2017 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year D’Marcus Simonds joins Spielin’ & Dealin’ to review his first season on campus at Georgia State. Simonds was a GHSA standout while at Buford and Gainesville. He graduated from Gainesville in 2016 and originally committed to play at Mississippi State as a 4-star recruit before reopening his recruitment.
Here’s a preview of some 2021 rising freshmen who have performed well over the summer and could see some important varsity minutes as freshmen or hold great promise after a year of seasoning.
Averaging 23.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.1 steals per game over the summer, Tykevious Curry has proven to be a potent scorer with the ability to get off his mid-range jumper. He will be a strong addition to a loaded Calhoun County roster that returns everyone from this year’s Class A-Public state runner-up team.
Darreonte Gainer – 6’2 – Randolph-Clay (Atlanta Xpress Bogan)
Darreonte Gainer is the type of player that can turn the fortunes of a program around in a blink of an eye, especially at the Class A-Public level. Just as he did in his only year on the job at Toombs County, coach Laberton Sims will have a piece in place to win with over the next four years at his new home. The athletic wing can score inside and out and can play above the rim. He rebounds well for his size and causes havoc with his length on defense.
Justin Carter – 6’6 – Terrell County (Atlanta Xpress Bogan)
You can’t teach size. Justin Carter has it. While he will need to get in better shape and mature like many incoming freshmen, once he does he could become another Class A-Public standout just like his other three Atlanta Xpress Bogan teammates. Carter has a soft touch around the basket and shoots the ball well from the foul line. He makes smart passes out of the post and on defense, uses his body well and can block shots.
Madison Durr – 6’0 – St. Francis (Georgia Xclusive)
Madison Durr has been a popular name on travel ball circuits for a while now. The sharp guard with size knows how to put the ball in the basket and how to compete. It will be interesting to see where the floor general ends up at for high school.
Taihland Owens – 6’1 – Cherokee (Active Elite)
Taihland Owens caught my eye this summer with his size and aggressiveness. He is well put together for an incoming freshman and has a physical frame which could lead to him seeing minutes as a youngster in coach Roger Kvam’s system. Owens can shoot the three and attacks the rim in a downhill fashion. He gets after it on defense and could have a very bright future in Canton.
Johnny Sweeney – 6’6 – Cherokee (Active Elite)
Johnny Sweeney is a tall glass of water. Most players his age at that height with that length and not very coordinated or struggle to play inside. Sweeney doesn’t have those problems and uses his wing span the way you would hope. He is a great shot blocker that times his leaps well. Offensively, Sweeney has shown a turnaround jumper out of the post. He also is a smart passer. Size like his is hard to find in Cherokee County.
Dacari Collins – 6’3 – Woodward Academy (Georgia Xclusive)
Known for his explosive play as a highly touted wide receiver, Dacari Collins is a talented basketball player as well. He’s a physical forward that scores in the paint and loves to get out and run. He can hit the high post jumper and rebounds in traffic. Collins is expected to decide between Woodward Academy and Westlake.
Omarion Smith – 6’5 – Lithia Springs (Elite Playmakers)
Omarion Smith is a rim protector that rebounds the ball exceptionally well. He is a nice athlete that doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. He has to keep his head screwed on and not let opponents frustrate him. He is still growing and still maturing. Smith has the tools to become a major interior presence.
Makayl Rakestraw – 5’9 – East Jackson (TNBC Select)
The future of East Jackson basketball could lay in Makayl Rakestraw’s hands. The point guard has a great feel for the game and thrives in transition while making the right decisions with the ball in his hands. He can score off the bounce and can open up defenses with his three-point shot.
Justin Bogard – 6’0 – Grayson (Walton Flames)
Justin Bogard, Joe Johnson of the Utah Jazz’s cousin, may not see time right away at Grayson, but could develop into a long term cornerstone for coach Geoffrey Pierce. Bogard scores from all over the floor with his unorthodox lefty stoke. He has shown over the summer the ability to carry his team with his scoring prowess. Already with nice size, check back on Bogard at the end of next season.
Max Harris – 6’0 – South Gwinnett (Georgia Stars Harris)
Max Harris is a shooter and a scorer. He will have to work hard to crack into the South Gwinnett rotation, but his upside is high and the task is doable. He has been a consistent producer in the Georgia Stars backcourt. Harris could be another important piece in coach Ty Anderson’s resurgence of the South Gwinnett program.
Contributed by Trent Markwith (@TMarkwith14)
Riley Wolgamott (Pro One Select White)– Wolgamott showed a lot of different parts to his game in a tight afternoon win. A very quick, deceptive PG, Wolgamott sliced through the defense relentlessly throughout the game and made crafty passes to his teammates often. He also used his quickness and ball-handling ability to attack the rim himself, while also showing he could shoot from the outside, finishing with 16 points for the Alabama-based program in a win over Game Elite Blue.
Evan Spiller (CBA United)- Spiller is a solid wing out of Florida who stayed within himself and never overdid things. He used his length and athleticism to his advantage, penetrating inside quite often where he displayed a nice in between game and soft touch around the basket. It was clear that Spiller has a high IQ, making the simple, correct play time and time again. The smooth lefty was a vital part in CBA’s comeback win over Palmetto Elite, ending the game with 18 points.
CJ Sabb (Palmetto Elite)- Sabb is an unsigned CG from South Carolina and definitely played like it today. Sabb looked like a veteran in the first half against CBA United and led his team with 12 first-half points coming in a variety of ways. As things got going for CBA in the second half, Sabb tried to get others involved and keep his teammates composed. Although Palmetto suffered a 2-point loss, it was an impressive performance overall for Sabb, who finished with 17 points.
Raphael Rogers, Christian McLean (Inspire Atlanta)- This wing duo accounted for nearly half of Inspire’s points (14 each) in their afternoon battle against Sports Academy South. McLean (Wesleyan) showed furious aggression in transition, almost too much for his own good at times, but this attribute is what makes him go. After getting to the basket a few times for scores, McLean had some nice dumps to teammates for easy buckets. If he continues to develop as a distributor as well, McLean will be a scary prospect. Rogers (Douglas County) has a nice, strong body for a perimeter player and displayed some good versatility to his game. He knew when to use his strength to get inside but also knocked down open outside shots and was quite unselfish in sharing the ball when he could have looked for his own scoring opportunities. It will be interesting to see how these two improve before the July live period.
Isaiah Bauman (Sports Aacademy South)- Bauman is a speedy guard out of Augusta and showed a full offensive arsenal in an OT win over Inspire Atlanta on Saturday afternoon. Whether it was a deep-ball, a mid-range pull-up, or a drive to the basket, it seemed that Bauman always had something up his sleeve for Academy. Whenever Inspire looked like they were gaining momentum, Bauman responded with a big play for Academy. Bauman controlled the game, played with solid change of pace, and finished with an impressive 18 points in the win.
Chris Barnette (NC Runnin’ Rebels)- Barnette, a guard from North Carolina, may have been my favorite player from the whole day. Barnette played with an endless motor and was bouncing around the court each and every play. He hounded the opposing team’s primary ball-handler every possession, got in passing lanes off the ball, and even snuck in for a few offensive rebounds. This goes without mentioning his superior shooting and passing ability; Barnette had 14 points on (3) 3’s, a plethora of assists in transition off his steals, and made sure there was crisp ball movement in the half-court. Barnette may not be the biggest player but his tremendous energy and activity really make up for it.
Contributed by Trent Markwith (@TMarkwith14)
Bryson Childress, Levontae Knox (PSB Select)- Starting off with an early morning game in an off-site auxiliary gym didn’t seem to have any effect on the play of this PSB duo. Childress, a PG, and Knox, a wing, have nice chemistry together and had things rolling early against Vanguard Elite. Childress hit a few outside shots early and then began to facilitate to Knox and other teammates, a role in which he excelled. Knox was at his best attacking the rim in transition with the help of pesky defense by Childress, but also had some nice moments in half-court offense putting the ball on the floor to get inside and taking a few perimeter shots. Childress (9 points) and Knox (13 points) were two of the main pieces in securing the win for the NC program.
Jaxon Etter (North Atlanta Orangemen)– After a strong performance in the morning against Game Elite, Etter (Etowah) followed up with another effective outing against BCB on Saturday night. Etter has impressive size and physicality for a guard/wing at the 16U level, bullying his way to the basket where he both finished through contact and drew fouls. Etter also showed the ability to grab rebounds and push down the court into pull-up jumpers. His attack mentality led to 17 points on the night.
Ashton Young (BCB Black)- Going against Etter for BCB was Young, and he was an absolute beast. Young (Buford) scored solid 6 points in the first half, but took it to another level in the second half. The athletic, active wing was grabbing offensive rebounds, slashing from the perimeter, and ran hard in transition throughout the game. The Orangemen could not keep him away from the basket or free throw line and Young eventually finished with 27 points for BCB. His effort helped lead them to a close 58-56 win.
Drew Pember (EOTO TN)- In a bracket play matchup against Stackhouse Elite, Pember and his EOTO looked to continue to prove themselves on the big stage. The EOTO team encountered a lot of foul trouble and struggled to score in the first half, facing a 30-21 deficit at halftime. After a scoreless first half, Pember turned things around in the second half. Pember, a long, lean forward, proved that he can step out and shoot from the perimeter but also showed impressive mobility and athleticism. Pember scored 9 points in the second half and although the EOTO comeback just barely fell short, he and his team look like they should be followed closely in the future.
Contributed by Trent Markwith (@TMarkwith14)
16U: Wellington Wolves 59, Vanguard Elite 50
This Georgia vs Florida battle began with runs by both teams; a 7-0 run by Vanguard and then a 11-0 run by Wellington within the first 6 minutes of the game. The teams continued with fast-paced action throughout the first half, with the Wolves having a solid lead at halftime. Wellington capitalized inside from offensive rebounds and also received a big boost outside with multiple 3’s from Aramis MacKrey in the first half.
Vanguard struggled to hit open shots and was plagued by turnovers but stayed in the game with production from Myles Todd (Pace) and Terrell Burden (McEachern). Wellington extended their lead to double digits early in the second half with the help of MacKrey, Josh Williams and Alphonse Alfred. They looked to have control of the game when Vanguard stormed back with pesky defense, with Donaven Hairston (Milton) coming alive and Todd continuing to play well. However, Wellington was able to settle down and close out the game with free throws after a few missed opportunities by Vanguard.
Wellington was led by Aramis MacKrey, who had 15 points on (5) 3’s, and Josh Williams, who had 10 points. Vanguard received 16 points from Myles Todd and 11 points from Terrell Burden.
16U: Southern Stampede 72, TNBC 51
In a matchup of two teams who like to get up and down the court, the Stampede and TNBC went back and forth for much of the first half with neither team finding a way to secure a comfortable lead. Davis Herndon (Riverwood) started the game hot for TNBC with 8 points on (2) 3’s but was matched by Jalen Durham (Berkmar) of Stampede who was also connecting from the outside.
Trae Broadnax (Islands) also had a strong first half for the Stampede but Steven Seramur (St. Pius) and TJ Malloy (Westminster) responded with (2) 3’s each. The difference in the first half was the play of Jalyn McCreary (Kennesaw Mountain) late. McCreary was almost nonexistent for most of the first half but went on a tear where he scored 10 points and grabbed a multitude of rebounds in a span of 4 minutes, resulting in a 37-25 halftime lead for his Stampede team.
The beginning of the second half was similar to the start of the first half, with the Stampede extending their lead a bit to 15 with solid play from Donell Nixon (Buford). TNBC then went a run of their own where Jordan Krueger (Walton) began to heat up and Herndon continued to attack, cutting the deficit to 6. After a timeout, the Stampede came out locked in offensively and picked up their defensive intensity, causing havoc left and right. Broadnax and Nixon led this charge with versatile scoring and Brandon Green also gave great energy in transition for the Stampede team. TNBC was left flustered and was not able to recover, eventually falling behind by 20. The Stampede had 4 double-digit scorers in Trae Broadnax (18), Jalyn McCreary (12), Donell Nixon (11), and Jalen Durham (11). TNBC received 16 points from Davis Herndon and 10 points from Jordan Krueger.
17U: Atlanta Allstars 58, Game Elite Orange 46
This late-night matchup began very slowly for both teams, with neither squad finding offensive production from anyone. Game Elite found their groove about midway through the first half and received baskets from 7 different players with Marques Frye (Mount Vernon) scoring 8 points and Justin Brown (Northview) putting up 7 points in the first half. The Allstars, however, remained in a slump and found themselves down 35-18 at the break.
The tables turned entirely as the second half started. The Allstars came out with incredible energy and erased the Game Elite lead very quickly. Alex Jones (Buford) took over the game in transition with his speed and was able to create his own offense while also distributing to others, most notably Adrian Cohen (Etowah). Adam Flagler (Duluth) also went into attack mode on the offensive end for the Allstars, while Game Elite started settling for contested outside shots and could not score at all. This complete 180 in the second half resulted in a 58-46 win for the Allstars.
The Atlanta Allstars received 16 points from Adrian Cohen, 15 points from Adam Flagler, and 14 points from Alex Jones. Justin Brown was the lone double-digit scorer for Game Elite, finishing with 12 points.