Who are the best teams outside of the GHSA?

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.


By-Laws amended at GHSA Executive Committee Meeting

MACON – It was a big win for GHSA basketball as the board cured a long-standing headache for coaches across Georgia, the 2-on-1 rule. By-Law 2.69 (b) in the Georgia High School Association Constitution long has restricted coaches to conducting offseason skill-building workouts with just two players at a time. On Monday, the board of directors passed the proposal to increase the player limit to four athletes at a time.

Another change for the upcoming season will be a universal coin toss to decide who receives home court advantage when teams with the same seed meet each other in the playoffs. Determined by a single flip of a coin, “upper or lower line” teams on the bracket will have their travel fate decided at one time as a whole instead of having multiple coin flips for each individual game.

The GHSA marketing report revealed that there was a 24% increase in tickets sold at the basketball state championships this season thanks to the move to Georgia and Georgia Tech.

Norman Parker Showcase unearths hidden Class A-Public gems

While it’s easy to focus in on the blue chippers at an event like the Norman Parker Showcase, instead I took the time to try and uncover the sleepers; the underexposed, underappreciated players that just need a stage to perform. I found exactly what I was looking for from the Middle Georgia Raptors program.

Unless you live in the area or attend a small school, nobody really knows what Class A-Public has to offer. Trying to GPS some of these schools can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and once you get there, what you come to find might not always be what you were expecting for one reason or another.

All-State Duo

JaQuavius Smith & ZyTavian Hill
JaQuavius Smith & ZyTavian Hill

In the tiny city of Talbotton with a population of under 1,000, an hour and 45 minutes southwest of Atlanta, two beasts call Central-Talbotton High School home. 2018 wings JaQuavius “Tayne” Smith and ZyTavian Hill helped the Hawks to a 17-8 finish and a trip to the Sweet 16 and both play with the 17U Middle Georgia Raptors.  Smith, 6-foot-5, was Second Team All-State after averaging 17.3 points while Hill, 6-foot-4, was an Honorable Mention selection in Class A-Public, averaging 16.4 points per game as a junior.

Smith is at his best when attacking the hoop. He is long and can cover ground when getting to the rim. He produced 26 points while going 13-of-19 from the line on Friday night. Against the 16U EYBL Georgia Stars, a team loaded with future High Major D-I players, Smith was a bit tentative, but became more involved in the offense in the second half. He finished with 9 points, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. At the Class A-Public level, he is a handful to stop once he gets going. He has a decent outside shot that keeps defenses honest. He saw interest from Kansas last summer and also claims Arkansas State and Kennesaw State as those who have checked in.

At first glance, Hill looks like a grown man amongst boys. The muscular inside-outside multi-positional athlete is country strong and not afraid to stick his nose into loose balls. He has a quick first step but isn’t an above the rim player without max effort. Hill, much like Smith, can knockdown the corner three when left open. Hill plays extremely hard and is an above average rebounder for his size. On Friday he had 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals in a 76-45 blowout, but his play against the EYBL Stars was even more impressive. Battling a plethora of 6-foot-9 and taller big men like DJ Burns, Issa Muhammad and Daniel Ramsey, Hill brought his lunch pail and hard hat to work, posting a team-high 17 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal in their 72-64 loss. Hill names South Alabama and Middle Tennessee State as being in on him early.

Smith and Hill compose of possibly the best one-two punch in Class A-Public. If they can find some help around them, there is no reason why the 1982 and 1990 state champion Hawks can’t make a state tournament run.

Macon County making moves?

Clayton Jenkins, Lakeviyon Walker, Makevion Bonner
Clayton Jenkins, Lakeviyon Walker, Makevion Bonner

If you’re looking to take a flier on a team who could win a state title next year not named Wilkinson County, Macon County could be your squad. An hour East of Central-Talbotton and a fellow Region 4 foe, the Bulldogs fell to Wilkinson County in the Final Four 61-47 and are set to return everyone except for leading rebounder Tahj Reese. Leading scorer Clayton Jenkins suited up with the 17U Raptors last weekend and provided a major spark off the bench against the EYBL Stars. Standing 5-foot-11, the slender 2018 All-State First Teamer is a gunslinger from deep. The southpaw has range three steps across half court and will pull if left open. As the Raptors began to make a late surge against the Stars, it was Jenkins who was a catalyst before fouling out. He drilled three of his four three-pointers in the second half and finished with 12 points and 1 block. Against larger bodies like the Stars flaunted inside, Jenkins knew his bread was buttered on the perimeter. He will have to add some mass in order to challenge elite rim protectors. During the high school season he poured in 22.3 points per game and got to the line at will, going 151-of-183 (83%) from the stripe.

Jenkins has some help in the form of 16U Raptors Lakeviyon Walker and Makevion Bonner. Walker is a 2020 guard that doubles as a state champion cornerback and linebacker for the Bulldogs football team. At 5-foot-11, Walker is a burly physical scorer. He netted 22 points in a win and drained five three balls as the athlete can overwhelm unexpecting adversaries. His energy and strength allows him to affect games in different ways. As a freshman he averaged 9.5 points, 6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game while shooting a respectable 34% from three.

Bonner could be the ace in the back pocket for Macon County if he continues to improve. At 6-foot-4 he is another long and lanky combo forward that can assault rims. He had a strong weekend with the Raptors and is coming off a sophomore campaign where he averaged 6.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1.2 blocks per game as a versatile piece.

Throw in 6-foot-4 Trey Brown, a rising senior that plays wide out on the football team and the Bulldogs have a strong core. Brown was the team’s second leading scorer this season at 14.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

The Best of the Best

Khalyn Weekley
Khalyn Weekley

A GISA special! Nobody took advantage of the Norman Parker Showcase stage more than 17U Middle Georgia Raptors point guard Khalyn Weekley. Coming into the event as virtually an unknown, the 2018 First Presbyterian Christian Academy product made a name for himself in a major way. Standing 6-foot-3, Weekley has good size for a lead guard. Offensively, he catches defenders off balance with a quick burst to the basket and nifty lateral movements to maneuver around bodies once he slides into the lane. Weekley rebounds the ball well and can ignite fast breaks while going coast-to-coast. He piled in 29 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 steals in a blowout win on Friday but really cemented his status with a standout performance against the 16U Georgia Stars EYBL on Sunday. Weekley went toe-to-toe with ballyhooed 2019 point guard Ashton Hagans and went right at the four-star recruit, playing with a chip on his shoulder. Though the Raptors ran out of gas and fell 72-64, Weekley finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block. He attacked off the bounce like he did Friday night, but showed even more juice, pulling up from deep off the dribble and canning two three-pointers.

Toughness has long been a staple in Middle Georgia basketball and even though he is from the coast in Hinesville, Weekley is no exception. Currently he has no offers and the only interest he has received has been from Mercer. With more weekends like this, Weekley is bound to thrust himself into the conversation as one of Georgia’s top 2018 guards.