Jalyn McCreary: The best player you WON’T be able to watch this year

Here we go again.

After the emotion-filled Isaac Kellum saga at McIntosh last season, it seems like common sense is escaping the GHSA yet again. This time the situation revolves around 6-foot-6 sophomore Jalyn McCreary. Haven’t heard of him? You’re not the only one.

McCreary’s case is much different than Kellum’s from a year ago, but still the ruling is a bitter pill to swallow for those involved.

McCreary, who has lived in the Kennesaw Mountain zoning district since 2008, decided to attend Wheeler his freshman year. McCreary’s mother, Kristie Gordon, explained why in her hardship letter which is attached below.

“I am a Cobb County employee and my son began his freshman year at Wheeler High School on the school choice. I chose this method (school choice instead of employee choice) because I wanted the decision to send Jalyn to Wheeler to be only possible through the intervention of God. So when school choice opened I submitted an application just as any other Cobb County parent. The slots at Wheeler were limited and to our surprise Jalyn was selected to attend.”

Things went sour when McCreary was involved in an altercation involving two other students on January 26 in the school cafeteria.

“I received a phone call from Mr. Jones (Assistant Principal) and he described a fight and indicated that Jalyn had been involved. I was floored. Jalyn had never been in a fight and was still very new to the school. I asked him if he was okay and if I could speak to my son. At that time, I was placed on speaker phone and Jalyn described purchasing glasses from a student for twenty dollars and later being approached from behind by two boys he did not know while eating his lunch. His exact words were, ‘I was jumped momma.’”

Back Home

Gordon felt like the best decision was to withdraw Jalyn after weeks of back and forth with the school district and reenrolled him to Kennesaw Mountain in February where he finished out the school year.

McCreary, back to his normal routine with lifelong friends, got back to the basketball court this summer with the Mustangs before receiving the call that he was ineligible and his hardship was denied. The GHSA ruled that he cannot play varsity this year and must spend his season on the junior varsity, potentially stymieing his development.

Bad Optics

Both McCreary and Gordon would be the first to admit that attending Wheeler over Kennesaw Mountain was a poor choice, but the fact that he is ruled ineligible is not a good look for the GHSA.

With over 93 transfers collected for this upcoming season, it always seems that the GHSA puts the kibosh on the most logical movement.

  1. He still lives in the KMHS district
  2. His mother is a school counselor
  3. He withdrew after being the victim in a fracas
  4. He finished the 2015-16 school year at KMHS

It looks even worse that Wheeler has seven transfers in – from all over the country, some committing via YouTube – but when a player leaves the school, he isn’t cleared.

There needs to be a case by case basis where everything is taken into account.

The GHSA has become the Wild Wild West with player movement as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The fact that McCreary must sit out a year after emerging as a game-changing talent is a disappointing outcome for him, his family and Kennesaw Mountain.

Don’t Forget

Jalyn McCreary likely won’t play varsity basketball this year after Kennesaw Mountain, Gordon and everyone involved have exhausted all avenues of justice. McCreary isn’t the first and won’t be last student-athlete that gets the short end of the stick when it comes to GHSA rulings.

While it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel as far as eligibility goes, McCreary’s eye-opening play at the HoopSeen Fall Preview has opened doors for him moving forward. He landed a spot on the EYBL Southern Stampede’s 2019 team following the conclusion of the upcoming high school season.

In a matchup with one of the nation’s top ranked sophomores, Terry Armstrong (who moved into Wheeler from Michigan this summer), McCreary cemented his upside posting 23 points and nine rebounds. Whenever the lanky lefty is cleared to play, he will make an immediate statewide impact at Kennesaw Mountain and will become a name college coaches need to take notice of.


Hardship Letter sent to the GHSA:

May 18, 2016

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing this letter of request for a hardship in order for my son, Jalyn McCreary, to be eligible to play varsity sports this upcoming 2016-17 school year at Kennesaw Mountain High School. Just to give you some history, I am a Cobb County employee and my son began his freshman year at Wheeler High School on the school choice. I chose this method (school choice instead of employee choice) because I wanted the decision to send Jalyn to Wheeler to be only possible through the intervention of God. So when school choice opened I submitted an application just as any other Cobb County parent. The slots at Wheeler were limited and to our surprise Jalyn was selected to attend. We were hesitant but as parents trusted that this must be what was intended for his future.

However a very unfortunate incident took place in January that changed our outlook on everything. The incident occurred on January 26th in the school cafeteria.  I received a phone call from Mr. Jones (Assistant Principal) and he described a fight and indicated that Jalyn had been involved. I was floored. Jalyn had never been in a fight and was still very new to the school.  I asked him if he was okay and if I could speak to my son. At that time, I was placed on speaker phone and Jalyn described purchasing glasses from a student for twenty dollars and later being approached from behind by two boys he did not know while eating his lunch. His exact words were, “I was jumped momma.” My initial response was to scold Jalyn for being disobedient. We have a rule in our home that there is absolutely no buying or trading with students at school. This is a common thing but something we did not want Jalyn to participate in because of the potential to cause confusion. It was then that I asked Mr. Jones if this was true and he said “yes, that is pretty accurate”. I asked if I needed to leave work and pick up Jalyn and I was told because of his calm demeanor he could stay and finish the day. However from my knowledge the other students were required to leave because of their actions in initiating this event.  An hour later, I arrived to pick up Jalyn and he was leaving ISS. I approached the office and requested to see Mr. Jones. When he arrived I asked to view the video footage where my son was jumped. I was told that should not be a problem and that he would get back to me the following day. The next day, I was told I could not view the tape because of the rights of the other parents. I asked them to check with other parents and I was never contacted again about it until I reached out to higher authorities. I then requested to speak to Mr. Giles (school principal). I was later contacted by him and he begin to verbalize what he viewed on the tape. He said my son was seated and two gentlemen approached him. At this time, Jalyn was put in a headlock and glasses were ripped off of his face by an unknown student. Jalyn’s face was cut by this assault and his shirt was ripped. Understandably, he proceeded to stand up to defend himself. When he stood up, the second student shoved him to the ground from behind.

Ultimately, Jalyn was given the same consequences as the other students, I totally disagreed with this decision because he has attended Cobb County schools since 2nd grade and has never been suspended from school. Jalyn has always been described as the “gentle giant” by his teachers and is even still described as having a pretty impressive moral compass. He was a part of the Mustang Leadership Academy at Hayes Elementary and a part of the Amigos Leadership Academy at Pine Mountain Middle. For this reason, I was disappointed and decided to advocate for his reputation and most importantly his FUTURE. The outcome was grim and nothing changed as we approached day 6 of the suspension.

Following this event, I received contact from teachers and parents in the community expressing their regret that something like this happened to Jalyn. I notified the school about possible retaliation and accusations of gang affiliation too from individuals in the community. In the end, I was still denied the right to view the video of my son and the story changed from person to person each time it was recollected. There was very little consistency. However, the part that never wavered is that Jalyn was put in a headlock and violently shoved to the ground before he responded. In my opinion, this is a clear indicator of bullying and intimidation. As I described to administration, Jalyn is asthmatic and is medicated for this daily and if that headlock had gone wrong or been too long, we could be discussing much more than a fight.

Fearful of Jalyn being labeled, I continued to have email and phone communication with Mr. Ragsdale (CCSD Superintendent), Dr. Daniels (CCSD Assistant Superintendent), Dr. Giles, and Mr. Jones. I also refused to sign the write up of the disciplinary action because it indicated that Jalyn was involved in a fight. It never indicated that he was victim of a premeditated attack by these unknown students. I requested school mediation with the school counselor per my emails. I was told that boys will be boys and that we didn’t need to rehash something that the kids were already past. I was also told that none of this was an attempt to label my otherwise “good” student and that no one would look at Jalyn differently. Jalyn returned back to school for a little over a week with no issue and then we received a notification from the Cobb County Juvenile Courts. At this time, I felt the need to withdraw Jalyn from Wheeler and take him to his home school, Kennesaw Mountain. This decision was made because even through all of our communications, the school and CCSD in no way contacted me or revealed to me that they would be putting my son through this. They were very evasive about what occurred on that day and what would follow for my child. With our backs in a corner we hired an attorney and reported to court. At the court proceeding one of the other parents discussed watching the video footage with administration and clearly seeing that Jalyn was a victim. Her son even admitted to Jalyn paying for the glasses. At this time, the charges of affray and disruption of a public school were thrown out and the mom requested additional community service for her son and apologized profusely to Jalyn. The other student involved was given probation.

After hearing from her that the same administration that denied me seeing the footage sat down with her to view the footage, I knew I made the right choice by withdrawing him. Children die in schools all the time and I continuously expressed to all that I spoke to the need for my son to stand his ground and to be safe every day that he is outside of my care and protection. Sadly, the school policies are completely contradictory to the state law.

When I asked what Jalyn could have done differently, I was told he could have went and found a staff member to assist. I guess they were referring to the same staff members who were supervising this cafeteria when my son’s health and safety was initially put in danger. At this point other than loving the opportunity to participate in a basketball program with his AAU teammates there was nothing good I could attribute to his attendance at Wheeler. The most unfortunate thing is that Jalyn enjoyed playing on the freshman team there and had great stats on his first season of high school basketball. Another unfortunate thing is that because of the transition at the time he transitioned, Jalyn will now be required to attend summer school in order to have sophomore status next year.

Since enrolling at Kennesaw Mountain in February, Jalyn has made much better grades and adjusted well. I am sure the reason for this is that he has known most of the students since 2nd grade. The final step in putting this behind us would be for this hardship to be granted in order for him to go on as planned in the world of basketball.

Jalyn was not at all recruited by Kennesaw but has played basketball since he was 5 years old and it is a major part of our lives. Although, the fight was unfortunate we have reflected back on it with a different perspective. We feel that Jalyn needed to learn a lesson of resilience and overcoming adversity and he has done just that.  Due to the fact that we have lived at the same address for several years and he has been a part of this community for so long, we are hopeful that he will be approved to play this next season and not have to suffer through another consequence for something out of his control. However we are prepared to find the “teachable moment” in this process as well, and if not in our favor we are still appreciative of the opportunity to share our story and be given consideration. Jalyn will not give up but continue with relentless tenacity to achieve his goals no matter the outcome.

            My Sincere Thanks,

                        Kristie Gordon

GHSA Class AAAA Preview

Class AAAA


Region 1

Carver-Columbus (18-9)5A
Shaw (19-10)5A
Northside-Columbus (18-10)5A
Westover (19-12)
Americus-Sumter (15-9)
Columbus (9-17)5A
Hardaway (4-21)5A
Cairo (2-24)

Carver-Columbus led No. 1 seed McIntosh 21-17 after the first quarter in the opening round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs before the wheels fell off and they lost 100-69. The Tigers graduate nine players, but 6-foot-4 senior forward Daniel Melvin returns. Melvin will be asked to take over the offense full-time as Lorenzo Madden, Stefan Harris and Jawon Pass all graduate. R.J. Cummings and Alex Wilson could help pick up the load also.

Coach Terry White guided Shaw from an 8-win season to a 19-win season in 2015-16. The Raiders suffered a cruel fate, losing 56-55 to LaGrange in the Region 1-AAAAA Championship then falling to Morrow in the first round of the state tournament, 57-55 in overtime. Shaw graduates its top four leading scorers headlined by Dakeen Diaz (16.4), Kourtney Shakespeare (11.8) and late blooming 6-foot-6 big man Cam Paulding who averaged 11.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. With four starters gone and junior point guard Kam Parker returning, the Raiders will have some turnover with new faces ready to step in. Senior Devan Porter-Wilson is a 6-foot-4 post that averaged 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds, but has experience being a go-to guy, averaging 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds as a starter in 2014-15. Junior Jalen Ken is now healthy after an injury sidelined him for the second half of the season. The 6-foot-3 wing chipped in 6.8 points per game; Shaw going undefeated with Ken healthy to open the year. Senior Chris Hicks is a knockdown three-point shooter. The addition of versatile 6-foot-5 junior Lincoln Smith gives Coach White a solid scoring option and athletic defender. He averaged 11.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while at region rival Columbus.

Northside-Columbus must fill a big hole literally and figuratively as 6-foot-8 Davion Thomas graduates after posting 17 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game. 6-foot-4 sophomore Jaykwon Walton made a major impact his freshman season averaging 10.6 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals, but he has transferred to Carver, Al. Undersized forward Cordale Scott will take over for Thomas. At 6-foot-3 the senior averaged 9.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Rising sophomore Aaron Green turned some heads at the CB Hoops & Perfect Practice Fall League, the strong-bodied guard hitting seven threes in a game.

Westover caught fire and took a magical run to the Elite Eight before being done in by a reverse layup at the buzzer by Grady’s Avi Toomer to score a 54-52 win. The Patriots were up-and-down for most of the season before their strong guard play steered them to a 7-3 finish down the stretch. Floor general Allec Williams graduates after posting 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.2 blocks. Also gone is 6-foot-7 Jacobi Cratic who anchored the paint at 9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Game-changing talent returns however in junior Kris Gardner (8.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.2 spg) and sophomore Jordan “Snow” Brown (8.2 ppg). Gardner is more of a distributor while Brown is a lights out shooter with deep range. Brown hit 48 threes at a 49% rate while Gardner was no slouch himself, draining 40 deep balls at a 53% clip. 6-foot-3 senior Quindavious Smith provides toughness with his 7.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals.

Americus-Sumter dropped from 26-6 to 15-9 as its two leading scorers graduated following 2014-15. The Panthers went with a more scoring by committee look last year with rising senior Kiante Sims averaging a team-high 9.5 points. Sophomore Joshua Lusane showed some promise as a freshman and junior Eric Hall Jr. should see more responsibility after averaging 6 points his sophomore season.

Columbus only saw a two-game win increase but has its leading scorer, a junior, returning. All-State All-Name Team member Noah Lott led the Blue Devils with 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.9 steals. The 5-foot-8 guard must cut down on his turnovers (4.2). Senior Elijah Gardner should see a boost in production following the loss of Lincoln Smith to Shaw. He averaged 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as the team’s fourth leading scorer in 2015-16.

Hardaway loses its top scorers but returns 5-foot-10 senior guard Antonio Campbell. The Hawks haven’t had a winning season since 2012-13. Kendall Mills is expected to take over the time consuming duty of now coaching the boys team along with the Lady Hawks. Mills replaces Pershin Williams who has accepted a job at Columbus State.

Cairo went from Final Four Cinderella story in 2014-15 with a 20-12 record to 2-24 last year. The Syrupmakers graduate just two players after sporting three sophomores and four freshmen.

Region 2

Upson-Lee (23-4)
Perry (18-11)
Mary Persons (18-11)
Spalding (11-14)
Howard (11-16)
West Laurens (3-23)

Upson-Lee saw its dominant season upended in the first round of the state playoffs, stunned by New Hampstead 73-56. O’Qualon Harris graduates, but the Knights return enough to the tank to be a force in Class AAAA. 6-foot-3 junior guard Tye Fagan averaged over 19 points and 7 rebounds as a sophomore. 6-foot-4 sophomore defensive end Travon Walker holds an offer from Alabama to play football but also is a standout on the court. The big man still has a few inches left in him and is a double-double machine with his soft hands on the low block. Walker should be regarded as one of the most reliable big men in Middle Georgia moving forward. Sophomore guard Zyrice Scott powered the 16U Middle Georgia Supersonics to a USSSA National Championship alongside Walker and Fagan. Scott should burst onto the scene this year at point guard and will continue to improve as he gets stronger.

Perry’s Damion Bagley did it all last year, pouring in 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds as a 6-foot-3 junior forward. He joins senior Evan Lasseter and junior Jacori Burks in the backcourt. Junior guard Jake Smith played with the 16U Middle Georgia Supersonics and presents an unselfish and versatile 6-foot-1 guard. He averaged 5.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals.

Burgeoning star Cameron Holden enters his junior season for Mary Persons. The 6-foot-5 guard put up big numbers, averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.1 blocks. Holden scores inside and out and is patient when surveying the defense. His top three teammates in terms of scoring all graduate. He must receive help from rising seniors Roger Akins (6.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Clay Moore (5.3 ppg).

Spalding is the only new team added to the mix in Region 2. The Jaguars didn’t have a sparkling overall record but they still managed to go 8-5 in the difficult Region 4-AAAA. Spalding gave a scare to some of the top teams in the region, losing in overtime to 24-5 Eagle’s Landing 59-57, to Henry County 74-70 and to 20-10 Eastside, 65-62 to end their season in the Region Tournament. Senior Rasheed Marshall and sophomore Zion Puckett will help lead the offense.

Howard graduates its top six leading scorers including center Chris Quainter who averaged a double-double. Junior forward Christian Butler returns with the most experience.

It was a struggle for West Laurens last season but the Raiders do return everyone except 6-foot-5 forward Kintevius Robinson. 6-foot-4 junior Keyonta Tyler led the team in scoring (11.1), rebounding (9.1) and blocks (1.1) as a sophomore. Senior CJ Watson chipped in 7.1 points and 2.6 assists as shooting guard while rising sophomore Ty Edmond handled himself well, averaging 4.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and a team-leading 3.2 assists per game. Ed Ford comes in as head coach after serving at Montgomery County.


Region 3

Richmond Academy (22-7)5A
Thomson (19-9)
Burke County (16-8)
Cross Creek (14-12)5A
Baldwin (10-16)
Hephzibah (0-24)3A

Richmond Academy had eventual state champion Miller Grove on the ropes with a lead heading into the fourth quarter before bowing out 64-57. Leading scorer Madison Williams (Illinois State) graduates along with key pieces Rashad Calloway and Chris Jones. 6-foot-5 senior forward Moses Williams returns after posting 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Rising left-handed junior guard DT Stephens pitched in 8.7 points per game and has a chance to take his game to the next level with Williams gone.

Thomson is a tough-nosed team that fell to St. Pius 56-55 in the Sweet 16. 6-foot-8 San Antonio Brinson broke his wrist late in the season and hindered the Bulldogs’ chance at a deep playoff run. Six seniors are gone including Brinson. Leading the charge this year are seniors Darius Turman, Radaren Johnson, Rodriguez Wiley, Jucorius Thomas and Tra Parker. Johnson and Turman were honored as Second Team All-Region selections while Wiley and Thomas were Honorable Mention. Turman, 6-foot-4, and Johnson, 6-foot-1, will power the Bulldogs. Turman averaged 12.3 points while Johnson chipped in 11.2 points. Both are Team Captains. Thomas, a 6-foot-2 receiver on the football team, averaged 9.4 points per game and brings physicality inside but also a soft touch outside. Wiley averaged 8.3 points per game off the bench as a sharp shooter. 6-foot-4 sophomore Zavian Smith has a chance to impact the paint. Coach Michael Thomas Sr. enters his 34th season at Thomson and has tallied 594 career wins.

Burke County fell in the first round 73-67 to Mary Persons in the state tournament. The Bears battled with Liberty County and Thomson throughout the season in Region 3-AAAA. Coach Purvis Dukes must replace First Team All-Region performer Kamario Walker. Luckily, 6-foot-6 senior Quan Wilson is back after garnering Second Team honors. Senior guard D’Zarious Holmes looks to build off his Honorable Mention selection.

Cross Creek scratched its way into the playoffs, earning a No. 3 seed after losing to Richmond Academy 82-47 in the Region 2-AAAAA semifinals and beating Jones County 72-67 in the third-place game. In the state playoffs the Razorbacks were bounced in Round 1 by Statesboro 66-54. Guard Moses Jones graduates after leading the team in scoring with 17.6 points. Seniors Artis Chapman (8.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and KJ Brown (7.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.3 bpg) hold the most returning experience.

Coach Buck Harris left the glitz-and-glam of Laney to build up Baldwin in Milledgeville. Like any program filled with youth, the Braves had their ups and downs. The future looks bright however as Donta Justice and Brendan Robertson powered the team as a freshman and sophomore respectively. 5-foot-10 Justice netted a team-high 14.3 points to go along with his 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals. Robertson went for 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals.

Hephzibah took an 0-fer in Class AAA and will try its hand at AAAA. The Rebels will need to replace Reggie Fields who also starred on the soccer team.


Region 4

Eastside (20-10)
North Clayton (19-11)3A
Salem (17-12)5A
Henry County (15-11)
Woodward Academy (15-13)
Druid Hills (14-12)5A
Luella (8-16)5A

The winner of the regular season gets an automatic bid to state in Region 4-AAA. A lot will be different for Eastside as one of the state’s top scorers, Isaiah Miller, has now transferred to Newton for his senior season. Miller poured in 25.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 1 block per game. Also gone is team captain Joshua Cammon, who posted 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.2 steals as a junior guard. Cammon is off to Tucker. 6-foot-4 senior wing Keiondre Perry is the last remaining key piece. He averaged 15.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3.2 steals and 1.2 blocks. Perry should see his numbers explode after a great summer scoring the ball in a variety of ways. Senior center Jesse Walden stands 6-foot-9 and is a late blooming big that right now is a space-eating rebounder.

North Clayton will look to play inside-out with 6-foot-8 Lipscomb-commit Ahsan Asadullah back on the low block. The skilled big averaged 15.1 points as a junior.  Coach Martisse Troup’s senior class will be the deciding factor in how far the Eagles go. The group is used to winning, claiming the Clayton County ninth grade championship and the JV title the following year. Jamal Buster and Alexander Quaynor must play bigger roles since Jamarcus Sanders and Kindle Vildor have graduated. Buster has garnered D-II and JUCO interest at point guard.  Football players Jordan Alexander (6-foot-4, 210 lbs) and Yaya Diaby (6-foot-5, 190 lbs) bring size and strength in the paint next to Asadullah. The group played well this summer, winning Session I of the Georgia State Team Camp.

Salem fought its way into the postseason out of the incredibly deep Region 8-AAAAA. The Seminoles fell to Allatoona 61-49 after pushing the Bucs to the brink in the first half. Gone however is leading scorer Michael Green (17.4). Forward Chandler Davis and guards Parris Woods and Devontae Hedgespeth also leave holes. Seniors Jordon Simons and Denzell Bryan will see expanded roles this season.

Henry County has the goods to become a threat in Class AAAA. Seniors Javon Greene, Damion Rosser and Kovi Tate all boosted their stocks in July, especially Greene who committed to George Mason. The 6-foot-2 guard can catch fire from beyond the arc and leads the offense as the primary ball handler. Rosser, a New Orleans-commit, is a 6-foot-4 guard that attacks the rim. His length and strength makes him hard to stop once he gets going downhill. Tate, a 6-foot-5 forward, was ineligible to play last year after transferring in from Woodland-Stockbridge. Tate is a high energy post that plays above the rim. He brings great work ethic and toughness in the paint. Seth Brown also gets cleared to play. Brown, who joined the trio with 17U Atlanta All-Stars this summer, is another 6-foot-4 athlete that can help out in multiple ways. The Warhawks can make some noise if they can get stops consistently on defense.

Woodward Academy scored a 53-52 win over Monroe Area in the opening round of the AAAA State Playoffs before dropping to Westover, 75-66. A strong three-man senior core returns in Julian Cameron (11 ppg), Hunter Falconer (9.9 ppg) and 6-foot-6 Brennan McDaniel (9.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg).

Coach Jerome Lee helped Druid Hills capture their first winning season since 2013. The Red Devils lose just one senior in Noah Harrison (5.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg). 6-foot-5 senior wing Dillan Hall (7.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.5 bpg) brings versatility while Jordan Foote (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg) and Antonio Edge (7.7 ppg) both return. Cameron Starkes has transferred to Lakeside-DeKalb after posting 8.8 points per game as a junior.

Luella returns seniors Hunter Davis and Dwayne Thomas along with junior Kymain Williams after losing Javaun Anderson and Jordan Campbell to graduation.


Region 5

LaGrange (23-6)5A
Sandy Creek (21-8)
Cartersville (20-7)
Central-Carroll (13-15)3A
Cedartown (9-14)3A
Troup County (7-14)
Chapel Hill (8-19)5A

LaGrange graduates a strong senior class filled with guards, highlighted by Rico Smith, a potent playmaker. Back however is senior Laperion Perry who has more than enough juice to carry the load in the backcourt. Big men Bryan Fanning and Kenan Gray both stand 6-foot-6 and will bring balance to the Granger offense in their senior season.

Sandy Creek takes a big blow from their Elite Eight team, losing Christian Turner (Gardner-Webb), Keith Heard II and AJ Freeman to graduation. Rising senior, 6-foot-6 Elias Harden who led the team in scoring at 20.9 points, has transferred to Pebblebrook and has committed to play at Xavier. 6-foot-7 Evan Jester will shoulder the load as an inside-out threat stretch-four. The bouncy high-IQ forward has interest from a handful of Ivy League schools after posting 9.7 points and 8.6 rebounds as a junior. TJ Bickerstaff represents a bright future as a 6-foot-6 wing. Xavier Brewer provides length as a 6-foot-8 junior while Chris Porter, Kameron Miller and Jarred Godfrey all will see increased roles as juniors in the backcourt. Eric Williams transfers in from Fayette County to help as a forward and Khalid (KJ) Wilkins comes in for his senior season after leading Mt. Vernon Presbyterian in scoring.

Cartersville moves out of Region 7-AAAA, which they dominated, and now faces a step up in competition. Jaylon Pugh guides the Purple Hurricanes his junior season. The 5-foot-10 guard was the Region Player of the Year as a sophomore, averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 assists per game. Pugh’s court vision and deft three-point stroke (97 made; school-record of 10 in a game) makes him the catalyst on offense. TJ Horton brings back starting experience after averaging 6 points and 3.3 assists per game. 6-foot-5 sophomore Isaac Gridley and 6-foot-6 junior Trevor Lawrence will anchor the paint. Lawrence, who is ranked the No. 1 player in the entire country for the Class of 2018 in football as a 5-star quarterback, enters his first season with the Hurricane basketball team. He had an outstanding summer rebounding and blocking shots for Coach Mike Tobin. Another newcomer, Avery Showell, transfers in from St. Francis. The Wake Forest football commit is an athletic 6-foot-1 forward that can slash to the basket.

Central-Carroll took a trip to the Class AAA state playoffs earning a bid out of tiny Region 5 with a 4-7 mark in region play. East Jackson ended their season in Round 1, 72-63. Deion Sims slides over as head coach and will look to build on last year’s success. Soccer standout, rising junior Jarrod Jackson is back after leading the Lions in scoring at 11 points per game. Senior Xavier Hammett brings size and help on the glass at 6-foot-3, the team’s biggest player.

Cedartown returns Second Team All-Area guard Quan Neal as their best player. Trevon Wofford, 6-foot-4, is a rising junior that earned an Honorable Mention selection.

Troup County must replace Dexter Shealey in the backcourt along with four other seniors. The Tigers are set to return three juniors and two sophomores. Rising juniors Jarrious Jefferson and Montez Crowe are expected to become focal points of the offense after playing well in spurts last year.

Long-time coach Ken Austin steps in to take over at Chapel Hill after last serving as a girls assistant at Langston Hughes. Nine panthers graduate including First Team All-County selection Dallis Jacks who netted over 17 points per game. New faces will join Austin as just four seniors are back and Kevin Burton Jr. enters his sophomore season.


Region 6

Northwest Whitfield (20-7)
Heritage-Catoosa (20-9)
LaFayette (12-13)
Southeast Whitfield (9-17)
Pickens (9-20)
Ridgeland (6-19)
Gilmer (5-19)

Northwest Whitfield earned the No. 3 seed out of Region 7-AAAA. The weak region took a thumping against the classification’s best, Region 6. Region 7 brings everyone back except for Cartersville to the new Region 6. The North Georgia region suffered losses by an average of 33.5 points in the first round, none uglier than the Bruins’ 88-37 loss to Lithonia. The Tunnel Hill group returns its two best players this season in senior Paxton Pardee and junior Luke Shiflett. Shiflett, the quarterback of the football team, was an All-Area First Teamer while Pardee earned Second Team honors.

Heritage suffered a 70-38 loss to Columbia as the No. 2 seed. Cole Wilcox, a 6-foot-5 forward and ace pitcher, led the Generals with 13.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a sophomore. Tylon Gaines brings quickness to the Heritage backcourt after posting 7.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals as a junior.

LaFayette boasts the Class AAAA Freshman of the Year, 5-foot-11 guard Alex Kelehear. The sweet-shooting playmaker canned 60-of-137 threes (44%) en route to averaging 14 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.3 steals. The young Ramblers lose just one senior who played sparingly off the bench meaning Kelehear and the group could push for a postseason bid. Tyrese Hunter enters his senior season after averaging 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals as a 5-foot-11 guard. Rising sophomore Andrew Pendergrass is a versatile piece at 6-foot-1. He averaged 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals while hitting 42 threes. Senior post Austin Shropshire helps on the glass, posting 5.1 points and 5.3 rebounds.

The state’s best scorer you’ve never heard of, Ty Pendley, graduates from Southeast Whitfield. The North Georgia scoring wizard poured in 27.8 points per game, good for third-best in the entire state. Pendley, a 5-foot-10 guard, even led the nation in free throw percentage his final two seasons, nailing 93% as a junior and 90% as a senior on a whopping 254 attempts – 9.7 trips per game his final season. As great as Pendley was, the loss of 6-foot-4 post Noah Ramsey also hurts the Raiders as the double-double threat averaged 8.8 points and 9.0 rebounds. Pendley was named The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year while Ramsey earned Second Team honors. Senior Cristian Antillon (8.1 ppg) and 6-foot-4 junior Luke Johns (7.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) must pick up the load.

Pickens snuck into the postseason for the first time since 2010-11 and were quickly outclassed by Grady, 78-44. The productive inside-out duo of big man Trent Rizoti (12 ppg, 7 rpg) and guard Holden Roop (16.9 ppg) has graduated leaving the Dragons in search of a new top scorer. Fourth and fifth-leading scorers Joseph Gossett and Avery Luke are set to return. Gossett, a junior guard, averaged 4.9 points while Luke, a senior forward, chipped in 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. Junior forward 6-foot-6 Blake Gorth has a chance to make an impact.

Ridgeland will lean on its backcourt with senior Markieon Jones and junior Markeith Montgomery. Jones teamed up with now graduated Tavian Bridges to form a potent 1-2 punch last season and will be asked to be the Panthers’ number one option in 2016-17.

Gilmer graduates an experienced senior class and looks to six rising seniors from last year’s roster which included zero underclassmen. Riley Hice, 6-foot-2, enters his senior season as the Bobcats’ presumed favorite to anchor the offensive attack. Coming up from the JV will be Kell Weaver and Noah Chastain who were among the team’s top scorers last year.


Region 7

White County (17-9)
Blessed Trinity (13-14)3A
West Hall (13-15)3A
Marist (9-18)
Chestatee (0-23) 

White County sees prolific scorer Whit Mauney graduate after the Region 8-AAAA Co-Player of the Year pumped in 24.5 points per game and finished his career with 1,381 points. All-Area Honorable Mention selection Brad Hurst (11.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg) also graduates, but 6-foot-5 wing John Ward returns after his Region 8-AAAA All-Region junior campaign where he posted 18.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Sophomores Austin Harris and Jay Lepkoske bring back varsity experience as does junior football standout Kaleb Crane.

Built on their foundation of playing grind-it-out defense, Blessed Trinity will try to bounce back from a sub-par 13-14 record; their first under .500 record since 2005-06 which was in part to playing a very difficult schedule which featured nine state playoff teams. Jackson Svete and John Michael Bertrand graduate, but rising senior guard Kyle Swade and sophomore CJ Abrams are experienced in the backcourt. Swade is a nice shooter who was a team captain last year averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists while knocking down 83% of his free throws. The 6-foot-2 three-year letterman entering his senior season played over the summer with the FCI Warriors. Abrams, a three-sport standout, provided athleticism and scoring as a freshman. At 6-foot-1, Abrams was the team’s third-leading scorer at 9 points per game. 6-foot-2 Ben Shappard enters his junior season coming off an injury in the final game of the regular season. He averaged 7 points and 3 rebounds as a versatile piece that can play positions 1-4 for Coach Patrick Hughes.

West Hall turns the page on a tumultuous scandal-filled offseason and looks to former girls assistant Bobby Pless to regain stability of the program. Esteban Ulloa exploded his senior season to post 22 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals per game as he was named Second Team All-Area. The graduation of Dylan Curry and Tyquan Statham hurt, but the Spartans return talented 6-foot-4 swingman Xzavier Reid who should get the lion’s share of shot attempts his senior season.

Marist struggled in the difficult Region 6-AAAA, but gets a fresh start in Region 7. Patrick Zeck, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 13.6 points, 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks his final season before signing with Gardner-Webb. Senior guard Whid Childs steadies the War Eagle backcourt along with shooter David Sever. Junior 6-foot-5 forward Jake Mauldin brings versatility and the ability to score in the paint and from the perimeter.

Brookwood assistant Kevin Strickland takes over the task of trying to turn a winless Chestatee team into a winner. Junior guard Donovan Hernandez has started on the varsity his entire high school career and brings poise and composure to the backcourt. Junior Cooper Wilson, senior Joel Salcido and sophomore Cameron Gwyn are all floor stretchers with their shooting. Senior Barron King and junior Nick Lyles return as starters in the frontcourt and bring with them their toughness from the gridiron.


Region 8

St. Pius (24-7)
Stephens County (16-9)
Madison County (15-12)
Jefferson (9-18)3A
Oconee County (8-17)3A
North Oconee (7-22)

St. Pius exits Region 6 and finds a much more comfortable home in Region 8. First Team All-Region selection Kerney Lane is gone as the 6-foot-7 forward begins his career at Alabama-Hunstville. Key pieces Christian Merrill and Jakob Spitzer also depart from the Golden Lion starting lineup, but there is still more than enough left for St. Pius to make a run at the region crown after snagging the No. 4 seed and taking a trip to the Elite Eight last year. The backcourt is both young and talented with Matt Gonzalo entering his sophomore season along with twin brother Brian who is coming off hernia surgery. Matt is a strong athlete at point guard who is continuing to blossom as his role grows larger. Senior forward Will Lucado is also on the mend after breaking his wrist during the soccer season. Rising juniors Christian Mattei and Everett Lane, Kerney’s younger brother, have put in work during the offseason and should see their production increase. Senior Carson Seramur has the opportunity to put a stamp on a winning career while move-ins Kennedy Willis and Troy Stephens bring their own dynamic to the roster. Both juniors, Stephens is another guard who will vie for playing time while Willis is a skilled yet raw 6-foot-7 forward from Therrell. The Golden Lions will be patient on offense and won’t beat themselves.

Stephens County looked good as gold heading into late January before the wheels fell off. The Indians lost their last five games of the season after starting 16-4 and in the process missed out on the playoffs. Tay Jones graduates but a nice core is intact for Coach Chad Bridges. Deundra Singleton anchors the Indians in the paint as a 6-foot-7, 240-pound junior. Surrounding him is senior guard Nunu Walker, junior Jackson Bell and sophomore Ty Nails. Nails, 6-foot-4, might have the highest upside out of the group along with Singleton.

Madison County returns two of their top scorers in seniors Keith Gantt and Trevon Daniel who played well out of the Red Raider backcourt. 6-foot-3 senior Golston Gillespie provides some size while Jackson Bailey is a 6-foot-4 junior.

Coach Bolling DuBose enters his 41st year at Jefferson, coming off of a state playoff appearance even though the team finished nine games under .500. Three starters are gone heading into AAA play. Big men Daniel Butler and Kasen Rainey return as starting frontcourt members. Finding consistent guard play will be important for the Dragons now that star running back Colby Wood is focusing on football.

Oconee County hires Dawson County head coach Thad Burgess to take the reins. The Warriors have some experienced players returning headlined by senior guard Roques Dowdy. Junior Ty Paschal has quick hands defensively while rising sophomore Rahul Das is the most talented out of the bunch. The 6-foot-3 forward doesn’t pass the eye test, but his fundamentals and his exceptional rebounding makes him an impactful player. Das is a nice piece for Burgess to build around moving forward, especially with the loss of Jace Bonds on the perimeter, a transfer to East Jackson.

North Oconee brings back a pair of All-Area performers in 6-foot-3 senior standouts Jack Chambers and Matthew Quint. The Titans made a postseason appearance but were thumped in Round 1 by Sandy Creek, 84-38.

St. Anne-Pacelli lands new Head Coach Corry Black

Coming off of an Elite Eight appearance in Class A-Private, the program’s most successful season in school history, St. Anne-Pacelli turns to new leadership after Alan Griffin, head boys basketball coach and athletic director left in the offseason to become White County High School AD after serving nine years in Columbus.

Replacing Griffin is Corry Black, a fixture in the Columbus basketball community for over a decade. Black served as an assistant coach at Columbus State University from 2002-2008, first starting as a video coordinator. Black got his first opportunity coaching back in 2000.

“I didn’t play any college basketball,” explained Black. “I’m from Tifton. I went to Southern Union on a cross country scholarship and just stayed around the game. The coach didn’t have an assistant coach, so I basically was his assistant coach for two years and we won two state championships and went to the national tournament.”

After a two-year stint at Southern Union State C.C., Black spent the next six seasons at Columbus State before serving as an assistant at Chattahoochee Valley C.C. for the 2008-09 season.

Giving Back

Since 2009, Black has made it a point to help student-athletes better themselves on and off the court through CB Hoops. The organization puts on multiple showcases, tournaments and leagues throughout the year to better connect high school athletes to college coaches while also preaching the importance of education.

“I just wanted to help more kids,” said Black about why he launched cblackhoops.com. “Instead of recruiting 12 guys at Columbus State, I want to help kids all across the country. When I started CB Hoops I was able to do that and touch more kids through this program, holding showcase events and different things.”

Aside from the high school level, Black’s influence is still felt at the college stage. He serves as the Assistant Director of JucoReport.com, the No. 1 Junior College Basketball site in the nation where he helps organize major events such as The Battle of the South Jamboree, ATL Live Spring Showcase and more.

Leading the Ship

Black jumped at the opportunity to coach at St. Anne-Pacelli.

“It’s here in Columbus. That was attractive that I didn’t have to move my family. I can still continue to do what I’m doing,” explained Black on why becoming a Viking was too good of a spot to pass up. “St. Anne, they had a good run. Coach Alan Griffin did a great job over there…To be honest, I want to see if I can build it back up to what Coach Griffin did. Coach Griffin had it rolling and he did an amazing job and I just want to keep that momentum going and help the community out.”

Black is set to meet with the players for the first time today, Tuesday, October 11 at 12:10 p.m. With eight seniors graduating from last year’s 17-10 team, Black’s message to the group will be simple.

“Let’s try to keep the momentum going from last year. They got to the state tournament. I want to just keep that going. Let’s try to keep the tradition going, let’s try to make it a tradition. Let’s not just be a one hit wonder.”

GHSA Class AAA Preview

Class AAA


Region 1

Monroe (22-7)4A
Worth County (20-8)4A
Crisp County (19-8)4A
Cook (6-21)4A
Dougherty (5-22)4A 

Monroe took a trip to the Elite Eight where they fell short against eventual Class AAAA champion Liberty County, 71-61. The senior-led Tornadoes lose Emeshaun Offord (15.5 ppg), Trentavious Jackson (10.5 ppg), K’Naurtica George (9.5 ppg) and Napoleon Harris (8.9 ppg). 6-foot-4 senior guard Ulysses Williams is back as the team’s leading scorer after posting 6.7 points and 3 rebounds per game.

Coach Roney Mays of Worth County has the unenviable task of trying to replace the best 1-2 punch in the state down low between Brandon Moore (21.8 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg) and Auburn signee Anfernee McLemore (15.6 ppg, 13 rpg, 5.9 bpg). The Rams’ best experience returns in the backcourt between senior Tyre McKinney and junior Austin Jackson (4.2 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.6 spg).

Crisp County loses point guard Dontavious Tolbert (7.3 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.6 spg) but returns every other key piece. Senior shooting guard Quentavious Dean emerged as one of Region 1-AAAA’s top scorers as a junior, pumping in 18.3 points. Guard Ijon Owens (8.9 ppg) and power forward Valdis Daniel (7.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) are back for their senior seasons as well. Junior post JaQavian Walker showed promise as a 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore, posting 4.7 points and 5.9 rebounds. The wide receiver will bring some toughness once football season is over.

Cook sees four seniors graduate including dual-sport standout Tavian Allen. Eight rising juniors saw time on the varsity last season. The Hornets haven’t had a winning record since 2013-14.

Ty Randolph damaged the Dougherty program before leaving for Lanier County in the offseason. The Trojans had a solid team last year, but had to forfeit 17 games for playing an ineligible player. Things got even worse when a second player was found to be living outside the school district, leading to Dougherty being fined $1,000 and receiving a postseason ban for the upcoming 2016-17 season. With the program in the dumps, the Trojans hit a grand slam hiring five-time state champion head coach Rufus McDuffie, who won over 600 games in his 29 seasons at Mitchell-Baker High School. McDuffie brought titles home in ’90, ’91, ’98, ’99 and ’00. McDuffie had an excellent piece to build around in 6-foot-4 combo guard David Quimby, but the senior has transferred to Greenforest Christian. 6-foot-7 Israel Shead and 6-foot-3 Terry Lewis figure to play prominent roles their senior seasons. Shead averaged 6.4 points, 6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.


Region 2

Liberty County (28-1)4A
Long County (20-8)2A
Tattnall County (18-10)
Brantley County (15-11)
Pierce County (4-20)
Appling County (3-19)

The gold standard when it comes to Class AAA backcourts. Liberty County marched its way from Hinesville to Macon to win their first ever state title under first year head coach Julian Stokes, 58-52, stopping Jonesboro’s attempt at a Class AAAA three-peat. The Panthers’ big three should return in seniors Davion Mitchell and Richard LeCounte along with junior Will Richardson. Mitchell, an Auburn-commit, averaged 24.2 points, 7.1 assists and 2.9 steals. Five-star UGA football-commit, LeCounte, is a freak athlete that poured in 20.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals. LeCounte’s availability could be  in question as he could instead choose to graduate early to enroll at UGA. Richardson, the championship game’s X-factor who coolly netted 19 points picked up a UGA offer after his big game performance. He averaged 13.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals. The only question mark if there is one with the Panthers will be their lack of size inside, especially if they run into a team with a dominant big man.

Long County went from 6-22 to 20-8 last year, winning the Region 2-AA tournament. The Blue Tide fell to Lovett in the Sweet 16, 76-61. Coach Deshon Brock returns juniors Henry Blair (11.8 ppg), 6-foot-4 post Christian Bass (10 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and point guard Ryhiem Izzard (8.3 ppg, 2.1 apg, 2.1 spg). Gone is graduate Eric Shaw (8.4 ppg) and senior guard Perrell Brisbane. Brisbane transfers to Pierce County after leading the Tide averaging 12.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals.

Tattnall County fell in the first round of the Class AAA tournament to North Clayton 73-68 after posting their fourth consecutive winning season.  First Team All-Sub-Region selection Javarious Butler and Second Teamer Jamaine Coney have graduated. Junior guard Craig Saxton returns after earning Honorable Mention.

Brantley County boasts one of the best kept secrets in Georgia, 6-foot-6 rising sophomore Jaylin Williams, who earned First Team All-Region as a freshman. The bouncy and versatile forward already holds an offer from Kennesaw State and has HM schools such as Wake Forest courting him for his services. Williams should breakout even more this year and become a household name as he and senior guard and fellow Sub-Region First Teamer Mikel Collins return to try and lead the Herons into the playoffs.

Pierce County seeks its first winning season in years. Joseph Garner brings over a winning pedigree after serving as a Tift County girls assistant. Honorable Mention picks DeMarkus Folsom and Brit Williamson graduate alongside forward Blake Chancey. Everyone else however is set to return. Junior Quashawn Conaway, sophomore Dee Bethea and Moses (Jr.) and Ziggy (So.) Shider represent a young core. The addition of Perrell Brisbane brings a true No. 1 option to Blackshear.

Appling County was hard-pressed to find wins, but at least Second Team selection Devon Moore returns for his senior season along with Honorable Mention selections Stanley Heller and Latavious Nesmith.


Region 3

Jenkins (28-5)
Islands (20-7)
Johnson-Savannah (20-8)
Southeast Bulloch (15-14)
Savannah (12-14)
Windsor Forest (10-15)4A
Beach (6-20)
Groves (2-21)2A

Jenkins missed out on a Class AAA repeat, falling to Morgan County in the state championship 66-56. Michael Coffee (11.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Dimetri Chambers (11.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg) graduate, but the rest of the Warriors’ sturdy core is back with star seniors Region Player of the Year Trevion Lamar and Zion Williams. Lamar, a 6-foot-5 powerfully built forward, led Jenkins in every statistical category last year posting 16.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. Williams, who moved in from Savannah High, put up 13.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.1 steals at his new home. Tyrone Scott will see his role increase his junior season. He is an athletic 6-foot-3 forward that averaged 8.4 points and 7.2 rebounds. Myles Walker moves in from Windsor Forest for his senior season after the 6-foot-3 guard averaged over 15 points per game.

Islands posted a school-record 20 wins and have increased their win total every year since the young school opened in 2010. The Sharks however, tripped up in the region tournament, losing to Tattnall County and failed to reach the state playoffs. Ready to take a bite out of their new region, the Sharks return every starter and their top eight scorers. Pacing them is the school’s all-time leading scorer, Justin Cave, a 6-foot-2 All-Region First Team guard that averaged 20.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals as a junior. Son of Savannah State University head coach Horace Broadnax, Trae Broadnax represents the most talented young guard in the Savannah area. As a freshman the 6-foot-2 playmaker averaged 12 points per game and was named to the All-Region Second Team. Seniors Hugh Durham (12.5 ppg) and Justin Cutter (7.6 ppg) were named Honorable Mention along with junior Kimon Mosley (6 ppg). Durham also comes from a storied coaching tree as his grandfather by the same name coached Florida State (1966-78), Georgia (1978-95) and Jacksonville (1997-05), amassing a 634-430 record with four SEC Coach of the Year awards sprinkled in. The Sharks will need to build depth in order to compete with Jenkins for the region title.

The Johnson-Savannah Atomsmashers lose two First Team players in Da’Monte Greene (17.8 ppg) and Daeshawn Loadholt (11 ppg). Emerging junior Amanze Ngumezi is a 6-foot-8 active stretch forward that can block shots and run the floor. He earned his first offer from Rutgers in the summer and will have a chance to boost his stock even in 2016-17. Brothers E’Maury (8.6 ppg), Eleik (7.3 ppg) and Elavian (4.7 ppg) Bowles enter their junior seasons in the Johnson backcourt after Ernest graduates.

All-Region Second Team selection Markel Ming graduates from Southeast Bulloch. Seniors Aaron Houston and Caleb Carter are back however. Carter, a 6-foot-4 post, averaged over 7 points and 7 rebounds while Houston chipped in nearly 11 points per game from his shooting guard position.  Both players were Honorable Mention picks.

Savannah slid to its worst record in over five years but returns their top three leading scorers. Senior Asante Boyd poured in a team-high 16.4 points and 5.5 rebounds as a 6-foot-2 guard.  Marshall Barber, a 6-foot-3 rising senior, posted 11.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks. Matt Sams played well as a sophomore, adding 8.5 points to round out the Bluejackets scoring attack.

Windsor Forest drops to Class AAA and loses Myles Walker, a potent scoring guard who leaves for Jenkins. 6-foot-5 junior Donovan Lewis returns as the team’s top rebounder.

Beach must stop its slow decline since winning 17 games in 2012-13. Rising senior Romello Royal was selected as a First Team All-Sub-Region player.

Groves won just two games last year in Class AA and now moves up to Class AAA without leading scorer and rebounder Torrence Johnson. Senior Chamel Chaney brings back the most experience as the Rebels look to rebuild a once proud program under new leadership at head coach in Xavier Woods who comes from Twiggs County.


Region 4

Central-Macon (27-3)
Westside-Macon (22-7)
Rutland (9-16)
Jackson (5-19)
Kendrick (5-20)
Peach County (2-22)
Pike County (1-21)4A 

Central-Macon was upended by South Atlanta in the Elite Eight, 92-79. A potent scoring trio takes a hit as football quarterback Derrick Evans graduates after being named All-Middle Georgia Second Team by posting 15.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 2.9 steals per game. The loss of center Kentrevious Jones will be difficult to overcome. Rising senior Antarius McCoy is the lone shooting star back. The tough guard averaged 16.7 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists as a junior. Energy guy Rakwon Iverson must be replaced as one of the team’s top defenders. Jones County transfer, junior Kylan Hill, could fill that role. The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 8.9 points and 7.6 rebounds with the Greyhounds.

The state’s No. 1 ranked player in the Class of 2018, All-Middle Georgia First Teamer Khavon Moore, will try to lift Westside-Macon over the hump after getting thumped by Calhoun in the Sweet 16, 71-43. Moore, a 6-foot-8 five-star point-forward, posted 20.7 points, 11 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.6 steals and 3.1 blocks per game. His supporting cast will be the best it’s ever been this year with senior Samone Reed (11.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.1 spg) being joined in the backcourt by Rutland transfers, seniors Trey Foster (15 ppg, 8 apg, 3 spg) and Jaylyne Brown. The Seminoles will be anchored inside by massive 6-foot-11, 285-pound center Kentrevious Jones after he posted 17.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game at Central-Macon. The huge region changing transfer committed to Xavier in September.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer as Rutland loses two of its top players in the aforementioned Foster and Brown after slipping to 9-16 after owning the region in 2014-15 with Ty’lik Evans leading the Hurricanes to a 27-4 mark. Senior forward Jaikez Mann will see the bulk of the load placed on his back after being named All-Middle Georgia Honorable Mention.

Former Rockdale County Head Coach and Athletic Director Al Williams steps in to turn around the Jackson program. A large senior class graduates, making way for the Red Devils to a find a new leader.

Kendrick looks for its first winning season since 2013-14, after falling to 5-20, their worst record since 2007-08. Junior Tyler Brooks and sophomore Jalen King could play a role in the Cherokees’ future resurgence.

Peach County sees Prelvis Paster enter as head coach after leading Lamar County to an 11-14 mark and a state playoff berth in Class AA. Senior guard Jared Johnson returns with his 19.9-point per game average and represents a true No. 1 option for Paster to lean on. Fletcher Hooks chipped in a second-best 8.5 points as a junior.

Pike County was handed some of the worst beatings in the state last year in Class AAAA. Losses of 68 (Eastside), 61 (Jonesboro) and the coup de grace, a 102-point loss (116-14) to Jonesboro, highlighted a dreadful season. The Pirates’ only win of the season came in overtime against 0-26 Hampton, 49-47. 6-foot-10 senior center Acton Shirley averaged 11.1 points and 9 rebounds. He cashed in his play with the Pirates and with Team Forrest over the summer, committing to Gardner-Webb.

Region 5

Pace Academy (21-10)2A
Westminster (22-3)
Lovett (22-7)2A
Cedar Grove (21-8)
Redan (16-9)4A
Stone Mountain (12-14)4A
Towers (5-20)
McNair (4-19)

Two big name transfers flirted with joining the reigning Class AA state champion Pace Academy Knights, but neither enrolled. Instead Pace will have to settle with five-star 6-foot-10 senior center Wendell Carter Jr., who is viewed as the No. 1 player in the nation by some and by others, a consensus Top 3 prospect. Carter was named Player of the Year in the state of Georgia by Sandy’s Spiel and will attempt to repeat and lead the Knights to the promise land again, a team that opened up the year 2-8 and bounced in and out of the state rankings due to their tough national schedule. Back with Carter is 6-foot-7 junior forward Isaiah Kelly, a highly touted prospect in his own right. With Zack Kaminsky now at Penn and Caleb Holifield transferred to Peachtree Ridge, seniors Barrett Baker and Mark Sommerville must continue to bring solid play out of the backcourt.

Westminster was the biggest shocker in region tournament play as the Wildcats entered Region 4 with a 22-2 record but were eliminated by 15-14 Jackson-Atlanta, 53-48, denying Westminster a trip to the state playoffs. Star forward Will Benson has graduated and was the No. 14 pick in the MLB Draft, selected by the Cleveland Indians. Also gone are guards Philip Jones and Tyler Barry. 6-foot-5 senior forward Mikael Sampson now becomes the unquestioned go-to guy. He has diversified his game and will have the ball in his hands more now that Benson has left. Sampson will be challenged nightly by a tough new region.

Much to Lovett’s chagrin, the Lions move up to Class AAA but are still stuck with Pace, who they lost to by 13 and 14 points, sandwiched in between by a 66-63 overtime victory over the Knights. The Lions lose First Team All-Region performer Henry Richardson (18.5 ppg) but return the best freshman in Class AA last season, Ryan Greer. Greer averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists and was named All-Region. The mature guard is the epitome of a winner and a leader.  Joining him will be junior Crawford Schwieger, a deadly three-point shooter when left open. Sophomore Nick Jackson will see major minutes this season as an undersized, hard working 6-foot forward. Seniors Ryan Pate and Kyle Riley should have chances to see the floor. Pate is a streaky three-point shooter that can help open the floor while Riley, 6-foot-6, is back after missing last season with a blood clot.

Cedar Grove took a trip to the Class AAA Final Four where they were eliminated by Jenkins, 68-59. Antonio Reeves graduates, but 6-foot-8 senior Jelani Woods returns after averaging 12.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. Woods is an Oklahoma State football commit at quarterback. Slotting in will be sophomore Devon Barnes, a 6-foot-2 guard that already showed his scoring prowess as a freshman with multiple big nights. Junior Jamari Dean brings back his lunch pail work ethic on the glass after averaging 5.9 rebounds per game.

Redan doesn’t catch much of a break after leaving the powerful Region 6-AAAA, joining a just as difficult Region 5-AAA. The Raiders lose two pieces of a potent backcourt but do return the man who spearheaded the attack in senior guard Tyronn Stuckey. Stuckey, 5-foot-11, averaged a team-high 14.6 points, 5.4 assists and 2.8 steals while shooting 50% from three-point land. The shifty guard earned First Team All-Region honors as well. For the Raiders to repeat their success, 6-foot-4 senior Jibril Wykcoff will need to help fill the scoring voids left by Darryl Moody (13.1 ppg) and Chae McLaurin (12.2 ppg) and pick up the slack on the glass after losing Ashaki Powell (7.2 rpg).

Stone Mountain follows Redan into their new region but lose heavy firepower in Muhammad Dent (14 ppg), Michael Graham (12.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Donnell Stafford (7.6 rpg). Senior guards Michael Williams and Eric Huff are the presumed top options in the Pirates backcourt.

Towers graduates eight players from a 5-win team. Top players Tyler Wright, Dalvis Morris, Jamal Benton and Jermaine Neal are all gone. Rising sophomores Jaronta Sims and Damaje Hicks saw varsity experience. Hicks is 6-foot-7.

Jarion Davis graduates from McNair, leaving the Mustangs without their primary post presence. The team only had three seniors last year and bring back a heavy junior class for their final year in 2016-17.


Region 6

Calhoun (27-1)
Coahulla Creek (21-7)
North Murray (19-9)
Sonoraville (11-13)
Murray County (10-17)
Ringgold (10-18)
Adairsville (9-19)
Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe (6-20)
Bremen (3-21)2A
Haralson County (1-23)

Calhoun’s magical undefeated season came up short, falling to Jenkins in the Elite Eight 84-78 after making a furious comeback. Top scorers Kaelan Riley (15.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Jireh Wilson (13.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.5 apg) both graduate and now start their collegiate football careers at Mercer and Wofford, respectively. Riley ranked second on the team in scoring his freshman year and led the Yellow Jackets his following three seasons in points per game, making him a massive loss and an all-time Calhoun great. Second leading scorer Chapin Rierson returns for his senior season after posting 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds as a versatile 6-foot-5 forward. Rierson could see an uptick in his scoring role now that Riley, Wilson and Ray Reeves (9 ppg) are gone. Guards Malik Lawrence (6.8 ppg), Rhett Abernathy (3.5 ppg) and Porter Law will all see major minutes. Lawrence and Abernathy enter their senior seasons as experienced backcourt members while Law brings toughness and physicality to the perimeter as a junior.

Coahulla Creek enters its sixth season and has seen progress each year. Last season the Colts recorded a school-record 21 wins and earned their first state playoff berth, losing 80-61 to Banks County in the opening round. Major changes are coming for the Colts however as Head Coach Matthew Queener has stepped down and senior standouts Alex Fisher, JR Laird and Caleb Lewis have graduated. Matthew Legg, a Murray County assistant, now enters to lead the Colts. He will need to replace Fisher, an All-Region performer that did it all for Coahulla Creek and nearly led the Colts to an upset of Calhoun before falling 65-58 in overtime in a classic. In fact, Coahulla Creek was the only team all year long to stay within 10 points of the Yellow Jackets, losing their first meeting 60-52. Senior and Second Team All-Area honoree Tyler Phillips brings back the most experience as a fundamentally sound player and active rebounder inside.

North Murray has developed a proud young program in short time, posting winning records every season since joining the GHSA back in 2011-12. Top guard Noah Allen transferred to North Carolina last season but that didn’t stop the Mountaineers from taking another trip to the state playoffs where they lost 55-54 at Lumpkin County. Second Team All-Area performer Lucas Sexton graduates along with Jordan Couch.  Inside, 6-foot-6, 285-pound rising sophomore Luke Griffin is a handful. He recently committed to play football at UGA.

Sonoraville loses Hunter White and Austin Carter as strong guards but return 6-foot-4 post Bryce Waters. Junior Wil Walraven is a capable guard going on scoring tears. A fully healthy Brad Wilson will star in the backcourt as a knockdown shooter from beyond the arc.

Murray County graduates 10 seniors, meaning plenty of new faces will get a chance to step up. Football standouts Dominick Genitempo and Braden Weaver enter their senior seasons and should help out on the hardwood. Cade Vice made the Indians roster as sophomore and could contribute this year in the backcourt.

Dual-sport star Mac Brower powers Ringgold in football and basketball. The 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 18.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game as a junior. Rising junior Nathan Camp (5.7 ppg) and senior Davantae Jackson (5.6 ppg) represent the most help returning.

Adairsville returns it top core of a 9-win team, bringing back the team’s Offensive Player of the Year (Sr. Cole Hewatt), Defensive Player of the Year (Sr. Juan Perez) and Most Valuable Player and All-County selection senior Ronald Hardin. Junior guards Hunter Hice and Ethan Belcher also hold promise moving forward.

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe is led by junior post Zach Thompson (9.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg), senior guard Noah Harris (9 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and junior guard Andrew Brock (6 ppg). Senior Triston Bennett is a steady rim protector (5.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.1 bpg).

Bremen moves up from Class AA to AAA in search of finding more wins. The Blue Devils have bright future as sophomores Charlie Crafton and Jason Houston both made All-Area Honorable Mention as 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3 freshmen. Crafton led the Blue Devils in scoring with 14.4 points to go along with his 5.8 rebounds. Dalton Smith could fill a role as a three-point specialist in his first season with Bremen.

Haralson County played in the smallest and possibly weakest region in the state last year, 5-AAA, but still finished 1-23, their only win coming against state playoff participant 8-18 Rockmart. Bremen won just three games last year with two coming against Haralson County, 46-30 and 39-35. Top player, J.C. Garrett an All-Area Honorable Mention pick, has graduated. Coach Vic Coggins enters his second year at the helm. Senior Kris Boyd, sophomore Nick Vaughn and junior Noah Ray will be important pieces while incoming freshman Bryson King could be a key cog in the Rebels’ eventual turnaround.


Region 7

East Hall (21-8)
North Hall (21-8)4A
Lumpkin County (19-11)
Greater Atlanta Christian (17-11)2A
Union County (16-14)2A
Dawson County (13-13)
Fannin County (11-14)

East Hall took a trip to the Sweet 16 where they were eliminated by Westside-Augusta, 79-59. Coach Joe Dix will need another masterful coaching performance this year as the Vikings lose key players and size. Graduates Tylor Brown, Triston Cooper and Andy Lara represent a backcourt that was heavily relied upon. Brown, a First Team All-Area selection, averaged 19.3 points his final season. Senior Markese Jackson is focusing on football full-time. His athleticism will be sorely missed. Luke Cooper is coming off a broken ankle he suffered during the Vikings’ first practice of the summer. The absence of all the aforementioned players afforded Dix the opportunity to load his offseason roster with freshmen and sophomores. Sophomore Luke Holtzclaw showed a nice three-point touch and could see important minutes this year. Lone veteran, 6-foot-5 forward Mahki Brown, is a senior that will be asked to control the paint after averaging 7 points and 5.5 rebounds. Senior guard Keilen Dowdy returns from an ACL injury and will bring quickness to the Vikings backcourt. Senior guards Tony Martinez, Deonte Evans and Joseph Buffington will be valuable pieces while sophomores Trevor Rider and Cambren Harrison help out from the guard and post position, respectively. Eighth grader Imre Earls saw some action this summer. The guard will be a player to keep an eye on in the coming years in Hall County.

North Hall lost a heartbreaker to Carrollton in the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament, 59-56. The Trojans drop back to Class AAA where they finished 29-4 in 2012-13 but sank to 6-20 the following year. Coach Tyler Sanders has seen the rebirth of the program but must take the next steps without Carson Heinen and Sam Jackson, one of the most reliable backcourts in Hall County. Heinen was a First Team All-Area pick after posting 19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game and earning Region 8-AAAA Co-Player of the Year. Jackson was a strong leader on the floor that got Heinen and Evan Easton the ball. Easton, a rising 6-foot-4 senior post, was Second Team All-Area following a season in which he averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds and was named First Team All-Region 8-AAAA. Joining Easton will be seniors Jake Meeler, Justin Rabb, Alec Volle and Alden Lewallen. Meeler brings toughness to the interior at 6-foot-2 while Rabb, Volle and Lewallen all have waited patiently and now get a chance to make an impact at the varsity level.

Lumpkin County got off to a hot start to open the Jeff Steele era, winning 13 of their first 16 games, but sunk back to the pack once Region 7-AAA play opened, losing seven of their next 12 before entering the state tournament. Even with the bumpy end to the season, the Indians won 10-more games than they did in 2014-15 and picked up a 55-54 win over North Murray before losing to Laney in the Sweet 16, 91-45. All-Area Second Teamer Jack Howard must be replaced. The big-time scorer averaged 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Honorable Mention big man Brandon Zarate is gone as well after becoming a double-double machine. Senior guard Zach Pulley is in-line for a big year with Howard graduated.

Coach David Eaton experienced some turbulence in his first season at Greater Atlanta Christian, but was able to steer the Spartans into the Sweet 16 in Class AA after two of the team’s best players were dismissed halfway through the year. Rising sophomore point guard Hunter McIntosh played beyond his years as a cool-headed ball handler that was able to fill it up when asked. He should continue to improve and has next level written all over him if his freshman season was just a preview. California, Stanford and Florida Gulf Coast have all shown interest. 6-foot-8 Air Force-commit Charlie O’Briant is a skilled player that can stretch defenses. To fully maximize his potential, he will need to add some more weight to his slight frame, but the skill set is there. Sophomore Chris Hinton allows O’Briant to be the finesse player while he lays the boom inside. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Hinton is a bruiser inside that can finish down low and hit the glass hard.

Union County took a trip to the Sweet 16 before getting annihilated by Thomasville 65-30.  The loss of 6-foot-8 Chase Shook (10.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.2 bpg) hurts the Panthers inside but the team’s top two scorers are set to return in Lawson Baenninger and Crawford Colwell. Baenninger, a 6-foot-2 senior, averaged 13.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.2 steals. Colwell, a 6-foot-1 junior, posted 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Dawson County had a reason for optimism with Chad Pittman stepping in as head coach from Chestatee and a strong junior class coming back. A monkey wrench was thrown into those plans however as centerpiece Gabe Bryant, a 6-foot-8 animal inside, decided to return home to South Carolina. Nonetheless, Pittman still has four starters (all juniors) returning highlighted by All-Region member Cullen Reed and Jeremiah Crumley as top scoring options with plenty of experience. Football standout Coey Watson and Ryan Gallenkamp round out the starting group that remains intact. The loss of Bryant leaves the Tigers without much size, their tallest players standing 6-foot-2. Seniors Joseph Cronan and Corey Hammond will be asked to provide leadership while 6-foot-2 Kane Palfrey will see important playing time as a junior.

Fannin County joins a tough region and will look for leadership from seniors Clay Ware and Logan Holt who were among the team’s leading scorers last season.


Region 8

Morgan County (26-4)
Jackson County (18-12)
East Jackson (17-12)
Monroe Area (15-13)4A
Franklin County (7-19)
Hart County (6-20)

Morgan County recaptured the Class AAA crown by upending rival Jenkins 66-56, giving the Bulldogs their second title in the past three years. Jordan Ford (Jackson State), Jailyn Ingram (FAU) and DeVorious Brown (FAU) all leave big holes across Morgan County’s starting five. The next big thing coming out of MoCo however looks to be Alec Woodard. The rising sophomore broke a school-record with 10 threes in a game. Obviously, Woodard at 6-foot-3 can shoot the lights out of the ball, but he can score when attacking the basket as well. He will be Coach Jamond Sims’ lead dog in 2016-17. It will be interesting to see who steps up around Woodard. One likely candidate to do so is 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Tyrin Lawrence who moves in from Monticello where he averaged 5.9 points per game. Lawrence built a bond with Woodard over the summer with the Atlanta Celtics.

Class AAA Coach of the Year Chuck Butler successfully changed the culture surrounding the Jackson County program seeing a turnaround from 4-22 to 18-12, in the process capturing their first state playoff win in 51 years when they defeated Rockmart 75-52. The Panthers met their demise in the Sweet 16 with a loss at Jenkins, 70-51. Now it is up to Butler and top assistant Brad Hayes to continue Jackson County’s rise from obscurity. A senior class that stuck together and bought into Jackson County’s E.A.T. mentality was the key to success. Out of those seven seniors the losses of Joel Ellis, Preston Giroux, Malique Wade, Stephen Fogarty and Jase Latty hit home the hardest. Ellis was a First Team All-Area selection after banging inside to average 18 points and 9 rebounds. Giroux was a Second Teamer that brought versatility to the table while Wade, Fogarty and Latty all bought into their roles. Rising senior Christian Smith will be relied upon to pack a scoring punch for a Panthers team that must continue to play hard. Brock McCullum and 6-foot-4 Kyron Baker are a pair of seniors that will factor into Coach Butler’s system. New addition Tae Woods is an athletic 6-foot-4 forward that hails from Gainesville. Woods has a chance to provide some much needed versatility, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Point guard Owen Purvis is a leader by example while sophomore bigs Chase Daniel and Wright Wilson represent playable size over their final three seasons.

Things are a lot different at East Jackson now that David Boyd has stepped away from the program. Drue Drinnon and Travis Anderson have gone their separate ways. Senior guard Jaylen Morgan also transfers out, taking his bounce to Central Gwinnett. David Akin takes over as head coach and has started to implement a next-level approach for preparing the team, using advanced video break down for statistical analysis. With all of the Eagles blue-chippers out the door, the fearless Akin has still scheduled six exposure events including a date with defending Class AA state champion Pace Academy. Junior Kobe Haley is 6-foot-3 on the wing and should have plenty of scoring opportunities. Cody Nix provides a 6-foot-4 frame on the perimeter and Zay Clark, a junior, is the only returning starter. Junior guard Jace Bonds transfers in from Oconee County as an athletic and active backcourt member. Sophomores Miles Addington and Marcus Wingfield both have chances to earn major minutes.

Monroe Area lost a heartbreaker in the opening round of the Class AAAA playoffs, losing 53-52 to Woodward Academy. Coach Chris Jackson enters Year 3 and looks to make it 3-for-3 in making it to the state playoffs. In his first season in 2014-15, he turned a 4-22 program into an 18-12 unit. Expectations are high for a young group in 2016-17.  Chandler Gibson is a veteran leader that averaged 15.8 points and 3.4 assists while being named First Team All-Region 8-AAAA.  Junior guard Devin Sheats is steady with the ball in his hands and boasts a high-IQ. 6-foot-6 junior wing Elijah Goodman was out with injury after Christmas when he broke his foot. Now on the mend, healthy and ready to go, the lengthy shooter has a chance for a breakthrough season. The Hurricanes put together a 24-5 mark over the summer and look poised to push for the playoffs even though only two seniors are projected to see important minutes.

Franklin County must replace KeAndre’ Morrison and Phoenix Roberts in the backcourt. Four sophomores suited up for the varsity last year.

Hart County sunk from 16-14 to 6-20. Senior Marquavian Walker will be joined by a group of juniors: Mondriquez Craft, Tyler Dalton, Tevin Craft, Jalen Brown and PJ Rucker in hopes of turning the Bulldogs back into a contender.

GHSA Class AA Preview

Class AA

Region 1

Thomasville (28-2)
Early County (22-8)
Fitzgerald (14-11)
Albany (12-12)4A
Berrien (11-16)
Brooks County (10-16)

Thomasville looked like the clear cut favorite to make a trip to the state finals, but instead the Bulldogs were destroyed by Pace Academy in the Elite Eight, 78-48. Tough guard and Region Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Willis along with Gregory Hobbs, Shedric Cooper and 6-foot-6 Alex Perry have all graduated. All eyes turn towards 6-foot-8 power forward Reggie Perry. The junior has garnered rave reviews and recently committed to Arkansas. He has had an impressive summer and will need to cement himself as one of the best big men in the state of Georgia regardless of classification now that other weapons have graduated.  Next to Perry is 6-foot-9 mountain, Titus Wright. The rising sophomore earned a scholarship offer from Virginia this offseason. There’s no reason with their massively talented frontline that the Bulldogs shouldn’t be considered the heavy favorite once again to win the Class AA title, especially with Pace’s departure to Class AAA. The Bulldogs might have the most talented 1-2 punch in the low post in the state this upcoming season and will need to prove it.

Reigning Region 1-AA Offensive Player of the Year Tracey Beacham graduates from Early County’s low block. Back however are First Team selections seniors Qubilah Hall and Devonte George who compose a potent backcourt for the Bobcats. Tamarion Harris and Malik Thornton are also seniors who earned Second Team All-Region honors.

Fitzgerald was a major thorn in the side of Region 1’s best teams last year, pushing Early County, Thomasville and Seminole County to the brink multiple times before upsetting the Indians and Jordan Harris in the Region Tournament, 63-58. The Purple Hurricanes lost to the Monticello Hurricanes in the opening round of the state tournament, 63-58. All-Region First Teamer Tay Daniels graduates along with Second Teamer Markel Hall. 5-foot-9 senior Antonio Perry will anchor the backcourt after earning Second Team honors.

Albany drops all the way from Class AAAA to Class AA and could make some noise in their new region behind a trio of seniors. Darrell Bryant (11.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1 bpg), John Flood (9 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Kamron Peterson (8.5 ppg, 4 rpg) all represent quality players that could spark the Indians back into the postseason much like a senior trio did for Albany back in 2014-15 when the team finished 20-6.

Berrien won 11 games last year but went 1-11 in region play. Justin Owens graduates his 17.8 point per game average but Second Team pick Darius Tisby is ready to carry the load after pouring in 16.2 points per game as a 6-foot-1 sophomore.

Brooks County returns 5-foot-7 guard Jarrious Rose for his senior season. The cornerback and running back on the football team averaged 8.2 points and earned First Team honors. Rising sophomore Xavier Rose showed promise at the guard spot and junior Malcolm Brown pumped in 15.9 points per game in his 10 appearances.

Region 2

Vidalia (23-5)
Swainsboro (18-9)
Benedictine (16-12)
Jeff Davis (13-14)
Bacon County (12-13)
Bryan County (12-15)
Metter (8-21)
Toombs County (4-22)3A

After splitting the season series with Swainsboro (59-58 W, 62-58 L), Vidalia was eliminated by the Tigers 54-47 in the first round of the state playoffs. The two schools will get to grow their burgeoning rivalry now that they are housed in Region 2 together. To keep their winning tradition alive, Vidalia must replace Wil Chambliss in the backcourt. Junior guard Tahj Jones is a good start. The 5-foot-9 point guard was an All-Middle Georgia Honorable Mention selection as a sophomore. Jones is an athletic guard that can score in a variety of ways with his quickness being a main asset. He played over the summer with the Atlanta Celtics and has a chance to make some noise with the Indians over his final two seasons. 6-foot-5 sophomore Galen White is projected to effect games inside and out as an athletic forward who has improved his game over the summer. Guards Todd Lanier, Ty Page and Caleb Gilchriest step up as leaders their senior season. Lanier at 6-foot-2 and Gilchriest at 5-foot-7 will stretch the floor for Coach Tommy Dalley. The Indians will be a young team that only boasts these three seniors, but Vidalia still returns three starters from a year ago.

Swainsboro will take to the court with heavy hearts as Head Coach Bobby Andrews, who served at the school in some capacity for nearly 30 years, passed away in April. Senior Justin Harris and juniors Jaylan McKinney and Eddie Roberts will continue on as Swainsboro gets ready for an emotional season with assistant Brice Hobbs taking over the reins as head coach.

Team-captain and best player Chase Marini graduates but his brother Cooper is back for his senior season at Benedictine. Marini, 5-foot-9, is more of a slasher than a shooter. He is the team’s returning leading scorer at 7.1 points while adding 2.1 steals per game. Senior Chris Harris is a 6-foot-2, 235-pound post presence that averaged 7 points and 5.2 rebounds. 5-foot-9 junior Andrew Warren chipped in 5.5 points per game last year and should see an expanded role. The Cadets fell to Long County in the Region Championship 64-57 and were ousted by Jefferson County in the opening round of state, 62-59.

Jeff Davis will let loose Shawn Percy and Kirese Manley in the backcourt. Percy, 5-foot-10, was the Yellow Jackets’ second leading scorer posting 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds a night as a junior. The All-Region performer’s physicality and ability to defend on defense and get to the rim on offense turned some heads at the SEBA Atlanta All-Star Shootout. Manley, a 6-foot junior, did a lot of nice things, filling the stat sheet with 7.3 points, 3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. His three-point shooting however, 9-for-42, drastically needs improvement.

Bacon County graduates three players from last season’s 12-13 team. Senior forward Lane Foster brings experience inside along with 6-foot-4 Elijah Champion. Ty’rik Clinton made the varsity roster as a 5-foot-9 freshman and might have a bright future.

Bryan County fell from 20-8 to 12-15, but bring back their top three scorers. Isaiah Tillman led the charge at 14.5 points per game while veteran post Kimonti Murray brings athleticism inside, averaging 13.4 points. Both will be seniors. Ja’lyn James is the third scoring threat. He pitched in 7.8 points on average.

At 8-21, Metter found a way to scratch out a state tournament appearance by beating Screven County in the region tournament. Team Captains Dwight Williams and Miles Davis graduate from a young team that had four sophomores and five freshmen on its roster. Brothers Alex and William Dekle are the lone seniors that return.

Toombs County won just four games last season but with Tift County assistant Laberton Sims taking the job, the Bulldogs should be much more competitive, especially since Sims brings over his two sons Laberton Jr. and Julius to help out. Laberton Jr., 6-foot-4, brings athleticism inside for his senior season. Julius is a 6-foot-1 freshman that could see varsity time as well. The duo joins an already potent backcourt led by seniors Jalen Mobley and D.R. Meadows. Meadows was a First Team All-Sub Region selection after posting 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals. He and Mobley, a Second Teamer, combined to fire up 404 threes. Mobley led the team in scoring at 14.2 points and added 4.7 rebounds per game. Mobley needs to work on his shot selection however. He took 113 two-pointers and converted at 42% while taking a whopping 258 threes, but only hitting 27% of them. Rising sophomore point guard Tyrese Lewis averaged 5.8 points while junior KeShawn Morgan chipped in 4.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals, giving Coach Sims a young but experienced roster behind Meadows, Mobley and Sims.


Region 3

Dublin (25-5)
Dodge County (19-9)3A
Southwest-Macon (16-10)3A
Bleckley County (9-13)
East Laurens (8-12)
Washington County (9-17)3A
Northeast-Macon (3-24)

Dublin led the state in scoring last year, pouring in 84.8 points per game while taking a trip to the Elite Eight in Class AA where they were upset by Monticello, 79-67. Seven seniors graduate but elusive junior guard Kameron Pauldo is back to lead the charge. Standing 5-foot-10, Pauldo is one of the best guards in the state that people haven’t heard about. He already has over 1,000 points in his career and is starting to garner next level attention, picking up his first D-I offer from Stetson this summer. Fellow junior Torian Holder, 5-foot-9, is also a lightning quick guard that keeps teams honest.

Dodge County graduates 1,000-point scorer Alex Jordan along with DeMarcus McClinton from last year’s state playoff team. Brent Anderson has stepped down and will be replaced by Robert Cotton, who failed to win over seven games in a single season over his three years at Wayne County. Including McClinton and Jordan, nine seniors graduate as Cotton will need to rebuild in his first year. Junior guard Readell Hunt will be the team’s top scoring option after putting together a very productive sophomore season.

Southwest-Macon enjoyed a trip to the postseason in Class AAA after battling Central-Macon and Westside-Macon all year long and coming away with a 12-4 region record and the No. 4 seed. 6-foot-6 forward Justin Slocum leaves a big hole inside. The slender yet active senior averaged 22.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.9 steals and 2.3 blocks while earning Region 2-AAA Player of the Year honors. The Patriots suffered a huge blow this offseason as Nick Hargrove leaves for prep school instead of finishing his senior season in the GHSA. The 6-foot guard averaged 30.6 points while at Bible Baptist Christian as a sophomore and he didn’t disappoint last year in his GHSA debut, averaging 21.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.9 steals. Left to pick up the pieces is 6-foot-4 senior guard Aaron Ridley, who averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals while battling injuries. Jordan Slocum, Justin’s little brother, averaged 6.5 points and 4.8 rebounds as a 6-foot-5 freshman. Another sophomore, Alontae Tarver, brings more size into the paint at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. He chipped in 4.1 points and 4 rebounds as a freshman.

With only three players graduating, Bleckley County should improve on its nine-win season. Region 4-AA All-Region selections Dahmon Lemmon and Willie Taylor return for their senior seasons. Taylor, a 6-foot-4 forward, is an exceptional athlete that led the Royals in rebounding. Also joining Taylor and Lemmon is rising junior Torenio Davis, who has quick hands on defense and stretches the floor on offense.

East Laurens graduates Jacorey Coleman and Kevin Lovett while the rest of the roster returns. Seniors Dylan Hall and Prince Denson bring back the most experience on the varsity.

Washington County tumbled from 18-11 to 9-17 following the graduation of leading scorer and Georgia Tech safety AJ Gray and the transfer of TiQuan Lewis to Southwest DeKalb. Coach Carlos Hope sees his top seven scorers all return from a now veteran-laden team. Five seniors led the team in scoring headed by Kristian Bryant (9 ppg), Chris Parker (7.6 ppg) and Monterrio Maze (7.2 ppg). Caleb Johnson averaged 5.6 points and a team-best 5.5 rebounds per game last year and will see a prominent role as the Golden Hawks’ garbage guy his senior season.

Northeast-Macon struggled mightily last year as they took their lumps as an extremely young team, but Coach Kevin Grooms should expect their early experience to come to fruition in the upcoming seasons. Rising sophomores Ty’Ree Gilbert and Darius Dunn power the attack. Gilbert, 5-foot-11, led the Raiders in scoring at 14.5 points. Dunn, 6-foot-1, pitched in 12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Another good freshman could see major minutes this season in Camrone Cherry. The lefty guard pushes 6-feet and has a knack for scoring, leading Appling Middle School to back-to-back city championships. Cherry has range on his jumper and can help spread the defense if Coach Grooms ever decides to implement a three guard lineup with Cherry, Gilbert and Dunn.

Region 4

Laney (26-3)3A
Westside-Augusta (18-6)3A
Butler (14-10)3A
Josey (12-12)3A
Screven County (9-11)
Jefferson County (10-17)
Glenn Hills (3-19)3A
Harlem (2-23)

Laney enters the great unknown as Co-All-Area Players of the Year Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern) and Zep Jasper (College of Charleston) graduate. The two fierce competitors were habitual winners at the high school level, but never captured a state title. The backcourt duo was the heart and soul of the Wildcats, Keeling averaging 23.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals while Jasper poured in 20.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals. Rival Morgan County, the eventual Class AAA state champs, ended Laney’s season in the Elite Eight, 55-50. Laney’s drop to AA should benefit them as the team looks for new leaders. Expected to try and fill the big shoes left behind are junior Donald Henley and senior Tahj Tanksley. Henley is the returning leading scorer at 7.4 points per game. He also chipped in 2.5 assists. Tanksley averaged 4.7 points. PJ Walker and DeJuan Griffin should also see expanded roles entering their junior campaigns.

Westside-Augusta improved from eight wins in 2014-15 to becoming an Elite Eight team last season. Graduations and transfers hurt the Patriots for this upcoming season. Leading scorers Damontrez Hawes (16 ppg) and Dekwan Lewis (12.6 ppg) have graduated. Hawes was an All-Area First Team selection as a 6-foot-3 swingman while Lewis, an Honorable Mention selection, provided a boost in the backcourt. Third leading scorer Christian Robinson, a rising senior, has transferred to Butler where he brings his aggressive defense to a team on the rise. Expected to return for the Patriots are seniors Justin Phillips (9.1 ppg) and 6-foot-4 Honorable Mention pick, big man Elijah Brown (7.6 ppg).

Butler lost to Westside-Macon in the opening round of the state playoffs in Class AAA and now finds itself in Class AA with the rest of its Augusta brethren. Cervantes Boddy is respected as one of the best coaches in the area and has a chance to take the crown and bragging rights as the CSRA’s best team this season. Top scorer Jzwa Collier (15.5 ppg) is gone, but Honorable Mention selections DeAndre Barton and Will Lambert are back for their final seasons. Barton, 6-foot-2, averaged over 12 points and 5 rebounds a game. Lambert, 6-foot-4, averaged a double-double at 10 points and 11 rebounds. In the backcourt junior Keith Littles and senior Jerry Leverett provide stability along with incoming transfer Christian Robinson. Robinson, built like a fullback, is a tenacious defender that also possesses the strength to blow by defenders when attacking the paint. He averaged over 11 points per game at Westside-Augusta as a junior.

Josey graduates potent scorer Donald Jordan, who averaged upwards of 20 points and 5 rebounds per game. Behind him, the Eagles still have four seniors who played key roles as juniors. Honorable Mention All-Area picks Domonique Hurst and Javen Whitehead are a pair of active 6-foot-4 forwards inside. Hurst averaged 9.1 points, 6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. Whitehead, a springy finisher above the rim, chipped in 7.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Jonathan Butler has played well from the perimeter this summer and could slide into the role left behind by Jordan after he averaged over 8 points a game last season. Butler can get to the hoop with a quick first step and also open up the floor with his three-point stroke. John Williams brings the same qualities to the table as a 6-foot-3 wing that pitched in 7.8 points a game last year.

Screven County saw improvement from the 2014-15 season and will try to continue its slow upward climb. Kim Hunter led the team in scoring as a freshman 13.5 points per game and now enters his junior season as a veteran guard that can be relied upon. Also entering his junior season is forward Tyquan Johnson who averaged 8.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks as a freshman two years ago. Hunter and Johnson, who is a 6-foot-3 wide receiver on the football team as well, will have high expectations heading into their upperclassmen seasons after the duo helped their middle school to its first championship in 22 years way back in 2013-14.

At only 10-17, Jefferson County took a trip to the Sweet 16 after upsetting Benedictine in Round 1, 62-59 and putting a scare into eventual Class AA champion Pace Academy, falling 69-58. Returning are junior guards Tahkwon King and Jadarius Hector. King led the Warriors in scoring last season at 15.3 points per game. He ramped up his play in the postseason, scoring 16 against Benedictine and pouring in a game-high 28 against Pace. Seniors Tremaine Stone, Kadarian Dixon and Justin Davis round out a potentially dangerous team in their new region.

Glenn Hills attempts to improve upon a 5-21 record. Seven of Coach Travis McRae’s top eight players return including 6-foot-8 junior forward Timmy Sellers who earned First Team All-Region honors as a sophomore after averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Honorable Mention pick Robert Drew will lead the Spartans backcourt his senior season after posting 9 points, 5 assists and 2 steals a night. 6-foot-5 freshman John Whitehead will have a chance to earn valuable minutes right away while move-in Tony Sheppard will slot into Glenn Hills’ rotation.

Harlem plummeted from 24-5 to 2-23, the biggest drop off in the state after graduating Reggie Reid. Kanez Dunn did the best he could to carry the load in Reid’s void, averaging over 19 points per game but it wasn’t enough to keep Harlem competitive. Now Dunn graduates, making way for an important Class of 2018 that must continue to improve entering their junior season. Jerrod Harris, a 6-foot-4 forward, returns as the team’s leading scorer after averaging 9.7 points per game. Garrett Lane and Dreko Rivers bring experience back as well heading into their junior seasons. The addition of guard Javier Flohr from Grovetown should help the backcourt. The senior averaged 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 2015-16.


Region 5

Temple (22-6)
Callaway (18-4)3A
Heard County (13-13)
Lamar County (11-14)
Jordan (9-16)3A
Spencer (7-17)3A

Temple took a 69-55 loss in the Sweet 16 to Crawford County but All-Area Coach of the Year David Cottrell returns some talent. 6-foot guard Javin Boles was an All-Area First Team selection as a sophomore after netting 17.3 points per game. Joining Boles will be Honorable Mention selection Treon Wright, a rising senior guard. The loss of 6-foot-7 post Peyton Applegate means someone will have to step up inside. Applegate was an All-Area Second Teamer. Without much size, look for the Tigers to use their quickness and press more often this season.

Callaway graduates most of its fire power from a Sweet 16 team that lost to South Atlanta 79-73 in the Class AAA playoffs. The drop to AA should help the Cavaliers as Coach Terry Hayes searches for players to compliment potent guard Braylon Sanders. The 6-foot-3 rising senior played with 17U Atlanta Xpress this summer and is poised for a big year with much of the offense set to run through him.

Heard County returns all five starters while Keith Simmons moves from Carrollton assistant to Heard County head coach. 6-foot-3 post Jordarius Foster anchors the Braves and is coming off an All-Area Second Team selection as a junior. 6-foot-5 wing Christian Murray was an Honorable Mention pick as a junior. Murray’s length and versatility will be leaned on by Coach Simmons his senior season.

Lamar County sees a change in leadership. Prelvis Paster has left for Peach County while former West Hall head coach Warren Sellers enters. Sellers spent 14 years as head coach at West Hall, resigning in 2015 after becoming the school’s winningest coach with 182 W’s. Six sophomores lined the Trojan roster last year. Lamar County was beat by Thomasville in the opening round of the state playoffs, 67-41.

Following a 9-16 campaign, Jordan has reason for optimism. Jordan along with Spencer escape from a difficult region which featured Westside-Macon, Central-Macon and Southwest-Macon. Lederrius Jones graduates his 17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4 assists as the lone senior on last year’s team. Rising seniors and juniors are now set to take over. Senior 5-foot-6 point guard Onte Harrison averaged 10.5 points, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals. Junior forward and wide receiver on the football team, Leonard Hill, pitched in 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds. Seniors D’Andre Snead (7.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Royale Lampley (4.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg) bring size and athleticism while junior Quentin Duke returns after chipping in 6.6 points per game.

Spencer looks for production from experienced junior Taheim Mabery and senior Ervin Davis.


Region 6

South Atlanta (25-7)3A
Therrell (14-9)3A
Douglass (12-13)3A
KIPP Atlanta (8-11)
Hapeville Charter (9-16)
Washington (3-23)3A
B.E.S.T. Academy (1-16)

South Atlanta raced to the Final Four in Class AAA where the Hornets fell to eventual state champion Morgan County, 64-61, in heartbreaking fashion on a last second three-pointer. Known for their depth, length and speedy guard play, the Hornets graduate a big bulk of their team which scored the most impressive win in the state, a 62-57 victory over Greenforest Christian at the Blue Collar Basketball MLK Classic, the Eagles’ only in-state loss of the season. Long-time head coach Michael Reddick still has talent, especially in the backcourt. Seniors Frank Bailey and Devonta Pullins are both explosive. Junior guard Jalen Stegall can fill it up as well. Senior post players, 6-foot-7 Tyler Thornton and 6-foot-5 Demonte Roberts, will be asked to defend the paint and ignite fastbreaks.

Therrell had an up and down season last year, but a solid one nonetheless picking up a winning record. Rising sophomore Anthony Edwards is a primetime player that plays beyond his age. The 6-foot-4 guard put up big numbers as a freshman, averaging over 15 points per game. He played with the Atlanta Xpress and has a chance to be something special with more seasoning, already drawing attention from High Major programs. Much of his supporting cast has graduated however, leaving the Panthers’ upside in question. 6-foot-7 junior Kennedy Willis is also gone after transferring to St. Pius.

Douglass got off to a hot start at 10-2 before the wheels fell off and the Astros stumbled to the finish line losing their final seven games. Seven seniors graduate including Team Captain Deangelo Harris.

KIPP Atlanta loses 6-foot-4 Carlton Tippens to graduation. The forward averaged 15.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Eric Conway’s 13 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 steals are also gone.  5-foot-9 Stavon Griggs is back as the logical choice to run the Warrior offense. He averaged 15.2 points per game. KIPP will like its new home as they escape Region 6-AA which housed state champion Pace Academy and playoff teams Lovett (22-7), Greater Atlanta Christian (17-11) and Holy Innocents’ (20-10).

Following KIPP to a new home is both Hapeville Charter and B.E.S.T Academy. 5-foot-6 junior Jamarre Ezzard led the Hapeville Hornets in scoring last year at 14.1 points while hitting 43% of his threes. Versatile 6-foot-2 senior Rome Emenalo chipped in 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.4 blocks. Senior Brandon Goldson (8.6 ppg) and junior Jerrod Colbert (8.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.2 spg) round out a competitive ball club.

Washington hopes their new region will result in more wins. The Bulldogs return their top three leading scorers for their senior seasons. Mynome Bell (8.6 ppg), Rashaard Sheats (6.8 ppg) and Quentin Darden (5.9) compose an experienced trio.

B.E.S.T Academy returns Antonio Taylor and Katerion Legrone, both juniors who placed first and second in scoring last year.


Region 7

Chattooga (23-5)
Model (17-9)
Pepperell (14-11)3A
Coosa (13-15)
Rockmart (8-18)3A
Dade County (8-18)
Armuchee (5-17)
Gordon Central (4-21)3A

Chattooga was one of the state’s last unbeatens, but the Indians dropped four of their last five games, getting bounced by Greater Atlanta Christian in the opening round of the state playoffs, 67-61. The Indians will once again be powered by senior twins Isaiah and Isaac Foster in the backcourt. Isaiah was an All-Area First Team selection after averaging 16.7 points and 2.5 steals per game. Isaac was a Second Team pick. Senior Jay Shropshire was also a Second Team selection that will need to play big after the Indians lose seven players including 6-foot-6 forward Cameron Evans to Darlington where he will play quarterback on the football team. With a small roster intact, expect the Indians to play fast paced basketball with the Foster brothers leading the charge.

Model snuck past Chattooga and stole the No. 1 seed out of Region 7 last year. The Blue Devils had their hearts broken in Round 1 of state, losing to Holy Innocents’ at home 54-51 on a 30-foot spinning heave from Cole Smith. All-Area Co-Player of the Year Dwight Hall (Gordon State) graduates after posting 18.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Brian Griffin (Georgia Northwestern) also leaves a void in the backcourt after averaging 13.3 points his senior season. Senior Stephen Finley will be counted on as Coach Jacob Travis’ primary ball handler entering his third season as a starter. Senior John Weaver joins the likes of Dylan Bennett, Jabrious Smith, Ben Payton and Noah Syverson as players looking to continue Model’s winning tradition in their final seasons. 6-foot-4 junior Jackson Lively will see an increased role in the offense along with fellow junior post Justin Roberts.

Pepperell earned a state playoff berth in Class AAA but was quickly disposed of by eventual state champion Morgan County in the first round, 71-30. Zach Mendence, a staple in the Lindale community for over a decade, enters his first year as head coach after serving as assistant. Eight seniors graduate making way for new faces to step up. Juniors Kobe Thomas and Malech Wilson saw important minutes as sophomores and should be counted on again this year.

The graduation of Xavier Bailey and Stephvon Faust hurts Coosa moving forward. Bailey was a First Team All-Area pick after averaging 18 points and 4 assists while Faust garnered Second Team honors. Senior guards MJ Chubb and Austin Boyd are set to take on a bulk of the scoring burden.

Rockmart snuck into the playoffs out of tiny Region 5-AAA and didn’t have much success, getting thumped at home by Jackson County, 75-52. Three-sport athletes Dawson Sanders, Morgan Sims and Avery Allen all return. Allen, a junior, was an All-Area Honorable Mention selection, as was Sims, a 5-foot-9 senior. All-Area Second Team selection Bronson Garner returns as well and poses the most upside for 2016-17.

Dade County loses Team Captains DQ and Teddy Cole, but a third captain, Jesse Holt, is back for his senior season. Holt and junior Jonathan Wood will be asked to stretch defenses and pace the Wolverine offense.

Armuchee has a core four heading into 2016-17. Seniors Drew Cummings (7.6 ppg), Thomas Reese (7.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Seth Stanley (6.4 ppg) team up with rising sophomore Eli Brock (4.5 ppg) to key the Indians attack.

Gordon Central drops to Class AA and will need to replace Seth Culpepper, Austin Green and Jordan Passley. The Warriors haven’t scored a winning record since 2012-13.


Region 8

Banks County (24-5)3A
Monticello (21-11)
Rabun County (16-13)
Elbert County (10-15)3A
Social Circle (9-16)
Oglethorpe County (7-18)
Putnam County (3-23) 

Banks County took a trip to the Class AAA Sweet 16, where they fell in heartbreaking fashion to Central-Macon on a Derrick Evans buzzer beater, 69-67. The Leopards lose a pair of All-Area First Teamers in point guard Zez Steeple and 6-foot-6 post Zac Orr. Steeple, a slam dunk champion in North Georgia, poured in 23 points and 4 assists per game while being named Region 7-AAA Player of the Year. Orr added 13 points and 13 rebounds while totaling 1,000+ points and 1,000+ rebounds over his career. 6-foot-4 senior Kahmal Wiley brings a physical presence to the paint that can attack the basket and finish with a drop step around the rim while junior 6-foot-5 post Dylan Orr will look to follow in his brother’s footsteps of becoming a double-double machine. Both players should see expanded roles as the Leopards have a nice inside game in North Georgia.

Coach BJ Thomas turned Monticello from a 12-16 team to a 21-11 unit that took a trip to the Class AA Final Four where they fell to Manchester, 63-53. Leading scorer and rebounder, 6-foot-5 De’Miria Glover has graduated his 13.7 points and 9.8 rebounds, but the Hurricanes have plenty back to make another run. A quick backcourt ignites the Hurricane offense. Junior Ashton Bonner averaged 10.8 points, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals as a sophomore. Senior CJ Adams averaged 10 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 steals. Stepping into bigger roles this year will be 6-foot-3 senior forward Jakeir Stone and 6-foot-5 sophomore Malik Crawford. The duo will be X-factors in determining Monticello’s success. At Georgia State Team Camp, both played well. Stone can go inside and out while stretching defenses to the three-point line while Crawford is a springy rebounder and shot blocker that runs the floor well. The transfer of sophomore guard Tyrin Lawrence to Morgan County hurts as he was a nice piece with a bright future.

Rabun County joins Monticello in Region 8. The two have history as Monticello ended Rabun County’s season in the Sweet 16, 81-73 in overtime last year. The Wildcats’ leading scorer Matthew Addis has graduated. The fearless flamethrower averaged 16.3 points per game. He took just 26 two-point field goals – yes, just 26 (!) – all season while hitting 139 of his 342 three-point attempts. He ranked 11th in the nation in threes attempted and led Georgia in both categories. While the unconscionable shooter will be missed in terms of spreading defenses once he stepped over half court, the Wildcats do return their next three top scorers. Juniors Bailey Fisher and Tevan Dixon follow in Addis’ ways as high octane shooters. Fisher, the quarterback of the football team, averaged 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.3 steals while hitting 45 threes (28%). Dixon chipped in 12.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.3 steals while sinking 49 deep balls (28%). Senior Trey Wilcox put up 8.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.2 steals. The 6-foot-2 forward is more selective, hitting 21-of-46 threes at a 46% rate.

Elbert County welcomes in long-time Etowah head coach Don Hurlburt to lead the Blue Devils. He will go to work without key contributors Tarveil Fortson and Montavious Tinch who both have graduated. Left tackle on the football team, Worley Robinson, is a space eater down low at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds. 6-foot-2 AJ James got varsity experience as a freshman and could have a bright future down the road. Rising junior guard Tay Huff will be relied upon as a top ball handler. Q Ramsey is another young guard that should be counted on heavily.

Social Circle struggled down the stretch last year, losing their final five games and missing the postseason. Deion Head will have one last chance to power the Redskins. The playmaking guard put up big numbers as a junior, averaging 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 3.7 steals. Head has improved his game every year, but the one facet of his game that escapes him is his ability to shoot from deep. Head was a woeful 7-of-78 from three-point land, 9% success. Making up for his lack of shooting, the 5-foot-8 Head attempted 200 free throws (62%).  If he can develop any consistency from behind the arc, he could have a truly monster final season. Rising sophomore guard Nick DeBoer averaged 8.5 points per game and was the team’s best shooter, hitting 28-of-90 threes.

Oglethorpe County has reason for optimism as all three of their All-Area Honorable Mention selections are back. 6-foot-3 junior forward Isaac Hulin, 5-foot-10 junior Jeffrey Glenn and 6-foot senior Matt Wells return.

Putnam County is another team that took thrashings as a young group, but now the Eagles are full grown. Putnam County won’t have size, but guard play could notch them a few wins with Carl Johnson and Christopher Reid both returning for their senior seasons. The duo has been big time scorers their entire careers but now it’s time to win some games. Johnson, a streaky three-point shooter, averaged 19 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.3 steals. Flanking him is Reid, who posted 11.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals. Third option is rising junior, 6-foot-1 forward D’Mario Reid. Returning as the Eagles’ tallest player, the power forward averaged 8.7 points and 3 rebounds a game last season.