillo has designs on playing at the D-I level as a high-scoring 6-foot-4 guard. With the talent he has, he can’t fall into shootouts with other teams’ best players and must continue to trust his teammates. Cirillo originally committed to Air Force but has since reopened his recruitment. Rising senior Elisha Mayberry is a sleeper with his athleticism and length inside.

Roswell will turn loose tight end prospect Tyneil Hopper. The aggressive forward is a little rough around the edges but will be only a junior and can cause problems attacking the basket and on the glass. Senior RJ Frierson is a long post player that should alter shots inside. The scoring void left by Matt Gonda will need to be filled by committee.

Walton has fallen on hard times and experienced a baptism by fire last year with an extremely young roster. Rising senior Juanye Colon is the Raiders’ top scorer as a high-octane shooter from the outside.

It’s been a long rebuilding process for Lassiter. Senior forward Nolan Moon looks to build upon his All-Region Honorable Mention selection in 2015-16.


Region 5

Lambert (27-4)
Milton (23-9)
South Forsyth (14-15)
Forsyth Central (12-15)5A
North Forsyth (9-16)
West Forsyth (7-20)

Milton moves in with the Forsyth County school district and will turn to explosive scorer Alex O’Connell, a Duke-commit, to lead the charge in his final season. The 4-star shooting guard has been described as bouncy and has a fearless swagger to his game. He can score at all three levels and has been a major stock riser over the summer as a highly coveted 6-foot-5 bucket getter. The Eagles will need to reload around O’Connell however as Chris Lewis (Harvard) and Kyrin Galloway (UNC Greensboro) leave massive voids in the frontcourt. Dazzling dribbler Kendrick Summerour returns for his senior season but junior guard Justin Brown has set sail to return home at Northview. Adam Brown enters his senior season after earning some minutes last year as a 6-foot-5 forward. A slew of new faces are expected to join the varsity roster. 6-foot-3 freshman point guard Christian Wright moves in from Holy Spirit Prep and brings with him a very high ceiling. Ulyric Wright is another guard from Texas. Sophomore Brady O’Connell, Alex’s brother, should make his varsity debut as an explosive 6-foot-6 wing. Sophomores Jake Biebess (6-foot-10) and Matthew Bennett (6-foot-8) are also in the picture.

Lambert loses stalwart big men in Connor Mannion (Navy) and Ross Morkem (North Georgia). Tenacious senior point guard Andrew Melms (10 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 7.7 apg) looks to put a capper on a great career while Musa Thompson and Damon Stoudamire attempt to breakthrough. Junior Austin Deckard provides sharp shooting from the outside, but 6-foot-5 forward David Viti has transferred to Buford for his junior season. Lambert will likely play a fast paced game with its abundance of guards, sophomore Mitch Ganote looking to follow in Melms’ footsteps once the veteran graduates.

South Forsyth put a scare into Norcross in the first round of the state playoffs by implementing a snail’s pace before falling 45-37. Evan Cole emerged as one of the state’s top sleepers after averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks and cashed in with a multitude of D-I offers filing in before electing to play at UNC Wilmington. At 6-foot-8, the versatile Cole is a matchup nightmare with his ability to knock down open jumpers and crash the boards for put-backs. The deceptive athlete should be a wrecking ball in the low post this season and continue to see his stock soar. 6-foot guard Isaiah Magee enters his junior season and his first year with the War Eagles after transferring in from West Forsyth. Sophomore Jefferson Stepp is another name to keep an eye on.

Forsyth Central jumps from 5A to the highest classification in the state but lose their top two scorers to graduation. Undersized forward Ethan Hester averaged 9.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks as a 6-foot-4 junior. He can cause some issues for opponents with his ability to step outside and hit the three (28-86; 33%). Senior Patrick Thomas is a nice piece in the paint at 6-foot-5. He is a strong and athletic big man that can rebound and defend the post. Senior guard CJ Smith is a capable shooter that handles a lot of the perimeter duties.

North Forsyth must replace guard Chad Bureau who averaged 16 points and 5 rebounds per game as an All-County First Teamer. He graduates as the school’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, charges taken and games played. A senior class consisting of Caleb Murphy, Connor Stephenson, Bryce Thomas and others must step up. Rising juniors Caelan Thomas and Preston Wiggins bring the most size at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4, respectively.

The rebuild at West Forsyth is underway as former Alpharetta head coach Fredrick Hurt takes over. Hurt captured back-to-back Region 6-AAAAAA titles in 2014-15. Forwards John Peterson and Jay Magee, All-County Honorable Mention performers, graduate. Junior guard Joe Freitas showed great promise last year, highlighted by netting a game-high 27 in a win against Seymour, TN.


Region 6

Collins Hill (25-5)
Peachtree Ridge (19-11)
Duluth (16-10)
Mountain View (13-13)
Mill Creek (14-15)
Discovery (11-14)5A
North Gwinnett (6-20)

Collins Hill stunned Norcross last year to win the Region 7-AAAAAA title, but following a first round 62-52 win over Alpharetta, Pebblebrook knocked the Eagles out in the Sweet 16, 65-55. Collins Hill loses a key core in AJ Cheeseman (New Orleans), TeShaun Hightower (Mt. Zion Prep) and Kai Lambert (Truett-McConnell). The Eagles dealt with heavy injury problems but were able to build depth for the future. Their senior backcourt of JD Ozoh and Max Clark is one of the most experienced in the County even though Clark missed a bulk of the season due to injury. Add JaQuan Morris to the mix from Central Gwinnett and the backcourt is rock solid. Morris exploded this offseason with his scoring prowess, soon to make him a priority among LM schools if he can stay on the floor. He could provide the same scoring punch TeShaun Hightower did last season after coming from relative obscurity.  Energy man Kenny Stanciel will see an increased role his senior season after making the most of his playing time in 2016 and scoring the ball well on the summer circuit. Junior Chris Parks must become an impact player inside with his 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame. Rising junior Justin Lee, a 6-foot-6 perimeter player, earned scholarship offers from James Madison and Memphis. He drips with potential due to his size and touch, but will need to improve his shot selection. Lee’s ceiling is very high and he should benefit from Coach Ty Baumgardner’s coaching.

Peachtree Ridge made a trip to the Sweet 16 where they lost to semifinalist Newton 63-61. Milz Tatum and Markel McCollum graduate but Devin Vassell and Fred Payton have impressed over the summer. Vassell is a wiry 6-foot-5 junior wing that should take the reins as one of the Lions’ go-to options. He picked up a North Florida offer over the offseason. Caleb Holifield transfers in from Pace Academy and should bring an outside shooting touch to pair with Payton, both juniors. Dirty work man senior Connor Heyward, a 3-star football athlete, brings his gridiron mentality to the hardwood as an aggressive rebounder and defender. 6-foot-5 senior Kristian Collins is an active forward to keep an eye on.

Duluth turns to former Alcorn State assistant and St. Francis state championship winning coach Cabral Huff after Eddie Hood took the AD position at Central Gwinnett. A feisty backcourt of juniors Lamont Smith and Adam Flagler make the Wildcats a dangerous team even after the graduation of Javis Diaz and shot blocking ace Obinna Ofodile (The Citadel). Brandon Blair transfers away for his senior season, but Daylan Smith moves in from Centennial. Alex Powell, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, holds promise but he must get stronger to become an impact player consistently. 6-foot-5 Jalen Hodges is a physical forward that brings a mean streak to Duluth, always looking to tear rims down. Christian Kelly, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, adds some three-point shooting to the Wildcats backcourt.

Mill Creek won’t wow you with size or athletes even though they are the biggest school in Georgia with nearly 4,000 students. What they will do is play fundamental offense and defense and let other teams beat themselves. Senior forward Christian Mancillas does a little bit of everything and will be the unquestioned leader. Rising sophomores Jayden Marshall, Brandon Fletcher and Matthew McDowell should all be important contributors, especially Marshall who saw quality time at point guard as a freshman. Senior Matty Dobbs brings energy to the backcourt while rising freshman Kendall Latney looks to have a very bright future as a strong combo guard that can score the ball.

The loss of sophomore Donell Nixon II (12.4 ppg, 69-145 3PT; 45%) hurts Mountain View greatly, but the young team full of rising juniors has great cohesion after many of them played together with 17U Heat Check. 6-foot-3 Spencer Rodgers returns as the team’s leading scorer and one of the best shooters in the county. The junior averaged 15.4 points and drilled 79-of-183 threes at a 43% mark. Miles Long and Jalen Hayes round out the backcourt with Kevin Kayongo playing the role of swiss-army knife. Kayongo rebounds, defends and passes at a high level, making him the ultimate glue-guy. KJ Kirby has moved in from GAC to help the guard depth. Senior Uchenna Nwagbara and sophomore Brandon Green must hold their own inside as 6-foot-4 forwards.  Green can play all over the floor and much like Kayongo and can affect games in a multitude of ways.

Playing in the deepest region in Class AAAAA last year, Discovery held its own for a first year program. Jaden Stanley transferred in from Montana last season and has improved his game immensely. The 6-foot-5 forward and score inside and out on his man and is primed for a big year. He averaged 7 points and 5 rebound as a junior but now is transitioning to playing the wing full-time. After a strong summer circuit with AC Georgia Phoenix, Stanley has earned interest from Low-Mid Major programs and currently holds an Air Force offer. Senior guard DJ Young is a reliable scorer that was named All-Region after posting 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.5 steals per game. The strongest asset of Young’s game might be his college-level on-ball defense. Junior Kalu Ezikpe is an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-7 with D-I interest after teaming up with Stanley on AC Phoenix. Senior guard Brian Liles stretches defenses with his three-point shooting (39%) and averaged 7 points a night in 2015-16. Newcomers Tyshawn Chaney, Jaylen Bussey and Joseph Phipps all project to strengthen the Titan backcourt.

North Gwinnett was a young team last year and loses three-point specialist Colby Leifson to graduation. Co-Captain 6-foot-6 guard Ethan Smith should be a top scoring option his final season after averaging 7.5 points, 4 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Seniors 6-foot-7 Co-Captain Brandon Maffei (9.2 ppg, 5 rpg) and 6-foot-5 Michael Joseph (8.7 ppg, 6 rpg) are big bodies that bang inside and can score on the block. The trio returns for Coach Matt Garner as a group of experienced starters.  Sophomores Cameron Rowland, Tyler Goodson and Warren Burrell are all going to see important playing time as athletic guards. Rowland can score in a hurry from behind the arc and should be a very good player at North Gwinnett.


Region 7

Norcross (26-4)
Berkmar (20-9)
Brookwood (17-9)
Lakeside-DeKalb (14-10)
Central Gwinnett (13-14)
Parkview (10-16)
Meadowcreek (7-20)

Norcross received a tough draw and lost in the second round of the state tournament to Westlake 61-50, a loss that has provided fuel to the fire coming into the 2016-17 season. The Blue Devils have one of the best frontcourts in the state between 6-foot-9 Lance Thomas (8.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.7 bpg) and 6-foot-8 Rayshaun Hammonds (16.7 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 bpg), both seniors. Both have seen their stocks rise with impressive play on the EYBL circuit. All five starters return including senior Jordan Goldwire, who has seen a major jump in his recruitment as well after averaging 7.9 points and 3.3 assists. JoJo Toppins, a raw 6-foot-6 junior guard from Meadowcreek, presents a potential X-factor. Toppins has picked up offers from UGA and Mississippi State from his production with the Atlanta Celtics. He is an electrifying athlete that should slash in for buckets. Sophomore point guard Kyle Sturdivant will elevate his game in Year 2 after a sensationally steady freshman campaign saw him average 12.1 points and 2.7 assists. Junior Dalvin White pitched in 8.4 points and 3.5 assists as another reliable guard.

Berkmar regained their fearsome form last year behind a deep backcourt. The Patriots got hot down the stretch but were doused by McEachern in the second round, 70-49. Indiana-commit Al Durham (14.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) leads the charge while Jay Estime (12.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and NJIT-commit Zach Cooks (11.4 ppg) are future D-I players. Ian Hardy is a smooth sophomore guard that can fill it up and get after it defensively. He could be next in line to emerge as a D-I prospect. The Patriots will contend with great guard play. An anchor in the paint is all that’s missing from Berkmar’s talented roster.

Brookwood saw a 10-win increase but was edged out by Grayson in the region tournament and didn’t clinch a playoff berth. Micah Kinsey has graduated, leaving behind his 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 4.2 steals. Donald “Bubba” Parham returns as the leading scorer after posting 14.8 per in 2015-16. Senior Trae Higginbotham is a reliable guard (7.6 ppg) that should see an uptick in his scoring. The loss of developing 6-foot-7 Amari Kelly to Meadowcreek hurts Brookwood’s interior. Senior Markus Smith is being counted on to be a game-changer as a 6-foot-4 forward.

Lakeside-DeKalb crashes the Gwinnett County party after registering their first winning season since 2010. Rising juniors Damon Davis and Martin Haggray will be the focal points now that Sean Atwater has graduated. Davis, a 6-foot-2 guard, has played well over the summer with 16U 3-Point Play while Haggary averaged 6.4 rebounds as a 6-foot-6 post for the Vikings. Point guard Cameron Starkes has transferred in for his senior season after averaging 8.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 steals at Druid Hill. He can finish at the rim off the bounce and also has a nice pull-up game that helps loosen up the defense.

Central Gwinnett snuck into the postseason last year, breaking Dacula’s heart in the Region 8-AAAAAA tournament. They won’t be sneaking around anymore with Jalen Hillary leading the charge his senior season. Hillary averaged 13.8 points per game, but loses his top scoring mate JaQuan Morris to Collins Hill. Replacing Morris is athletic 6-foot-4 senior wing Jaylen Morgan who moves in from East Jackson. Junior guard Bernard Kasanda is someone who Coach Branden Mayweather is very high on while freshman Skylar Adams projects to be one of the better shooters in the state. Inside Arrhen Fejokwu and Julian Grajales bring a toughness to the paint.

Parkview could be one of the most improved teams in the state with its roster chock full of juniors and sophomores. Coach Nick Gast’s top three leading scorers return in juniors Cam Chavers (10.3 ppg) and Jack Lapenta (7.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg) along with sophomore Truitt Spencer (9.8 ppg). Parkview could become something special over the next few years as long as Ahmir Langlais and Toneari Lane continue to improve. Langlais, the rising 6-foot-7 sophomore, has a soft touch inside and has the potential to develop into one of the state’s better big men in due time. Lane will also be added to the mix. The 6-foot-5 wing is a highly touted freshman that originally was thought to be heading to Central Gwinnett. Instead he will attend Parkview with Langlais, who he played on the Atlanta Xpress with this summer. Lane is a long attacker who can get to the basket and also help out greatly on the glass.

Meadowcreek turns to Curtis Gilleyen to revamp the program after Willie Reese jumped ship after one season to take over at Griffin. Gilleyen has turned around programs in the past, having success with Druid Hills and Stephenson before coaching the Columbia girls team last season.  6-foot-4 sophomore guard Jamir Chaplin transfers in from Stephenson where he averaged 8.7 points while adding 5.4 rebounds. He can score in the lane, rebound at a high clip and distribute with the best of them. Chaplin has offers from Tulane and Middle Tennessee State. 6-foot-7 junior Amari Kelly has transferred in from Brookwood along with 6-foot-7 junior Cory Hightower. Kelly averaged 6.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while Hightower saw sparing playing time. The trio of new faces all played with Stackhouse Elite over the summer.


Region 8

Newton (26-5)
Shiloh (24-6)
Grayson (22-8)
Rockdale County (16-12)
Archer (10-17)
South Gwinnett (5-20) 

Newton took a trip to the Final Four in Class AAAAAA before running out of gas against eventual champion Westlake, 64-59. The Rams bring back one of the best backcourts in the state led by JD Notae and sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans, who won Freshman of the Year in the state of Georgia. Notae is a scoring wizard, able to score from everywhere on the floor. The 6-foot-2 guard is also an exceptional and willing rebounder. He has seen his recruitment heat up along the LM-MM level. Hagans is a blue-chip point guard that already has offers from SEC schools. Hagans’ court-vision is mature beyond his years and plays at a breakneck tempo when he wants to that leaves opponents in the dust. At 6-foot-3 Hagans is everything you want in a guard, averaging 12 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals per game as a freshman. Senior Josh Tukes came on strong in the paint at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5 Dre Butler brings a rebounding and scoring presence inside as he enters his junior season after injuring his leg halfway through last year and missing the Rams’ postseason run. Butler averaged 8 points and 8 rebounds prior to his season ending.  The Rams get a major boost in Eastside transfer Isaiah Miller. The dynamic 6-foot senior guard finished second in Class AAAA in scoring last season at 25.3 points per game to go with his 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 1.0 block. Seniors Darvin Jones amd Dante Johnson along with sophomores Colby Rogers and Armani Harris provide depth for a Rams team that went 22-2 over the summer. Rogers is a versatile 6-foot-3 guard that can score from all three levels and also help out on the glass and defensively with his length.

Shiloh moves on from the Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech) era. After D-I transfers Khalil Richard (Siena) and Darnell Rogers (George Washington) lasted just a few weeks before having to transfer back home, the Generals still put together another dominant season powered by their defense. Anchoring the paint still is Middle Tennessee State-commit TJ Massenburg. The 6-foot-8 senior burst onto the scene from Augusta and saw his stock soar after averaging 11.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 4 blocks per game. Massenburg has even added a three-point shot that has advanced his evolution as a player. North Florida-commit Brian Coffey Jr. transfers in from Greater Atlanta Christian to run the point along with Duluth transfer Brandon Blair. VMI-commit Greg James provides shooting from the outside and will be asked to take his game to the next level now that 6-foot-6 sophomore wing Elias King has transferred to Huntington Prep, WV. Junior TJ Stargell will have opportunities to run the show as a pass-first point guard.

Grayson made a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight by stunning defending champion Wheeler at Wheeler. The dynamic backcourt of Alphonso Willis (18.8 ppg) and Austin Dukes (18 ppg) has graduated, leaving way for understudies Deivon Smith and Justin Fleming to run the show. Smith, a 5-foot-7 freshman, is pound-for-pound as good a freshman guard in the state with his IQ and all-around floor leadership. By the time Smith is a senior, he may follow in the footsteps of Dukes, who grew to 5-foot-11 and put together a great high school career. Travis Anderson transfers in from East Jackson after flirting with attending Grayson a year ago. Anderson brings legitimacy to the backcourt and will take on the lead-dog role as Smith and Fleming find their footing. Anderson has interest from High Major schools across the country after averaging 18 points per game. Inside, 6-foot-6 sophomore Kenyon Jackson brings a stalwart defensive presence. He averaged 10.1 rebounds and 3.9 blocks but must become more aggressive on offense. Senior Kyle Butts is a tough-nosed rebounder in the paint as a 6-foot-5 senior. Senior forward Joey Chavez presents a streaky shooter after seeing sparing playing time last year. Chavez is a good floor stretcher that can get hot from beyond the arc. He had a good summer with Grayson. 6-foot-3 wing Aaron Rowe transfers in from Parkview for his senior season. He will be a nice piece on the perimeter. Sophomore Reco Hallmon is a talented scorer that will force his way into the rotation sooner rather than later. 6-foot-6 senior Gerald Buncum comes in from Jack Britt High School in North Carolina. Buncum is a bouncy big man that can play above the rim and pair nicely with Jackson as two dangerous shot blockers.

Rockdale’s record might not have shown it, but the Bulldogs were as dangerous a team as there was in Class AAAAAA. Just ask Newton who beat the Dogs 99-94 in overtime before being upset on their Senior Night by Rockdale 52-50. Jalen Jordan was a scoring maven (17.5 ppg), but has graduated. In fact Rockdale’s top five scorers all have graduated. 6-foot-6 senior Cameron Gaines is the team’s returning leading scorer at 4.9 points per game. Keep an eye on rising junior forward Sayvon Traylor. The 6-foot-5 well-built big guy looks more like a banger, but he catches opponents off guard with his soft touch from the outside and his skillset which is closer to a guard’s than a post. Traylor’s versatility helped the Rockdale JV to a 14-1 record. He averaged 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Cleveland State has checked in on him. Sophomore guard Torezz Alexander should slide into an important role with the varsity.

Archer graduates Darrion Taylor and his team-best 16.8 points as part of an eight-man senior class. Brenden Tucker is the future. The 6-foot-2 sophomore averaged 9.3 points and 3.2 assists as a freshman and has picked up a Kennesaw State offer after filling in buckets this offseason. Junior guard Shaikim Jenks could see major minutes in the backcourt alongside Tucker.

Ty Anderson steps in to lead South Gwinnett after the Comets sunk to 5-20 overall and 1-16 in Region 8. Junior guard DJ Williams looks ready to lead the attack while 6-foot-5 Brycen Lee provides length and versatility in the paint. Senior D’onte Torrence was among the Comets’ leading scorers last year along with junior Gimal Evans. Senior guard Angelo Taylor stands 6-foot-2 with some untapped potential. Nahiem Alleyne, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard, represents a bright future for South Gwinnett, a team that will defend and compete every possession.

GHSA Class AAAAAA Preview



Region 1

Northside-Warner Robins (14-10)5A
Lee County (13-16)
Coffee (11-15)5A
Valdosta (9-16)
Houston County (7-18)5A

It’s a wide open region in Region 1 with Northside-Warner Robins as the only school with a winning record in 2015-16. Team captains Jaylan Sandifer, Trayvon Willis and Tobias Oliver all enter their senior season while Marquaevious Williams rounds out the experienced attack. Sophomore Sammy Mike stands 6-foot-9 and represents a burgeoning rim protector for Coach Matthew Simon. He claims interest from UConn, Mercer, UGA, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Alabama. On the block he doesn’t have a go-to post move just yet, as he is more comfortable facing up and taking the mid-range jumper.

Lee County crept its way into the Sweet 16 and nearly upset Grayson, 60-58. Every key player was set to return for the Trojans as the team’s top nine scorers, but three players have transferred including second leading scorer Jaylin Wimberly, junior Stan Smith and sophomore Pooh Woolbright. Senior point guard Tyler McConnell (11.5 ppg) leads the team in scoring. Junior Otis Reece holds promise at 6-foot-3 after scoring 7.6 points per game. Senior Terrian Wester averaged 6.8 points as a 6-foot-3 guard.

Coffee returns a host of talent after graduation hasn’t hurt the Trojans’ growth. Sophomore guard Jayce Moore led Coffee in scoring and rebounding as a freshman with 9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. Brothers Marquavius and Jarquavius Jefferson bring toughness and energy to the table their junior seasons. Both averaged over three steals per game in 2015-16 and had a nice summer with 16U Terrible T’s GA Boyz along with Moore. Jarquavius and Moore both made the Georgia Cup Finals 16U All-Tournament team. As a team, the Trojans must improve on their shooting. They shot just 87-of-470 from three-point land, a 19% rate.

John E. Slater enters his final season at Valdosta. As a freshman at Brooks County, Slater averaged 16.3 points per game. Upon moving to Valdosta his sophomore season, Slater’s scoring took a backseat. Last year as a junior, Slater began to turn it up again, averaging 13.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.9 steals. The 6-foot-2 guard is best when attacking the hoop.

Now that Ma’Kel Wallace is cleared to play, Houston County enters a region that doesn’t have any dominant favorites. Wallace had to sit out last year after transferring in from Veterans. The 6-foot guard does a little bit of everything on the floor and should have a productive senior season. Zion Johnson, Kolbey Singleton and Amari Colbert all bring back experience, athleticism and versatility for Coach Stephen Walls.


Region 2

Effingham County (22-5)5A
Brunswick (19-8)5A
Richmond Hill (17-10)5A
Glynn Academy (10-13)5A
Bradwell Institute (6-19)5A 

Half of Region 3-AAAAA now calls Region 2-AAAAAA their home with the exception of Camden County, Statesboro, Ware County, Coffee and South Effingham. Effingham County saw a wonderful season come to a close after tripping up in the region tournament, falling to the three-seed and losing to Richmond Academy 85-74 in the first round of the state playoffs. The Rebels went a perfect 13-0 in region play during the regular season behind Deshaun Wilkenson (17.1 ppg), PJ Brown (11.2 ppg) and Rashad Griffin (11 ppg) who all have graduated. Remaining are seniors 6-foot-2 guard Jaden Rodriguez (13.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and 6-foot-2 forward Cody Hilbert (7.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg).

After winning the state title in 2014-15, Brunswick was eliminated from playoff contention after losing to Statesboro in the Region tournament quarterfinals, 48-42. Seniors Kymani Dunham and Dereck Lampkin are the most experienced on the team. Dunham, 6-foot-8, is a load in the low post that can’t be moved off the block. He has improved his ball skills and is more comfortable facing up and attacking the basket. He committed to College of Charleston on August 1. Rising junior guards Marcus Scott, Daquan Humphreys and Jaylen Jackson all represent the future of Brunswick basketball.

Richmond Hill must replace Isaiah Hill’s 20.3 points per game. Senior Trey Deloach (7.0 ppg) and junior Sam James (5.4 ppg) represent the team’s top two returning scorers.

Glynn Academy rolls the dice with head coach Terrance Haywood who was arrested in 2014 after being accused of failing to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Child and Family Services, a misdemeanor. He also was charged with providing false verbal and written statements to the GBI, a felony, while at McIntosh County Academy. Charges have since been dismissed in McIntosh County Superior Court. Haywood gets a fresh start in southeast Georgia. On the hardwood, the Red Terrors have a nice inside-out duo with seniors Durand Green and Dominique Walker. Green, 5-foot-8, led the Terrors with 15.3 points per game while Walker, 6-foot-7, averaged 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

Only three seniors graduate for a young Bradwell Institute team that was loaded with juniors and sophomores. An upset win over Woodville-Tompkins, 36-31, highlighted the Tigers’ season. Seniors Darryl Johnson and Jordan Alexander return as viable pieces. Will Douberly enters Year 1 as head coach.


Region 3

Heritage-Conyers (19-9)5A
Greenbrier (14-12)5A
Evans (13-13)5A
Lakeside-Evans (11-13)5A
Grovetown (11-13)5A
Alcovy (4-21)

Heritage-Conyers jumped out to a 15-1 start last year before hitting speed bumps in region play. Heritage finished with the third-seed out of Region 8-AAAAA and lost to South Paulding in Round 1 of the state tournament, 62-58. The Patriots exit last year’s powerful Region and join a much friendlier grouping on paper. 6-foot-3 senior guard Byron Abrams has committed to Florida Atlantic after averaging 9.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Abrams might not be the clear-cut best player on his team however as Coach Vernon Denmark returns seniors Jordan Thomas and Isaiah Banks to a balanced scoring attack. Thomas, 6-foot-2, led the Patriots in scoring as a streaky three-point shooter, averaging 13.8 points and 2.4 steals while hitting 52 threes at a 32% clip. A true high-flyer, Banks, stands 6-foot-5 and holds an offer from UTEP. The explosive athlete averaged 11.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. 6-foot-7 junior Quez Hicks gets a chance to shine as the anchor of the Patriots defense. Senior guard Donovan Butler will see a boost in action as an energy player on the perimeter with D-II interest. His defense alone makes him a valuable piece. 6-foot-6 sophomore Avante Lederer should produce off the bench as well after gaining experience in the summer.

Greenbrier loses five players including Justen Hartfield. The 6-foot guard graduates after becoming the school’s all-time leader in points scored, pouring in over 1,400. He averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. The two-sport star signed to play basketball at Mars Hill and was Region 2-AAAAA Player of the Year in baseball. The returning roster consists of all seniors except for Richard Crawford III who made the varsity as a freshman and averaged 8.5 points per game as a Second Team All-County selection.

Evans graduates 10 seniors including First Team All-County selection Jo’el Grant. The senior moved in from Augusta Christian and led the Knights in scoring at 17.5 points and 4.5 assists. Big man Michael Steflik was also a First Teamer that needs to be replaced. Sophomore guard Cameron Cabarrus should take over the reins of the offense. He’s an aggressive scorer that isn’t afraid to mix it up inside.

Lakeside-Evans has a chance to spoil the party this year and emerge as a dark horse. 6-foot-6 senior Deon Berrien missed the first half of last season but made a major impact when eligible. He averaged 14.8 points and 13 rebounds as a high-motor big man that is aggressive attacking the ball in the paint. Berrien has grown his game over the summer, now comfortable off the bounce and from beyond the three-point line. South Alabama has shown interest. Berrien racked up the wins this offseason along with Kalen Williams and Brad Hilley on the 16U Georgia Bulls, building chemistry towards the 2016-17 season. Williams made a splash as a freshman last year averaging 13.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Williams can get to the basket and finish through traffic, but also is a lethal shooter, hitting a team-high 46 threes last year at a 40% rate. When driving and dishing, one of Williams’ favorite targets this offseason and in the future is Hilley. The junior whose father Jody has stepped down as head coach making room for Jeff Williams, a former Greenbrier Assistant, is a premier floor stretcher especially from the corner. Kalen Williams orchestrated the Bulls offense masterfully this summer and got Hilley open look after open look which he knocked down. Add rising senior forward Kre’Sean Hall into the mix after he averaged 11.1 points and 6.9 rebounds and the Panthers have a very competitive team.

Grovetown must replace 6-foot-2 guard Shamar Barrett, who led the Warriors in every category: points (17.5), rebounds (4.9), assists (3.0), steals (3.1) and blocks (2.0). Assistant Coach Raymond Epps slides over a seat to take over as first-year head coach. The cupboard isn’t completely bare, even though rising junior Trent Bowdre has transferred to Aquinas. Junior guard Eric Graham averaged 14.8 points and drilled 62-of-151 threes for a 41% rate en route to being a Second Team All-County selection. Joining him is fellow junior guard and All-Name Team member, 5-foot-5 Chance Fugghett.

The Alcovy Tigers continue to rebuild but have hope with AJ Paschal and Carnacion Cosby. Paschal started at point guard as a sophomore and brings a sense of leadership and direction on the floor. Cosby, the Tiger big man, is productive around the basket and is a reliable piece heading into his senior season. Junior guard Shaquille Brown has also shown flashes of being a trusted scorer for Alcovy.


Region 4

Jonesboro (28-5)4A
Tucker (20-7)
Mundy’s Mill (19-11)5A
Drew (13-10)5A
Stephenson (12-12)5A
Lovejoy (8-18)
Mt. Zion-Jonesboro (8-19)4A
Forest Park (7-19)5A
M.L. King (3-21)5A 

Jonesboro saw its bid for a three-peat fall short in the Class AAAA title game against Liberty County, 58-52. Five-star 6-foot-5 guard MJ Walker returns for his senior season after taking his game to the next level averaging 22.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Key guards Eric Lovett and Tariq Jenkins graduate their combined 24.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists. Junior forward Jamari Smith looks for a breakout season as a springy athlete after averaging 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds. 6-foot-4 junior guard Myles Black produced at a high clip this offseason and should be the next playmaker to plug in nicely next to Walker.  Jaylon Terrell joins the team for his senior season after starring in the Lovejoy backcourt as an athletic guard. Terrell holds an offer from Navy and brings a dynamic versatility to Coach Dan Maehlman’s defense.

Tucker loses Kenton Eskridge to Columbia but replaces him with another Eastside exile, Joshua Cammon. The 6-foot-3 senior was a team captain for Eastside after posting 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.4 steals per game. He presents a potentially explosive scorer that should be one of Tucker’s most consistent players. Seniors Joshua Butler, Joshua Vann and Darius Howard should all remain in the fold.

Mundy’s Mill put together a strong season out of Region 4-AAAAA behind Citadel signee Kaelon Harris (18.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg) who has since graduated. First-year Head Coach Dwight Callaway takes over the program after spending time as Lovejoy’s head track and field coach. Before that, he was an assistant at Riverdale. Callaway will look to implement an aggressive full-court pressing defense that doesn’t take its foot off the pedal. Tyree Keith and Mike Malolo are expected to bring back the most experience.

Drew begins life without explosive scorer, James Ruiz (22.3 ppg). William Black, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, is the team’s leading returning scorer at 10.3 points per game.

After one year on the job at Stephenson, Head Coach Rasul Chester returns back to Miller Grove. In steps Dwayne McKinney who from 2011-2013, led Southwest DeKalb to a 59-27 mark. McKinney has a nice nucleus made up of seniors Julian Larkin (9.2 ppg) and Aaron Sterling (7.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg) as an inside-out combination. Rising 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Jamir Chaplin has transferred to Meadowcreek, a huge loss.

Lovejoy loses Head Coach Gregory Freeman to Creekside, but returns a young team. Keith Harris and Antonio Byrd enter their senior seasons while Jordan Huntington, Andrew Burden, Rashad Dugan and Kristian Grant all saw time on the Varsity as freshmen. Malcolm Rouse is now a junior in the backcourt. The loss of Jaylon Terrell hurts the Wildcat backcourt.

DeMaje Carter and TreJohn Taylor make up a scrappy Mt. Zion backcourt. Carter averaged 11.3 points and 4.4 rebounds as a sophomore while Taylor went for 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds as a junior. Jaquan Torian, a 6-foot-4 senior, is also a nice piece that averaged 7.0 points last year.

Everything starts and stops for Forest Park with the play of senior Avery Wilson. The running back looking 6-foot-3 guard plays like he’s exploded out of a cannon with his strength and athleticism. He averaged 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds his junior season. Wilson put together a solid offseason with 17U Infinite Skillz and should parlay his play into a big senior season. He will need help however if the Panthers are to clinch a playoff berth. Fellow senior Jahseel Herbert chipped in 7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals a year ago. The 5-foot-10 guard will be asked to score more with the graduation of Stephen McDonald (13.6 ppg, 6.0 apg) and James Ragland (11.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg).

M.L. King saw one of the steepest declines in the state, falling from a 24-6 team in 2014-15 to 3-21 last year. The rebuilding process continues as Jaquan Jones graduates after posting 20.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 4.0 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. Rising sophomore Diamante Johnson saw some time as a freshman along with James Glisson. Atreyu Smith is the most experienced player after averaging 3.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals as a junior guard.


Region 5

South Paulding (25-5)5A
New Manchester (17-8)5A
Douglas County (16-12)
Alexander (13-12)5A
Mays (13-14)5A
Creekside (12-14)5A
Langston Hughes (11-14)
Tri-Cities (10-14)5A
Northgate (4-19)5A 

Judging by last season’s records, Region 5-AAAAAA doesn’t look like the best, but don’t be fooled – this region should be one of the most competitive in the state even if it doesn’t have the High Major gusto that other regions might have. Region 5 has a chance to hold multiple Top 10 teams throughout the season.

South Paulding is the leader of the pack coming off of the Spartans’ best season in school history, an Elite Eight trip which was ended by eventual state champion Miller Grove, 66-41. Kane Williams has emerged as a D-I talent in Coach Gil Davis’ backcourt, committing to Georgia State. The 6-foot-3 senior averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals per game as one of the state’s top playmakers. His No. 1 running mate is 6-foot-7 forward JaCori Wilson. The slender inside-outside forward gets most of his work done on the perimeter. He averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as a junior. A consistent third scoring option must emerge from this battle tested defensive minded team. Drew Shephard and DJ Jackson round out the Spartan backcourt. The two seniors bring their own dimensions to the table with Shephard being a streaky three-point shooter and Jackson an undersized scrappy floor general with toughness. The addition of Knowledge Ruben inside may prove to be valuable over the next four years. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound freshman has moved in from Texas to join his older brother at South Paulding.  He is a physical presence with soft hands and good footwork on the low block. As he continues to improve his conditioning, Ruben has a chance to earn major minutes and potentially earn a starting spot sooner rather than later.

New Manchester loses a lot off their 17-win team but returns leading scorer Clint Bentley. Bentley is the engine that runs the Jaguar offense, averaging 13.3 points. The 6-foot guard is a tenacious and long-armed defender. Bentley should put up some impressive numbers his final season but will need help from his supporting cast in order to clinch the program’s third state playoff berth.

Brandon Robinson takes his 23 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists with him to UNC, leaving a massive void for Douglas County. Seven seniors graduate as the Tigers look set for a major rebuilding season. Senior guard Jahorie Copeland is expected to have the offense run through him. He put together a nice summer with the Smyrna Stars and should see his 3.4-point per game average in 2015-16 exponentially increase with his new found opportunity.

Alexander could be in line for a major uptick after an up and down 13-12 season. The Cougars’ top four scorers are all set to return. Alexander boasts a talented backcourt with senior Rod Rapley (13.3 ppg) and junior Grant Howard (11.9 ppg). Senior Arealious “Zeek” Copeland has length at his small forward position at 6-foot-4. Inside, senior post Damion Howell is a load at 6-foot-7 and averaged 10.6 points and 5.7 rebounds last year. With a deep backcourt, sophomore Cameron Armstrong is one to keep an eye on for the future. The 6-foot-1 guard has a playmaking slashing ability to his game. He impressed with 15U Team Forrest this summer along with 6-foot-7 sophomore Brady Spence. Armstrong is more of a finished product right now, but Spence’s length can alter shots inside. Both will battle to crack Coach Jason Slate’s deep rotation and for now, may be more of long term plays.

Mays snuck into the postseason and knocked off Sequoyah and Jones County before dropping in the Class AAAAA Elite Eight to Cedar Shoals, 66-45. The guard-oriented team loses Christian Jackson and CJ Arnold as important pieces, but 6-foot-5 junior guard Horace Wyatt, 6-foot-4 junior Malik McClain and tiny senior point guard Reo Wright are back. Wyatt’s status as an intriguing prospect has picked up steam over the past year and he will need to cash in with a solid junior campaign. McClain is another lengthy wing that can wreak havoc on defense. Wright stands 5-foot-9, but the jitterbug guard is a potent scorer. McEachern transfer Clayvon Croom, 6-foot-4, is another lengthy wing that can play a multitude of positions his senior year.

Creekside turns to Head Coach Gregory Freeman to lead the Seminoles into the postseason after Freeman endured a short stint at Lovejoy. The Noles lose over 30 points of combined scoring with the graduation of Shawn Rushing (14.7), Tremell Gooden (12.6) and Joshua Jones (11.7). If three-star football tight end Khalil McClain returns to the hardwood (12.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg), Creekside could have a tough frontcourt with the addition of Tyson Jackson. The 6-foot-7 rising junior posted 7.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game at Whitefield Academy and has gained muscle over the offseason.

Langston Hughes faltered last year in the brutal Region 3-AAAAAA after losing Chuma Okeke to crosstown rival Westlake. Nonetheless, the Panthers still return one of the most underrated backcourts in the state with two D-I caliber players. Khalil Cuffee saw his scoring average drop in 2015-16, but still led the team in scoring at 15.5 points while hitting on 42% of his threes. On August 25, Cuffee committed to SE Missouri State. The college-bodied 6-foot-4 guard teams up with 6-foot-4 Derrick Cook, a fellow senior, who exploded onto the scene his junior season and has since committed to Northeastern. Cook posted 15 points and 5.1 rebounds, flourishing in his lead guard spot. New to the picture is a potential game-changer in 6-foot-5 junior guard Landers Nolley II. Nolley started his career at Lovejoy before transferring to Curie, IL last year where he won a state championship. Now back in Georgia, Nolley provides shooting, playmaking and length to Coach Rory Welsh’s perimeter. If he can get his three guards to click at the same time, the Panthers will be tough to beat, especially if they can get stops on defense every night. Inside, 6-foot-5 senior Ahmid Bryant and 6-foot-5 sophomore Jaylen McCluney provide the bounce and rebounding. McCluney is as springy as they come inside and should be a major help in his expanded role. The energetic forward has progressed nicely this summer and has improved his finishing at the rim.

Tri-Cities big man Jordan Gaines came on late, earning a scholarship to Savannah State after finishing up his senior season. With Gaines gone, the backcourt should now be a strength for the Bulldogs with 5-foot-11 senior Derrick Dawson and potent lefty scorer DaMarcus Johnson returning. Johnson, a sophomore guard, already holds offers from North Florida and Southern. 6-foot-3 junior Eli Lawrence also picked up an offer from Southern.

Northgate searches for a leader after six seniors graduate including Jordan McGruder. Senior guard Nate Lee is expected to be a top option for the Vikings.


Region 6

Allatoona (31-1)5A
Sequoyah (20-9)5A
Dalton (19-7)5A
Sprayberry (18-11)5A
Creekview (16-10)5A
South Cobb (15-11)
Harrison (12-14)
Osborne (8-15)
River Ridge (8-18)5A

Allatoona couldn’t put a capper on their dream season, falling for the second year in a row in the Class AAAAA state championship, this time to Miller Grove in heartbreaking fashion 50-48. Known as the best defensive team in the state, the Bucs have holes to fill with an experienced backcourt graduating. Ephraim Tshimanga keyed the defensive pressure up top, averaging 12.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.1 steals as a senior. Also gone are Kevin Perry (9.9 ppg) and Dylon Ramsey (6.4 ppg) along with 6-foot-8 late-blooming center Randy Legros. Junior Trey Doomes’ stock has exploded this summer, earning offers from the likes of Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida Gulf Coast, Furman, Georgia Southern and more. The long armed 6-foot-3 guard returns after leading the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game and adding 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.6 steals. Doomes’ one soft spot has been his jumper which he has improved upon this summer. His defensive intensity atop Coach Markus Hood’s defense will set the tone this year. The Bucs will need scoring help to repeat last year’s success. Michael Johnson and Tyler Jackson are likely to man the backcourt their senior seasons. Inside, Rolan Wooden and TJ Goodrum must help on the glass. Chima Ogboi could be the team’s X-factor his junior season with his versatility as a 6-foot-4 forward.

Sequoyah goes back to the drawing board after Jordan Usher decided to take his talents to Wheeler for his senior season. Navy signee Cameron Cox is gone also after graduating. Allen Carden takes over as head coach after serving as the Sprayberry’s girls coach and brings a much needed X’s and O’s to the sidelines to try and maximize the Chiefs’ talent. It will be a major rebuilding year. Sophomores DJ King and Emanuel Jenkins likely represent the future.

Dalton loses 3/5 of their starting five including leading scorer Drake McCowan, but the Catamounts return senior point guard Nick Hurt and junior forward Aaron Fraire. Hurt poured in over 16 points per game last year while Fraire contributed mostly with his defense and length at 6-foot-5. Last season depth was a concern.

Sprayberry earned a playoff berth but was quickly dismantled by Miller Grove 101-41. The Yellow Jackets lose a lot of their sting as guards Djimon Wilson, Chris Cottman and Rian Oliver graduate from a quick backcourt. Senior 6-foot-7 forward Mo Merritt is out as well after transferring to North Cobb Christian. 6-foot-5 junior post Andrew Giles should see more time inside. He can score with his back to the basket but must make quicker and more decisive moves on a regular basis. 5-foot-10 senior Eddie Figueroa along with 6-foot-1 three-year starter Rodney Pearson will run the offense as shifty distributors that can get into the paint.

The pieces are in place for Creekview to make a run into the postseason, now it’s up to the Grizzlies to clinch their first berth since 2012-13.  The experience is there between 6-foot-6 senior forward Chandler Wright and senior guard Weber Sandlin. The swagger is there as well with junior guard KJ Jenkins, who filled it up this summer with 16U Team Atlanta.  Jenkins is a player to keep an eye on in Cherokee County with his sweet stroke from deep and his overall scoring mentality. If the core of Wright, Sandlin and Jenkins can produce, the Grizz have a shot to surprise some people.

South Cobb escapes from Region 3-AAAAAA, the toughest region in the state last year. The Eagles held their own and performed admirably, going 6-8 in the region. Trey Wade is gone after posting 19.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Younger brother Trevin doesn’t have his size, but at 5-foot-11, he can fill it up. He averaged 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and a team-best 3.0 assists per game as a sophomore. Fellow junior, Taje Ray, is 6-foot-1 and averaged 9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds. 6-foot-8 senior Ralueke Orizu needs a breakout season in the post after averaging 5.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

Harrison turns to seniors Tate Coston, Juwan Owens and Chris Brown to lead the Hoyas from the backcourt after the graduation of All-Region selection Austin York, the team’s go-to forward.

Senior LaTrell Tate powers Osborne. The lead guard averaged 15 points per game and made Second Team All-Region. Expect the Cardinals to play pressure defense with an aggressive and attacking set of guards.

River Ridge relies on senior guard Noah Fitzgerald, junior guard Chris Williams and senior post Destin Exinor. Fitzgerald averaged seven points per game and will lead from the backcourt along with the 6-foot-1 Williams. Exinor brings a high-energy motor which sometimes can get out of control. If he can stay composed, he is an entertaining competitor for Coach Ben Farist.


Region 7

Johns Creek (24-5)5A
Centennial (14-13)5A
Pope (14-15)
Chattahoochee (12-14)5A
Alpharetta (11-18)5A
North Atlanta (9-18)5A
Northview (8-18)5A
Dunwoody (8-19)5A
Cambridge (6-20)5A

After leading Johns Creek to its best record in school history, Pete Goggin was let go. In steps Keenan Temple, an experienced assistant coach with his previous stop coming at former Region 6-AAAAAA foe Lambert. The Gladiators lose a bulk of their scoring with Mason Henkel (11.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Ian Joseph (10 ppg, 5 rpg) and Miles Clay (9.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) gone. Senior Mark Lancaster led the team in scoring at 15.1 points, but is off to IMG Academy to pursue his football career. Flying under the radar, sophomore guard Neil Ilenrey looks set to take the reins. He was mightily impressive at the Etowah Summer Shootout Showcase as a 6-foot-2 playmaker. He scored from all three levels, rebounded and passed the ball well. The well-built youngster continued his aggressive play with the Georgia Elite Ballers and turned heads at the HoopSeen Fall Preview. He has the makings of being a good one. Senior guard Andre Taylor will also see an increased role and should provide some help scoring the ball. Seniors Alex Ruoff and Topher Sullivan bring size to the table inside at 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6.

Darrian Brown leaves a void at point guard for Centennial. He averaged 11.4 points, 6.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds his senior season. Junior guard Daylan Smith has transferred to Duluth. Junior Aaron Palmer played sparingly, but presents an undeniable size down low at 6-foot-6. Centennial also has bruising 6-foot-6 post Rodney Howard. He is a strong center that should see time as a sophomore. He will need to finish around the rim more consistently.

Pope enters Year 2 of their rebuilding process after graduating a great 2015 class. The Greyhounds have some potential breakout players in 6-foot-4 junior Jackson Baylark and 6-foot-2 senior guard Alex Watson. Watson was named All-Region Second Team last year as a quick handling lead guard. Baylark had a productive summer as a high energy defender and major athlete attacking the rim. With two dynamic pieces in place, Pope could contend for the top of the region.
Injuries hurt Chattahoochee last season as the Cougars were unable to make the postseason. DC Roumou, Trevor Anderson and Alex Kladis all graduate, leaving room for others to step up in 2016-17. Aside from an eight-man senior class, the Cougars suited up just two juniors, three sophomores and one freshman. Sophomore Grant Van Beveren should see some big minutes. The throwback post isn’t sexy, but the 6-foot-5 power forward can score with both hands around the basket and does the little things to help win games. He could carve out a nice niche as a strong back to the basket option, able to score over opponents with baby hooks.

Fredrick Hurt steps down from a wildly successful run at Alpharetta and gives way to Jason Dasinger, a former Pope assistant. The Raiders return a strong core that should put them through to the postseason again. Seniors Carlos Carriere, David Swillum and transfer Ellis Merriweather make up reliable group. Carriere is a lanky 6-foot-6 forward while Swillum is a steady guard that does the little things when he’s not attacking teams with his jumper. Merriweather is a Navy football-commit and on the hardwood, is a dynamic 6-foot-2 scoring guard that can fill it up. He moves in from nearby King’s Ridge Christian. Also in is talented sophomore guard Brandon Barron, who exits Westlake. Barron, 5-foot-8, is a confident guard that can get where he wants off the bounce. He has a soft touch when attacking the lane and a nice pull-up jumper off the dribble. Junior RJ Pass and senior Jaylen Young compose a reliable ball handling backcourt with junior Ryan Jenei a dangerous shooter. Junior Benji Oxman is a streaky knockdown shooter that can carry the Raiders from behind the arc if left open.

North Atlanta went through some growing pains last year and might go through some more now that rising sophomore guard Messiah Thompson has transferred to Pebblebrook. The 5-foot-8 guard led the team in scoring with close to 12 points per game and also chipped in over three steals a night. Over the summer he has manned the point guard position for 15U Atlanta Xpress. Senior power forward Derrick Donagan should be a lead option on offense. Move-in from Etowah, Andrew Stimpson, should see major minutes in the backcourt.

Northview losses last year’s leading scorer in Garrett Milan Stewart but returns 2014-15 leading scorer Justin Brown. Brown began his high school career as a Titan where he averaged 15.1 points per game. Last season he joined Milton but is now back at Northview, set to star as a Titan once again his junior campaign.  The guard will have full control of the offense along with senior Mason McBee who averaged 6.9 points in 2015-16. Sophomore guard Joseph Jones moves in from Missouri and will provide some depth as a defensive-minded athlete.

Dunwoody moves on without star forward BJ Millard who posted 16 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks his senior season. 6-foot-3 junior forward Turner Nims showed promise last year averaging 6.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals. Junior Ty Lilly and seniors Will Benston and Connor Vieria bring back experience.

Coach Chip Flemmer continues to exude patience with fifth-year program Cambridge. Though the fruits of their labor might not come to fruition just yet in 2016-17, the future is starting to brighten up for the Bears. 5-foot-10 guard Kamar Robertson led Cambridge as a freshman last year, averaging 11.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Robertson is an energetic athlete that flies around the floor, stuffing the stat sheet. His aggressiveness will keep Cambridge in many games and could become contagious. He promises 20 wins from the Bears this year. If that’s the case, it will be one of the great turnarounds in the state. Elsewhere, senior Jackson Boyea chipped in 8.3 points and junior forwards Caleb Snyder and Kyler Ingram worked the boards well as undersized 6-foot-2 posts. Ingram quietly emerged as an imposing shot blocker as a sophomore, averaging 1.8 per game and swatting away nine shots in a game against Sprayberry. Sophomore David Banks is a lengthy forward that should make more of an impact in Year 2 after chipping in 3.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. The Bears graduate just one senior from last year’s team.


Region 8

Gainesville (21-6)5A
Apalachee (19-6)5A
Dacula (19-7)
Lanier (9-17)5A
Habersham Central (5-21)
Winder-Barrow (2-23)5A

Even without Georgia State signee D’Marcus Simonds and quality contributors Tae Turner and Messiah Dorsey, Gainesville is still loaded and has a chance to make a deep run in the state tournament. A powerful junior class is expected to carry the Red Elephants. 6-foot-6 KJ Buffen has seen his recruitment heat up, picking up offers from High Major schools such as Georgia Tech. The long forward gets the job done in multiple ways. With 16U Southern Stampede, Buffen controlled the glass and scored inside and outside. When he revs his motor up on both ends, he is a matchup nightmare. Fellow juniors Bailey Minor and Xavier Bledson present issues as well. While Minor may never be “The” guy during his high school career, he is a college level player. The 6-foot-5 stretch forward is automatic from the corners and can also take his man on the block. Minor isn’t afraid to mix it up in the paint on defense either. Bledson is a stocky guard with advanced court vision. He is good for a couple riffle passes a game and will rack up the assists this year as the Elephants like to spread teams out and pick them apart with their unselfish passing. The addition of 6-foot-6 twins Jarred and Jarrel Rosser from Newnan make the Gainesville junior class that much more potent as long as they stay focused, take to coaching and fit into the system. The Rosser brothers have high ceilings and can play spots 2-5 on the floor. Adding them to the mix alleviates some defensive and rebounding pressure off Minor and Buffen. No one will be stepping out of the shadow cast by Simonds more than senior Mike White. The 6-foot-4 guard has had an impressive summer. He is physically strong enough to attack the basket and finish through contact while he can also catch fire from beyond the three-point line. White really has a chance to breakout his senior season. 5-foot-11 junior point guard KaJuan Hale has moved in from Austin-East High School, TN. He is a football standout but also a savvy ball handler with speed and passing, who should fit in well with the Red Elephants’ style of play.

Apalachee graduates the best player in Barrow County history in Butler signee Kamar Baldwin (29.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.7 spg). It might take some time to match their 19-win output from last year, but 6-foot-6 junior Derek Miller showed signs of being a difference maker his sophomore season. Miller is still new to basketball and has untapped potential he is trying to harness. Coach Kevin Morris expects senior guard Omar Ahmed to ignite the Wildcat offense in 2016-17.

Dacula was shutout of the playoffs after an upset loss to Central Gwinnett. The Falcons finished the year 19-7 overall and 12-4 in Region 8-AAAAAA, an impressive feat. The dynamic scoring duo of Kevon Tucker (Wofford-19.7 ppg) and Derek St. Hilarie (Gordon State-18.3 ppg) sounds hard to replace but Dr. Russ Triaga’s Falcons haven’t skipped a beat this summer with sophomore point guard Mekhail Bethea leading the way. At Gwinnett County Media Day, Triaga said Bethea, “is as good as anybody I’ve ever coached. To be completely honest with you, he’s beyond where the three who just left were when they were sophomores.” Bethea’s court awareness and ability to hit big shots has parlayed into a North Florida offer. Bethea leads a talented squad paced by its guards. Junior Arusha Hunter, senior Gary Bishop and senior Justin Goodson all looked good alongside Bethea and junior Byron Wilson. A lack of size always presents a potential problem, but 6-foot-5 junior post Shayne Buckingham looks ready to take the next step in his third year as a varsity contributor. Buckingham is active on the boards and is starting to score around the basket with more consistency. Dacula will challenge for a top seed coming out of Region 8.

Lanier returns plenty from last year’s 9-win team including leading scorer, junior Adrian Martin. The 6-foot-3 guard poured in 15.6 points per game and added 2.2 steals. Joining him are seniors Tyler Taylor (8.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.5 apg), Juwan Jones (7.6 ppg) and Bryan Mungai. Junior point guard Christian Pasley is the orchestrator of the offense.

Habersham Central loses top guard Mason Kinsey (17 ppg, 5 rpg) and forward Cody Patterson to graduation. 6-foot Michael Babers and 6-foot-5 Austin Frady bring back some experience. The Raiders haven’t had a winning season since 2011-12. Junior forward Caleb Hodges showed a nice scoring touch as a sophomore. Sophomore point guard Caleb Gaines is crafty with the ball. He is expected to take the reins of the offense after leading the Currahee Defenders on the travel circuit. Gaines’ floater in the lane is one of his top weapons offensively.

Winder-Barrow looks to rebuild behind seniors Tyrese Demeritte, Deon Williams, Terence Butler and Tyrell Demeritte. The Bulldoggs haven’t been .500 since 2012-13 when current Flowery Branch head coach David Sokol roamed the sidelines.

Gwinnett County Media Day

Region 6-AAAAAAA

Collins Hill

2015-16 Record: 25-5

They said…

Head Coach Ty Baumgardner

On this year’s outlook:
“We lost a lot. Not just statistically. Also we lost just some toughness and some leadership, so I’m interested to see once practice gets going, how these guys step up in those roles. You know that leadership is huge on any team on any sport.”

On battling injuries last year and finally being healthy:
“Well we have a few nicks and bruises right now, but we’re hoping we are much healthier than we were last year. It seemed like every time we turned around someone was out with an ankle, shoulder or whatever. So if we can stay healthy that will be a plus, but if not, same model as last year: next guy step up.”

On recent Memphis-offeree junior Justin Lee:
“He’s 6-6, 6-7. He’s long, really skilled, beautiful shot and a ton of potential. What can we expect? As with him or anybody else – especially these two guys [Lee and Chris Parks] – they were kind of behind the scenes a little bit last year playing behind some guys but now they’re not. In terms of Justin specifically we need him to play well obviously, we need him to make shots, especially from deep because that will help stretch the defense.”

On senior Kenny Stanciel:
“We’ve got seven guys back. That got valuable experience last year and [region] championship experience, specifically that group of seniors: Kenny Stanciel, Max Clark, JD Ozoh, Ryan Jones, Des Howard. So that’s huge. They’ve been in the system with me now for three years. Our culture is the way I want it. They have some leadership abilities, Kenny especially because he was that sparkplug off the bench. He is an energy guy. And a lot of times energy guys are contagious and energy guys are leaders…Leadership doesn’t have to be one dude, it can be a group effort.

Juniors Justin Lee & Chris Parks

On having to step into a leadership role as upperclassmen:
Parks: “I don’t think there’s that much pressure on us to be a leader. I think that we know that we can lead. We’re upperclassmen now, we’ve seen it happen to us, so I think we can really take that role.”

Lee: “There’s a little pressure because we have to set an example for the younger age groups coming up, but just a little bit, not too much.”

On what you learned playing behind New Orleans-signee AJ Cheeseman:
Parks: “He taught me a lot about footwork and post moves and about feeling him on your back. He taught me a lot of stuff in the post and how to rebound and know where the ball is going to go.”

On what you learned playing behind leading scorer TeShaun Hightower:
Lee: “Mostly toughness. Both of them [Cheeseman] toughness. Because Cheese led us in taking charges last year, so both of them were pretty tough.”

On what people can expect from Collins Hill this year:
Parks: “We are going to be our biggest opponent. It’s all up to us.”


2015-16 Record: 11-14

They said…

Head Coach Cory Cason

On what changes from Year 1 to Year 2:
“I think we are a much more talented basketball team this year. Last year we were kind of pieced together with some guys that were maybe a little more athletes than necessarily skilled basketball players. I think we have more basketball skills and guys with a little higher basketball IQ. I think we also have some guys that play off each other a little bit better.”

On senior guard DJ Young:
“I think DJ really sets the tone for us first of all on the defensive end. I’ve told several college guys I think he’s one of the better on-ball defenders I’ve seen whether it be in high school or time I was in college. He’s really good on the ball guarding guys and that can really set the tone and tempo for a game.”

On senior forward Jaden Stanley:
“We expect him to be a leader on the floor for us. Really help space the floor for us; with his size and ability to shoot the ball it should really help stretch the floor. We are going to rely on him heavily for offensive punch and from a rebounding perspective.”

On junior center Kalu Ezikpe:
“He’s about 6-7, 215. Didn’t play a ton for us last year, just wasn’t quite ready. We put a lot of time into him in the summer individually working on skill. He had a really good summer with AC Georgia. We think he can be a major impact for us. There’s not a lot of true bigs in our region and he’s a guy that can really score on the block when he gets an opportunity to get the ball. I’ve told him, he could be the difference between us being an average team to being a really good team.”

Senior guard DJ Young

On Coach Cason’s growth heading into Year 2:
“This year especially, establishing roles amongst players he’s done a really good job at that. He’s definitely grown as a coach as we’ve grown as players. It’s even better because not only is he a great person to be around, he’s a great person to play for.”

Senior forward Jaden Stanley
On Coach Cason’s growth heading into Year 2:
“I’ve never been around a coach who keeps it in a friendship role with a coach to a player, but you know when to be serious with him. You feel comfortable with him and feel like you can tell him anything.”



2015-16 Record: 16-10

They said… 

Head Coach Cabral Huff

On how to recreate his previous state championship success now at Duluth:
“What you try to do is create family. That family atmosphere, get them to buy into the program, get them to play for the next man next to them. Once we are able to do that, we will contend for a state championship.”

On Jalen Hodges, Adam Flagler and Lamont Smith:
“These guys want to win and they want to win very badly for each other, not just for themselves. You got three different kinds of leaders. Lamont leads by example, more vocal is Flagler and plays hard and Jalen likes to tear down the rim and get the crowd excited and everyone will follow him that way.”

On sophomore center Alex Powell:
“He’s really improved from last year. People will be surprised about his motor, how much he wants to play and how much he wants to win. A lot of people have questioned his strength but I think the time in the weight room this summer and preseason, they are going to see a different Alex Powell this year.”

Senior forward Jalen Hodges

On what he brings:
“Just more leadership. More vocal leadership on the court and off the court. Lead by example and do everything the right way.”

Junior guard Adam Flagler

On what changes now that he’s an upperclassman:
“Leadership and having to step up and guide these younger kids.”

Junior guard Lamont Smith

On how he’s fitting in:
“It’s a good fit. Just got to get guys to trust me more. Coming in in January, just thrown into the fire. Now I have a whole summer under my belt with them.”

On what’s different with Coach Huff:
“The level of work is different. Guys are asking to get in the gym instead of being told to get into the gym. We don’t ever want to go home. We just want to stay in the gym.”


Mill Creek

2015-16 Record: 14-15

They said…

Head Coach David Allen

On senior guard Matty Dobbs:
“He’s just one of those X-factor guys you gotta have. He does the dirty stuff.”

On senior forward Christian Mancillas being the unquestioned leader of the team:
“Yeah without a doubt and he understands that that’s his role. He’s taken it, ever since our postseason conference last year, he’s taken off with the things I’ve asked him to step up and do and he doesn’t need much guidance either. It’s natural.”

On the strength of the team:
“I think team chemistry and strong leadership that is bringing our young kids along at the right pace. We like to think we will be very hard to score on.”

On style of play:
“We are going to do a multitude of things. I think we are going to have some sets where we got a three-out two-in type look and then we got some situations where we can go four-out and our transition game will hopefully be strong for us.”

On incoming freshman guard Kendall Latney:
“We played him a lot this summer just to kind of see where he was and physically I think he’s got the body to handle – not many ninth graders can handle – a varsity situation. I think he’s got the body to possibly do that. Whether he can learn the system and grow into that role whenever he arrives at that point, we’ll see. But I do like him. I think he will be a really good player.”

Senior forward Christian Mancillas

On what he brings his senior season:
“Experience. I’ve been playing varsity four years. I feel like I know the game better than most kids my year because of the experience I’ve had. I can help younger kids, build them up and teach them things they need to know for in-game situations.”

Senior guard Matty Dobbs

On what he brings his senior season:
“Enthusiasm I’d say. Because last year, coming off the bench if we ever needed a pump up I’d be that guy.”


Mountain View

2015-16 Record: 13-13

They said…

Head Coach BJ Roy

On how you go from potential to actual success:
“We started out with a plan. It’s followed through and now we are at the point where we need to take that step. We’ve got to take the step to not just play close games and be competitive but to finish games and to step forward and to take care of things in our region on a night in and night out basis.”

On the optimism surrounding the season:
“This is the most excited I’ve been since coming here because I feel like we are playing with a varsity team against varsity opponents night in and night out where in the past we’ve really been playing young.”

On seeing the program grow:
“We challenge our seniors: do you want to be remembered here? Because every other senior class has not been remembered because they’ve done nothing. We look in our gym, there’s not a boys basketball board in our gym because there’s been nothing. We tell our seniors if you want to be remembered here, make a difference. Be the first one and we are really trying to sell out this year to make a difference.”

Junior guard Miles Long

On how playing together year round benefits:
“I think we have a better chemistry playing with each other year round. We work together. We know where each other are going to be on the court and it helps us score and play better defense.”

Senior center Uchenna Nwagbara

On how playing together year round benefits:
“Same thing. Chemistry. I’ve been playing with them for two years now summer, spring and then season time so we know where everybody is going to be on the court.”

Junior guard Spencer Rodgers

On how playing together year round benefits:
“It’s real tight-knit. We know where each other are going to be. We
can keep pushing each other to be better.”


North Gwinnett

2015-16 Record: 6-20

They said…

Head Coach Matt Garner

On his first year as head coach:
“I think we didn’t meet our expectations. You can call it a rebuilding year, but we expected to win more than six games.

On what changes in Year 2:
“More experience all around, starting with the coaching staff. We have five seniors this year compared to only having three last year. We’re a bigger, faster, stronger team this year. Better athletes. Our freshman and sophomore classes are pretty loaded with guard play so we’re excited about them in the future. But we have three returning starters, last year we had none so I think that’s going to go a long way.”

Sophomore guard Cameron Rowland

On what he brings his sophomore season:
“I can bring distribution of the ball. I can bring talking too, because last year we weren’t really talking on defense or on offense. As a team we can talk more and build chemistry on the court and off the court.”

Senior guard Ethan Smith

On how he plans to be a leader:
“I’m more of a lead by example type guy, he’s [Maffei] probably the voice of the team most of the time. I think we work as a pretty good team of leaders.”

On the growth of Coach Garner:
“He’s definitely a little more poised this year.”

Senior center Brandon Maffei

On being a leader:
“We were captains last year, so I feel coming into this year players will respect us and look up to us and we can get them on track so we can get some wins this year.”


Peachtree Ridge

2015-16 Record: 19-11

They said…

Head Coach Keith Arrington

On how to build off last year’s 19-win season:
“We are going to be a little bit bigger, still not huge. Overall our size is a little bit better. Kids are working hard, lifting, shooting and working on their overall skill level. We’re just going to continue to grind it and work every day. It’s just what we do.”

On the team’s style of play:
“We are still a perimeter team but we are going to get it to the basket a little more than we have in the past. That size is going to help us a little bit more. We are going to share the ball and be an unselfish team. I don’t think we depend on one guy to help us score. We don’t have that one guy that has to get 20 for us to win.”

Junior guard Devin Vassell

On becoming a leader as an upperclassman:
“Just stepping up, it’s going to be a big challenge. Coming up from my last season playing JV and Varsity, now I have to be a leader on the varsity now. I feel like I can handle it.”

Senior guard Kristian Collins

On leading as a senior:
“I think the biggest challenge is going to be for the guys that haven’t had any varsity experience yet. Just getting them used to how we practice and play.”


Region 7-AAAAAAA


2015-16 Record: 20-9 

They Said…

Head Coach Greg Phillips

On whether or not the team’s defense has improved enough from last year:
“Yes and no. Obviously with these three [Durham, Cooks, Estime] they know what we are trying to do defensively, but like they both said we got to get our younger kids to buy into it. It’s those younger kids that will really determine how far we go. Because I know what I’m going to get out of these three, it’s the younger kids, if they can buy into it, will take us a lot farther.

On the strength of the team:
“Guard play and I’ve got to get out of their way. Some years you have to coach a little bit more and some years you need to just get out of their way and let them do them. I’ll be a little more hands-on with the younger guys, letting them understand the role these three are going to play.”

On sophomore Ian Hardy:
“He’s got a chance to [play a lot]. He dressed up some varsity last year towards the end of the year and like all young kids he’s got to be consistent. But if he is consistent, he’s got a chance to play a big role with these guys.”

Indiana-commit senior Al Durham, NJIT-commit senior Zach Cooks & senior Jay Estime

On how to get over the hump and win a state title:
Durham: “Let this fire that us not winning region, state, let that fire take us all the way back to the regular season. Every rep counts. Go harder than you did last year. Just hold everyone accountable and lead; we just got to show up every day and play.”

Cooks: “Last year was tough. Sweet 16. Just learning from last year, what it took to get to the Sweet 16 and just build off that. Lead the young kids, just take the weight and lead. Do as much as we can, we know what it takes. I’ts just having everybody else with us come on the journey.”

Estime: “Last year was pretty rough. We made it to the region championship, lost by three, it was tough. I agree with Al though, holding people accountable. Every rep counts, it’s just the little stuff that will bring us over the top.”

On how playing year round with the Southern Stampede helps:
Durham: “Basically we know each other like the back of our hand. We know what we want to do. What our next person wants to do. We know where to find each other, we know where we all are going to be. We know when he’s going to spot up, when he’s going to cut. We just all think alike now. We are all in sync. So that helps a lot when it comes to pulling weight, leading, so we are all on the same page.”

On leaving a legacy in their final season:
Durham: “It’s very important. It’s your last year, you don’t want to go out losing so basically the only option is to win. You got to leave it [the program] better than it was when you came in. We are trying to make this season memorable and leave a legacy here.”



2015-16 Record: 17-9

They said…

Head Coach Daniel Bowles

On how to build off last year’s 17-win season:
“You got to realize why we won and not just expect it. Just know that we won because we worked hard and bought into having a chip on our shoulder.”

On replacing point guard Micah Kinsey:
“It’ll be different the way we do things. Defensively, we will be a better team. He was a great individual defender and offensively we have to change some things. We just let these guys [Higginbotham, Smith, Parham] stand on the perimeter and let him create and find them for shots. They will have to work a little bit more to get stuff. You’re not going to replace him with just one guy.”

On senior forward Markus Smith:
“Markus is our X-factor. If Markus has a great year we are going to be pretty dang good. If he doesn’t, we are going to be in trouble.”

On replacing the size that transferred this offseason:
“We have some JV guys last year, a couple 6-5’s. We have some decent size but it kind of gives us the freedom to play a little bit faster. We are going to be a little bit more aggressive defensively, getting out and denying things.”


Central Gwinnett

2015-16 Record: 13-14

They said…

Head Coach Branden Mayweather

On the upcoming season:
“We are trying to build off last year getting into the state tournament. We’ve got some good pieces. Jalen Hillery is a heck of a player. He’s got to be ready night in and night out because everyone is going to be gunning for him. We definitely have a chance to be good, we really do.”

On losing JaQuan Morris back to Collins Hill:
“It would help [having him], but we didn’t have him all second semester last year. So we got used to kind of playing and working without him. I think we will be able to pick up the slack. I have some good young guards that I think could turn some heads.”

On players to watch this year:
“Jaylen Morgan from East Jackson. He’s super athletic, he’ll be one to watch. Got a good young guard named [junior] Bernard Kasanda. You walk in the room and he doesn’t impress you, but he does all the little things right. Got a good young freshman that can shoot it as well as any freshman in the state named Skylar Adams that will have a chance to carve out his own role.”



2015-16 Record: 26-4

They said…

Head Coach Jesse McMillan

On how to win their first state title since 2013:
“I think the biggest answer to that question will be sitting at this table right here. I know that that’s a goal they’ve [Hammonds, Thomas, Goldwire] had. All three of these guys have been with us for at least three years now and that’s something that they are reminded of every day. We have a sign in our locker room that says “Our expectations are not diminished” and it’s a picture of a state championship trophy. So we’re not going to shy away from that. We know it’s a big challenge this year but these are guys that have been working three and four years now for their senior year. I believe in them and I think we will be able to put them in a position to get some goals done.”

On getting the chance to play Greenforest again at Holiday Hoopsgiving:
“I feel from a coaching standpoint that we are a year older, a year wiser. These guys have been able to see some things on the AAU circuit that maybe has prepared them for some bigger, stronger teams. It’s an early season test that we’re excited about and win or lose, it’s going to be an opportunity for us to see where we are, two or three games into the season.”

On playing in a brand new region:
“It’s completely different. Now we are in a region that these guys have never played these teams before. When I first started coaching, they were in our region. Teams like Central Gwinnett, Parkview, Brookwood and Berkmar, so it’ll be fun in that regard because it’s going to be some gyms they’ve never been to before. I’m excited; this whole season is going to be new.

Senior power forward Lance Thomas

On losing to Westlake in the Sweet 16 and using it as motivation:
“Definitely. We are playing with a chip on our shoulder.”

On what junior JoJo Toppin brings to the mix:
“His energy just overall. His dancing, just smiling, joking. And on the court he just brings so much energy and plays so hard.”

Senior guard Jordan Goldwire

On losing to Westlake in the Sweet 16 and using it as motivation:
“I definitely think everyone has worked a lot harder. Because we know this is our last year, last chance to get a ring.”

On what junior JoJo Toppin brings to the mix:
“I definitely think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. Not necessarily people don’t really know him, but I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people with his athletic ability. He’s a real good player.”

Senior small forward Rayshaun Hammonds

On losing to Westlake in the Sweet 16 and using it as motivation:
“That’s basically all we talk about ever since we lost that game. We got to beat any team that’s in our way. We got to win state. It doesn’t matter if people are doubting us or anything like that. We’ve got to win state.”

On what junior JoJo Toppin brings to the mix:
“When he came into the program, coming from another school, he didn’t really know what was going on. We basically took him under our wing and showed him what to do and what not to do and how to become an older and more wiser player. Kind of like how to get ready for college. Take everything serious that you do, don’t take anything like a joke.”



2015-16 Record: 10-16

They said… 

Head Coach Nick Gast

On how to transition from a team with potential to becoming a contender:
“That’s the question for us right now.  I think what we did this summer and this fall, we’ve been really working at it and we’ve had some success, which is good but none of that matters until the season starts. That’s the big thing we’ve been talking about all year. Can we turn the potential and some of the hype maybe into actual wins on the court and success.”

On the strength of the team:
“Our biggest strength this year is going to be our depth. We’ve got 10 to 11 guys in our rotation that I expect to give good minutes this year. I’m hoping that we will be able to continue to throw waves at other teams as one group gets tired the next goes in. I also think we are going to be a very good shooting team this year.”

On incoming freshman forward Toneari Lane:
“He’s got great size, great athleticism. He’s very physical and knows how to play around the goal.”

Junior guard Cam Chavers

On having to lead as a junior:
“It’s a little bit of a burden. It’s a good thing.”

On Ahmir Langlais:
“He’s a big part of our success. He helps us out a lot rebounding and getting points in the paint.”

Junior guard Justin Spencer

On being a leader:
“This year I feel like I need to work on it a little bit more. This year I’m going to be more vocal and bring more energy to help us win.”

Sophomore forward Ahmir Langlais

On if there’s any pressure to produce and win games:
“There’s some pressure but we’re still looking good. I’m looking forward to the season. I’m here to play my role and follow these older ones and help us succeed as much as we can.”

On being able to go against older players who are physically stronger for a full season:
“I love a good challenge. I love playing people that are bigger than me, it makes me go harder. I just try to use my advantages over them.”


Region 8-AAAAAAA


2015-16 Record: 10-17

They said…

Assistant Coach Nate Hamilton

On senior forward Garrick Collins:
“Garrick’s a senior. He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met and he’s a super hardworking kid. Incredible motor, high skilled and high IQ.”

On sophomore point guard Brenden Tucker:
“Brenden is a 6-2 point guard that can jump out of the gym. He can do a lot of things. We work hard with him. We pick him up twice a week to workout. He’s got a lot of upside. He’s going to carry us.”

On the strength of the team:
“Guard play and effort. Technique and discipline. We don’t have five-stars like some of these other guys but we have some heart.”

Sophomore guard Brenden Tucker

On how to stay focused and keep improving:
“Come in the gym, stay humble and don’t worry about what other people say because you still got to work for what you got. I’m trying to get to the next level and working hard will get me to that next level.”

Senior forward Garrick Collins
On what he brings:
“My one goal by the end of this season is to make sure his [Tucker’s] leadership skills are where mine is. I want them to end up getting the ‘ship next year. This kid has the talent to lead them there. Me, all I know is being a leader. I’ve always been my own person. I see that in him.”



2015-16 Record: 22-8

They said…

Head Coach Geoffrey Pierce

On replacing Alphonso Willis and Austin Dukes:
“Collectively. Everybody that’s playing the year is going to be serving a new role. Everyone is going to have to come together and support each other because that was four years apiece of varsity experience. You’re not going to replace two players like that overnight with single individuals.”

On playing in a difficult region:
“You just have to focus on each game as they come. Before and after each game I tell them don’t get too high, don’t get too low. Don’t let one win or loss define your season because it’s a 25-game regular season. If you get too high beating someone in November and December then you come out and mess around after the break and go on a five game losing streak. You just have to go out and be even-keel.”

Sophomore guard Justin Fleming

On replacing Alphonso Willis and Austin Dukes:
“Yeah I’m ready. It’s some big shoes to fill. It’s just a bigger opportunity for me.”

Senior forward Joey Chavez

On having confidence his senior season:
“I think I’m ready. A lot of times last year I felt like I let Coach Pierce down because he put me in and I wouldn’t be ready. But this year I’m really looking forward to being ready whenever my number is called and to give whatever the team needs to win.”

On how to be ready when his number is called:
“I got experience last year so I know what to expect. I’m going to practice harder and be more consistent. I think I’ve grown since last year with my attitude.”

Senior power forward Kyle Butts:

On his role:
“I’m going to do whatever I need to do to help my teammates and please Coach Pierce. That’s really my main thing.”


South Gwinnett

2015-16 Record: 5-20

They said… 

Head Coach Ty Anderson

On how to bring South Gwinnett back to statewide prominence:
“I think it depends on the kids that we got. I can tell you this, we want to win a state championship. We start every year wanting to win a state championship. I don’t care if it’s my first year, fifth year or 50th year, the year we start not trying to win a state championship, they need to fire me. I know we got the guys that want to compete and get better. We’ve got the pieces. I’m excited, I think we have a special year in store for us.”

On describing his coaching style:
“Passion for sure. Passion for getting better, passion for winning. That includes everybody we’ve got on our team. Our entire team goes out there trying to beat somebody. It’s a collaborative effort, style we need to play, what we are comfortable doing, I’m always open to hear what my players have to say.”

On what his program’s identity is:
“Each team every year has their own identity and they may not even know what it is going into a year, but it forms. Each individual team is a living, breathing thing of its own. The biggest thing that we stress right now is we are going to be in shape. We’re going to play hard man-to-man defense every game, because those are the teams I grew up watching my granddad coach.”

On how his first year is coming along:
“I love it so far. I love it. My granddad is a Hall of Fame coach, I got two cousins that are coaching in college right now, I came from coaching in college. Coaching is very much in my blood. The best thing for me so far is just the people we have around us. The people have made it an excellent transition so far.”

Senior forward Brycen Lee

On how he would describe Coach Anderson’ coaching style:
“I feel like when you do something wrong he will yell at you, of course but he’s not just going to yell at you for no reason. He’s just trying to help you. He’s the type of coach if you do good, he’s going to tell you. He makes you feel good to play for him. We are going to feed off his energy and play harder.”


Region 8-AAAAAA


2015-16 Record: 19-7

They said… 

Head Coach Dr. Russell Triaga

On the strength the team:
“I actually think we will be more balanced this year than we have in the past in a sense that we have a couple of guys, ones a sophomore, the other is a junior who we think can score some around the basket. But these guys [Bethea, Goodson, Bishop] are different kinds of guards that they can get to the rim, they can play in the mid-range, it’s not like we are spreading out on the three-point line and seeing how many three-point shots we can take.”

On junior post Shayne Buckingham:
“We went down to Florida and he played really, really well down there. I think Shayne has just caught up to his body. He’s able to do so much more in a small area. He would get confused and his footwork would struggle a bit but he was really impressive throughout the summer time. I really think Shayne can take a big step forward, not only offensively but he’s had time to learn from other guys and he’s now that anchor in the middle of the defense for us.”

On the upcoming season:
“I’m excited. I’m looking forward to the group. I say it to everybody who comes through here that team chemistry and these nine guys have the best – and I’m not saying that in a derogatory term of guys who just graduated – it’s some of the best team chemistry and unity I’ve been able to coach in the last 10-12 years….It’s my fifth year here. If we find a way to get to 23 wins, that’s 100 wins in my five years. Not a lot of Gwinnett County schools have won 100 games in five years.”

On being one of only two Gwinnett County schools in a six team region:
“I think it sucks to be honest with you. It’s not so much who; I just don’t like a six-team region. I like the long region, I like the 14-16 region games, because I think over the course of that many games the better teams generally separate themselves from the teams that aren’t as strong. With 10 region games, you play all your region games in a matter of four weeks.”

On sophomore Mekhail Bethea:
“This kid right here is as good as anybody I’ve ever coached. To be completely honest with you, he’s beyond where the three who just left were when they were sophomores. [Dacula all-time leading scorer Kevon Tucker, Derek St. Hilaire, Demari Edwards]

Sophomore Mekhail Bethea

On his expectations entering his sophomore season:
“I’m just going to try to be a playmaker. I’ve been working on my hops so I’m going to try to get the crowd involved with some dunks this year. Just get everybody involved, score, just anything to win because I hate to lose. I love to win. I’m passionate about winning.”

Senior Gary Bishop

On his plans for his final season:
“We are going as far as we can in state. Like he [Triaga] was saying, trying to get him to 100 wins.”

Senior Justin Goodson

On his plans for his final season:
“Winning is the main thing. Play hard each and every day.”


2015-16 Record: 9-17

They said… 

Head Coach Jeremy Huckaby

On their style of play:
“We are going to be up and down. We’re going to have to be up and down and we’re going to have to be better than we were last year defensively. Our skillset is pretty good, but can our toughness match our skillset. We said it a lot last year. Our toughness has to let our skillset take over.”

On how to turn Lanier into more of a basketball school:
“I think Adrian said it. We need to play with a chip on our shoulder. We work our butts off. We come in and have had workouts at 6 A.M. in the morning. We work out in the afternoon. We got to take that work ethic and it’s got to translate to the floor and I think this is the year we do that.”

Junior guard Adrian Martin

On how to continue growing as a player:
“Come in with that chip on my shoulder that I have each and every year. I feel like now this year, I got to lead and now I’m an upperclassman, everyone is looking at what I am going to do for this team. Can we go to the state tournament, can we make a run. I’m trying to work hard every day to get to that goal.”

On junior point guard Christian Pasley:

“He’s going to run the show and show everybody what he can do.
He’s going to be our catalyst. Everything we do goes through him.”

Junior point guard Christian Pasley

On how chemistry with Adrian Martin helps:
“Chemistry is definitely there. I know how he plays, I know where he is on the court so for me, it’s just to find him. He’s a great shooter. I need to make sure he gets in his spots to be successful and for me to get other guys involved.”


Region 8-AAAAA


2015-16 Record: 16-12

They said…

Head Coach Eddie Martin

On how to build chemistry with new pieces:
“It’s about accountability. You’ve got to define roles and we’ve done that through the past. You can’t just do it one time and kind of forget about it. We’ve got to come back and do it again and again and again. I think if we define roles and everybody understands what their role is to help us be successful and we buy into that role, then everything comes together.”

On how to build Buford:
“It’s all about a process. You can’t skip steps in the process. You can’t become a good defensive team until everybody knows how to guard the ball, how they have to play help-side, that type of thing. I felt like last year, with a very inexperienced team, I felt like we got off to a rough start. We had some tough games to begin with but by the end of the year we were playing pretty well. So a lot of these kids being back helps that process along and you add some new faces in there. We feed off what the girls have done and what football has done, volleyball has done. You’ve got to feed off that. You can’t be jealous about that type of stuff you’ve got to feed off it. And to see that, helps raise these guys’ expectations too. These people are doing it, why can’t we? We can, we’ve just go about the process of getting it done.”

Senior center Sahil Patel

On what his job is:
“Making sure all our teammates are together. Last year everyone was inexperienced for the most part. Only Brandon Iverson and Will [Springer] had true varsity experience, so I think my job is to make sure everyone is doing what they need to do and everyone comes together with the new parts we have.”

On the excitement surrounding his final year:
“I’m definitely excited. I’d love to stick around for a couple more years and see how it all plays out because we have a bunch of young kids who are going to grow as players. It will be exciting to watch the next couple of years.”


Region 7-AAA

Greater Atlanta Christian

2015-16 Record: 17-11

They said…

Head Coach David Eaton

On maintaining a focus on the state playoffs while in region play:
“I think the schedule. We are going to play teams like St. Pius, Buford and we are going to a tournament in Charleston where there’s always some D.C. Catholic schools and Berkmar is going to be there. So I think playing teams like that are the type of teams we will really see in the state playoffs. And just the way we work out. It’s not really who we play, it’s about getting the most out of ourselves all the time.”

Senior forward Charlie O’Briant

On entering Year 2 under Coach Eaton:
“Last year was all new. We didn’t know his offensive stuff. This year we’re coming back for our second year so a lot of us returners know it and we are trying to teach the younger guys and their picking it up pretty quick.”

On dealing with adversity in Year 1:
“It was tough because it changed the whole style of how we played and how we approached what we did. This year I’m definitely excited. I think we are going to have a very tight team.”

Sophomore point guard Hunter McIntosh

On entering Year 2 under Coach Eaton:
“He’s more comfortable with everyone. He knows everyone in the program. Last year he was still meeting people and meeting new faces. Now it feels like he’s been here for the longest and now we have a new group coming up so this is all we know. I like the foundation that he’s set.”

On dealing with adversity in Year 1:
“It was partially a distraction but I feel like it kind of rallied our team. I think we learned from that and we grew from it.”

On being thrown into the fire as a freshman:
“From Day 1 it was more coming off the bench, more of a role player type. It did help. I always felt like I could do it [play varsity] but I didn’t have the opportunity. Just playing in that game [against HIES] gave me the confidence  this is where I belong, this is where I can stay.”


Region 5-A


2015-16 Record: 15-11

They said…

Head Coach Adam Griffin

On if there is pressure sliding over to head coach:
“I think responsibility wise, it’s the general ones. I don’t think it’s anymore pressure specifically when I played for Coach [Ryan] Hodges, so I’ve known him for 20 years. He came to me and said he was thinking about doing this [moving from head coach to assistant]. I don’t feel it’s anymore pressure packed and I’m fortunate enough to say that I have a very good group of kids, which makes that transition really easy when you feel like you don’t need to change big cultural things.”

On what he takes away from his 20 years of knowing Coach Hodges:
“I think he’s very good about being very detail oriented. He changes how you look at a scouting report, preparation stuff. Certainly in the first couple of years that was my big learning curve working for him, was how he likes to go about preparation and if it’s not broke you don’t fix it.”

On senior Sean McDonough:
“I think he’s as good as any shooter in the county. He’s coming off of a medical procedure last year that limited him to most of the season just coming out of it. He wasn’t really supposed to play last year so he was playing on than a full couple of wheels. I think we will really get a chance to see what he can do. He’s a workman-like senior whether it be in the weight room, in the classroom or in the gym, he’s a great leader by example. I think teams are always going to need to know where he is.”

On junior Christian McLean:
“Christian’s our leading scorer that led us as a sophomore. He went from freshman, who by mid-season was full-time varsity and getting a ton of playing time to within a year being our leading scorer.

On the strength of the team:
“I think No. 1 for us is our team speed. We are very fast and we can really run. We have a lot of kids that are having very good football seasons, in fact the entire receiver core is our starting backcourt and starting center. So we can run and we can really shoot the basketball. I think we will probably pressure more than we have the last couple of years because our personal allows us to do that. I think we will surprise some people early in the year.”


Region 8-A

Hebron Christian

2015-16 Record: 20-9

They said…

Head Coach Derrick Heberling

On expectations heading into Year 1:
“We are reloading. A lot of good talent over at Hebron so we’re defining roles and learning how we can contribute. It’s going to be a fun year. We have a lot of young and inexperienced talent but we gained a lot of experience through the summer and through our fall league.”

On senior guard Wesley Warbington:
“He’s our point guard. He’s going to be one of our biggest leaders. He’s a great kid. He understands the game of basketball.”

On senior forward John Stewart:
“John is silent, he doesn’t say a whole lot but you don’t see him coming. He’s a ballplayer. He can flat out go.”

On their style of play this year:
“We are going to try and play fast. Surprisingly we are very athletic over at Hebron so we are going to try and push the tempo. We are about 10-deep on our varsity.”

On seeing his old school Central Gwinnett at Media Day:
“It is [a little strange], but it’s good though. I miss those guys. They are great kids; Branden [Mayweather] does a great job. I’ve learned so much from him but it’s exciting.”

Senior guard Wesley Warbington

On how to win the region:
“We are a different team this year. We have a different style of play. We ran a 1-3-1 last year. We are going to bring a lot of different stuff that Lakeview [Academy] hasn’t seen from Hebron.”


 Providence Christian

2015-16 Record: 7-19

They said…

Head Coach Chris Clark

On the season outlook:
“We’ve got a lot of young kids. We’ve graduated four starters from last year. We’re kind of inexperienced at the varsity level but we are going to work very hard. We have a lot of kids that are willing to put in that extra work. We are going to try to change up our style and play a little bit faster than a lot of teams in our region.”

On playing in a region without a statewide powerhouse:
“That’s the good thing because last year I felt like we were really competitive in all our region games. Lakeview Academy won our region last year and without one of our starters, we were winning in the fourth quarter but just kind of didn’t have enough energy to finish the game off. If we’re playing that well against the best team in our region, I feel confident to compete and beat any team in our region.”

GHSA Class AAAAA Preview



Region 1

Warner Robins (21-3)
Bainbridge (21-9)4A
Harris County (9-16)
Thomas County Central (5-21)4A
Veterans (3-23)4A 

The last team to beat Miller Grove in the state playoffs? Warner Robins in 2014-15. The Demons are the only hiccup in the Wolverines’ seven state titles in eight years. Last year, Warner Robins lost only three games but was bounced too soon, losing in the Sweet 16 to Southwest DeKalb, 65-60. Marquez Callaway is off to Tennessee to play football while 6-foot-8 Donovan Brown is set to play at Columbia State.  Juniors Jacolbey Owens (10 ppg) and Nelson Phillips (12 ppg) are next in line to lead the Demons. Owens is a big shot maker while Phillips is a long wing that can defend the ball well and create his own shot. Junior guard Champ Dawson moves in after averaged 10.8 points at First Presbyterian Day and will make an immediate impact to a young and talented backcourt. Jaron Zanders (6 ppg), Jaydon Norman (5 ppg) and Jam’l Dillard (4 ppg) round out a rising junior class.

Terry Smith takes over the reins at Bainbridge after coaching at Peach County. It will be a challenging task as UGA signee Tyree Crump, DeVonte Jones, Trevon Shaw and Myles Thomas all graduate. Senior D’Anta Williams should see the scoring burden placed on his shoulders after averaging 7.8 points and 5.6 rebounds as a 6-foot-4 guard.

Harris County and Head Coach Patavious Sorrell lose a pair of 17-point per game scorers in Donald Johnson III and Jaylyn Richardson. Junior 6-foot-2 guard Riqueito Leonard IV and 6-foot-7 senior Aquavious Fanning are the foundation of the Tiger team. Leonard averaged 11.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals while Fanning averaged a double-double and blocked nearly four shots a game. Senior three-point specialist AJ Coker moves into the starting lineup after serving as sixth man last year. He shot 45% from three in 2015-16. Guards Tre Terry and Tailique Williams are set to make their full-time debuts on the varsity squad and will bring with them tenacious perimeter defense.

Thomas County Central exits a deep 11-team Region 1-AAAA for the smaller five-team group in Region 1-AAAAA. The Yellow Jackets had to deal with five teams with 19 wins or more last season and should see a little more success this year. 5-foot-7 junior guard Tae Cooksey led the team in scoring at 9.9 points. 5-foot-11 senior Berle Jones should round out the backcourt after netting 6 points on average.

Veterans flopped to 3-23 last year, but talent returns for the Warhawks. Veterans will be anchored by a pair of seniors: 6-foot-7 Josh Linder and 6-foot guard Dathan Boyd. Linder averaged over 13 points and 12 rebounds while Boyd led the team in scoring with upwards of 14 points a night. The slender and active forward committed to Georgia State over the summer. The Warhawks will be under new leadership as Nick Brooks, a former Warner Robins assistant, assumes the head coaching job.


Region 2

Statesboro (22-9)
New Hampstead (17-11)4A
Ware County (17-14)
South Effingham (7-19)
Wayne County (4-24)4A

Statesboro had its ups and downs last year in Region 3-AAAAA, a region that featured six teams with 17 or more wins. It looked as if the Blue Devils had peaked at the right time but Statesboro fell in the Region title game to Camden County. They quickly rebounded, beating Cross Creek in the opening round of the state playoffs and looked destined to upset Riverwood in the Sweet 16, but the Raiders held the Blue Devils to just 13 points in the second half as Riverwood stormed back for a wild and controversial 48-47 victory. For the 2016-17 season Statesboro will rely on its guard play led by 6-foot-2 senior Marcus Kirkland. Kirkland along with junior Tyler Goodman worked well in the offseason together. Statesboro is at its best when they are knocking down threes.

New Hampstead set a school-record in wins with 17 last year under the guidance of Coach Tonya Mackey. Since opening in 2012, Mackey has overseen the steady progress of the Phoenix basketball team. In fact, the now fifth-year school has made the postseason every year except for its inaugural season. The Phoenix earned their first postseason win last year as they upset Upson-Lee, 73-56 as a No. 4 seed. New Hampstead returns its top seven leading scorers, six of which are now seniors led by the dazzling play of 5-foot-7 lefty Oronte Anderson. Anderson poured in 22.1 points and added 4.6 assists as a junior. The dynamo long-distance sniper hit on 63-of-102 threes for a 62% rate. Joining the attack is 6-foot-6 Xavier Jones (14.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg) and Calvin Turner Jr. (12.8 ppg).

Ware County surged into the playoffs winning 11-straight games before dropping three straight to finish the season with an 89-61 loss to Warner Robins in the first round. Senior guard JeMar Lincoln finished up a strong junior campaign and will be the presumed go-to guy now that Michael Flynn has graduated. Jared Richardson, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, also returns as an important piece moving forward.

South Effingham’s returning leading scorer will be senior Derrick Newberry who pitched in over 6 points per game. The Mustangs graduate six seniors including top scorers Travis Simmons and Ben Brennan. Five sophomores suited up last year and should be in line to make contributions in 2016-17.

Wayne County will try to be more competitive this season after hiring Lemetrice Ray. The Yellow Jackets haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. Though they only won four games last year, the Jackets scored major upsets of Ware County, 65-47 and Long County, a 20-win team, 74-64.


Region 3

McIntosh (29-3)
Morrow (22-8)
Fayette County (15-12)4A
Whitewater (14-11)4A
Starr’s Mill (12-12)
Riverdale (10-15)4A
Griffin (7-18)4A 

The most successful era in McIntosh basketball came to a close after losing to Miller Grove in the Class AAAAA Final Four, 72-52. Jordan Lyons (Furman), Dishon Lowery (Wofford), Will Washington, Isaac Kellum, Chase Walter all graduate; the Chiefs’ entire starting five. The future of the program now lies within 6-foot-7 shooter Cole Guenther. The rising junior is long and lanky and can catch fire with the best of them. It will be interesting to see him in his new found expanded role. If Guenther can add some more weight onto his frame and continue to build his confidence, the sniper could warrant some college looks. Guenther put on a three-point exhibition with Furman on hand to watch and has a handful of schools starting to lineup to track his progress. Senior forward Ben Bryant along with guards Will Strowman, Jaylen Holloway and Mitch Maxwell return with varsity experience.

Morrow was ahead of schedule last year with a young team, improving from 10-15 to 22-8. The Mustangs edged Shaw in overtime 57-55 in the opening round of the state playoffs before dropping to Allatoona 52-41. Junior guards Leviticus Glover and Keion Shinka-Parris spearhead the attack. Glover poured in 17 points per game while Shinka-Parris tossed in 11.1. Inside, 6-foot-5 senior forward Stanley Henderson averaged 13 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Di’Jon Brown also brings firepower to the table, scoring over 8 points per game and earning All-County Honorable Mention honors. With a now proven core still intact, the Mustangs could emerge as the team to beat in Region 3.

The reigning Region 5-AAAA Player of the Year, Furman-commit Noah Gurley, will try to help Fayette County make another trip back to the Sweet 16. The Tigers upset Buford 69-62 and later fell to Monroe in overtime, 72-67. Gurley, 6-foot-7, blossomed into a D-I prospect his junior season after earning Most Improved Player honors for AAAA. He averaged 16.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. Senior guards Austin Nesmith (9 ppg, 5.5 apg) and Phillip Young (8.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) will join Gurley after second-leading scorer Jaylon Cheffin has graduated and Eric Williams has transferred to Sandy Creek.

Whitewater is in search for a new go-to guy on offense and some leadership after their top five scorers – all seniors – graduate. 6-foot-3 senior forward Jordan Wright posted 5.7 points and 6.0 rebounds a game last year and will likely be a focal point along with senior Josh Anthony and junior Josh Graham.

Starr’s Mill is next in line to breakthrough and make the playoffs sooner rather than later. The young team has gone through its growing pains but still managed to post a 10-8 record in Region 4-AAAAA last year. Junior guard Zach Pina leads the attack, averaging 15.5 points per game and 2.6 assists. He was named All-County last year following his Freshman Region Player of the Year honors in 2014-15. He had help from rising sophomore 6-foot-4 Nate Allison, who went for 12.2 points and 6.5 rebounds as a freshman. Allison followed in Pina’s footsteps, winning Region Freshman of the Year for 4-AAAAA. The inside-out punch also features junior Drew Hudson who chipped in 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. At 6-foot-5, Hudson poses matchup problems with his ability to shoot the long ball, rebound and defend. Only three seniors graduate from last year’s team. A winning record would be their first since 2012-13 when the Panthers finished 18-11.

Coach Derick Powell has taken baby steps in returning Riverdale back to its glory days. In his first year back on the sidelines, Powell directed the Raiders to a 10-15 season after Riverdale finished 6-18 in Xavier Trice’s final year. All five starters return for their senior years headlined by All-County Honorable Mention selections Jonathan Foster, James Johnson and Jeran Walton.

Willie Reese takes over as head coach at Griffin after a one-year stint at Meadowcreek.  The Bears have some talent for a 7-win team. 7-foot senior center Tyshaun Crawford is a late bloomer starting to come into his own. He committed to Georgia Southern and will be a long term project with an interesting ceiling. Right now the raw big man is a space eater that alters shots and has become more aggressive attacking loose balls and scoring inside. He averaged 9.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks as a junior.  Tyrique Williams is a 6-foot-5 senior forward that led the team in scoring with 9.5 points and 5.2 rebounds. Junior Darrell Evans added 6.7 points and rising sophomore point guard Jacarlin Dennis pitched in over 6 points on average.


Region 4

Eagle’s Landing (24-5)4A
Stockbridge (14-10)
Woodland-Stockbridge (14-10)
Jones County (16-13)
Dutchtown (11-15)
Union Grove (9-16)
Locust Grove (9-17)4A
Ola (3-20)
Hampton (0-26)4A

Eagle’s Landing saw a fantastic season destroyed in the first round of the state playoffs, losing to Bainbridge 80-49. The Eagles must replace top two leading scorers Jordan Lewis (15.6 ppg) and Antonio Gibson (11 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Back are young guards Tarrence Evans and Chris Hood who both produced as underclassmen. Evans averaged 10.2 points as a sophomore while Hood netted 7.8 points per game as a 6-foot-3 freshman. New to the fold is 6-foot-8 center Mohammed Abubukar who transfers in from Hamilton Heights, TN. The recent North Carolina A&T-commit is a major post presence that has a nice skill set inside and could become a game-changer with steady guard play around him. He is comfortable attacking from the high post, getting to the basket and has shown confidence in launching from the three-point line. The Eagles also added All-County First Team selection junior guard Brandon Thomas. The 6-foot-3 shooter averaged close to 18 points per game at region foe Locust Grove and has earned interest from D-I schools in the southeast with his pure jumper, netting an offer from Kennesaw State.

Virgil Fields and JaDon Davis take their talents to Albany State after starring in the backcourt for Stockbridge. The duo put up video-game like numbers, Davis averaging 23 points and Fields going for 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Next in line to take over looks like Kavonte Ivery, a 6-foot-6 forward that averaged 11.1 points as a sophomore.

Woodland-Stockbridge loses some of its top scoring options but junior Jaylyn Clark and senior JayQuan Coles are expected back. Coles, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive tackle on the football team, averaged 7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds as a space eating post. Senior Benjamin Ross is a high-flying wing that brings energy to the Woodland perimeter.

Jones County made a run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 4 seed, upsetting Camden County 66-62 before falling to Mays 70-68. The Greyhounds lose a lot from their explosive offense with Devin Wooten (23.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.1 apg), Landravious Bowden (16.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Jayvaugn Patterson (13 ppg, 5.6 rpg) all graduating. Junior forward Kylan Hill’s transfer to Central-Macon hurts as well as he led the team in rebounding at 7.6 while averaging 8.9 points. Coach’s son, Dennis Woolfolk Jr., returns for his senior season after posting 5.6 points and 6.2 assists per game. Help could be on the way as Wooten’s younger cousin, Bryson Wooten, is set to attend Jones County for his freshman year. The 5-foot-10 guard could see playing time as a freshman after putting together a nice summer with 14U Macon United HypeSouth Elite.

Jamal Basit looks to steer Dutchtown in the right direction in his first year as head coach after a stay at South Gwinnett. Bryce Parks is in place for his senior season after averaging over 11 points per game. Parks works hard on both ends of the floor and isn’t afraid to facilitate. He will need some help around him as Que Askew and Innocent Onyegbula have both graduated as top scoring options.

With their top five leading scorers coming back, Union Grove has its sights set on making some noise and sneaking up on some teams. The Wolverines put together a 22-2 summer, winning their respective tournaments at Florida State and Georgia College. Junior guard Wesley Simpson is the catalyst after averaging 11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals as a sophomore. Senior Jeffrey Crawford returns his 7.5 points per game as well as senior Austin Atkins who posted 7.3 points on average. The play of 6-foot-6 senior Braelen Bridges inside could be an X-factor if the post is able to control the paint after averaging 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Locust Grove continues to regroup behind rising 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard Renarldo Smith, who earned Honorable Mention for his play. The loss of Brandon Thomas is huge.

Ola returns juniors Chris Rodriquez (10.2 ppg) and Kaelon Hinton (9.8 ppg) along with senior post Bevon Wray (6.9 ppg) to a team that managed just 1-win in Region 4-AAAAA.

Hampton enters Year 3 of existence and comes off a 0-26 season following a 3-23 mark in their inaugural 2014-15 season. Senior guard Jaylen Love led the team in scoring as a junior at 11.2 points per game. Rising seniors David Brown and SirVetus Ratcliff were the team’s second and third leading scorers with over five points per game.


Region 5

Miller Grove (31-3)
Lithonia (26-5)4A
Southwest DeKalb (25-6)
Columbia (14-13)4A
Arabia Mountain (10-16)4A
Chamblee (7-19)4A
Clarkston (6-18)
Cross Keys (0-22)4A

Miller Grove captured its seventh state title in eight years with a 50-48 win over Allatoona, but life will be much different now that Head Coach Sharman White has taken his unparalleled success to Georgia State where he is now an assistant. Rasul Chester gets the nod as head coach after spending one season as the head man at Stephenson after years of being an assistant on White’s staff at Miller Grove. Guard play will once again power the Wolverines but a new lead dog has to step up with McDonald’s All-American Alterique Gilbert (UConn) and Aaron Augustin (Stephen F. Austin) gone. Aidan Saunders and Colin Young were also integral pieces while 6-foot-6 forward Raylon Richardson begins his college football career at UAB. Back is Tae Hardy, an explosive senior guard who now steps out of the shadows of Gilbert and Augustin. White described Hardy before last season as, “quietly kept as probably one of the best players in the state with his ability and what he can do with the basketball.” Hardy averaged 16.5 points per game at Southwest DeKalb before moving over to rival Miller Grove his junior season. The instant offense 6-foot-3 guard should balloon his scoring average which was 9.4 points last year. Top perimeter defender, senior Joshua Jackmon, is on the mend after tearing his ACL this summer. Jackmon’s athleticism can change games and he is a great rebounder for a 6-foot-3 guard. He posted 5.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per contest. He is not yet 100%, but hopes to be soon. Sophomore guards Jalen Mason and Maurice Harvey seem poised to take the mantle as the next leaders of the pack moving forward. Junior AJ Bey and seniors Lorenzo Anderson and George Wilson provide depth and scoring as well at guard. Inside, 6-foot-7 junior Kevin Paige has increased his production and 6-foot-6 sophomore Tworn Seals is a rising prospect that is polishing his game around the rim. Seals has the body but his skillset isn’t at a level where he can be an impact player just yet. Added to the mix is Arabia Mountain transfer Jermon Clark. The 6-foot-7 junior post averaged 5.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. He will be a nice piece that should have a chance to start while Seals continues to work on his craft.

Lithonia was loaded last year and came away with the Region 6-AAAA title, the best region in Class AAAA.  The Bulldogs took a trip to the Final Four but fell to eventual state champion Liberty County, 81-68 after falling in an early 16-0 hole. It looks like it could be a rebuilding year as Jacara Cross (Jacksonville State), Rodney Chatman (Chattanooga), Tyleen Patterson and Tyheem Freeman all graduate. The most experienced players returning are senior guards Robert Hatchett III and Cortez Roberson, two guards that will be asked to carry the offense while rising juniors Sydarius Stinson and Ziven Alexander could see bigger roles this year.

Southwest DeKalb bowed out of the Class AAAAA playoffs in the Elite Eight with a 56-44 loss to Allatoona. 6-foot-4 forward Keith Gilmore was a tough cover and averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists his senior season. Nathaniel Ambersley also leaves a void graduating his 12.5 points and 4.7 assists. Lastly, center TiQuan Lewis (10.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is also off to college. Diminutive 5-foot-7 senior point guard Darius Hogan is the team’s returning leading scorer. The streaky shooter hit a team-best 68 threes at a 37% rate on his way to averaging 8.8 points. Junior Mandarius Dickerson is an improving playmaker that should put together a nice season after posting 7.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Dickerson is teetering on the verge of solidifying himself as a D-I prospect. Two other juniors, Quincy Carter and Joshua Archer, bring quickness and potential to the Panther backcourt.

It’s hard to find a school that made a bigger splash than Columbia. Following an uninspiring 14-13 finish and an 8-10 mark in Region 6-AAAA, Coach Kerry Sandifer has stepped aside making way for 5-time state champion Dr. Phillip McCrary, who returns to Columbia after spending 25 seasons (1988-2012) on the bench, compiling a 546-185 (.746%) record. The Eagles return a long and athletic lineup bolstered by three transfers. Senior team captain Jalen “JJ” Cobb averaged a team-high 11.7 points as a junior guard. Rising juniors TJ Boykin and Lorenzo McGhee look ready to explode onto the high school scene after strong seasons with 16U Southern Stampede. McGhee, a 6-foot-4 guard, is an all-around scorer, able to get to the hoop with ease and can bury the three when open. He is also effective on the glass both defensively and offensively. Boykin, 6-foot-6, is a versatile wing player that disrupts passing lanes with his length. Cobb, Boykin and McGhee will be joined in the starting lineup by seniors Kenton Eskridge (Tucker) and Reyhan Cobb (Pius XI, WI). Eskridge starred with the crosstown Tigers as their leading scorer last year. The barrel-chested point guard can bowl over smaller defenders when attacking the cup. Eskridge ran with 17U Southern Stampede and played with and against some of the best players in the nation. Cobb played with Columbia his sophomore season before moving to Wisconsin where he averaged 10.7 points as a junior. The 6-foot-7 shot blocker provides energy, able to run the floor well and finish in transition. He will anchor the Eagles in the paint. 6-foot-7 freshman Joshua Taylor moves in from Holy Spirit Prep and represents a potential gem down the road that should make an impact in Year 1. He has a nice skillset, able to handle the ball in spurts and knock down jumpers. If Columbia can put it all together and build some depth behind its talented starting five, the Eagles should challenge for the region crown and have a chance for a postseason run.

A nucleus of Darius Giles, Jordan Sterling and Jamal Middleton should net Arabia Mountain some wins in a tough region. Giles, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, averaged a team-high 14.3 points last year. Sterling, a junior, averaged 8.5 points while Middleton, a senior, chipped in 5.1 points, 3 rebounds and 1.8 steals. The trio will be tested night in and night out and must hold their own. The loss of 6-foot-7 big man Jermon Clark will hurt the Rams’ interior defense.

Chamblee returns senior guard Odell Ferrell as their top scorer. Dazz Riggins and 6-foot-5 Glenn Robinson will be relied upon heavily in their final seasons as well. Robinson is a double-double threat after collecting five his junior season and provides toughness inside for the Bulldogs.

The Clarkston Angoras haven’t notched a winning record since 1988 – 28 years. The Angoras do however have a hidden gem in 6-foot-3 senior guard AJ McNeil. The sweet shooting and explosive athlete averaged 16 points per game and blocked 1.3 shots a night. McNeil broke out with 17U Team EAT this summer and has put himself in a nice position to continue his upward trajectory. The only problem is he hasn’t had much help, the Angoras scoring only 46.8 points per game last year. Running mate Mo Musa does return however for his senior season after averaging 10.8 points at point guard.

Cross Keys has lost an astounding 99-straight games dating back to 2012. Valiant efforts have been put forth by good coaches over the past five years with Arabia Mountain’s Dedrick Whiting the last coach to win a game back in 2011. Whiting’s final two seasons saw him go 0-35 while Kingston Clark, the current Woodstock head coach who brought the Wolverines their first playoff berth in 20 years in his first season at the helm, finished 0-41 from 2014-15. Last year it was Ron Jackson’s turn to feel the Indian woes, going 0-22. Cross Keys lands Duane Kelley, former Stockbridge and Alcovy head coach, who will try to resurrect the program. There is no light at the end of the tunnel yet. The Indians haven’t finished above .500 since 2006.


Region 6

Riverwood (29-2)
Grady (28-4)4A
Jackson-Atlanta (15-14)3A
Carver-Atlanta (10-12)
Decatur (11-15)3A
Lithia Springs (10-18)
North Springs (6-18)
Banneker (5-21)

After dominating with a stingy defense (46.5 ppg) and a workhorse inside in 6-foot-7 Kohl Roberts (16.1 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 3.1 spg, 4.3 bpg), Riverwood will lean on its guard play following a school-record 29-win season. Coach Buck Jenkins’ son, Elijah, broke through his junior season as an up-and-coming college prospect. Jenkins averaged 4.4 points as a sophomore but last year honed his three-point shot and became one of the best shooters in the state, going 89-of-194 from beyond the arc, hitting at a 46% rate on his way to averaging 11.9 points. Jenkins, 6-foot-3, has good genes as his father is the All-Time leading Scorer at Columbia University. Jenkins committed to Embry-Riddle this past weekend. Also in the backcourt is senior Charnchai Chantha.  Chantha returned to Georgia after spending his sophomore year at Hamilton Heights, TN and brought with him a toughness versatile scoring attack. He hit 40% of his threes and finished averaging 10 points per game along with his team-high 4.9 assists. Both Jenkins and Chantha are proven commodities. The play of Amir Smith, Christian Sutton, Josh Brown and Nassir Mohammed will prove vital. Smith, a senior, steps into play important minutes in the backcourt now that Elijah Johnson has graduated. Sutton, a rising junior, did some good things this summer while Brown and Mohammed fill the gap left by Roberts. Brown is a springy 6-foot-6 senior while Mohammed is still growing into his body as a 6-foot-6 junior who hit a major growth spurt this past year. Last year scoring lulls killed the Raiders at times, but their defense carried them when they hit dry spells. When the Raiders are knocking down their three-ball, they can beat anyone. When they have an off night, Riverwood has to grind teams out which they did successfully in 2015-16.

Grady finished with a school-record 28 wins and advanced to the Class AAAA Final Four. The Knights however, were forced to vacate 10 wins, victories from January 26 on, for an ineligible player. Nonetheless, Grady put forth one of the best surprise seasons in the state even though expectations were high. Region Player of the Year Avi Toomer is off to Bucknell and will force Class AAAA Coach of the Year Brian Weeden to find a new go-to guy. A logical choice would be 6-foot junior guard DJ Brittian. The electrifying athlete averaged 9.7 points and 2.3 steals. He will be in charge of heading Grady’s lightning quick defense. The Knights will be small and quick this year with one of the youngest lineups in the region. Three to four freshmen are expected to contribute right away and see time in the starting lineup. Weeden’s incoming ninth graders will be the tallest players on the team aside from Louisville tight end commit Kemari Averrett, a 6-foot-7 presence in the low post who is still deciding whether or not to play basketball his senior season.

Jackson-Atlanta snuck its way into the playoffs by stunning 22-3 Westminster in the Region 4-AAA tournament, 53-48. JaQuavius Hayes rides momentum into his junior season after the 6-foot-6 post was named Most Improved Player in Class AAA, posting 21.9 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks per game. Senior guards Michael Graham (8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Quincy Gonzales (8.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.9 apg, 3 spg) surround Hayes. Travis Williams, a former head coach at Tennessee State, brings superior wisdom to the sidelines.

Carver-Atlanta attempts to build around seniors Patrick Hudson, Kenny Atkins and sophomore Demontra Hudson after the program failed to notch a winning record.

Terrill Hall, a dynamic three-sport athlete, powers Decatur. The 6-foot-4 senior averaged a team-high 14.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Next in line will be Dennis Bell, a senior power forward that chipped in 7.8 points per game. Uriah Pickens, a 6-foot-2 guard, is cleared to play his senior season after transferring from Clarkston and having to sit out. He had a very nice showing at the SEBA Atlanta All-Star Shootout.

Lithia Springs graduates their double-double machine, 6-foot-3 James Williams who posted 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game his senior season. Senior Ceaunte Zachary returns with the most experience and success on the varsity level after averaging 8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals. The combo guard is a nuisance defensively and thrives in the open floor.

A nice core is in place for North Springs as the Spartans are expected to return their top five scorers. Junior guard Vinnicius Viana led the way in scoring as a sophomore at 13.1 points while rising 6-foot-4 senior Grant Showell followed suit at 10.1 points, 9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. 6-foot-4 junior Josh Smith, a baseball player, chipped in 5.3 points his sophomore season.

Banneker loses 6-foot-4 post Cramonta Snell, a Region 6-AAAAA Second Team selection. Snell averaged 14.5 points and 9.6 rebounds his final season. Along with Snell, in total the Trojans graduate their top seven scorers. 5-foot-1 point guard Deshon Astin is the team’s returning leading scorer at 3.5 points per game. Former North Springs head coach Carlos Cliett will try to turn Banneker’s fortunes around.


Region 7

Villa Rica (18-10)
Kell (16-13)
Rome (13-11)
Carrollton (13-15)4A
Cass (10-16)
Hiram (11-19)
Woodland-Cartersville (5-19)
East Paulding (5-21)
Paulding County (5-21)

Villa Rica put together a great 2015-16 season and nearly upset Gainesville in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs before falling 68-62. County Player of the Year Tye Hill (16.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg) headlines one of three huge losses. Also gone are Justus McWilliams (13.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg) and Noah Smith (12.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg). The Wildcats will go back to an up-tempo aggressive style of play that will be paced by a trio of senior guards in Rodney Thomas, Nigel Taylor and RJ Williams. Williams provides versatility as a 6-foot-3 pass-first point guard that can play passing lanes and help on the glass. Thomas is a strong outside shooter that has improved his dribble-drive game and is a leader on the team. Taylor is another tenacious on-ball defender that can get past his man on offense. Joining the trio is junior Javonte Hart, a high-IQ point guard that Coach Jason Robinson simply describes as a “winner”. Left-handed senior Jamarcus Middlebrooks is an energetic defender that plays above the rim while Adrian Sanchez and Jacob Forrester both stretch defenses from beyond the arc. Lattrel Swanigan could be an X-factor with his scoring touch. He averaged close to 20 points per game on the JV as a sophomore.

Kell earned a state playoff berth behind the play of emerging 6-foot-8 power forward Brian Thomas. Thomas saw his stock skyrocket in the offseason with 17U Game Elite before a foot injury slowed him down in the latter months. Thomas committed to Florida Gulf Coast after posting 16 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks per game at Kell. Seniors Demetris Page, Caelon Ball and Wayne Bryant support Thomas while rising juniors Savvon Delgado and Jahwan Smith should see increased roles. Coach Jermaine Sellers has overseen the steady improvement of the program while JV Coach Chris Marcusky has helped with the development of the younger Longhorns.

Rome graduates key players Jai Creamer, Daniel Reyes and Trey Driver. Guard Jaden Rivera returns as one of the Wolves’ top options.

After losing in the state championship in 2014-15, last season Carrollton slipped to 13-15 overall. Top scorers Jarel Rowe and Desmond Webb both graduate leaving Carson Culverhouse as Coach Tim Criswell’s grizzled veteran. The 5-foot-11 shooter is lethal when left open and can carry the Trojans. He brings a toughness and a confidence to Carrollton who is rebuilding behind the likes of sophomores Caleb Mitchell and Trevon Reddish and junior Jeffery Johnson. Freshmen Melvin Edwards and Marcellious Lockett represent a bright future. Both youngsters played well at the HoopSeen Elite Preview, battling against older players. Lockett posted 11 points, five rebounds and four assists against the likes of Jarred Godfrey (Sandy Creek), Trey Stevens (Hillgrove) and Jalyn McCreary (Kennesaw Mountain). Lockett dropped 41 points as a 6-foot scorer at the Future150 Atlanta Main Event in April. Edwards, 6-foot-2, is an active defender with a knack for blocking shots.

Cass scrapped its way to a 10-16 mark under young first-year head coach David Brock. The Colonels showed signs of improvement coming down the stretch however. Gone is Bartow County Co-Player of the Year Mike Sims but Ashton Burley and CJ Bennett compose a steady and often explosive backcourt. Burley enters his junior season after putting together a nice summer with 17U Active Elite while Bennett is back for his senior season following an All-County selection along with Burley.

Hiram graduates eight seniors including 6-foot-8 Alcorn State signee Devon Brewer who led the Hornets with 10 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Coach Darius Hodge’s returning leading scorer is senior guard Elijah Hoffman who averaged 2.4 points.

Woodland-Cartersville took some thumpings last year but hope they will be better for it in the future. Top players Jonathan Pritchett, Jarvis James and Brady Jernigan all graduate.  Returning starters senior guard Camden Royal and sophomore Justice Hayes will play big roles as the Wildcats’ most experienced duo. Seniors Trevor Knowles, Jaden Pressley and sophomore Jaylen Ballard project to get major minutes. Colman Roberts, former girls head coach, looks to build a winning culture.

Joby Boydstone’s “System” didn’t work out in Year 1 at East Paulding. The Raiders averaged 71.6 points per game but allowed 85. Four of East Paulding’s five wins came by 20+ points, but 14 of their losses came by 20+ as well. Football star Jalen Browder poured in 20.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a junior. Outside of Browder, the Raiders’ next returning leading scorer is senior Caleb Ivey who pitched in 5.6 points.

Paulding County moves on from Malik Rush who averaged 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Seniors Dionte Ruffin and Dawson Kramer are the returning leading scorers. Ruffin averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 rebounds. Kramer, a 6-foot-4 post, added 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. Sophomore guard Jamal McIver saw quality playing time as a freshman and posted 4.7 points a night. Junior Vance Anderson brings help at the wing. Anchoring the paint is massive 6-foot-8, 285-pound senior center Marcus Austin. The immovable post has been working on his conditioning after averaging 4.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. Austin is still extremely raw but has shown progress with his back to the basket on offense.


Region 8

Cedar Shoals (29-3)
Walnut Grove (24-5)4A
Flowery Branch (16-11)
Buford (16-12)4A
Clarke Central (8-17)
Johnson-Gainesville (7-18)4A
Loganville (3-21)

Cedar Shoals nearly broke the 30-win barrier last year as the Jaguars lost to Allatoona in the Class AAAAA Final Four 48-46 in a thriller. Coach L’Dreco Thomas returns all his starters except for sparkplug point guard Jerrick Mitchell, who was named Most Underrated in the state. The Jaguars don’t have imposing size but they do have excellent chemistry and play hardnosed defense. Phlan Fleming, a 6-foot-5 senior, committed to Charleston Southern after a stat-stuffing summer with AC Georgia Phoenix. Fleming does it all as a long-armed defender who can get hot in a hurry from all over the floor. The Jags can space teams out and pick them apart when Fleming and 6-foot-3 senior Snipe Hall are hitting. Hall is another dangerous shooter that has expanded his all-around game. Scrappy guard AJ Jones and football tight end 6-foot-4 Stavion Stevenson, provide hustle and energy on both ends of the floor. In order for the Jags to sustain their success, all eyes will be on senior guard Damarrea Lowe. The slight of build point guard fit into the Cedar Shoals offense seamlessly this summer. Though he might not have the speed or overall leadership of Mitchell just yet, Lowe is a good passer who gets everyone involved and can rebound and defend well out of his position. Jai’vanni McDavid, Q’titrius Dillard and Darien Appling could all play important roles off the bench.

Walnut Grove jumped into the statewide picture with 24 wins but quickly fell out come playoff time as they were defeated 64-45 by Jonesboro in the Region 4-AAAA Championship and then were blown out by Monroe 71-45. The Warriors go back to the drawing board now that their top four leading scorers all graduate including guards AJ Jones and Faizon Jackson. 6-foot-3 senior forward Dashun Smith returns with the most experience after posting 7.8 points and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game.

Flowery Branch didn’t make the state playoffs, but did win bragging rights in Hall County by winning the program’s first ever Lanierland title in the 56th annual edition. The Falcons lose major contributors in big men Gabe Holston and Trey Bailey, but return a savvy backcourt between seniors John Mills and Brannon Clark. Junior guard Blake Coxworth served as a top backup last year and should see his role expand. Senior Dalton Gerdts is a threat from behind the arc with nice 6-foot-4 length. Junior Justin Quick, 6-foot-3, has had a very strong offseason and should be a key piece moving forward. Freshman Caleb Murphy moves in from the Norcross district. The shifty guard might be able to contribute in his first year if he gets stronger on defense against bigger guards.

Coach Eddie Martin looks to continue to build Buford into a powerhouse in Year 2. In Year 1, Buford went undefeated in Region 8-AAAA but was upset by Fayette County in Round 1 of the state tournament, 69-62. True floor general Alex Jones is back for his junior season. The 5-foot-9 guard is one of the best pure passers in the state with advanced court vision. He has plenty of options to pass to this year as 6-foot-8 senior Sahlil Patel is back in the paint. Expect four new faces to suit up in Green and White. Sophomores Donell Nixon II, Marcus Watson and Karston Miller head to Buford while junior David Viti makes his way over from Lambert. Nixon, 5-foot-7, is a dangerous three-point shooter that averaged 12.4 points at Mountain View and drained 69 threes at a 45% rate. Watson comes from West Forsyth, NC and brings with him an imposing high energy 6-foot-6, 210-pound build on the wing with his best ball ahead of him. Miller averaged 7.9 points as a 6-foot-1 guard at North Gwinnett. Viti is a physical forward with some nice bounce that will attack opponents inside and outside.

Central Clarke held its own this summer and should be set for a better year behind 6-foot-3 starting quarterback and leading scorer, Jack Mangel. The junior is a streaky shooter that can carry the Gladiators when hot. He averaged 9.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Fellow juniors Martavius Darden and Quamontae Monfort bring back a nice cohesion. Darden chipped in 6.9 points and 1.5 steals while the 6-foot-5 Monfort put up 5.4 points, 4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

Coach Tim Slater stepped in to take the reins at Johnson-Gainesville following an impossible act to follow up; the Knights finishing 29-1 the year before behind Ty Cockfield and Roderick English. Though they didn’t have much success, the Knights look towards the future with sophomore guard Kylan Curry and juniors Qua Butler and Will Richter stabilizing the backcourt. Richter, 6-foot-2, moves in from St. Francis and should instantly fill a need of perimeter shooting. His experience with St. Francis and the Georgia Stars over the summer should bode well down the stretch. He has worked on attacking the basket and looks much more aggressive as the season nears. Curry is a pass-first point guard while Butler brings energy. Seniors Marcus Jones and Dwayne Wilson round out Johnson’s primary components. Wilson, 6-foot-5, is the Knights best player who came on strong at the end of last year. Good things usually happen when the athletic forward has the ball in his hands. Wilson should warrant attention when crashing the boards as well. For Johnson-Gainesville to hold its own, Wilson will need to become a nightly double-double threat. Also in the fold is 6-foot-4 junior Alex Sims who fits in nicely as role player in the post.

Loganville finished with three wins for the second consecutive season. Rising 6-foot-3 sophomore Jamar Moore could be a potential winning lottery ticket in years to come if he continues to progress. The athletic forward has raw upside that needs to be drawn out of him. Junior guard Tyler Circi returns some experience to the Red Devil backcourt.