Outside of the GHSA, there are two other leagues that are the ultimate unknown: GISA and GICAA. The 2016-17 season saw all three leagues crossover and have the opportunity to schedule each other after new GHSA legislation. Both divisions don’t have the attendance numbers or level of talent to compete with the public schools of the GHSA, but the very top 1% has proven they can play with some of the GHSA’s better programs. With these “new” opponents in the fold, who are the best non-GHSA schools in the state?
Holy Spirit Prep – 19-3 – GISA AAA State Champions
Notable GHSA Games: Statesboro 71-52 (W); McEachern 50-37 (L); Greenforest 55-52 (L)
Notable GISA Games: Heritage School 56-36/53-48/63-44 (W), 54-46 (L)
From talking to people in GISA circles, Holy Spirit Prep (Atlanta) is considered the best of the best. They are loaded with D-I prospects in 6-foot-8 forwards Kamani Johnson (Former Kentucky Wildcat and current NBA D-Leaguer Dakari’s little brother) and George Maslennikov, both All-State selections as juniors. Denys Bobchuk is another big body at 6-foot-7. The Cougars’ most sought after player is 2020 SG Anthony Edwards. Edwards transferred in mid-season after averaging 25 points per game at Therrell. He moved in once Brandon Boston left for Norcross. Edwards is a 6-foot-3 scoring machine who is one of the top prospects in his class. Jerique Walker graduates this summer after earning All-State honors, but All-Region selection Kye Jeremiah is a tough rising junior in the backcourt that can finish through contact when slashing to the basket. All-in-all, Holy Spirit Prep has the talent to hang with anybody. McEachern pulled away late from them and Greenforest could never garner enough separation to win comfortably.
Heritage School – 21-10 – GISA AAA Runner-Up
Notable GHSA Games: Meadowcreek 66-59 (L); Decatur 66-44 (W); Chamblee 51-40 (L); Newton 81-58/78-70 (L)
Notable GISA Games: Holy Spirit Prep 56-36/53-48/63-44 (L), 54-46 (W)
The Heritage School (Newnan) saw plenty of GHSA competition and did not overly impress. They played Meadowcreek tough and hung around with Newton in their second meeting, but their lone win came against 11-15 Decatur. The Hawks beat Holy Spirit in their first meeting of the year but could never solve them again. Heritage has a young core in All-State performers Lance Terry and Ebenezer Dowuona. Terry is a potent scoring guard in the 2019 class while Dowuona is a 6-foot-10 rising sophomore that is an elite rim defender. Also in the mix is fellow 2020 guard Kasen Jennings who was an All-Region selection. The Hawks graduate All-Region small forward Spencer Weller.
Windsor Academy – 29-1 – GISA AA State Champions
Notable GHSA Games: N/A
Notable GISA Games: Furtah Prep 52-31 (W)
The 2017 class brought the Knights to the promise land for the second time after winning as sophomores in 2014-15. The All-State trio of Marquise Jackson, Jai’Kez Mann and Landry Rustin all graduate this year after averaging a combined 43 points per game. Windsor Academy (Macon) never dabbled in the GHSA and will likely fall back to the pack in 2017-18.
First Presbyterian Christian Academy – 25-4 – GISA AA Semifinalist
Notable GHSA Games: Claxton 77-61 (W); Johnson County 75-44 (W); Statesboro 70-59 (L); Glenn Hills 66-64 (L); Richmond Academy 74-65 (L); Groves 85-74 (W)
Notable GISA Games: Furtah Prep 75-71 (L)
The Highlanders posted a 3-3 record against the GHSA albeit their wins came against lower level competition. Their showing against quality opponents Richmond Academy and Glenn Hills were promising. FPCA (Hinesville) graduates their two big men and All-State guard George Mitchell, but 2018 point guard Khalyn Weekley and 2019 wing Isaiah Scott, both All-State selections in their own right, are expected to return. Scott is a wiry scorer that brings energy while Weekley is a big time player that blew up at the Norman Parker Showcase and has D-I written all over him. Rising junior guard Simon Steele is also a reliable ball handler. After blowing out Furtah Prep in the state championship last year 80-64, the Highlanders were upset in the Final Four in 2OT by Furtah, 75-71.
Dawson Christian Academy – 27-5 – GICAA DII-AA State Champions
Notable GHSA Games: Clarke Central 73-65 (W); Grady 82-61 (W); Shiloh 67-62 (L); Pebblebrook 95-66 (L); Gainesville 78-68 (L)
Notable GICAA Games: Mt. Bethel Christian Academy 66-63 (W)
Not afraid to play anyone, Coach Jesse Chism and his senior laden group had by far the toughest strength of schedule of any non-GHSA school, going 2-3 in their crossover games and showing well. Outside of a blowout loss to Pebblebrook, the Eagles pushed Shiloh and Gainesville to the brink. The 2017 class won its second state title this year but DCA (Dawsonville) will undergo a major rebuild with All-State stars Matt Chism and Tony Pulice graduating along with physical post presence Cason Setzekorn. Rising 6-foot-5 junior guard Luke Chism is next in line to carry the load.
Mt. Bethel Christian Academy – 25-4 – GICAA DI-AA State Champions
Notable GHSA Games: Paideia 71-50 (W); Gainesville 53-42 (L); East Jackson 63-48 (W)
Notable GICAA Games: Dawson Christian Academy 66-63 (L)
The Eagles are a team to put on the radar for the next few years as long as 6-foot-8 2020 center Jordan Meka improves. The raw athlete averaged 16.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.8 blocks as a freshman. He needs to improve his tenacity on the glass but his size and leaping ability is hard to come by at the GICAA level. Jaquez Gilbert and Matt Gilliland are experienced veterans that will head into their senior seasons. Gilbert led the Eagles in scoring at 17 points per game while Gilliland averaged just under 12 a night. 2019 guard Coleman Boyd orchestrates the offense averaging 11.6 points and 7.3 assists. Boyd, Meka and Gilbert were All-State picks this year. Much like Dawson Christian Academy, Mt. Bethel (Marietta) gave Gainesville everything they could handle in an 11-point loss.