2017-18 Jared Cook Classic preview

*2016-17 Records Listed*

The Jared Cook Classic steps into the limelight with its strongest field in recent memory, propelling itself into the discussion with Holiday Hoopsgiving, Lake City Classic & Tournament of Champions in the upper echelon of elite tournaments in the state of Georgia. The field features 21 teams, 18 of which who spent time in the Top 10 last year and/or are expected to open in the preseason state rankings this season.

Saturday, November 18th

East Hall (21-8) vs. Stephens County (20-8)
12:40 PM

Two of North Georgia’s premier programs do battle. Expectations are high for a young East Hall team that is coming of age. All of Coach Joe Dix’s key players return outside of post Mahki Brown. Luke Cooper is a sweet shooting senior while Sedrion Morse is a versatile piece that was an All-Region pick along with Cooper. Johnson-Gainesville transfers Kylan Curry and Qua Butler bring experience to the backcourt to fight for playing time with junior Luke Holtzclaw. 6-foot-5 sophomore Malachi Vance holds promise.

Stephens County gave Georgia’s only undefeated team Upson-Lee all they could handle in the Class AAAA Sweet 16 before falling 76-70. Underrated 6-foot-7 post De’Undra Singleton is the No. 6 ranked big man in Georgia. Surrounding him is shooter Chaz Bridges and athletic slasher Ty Nails. Montavious Thornton is a high-energy point guard. The loss of 6-foot-6 forward AJ Curry to Habersham Central hurts.

Lanier (14-14) vs. Lakeview Academy (25-6)
2:15 PM

Lakeview Academy was four points shy of playing for a Class A-Private state title, dropping to Southwest Atlanta Christian in the Final Four, 77-74. The Lions lose their two best athletes in Tre Gober and Josh Randolph, but Region 8-A Player of the Year Drew Cottrell is back, a 6-foot-3 pure shooter. Evan Pitts provides scoring and rebounding from the forward position. Adam Cottrell enters his junior season as another deep threat, while Jack Blackburn should see an increased role in the backcourt.

Lanier’s Adrian Martin will have to make Lakeview’s guards defend on every possession.

Greenforest (27-5) vs. Grayson (21-10)
3:50 PM

The rest of Class A-Private has waited in bated breath for what will become of the two-time defending state champion Greenforest Eagles after losing Coach Larry Thompson to Wheeler and four Division I seniors. Assistant coach Rory Griffin takes the reins and will try to continue Greenforest’s domination of the competition. He will have to do so without Mohammed Abdulsalem, who is off to the next level as well. Rumors have swirled around Greenforest involving two move-ins from Senegal and Christian Jackson formerly of Fulton Leadership Academy. With the rest of the roster in flux, Terrell Sanders returns with the most experience, a 6-foot-4 2019 wing.

Whoever Greenforest has will get Grayson’s best shot, the Rams coming off their first ever trip to the Final Four in Class AAAAAAA. Geoffrey Pierce’s team is powered by the No. 2 ranked 2018 point guard in Georgia, Travis Anderson. The physical 6-foot scorer poured in 21.4 points per game, second-best in Gwinnett County, while adding 4 assists. Nick Edwards has developed into an important second scoring option that averaged 12 points and 3.6 assists as a junior. South Gwinnett transfer DJ Williams brings great athleticism as a 6-foot-1 senior guard while sophomore Deivon Smith, a defensive dynamo, has grown to 5-foot-11 and plays above the rim. The calling card to Grayson’s recent success however has been the glass-pounding interior play. While Gerald Buncum has graduated, 6-foot-6 junior Kenyon Jackson is ready to take his game to the next level following a season in which he posted 9.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 3.1 blocks per game. Once Jackson truly buys into his offensive game and becomes more aggressive, expect his name to gain traction with D-I schools. Joining him this year is 6-foot-7 senior Terence Porter, a Creekside transfer who has all the intangibles to make a name for himself in Loganville. Keep an eye on 6-foot-6 freshman Taje Kelly, who may see extended playing time early while Jackson, a LSU wide receiver-commit, is on the football field.

North Gwinnett (4-21) vs. West Forsyth (5-24)
5:25 PM

The nucleus of seniors Michael Zabetakis and Andrew Stanton along with sophomore Joseph Staiti can pose problems for unexpecting opponents. Zabetakis is a 6-foot-3 guard while Stanton has size at 6-foot-5 and shows flashes of being able to carry the load downlow when aggressive. Staiti has the highest upside of the group. He is the younger cousin of Jenna Staiti, current UGA Lady Bulldog and the GHSA’s most dominant post presence this decade. Staiti is a 6-foot-3 slashing wing with some bounce and swagger in his game.

Langston Hughes (25-8) vs. St. Pius (24-8)
7 PM

The Class AAAAAA state champion Panthers square off with the Class AAAA state runner-up Golden Lions. Langston Hughes loses all contributors except for junior forward Jaylen McCluney and Georgia’s No. 1 ranked shooting guard, Landers Nolley. St. Pius returns every starter outside of Carson Seramur. The Golden Lions take pride in their meticulous extra-pass offense and tough as nails defense. They will have to find the open man, especially senior Everett Lane who drilled seven three-pointers in the state championship. Juniors Matt Gonzalo and Zach Ranson bring their own special dynamics. Gonzalo is an elite on-ball defender with wiggle on offense. Ranson is an undersized 6-foot-3 post player that rebounds at a high-clip and provides toughness alongside 6-foot-8 senior Kennedy Willis, who has quietly turned in a strong summer and is ranked the No. 18 post in the state. Langston Hughes will have to rely on others to take the pressure off Nolley. If the Panthers can find some help, they will remain a dangerous threat with the state’s most unstoppable scorer still on the floor.

Miller Grove (21-9) vs. Mountain View (21-9)
8:35 PM

 There will be plenty of guard play with Miller Grove showcasing Maurice Harvey and company. Harvey vs. Nahiem Alleyne will be a 2019 matchup that college coaches will want to checkout. Mountain View should have the edge with the three-point ball with Spencer Rodgers, but the Wolverines have a massive advantage with Kevin Paige and Jermon Clark roaming the paint. Mountain View will have to team rebound to keep the bigger Wolverines a non-factor on the offensive glass.

Monday, November 20th

South Paulding (28-2) vs. Lambert (24-5)
3:50 PM

Two hard-nosed, well-coached teams clash in what could develop into a defensive battle. South Paulding loses its entire starting five from a team which held the No. 1 ranking in Class AAAAAA for a majority of the season before bowing out in the Elite Eight to South Cobb. The nearly 40 points per game left behind by Kane Williams and Ja’Cori Wilson will be replaced by committee, led by Alexander transfer Cameron Armstrong. The wiry 6-foot-2 scorer will have a chance to be the go-to scorer his junior season. Brothers Ron and Shane Gibson have followed him to South Paulding to provide backcourt options for Gil Davis. Defensive specialist Khadafi “Tank” Withers will have to score the ball his senior season alongside 6-foot-4 junior wing Chandler Travis. 2020 posts Knowledge Ruben and Cameron Patrick present size inside at 6-foot-6.

Lambert will throw a bevy of experienced guards at South Paulding with Jordan McIlwain, Austin Deckard and Damon Stoudamire Jr. all entering their senior season. McIlwain and Stoudamire give Coach Scott Bracco dynamic athletes while Deckard is a knockdown three-point shooter who just picked up an offer from Piedmont College. McIlwain was a First Team All-County selection after averaging a team-best 14.3 points while Deckard earned the same honors, collecting 10.1 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per contests. Junior point guard Mitch Ganote is a pest on the floor, willing to make all the winning plays while 6-foot-7 sophomore Colin Granger is a developing post with a sturdy frame.

Tucker (17-11) vs. North Gwinnett (4-21)
5:25 PM

Jared Cook Classic host North Gwinnett draws reemerging DeKalb County power Tucker, who returns a bulk of its talented producers from a year ago. Senior Trevon Flowers led the Tigers in scoring at 12 points per game while junior guard Jevon Tatum averaged 11.8 points as a 5-foot-10 sophomore. Fellow 2019’s Nick Watson and Nate Ogbu made major impacts as well. Watson drilled 40% of his 119 three-point attempts while Ogbu, 6-foot-5, posted five double-doubles and had four games with over five blocks.

Though they might not have a stronger roster on paper overall, the Bulldogs do have junior guard Cameron Rowland, who currently will be the best college prospect on the floor. The 6-foot-2 shooter averaged 11.1 points last year, good for second-best on the team. Rowland spent his time playing high level travel ball with the Georgia Stars and is in-line for a breakout season.

Miller Grove (21-9) vs. Shiloh (16-13)
7 PM

Two programs coming off disappointing to their standards seasons square off with an opportunity to open 2017-18 on the right foot. Shiloh has reloaded by plucking three standouts from Parkview, highlighted by 2016-17 Class AAAAAAA Freshman of the Year, Toneari Lane. Now checking in at 6-foot-5 and 203 pounds, Lane is a physical wing that punishes defenders on offense and gives great effort on defense. Joining him are teammates Justin and Truitt Spencer, who give Coach Kim Rivers depth at guard. After a season away at Huntington Prep, 2019 6-foot-7 guard Elias King is back in the fold. Factor in 6-foot-6 senior forward Shamarie McLeod, and Shiloh has as much length as anyone on the perimeter.

It will be a homecoming for senior point guard TJ Stargell, who transferred to Miller Grove in the offseason for his final season. He will be in charge of helping the Wolverines reach their full potential after last year’s team struggled with inexperience. Junior guard Maurice Harvey is electric in the open floor and should cement himself as a Division I recruit after averaging 7.3 points per game last year. Senior guard Lorenzo Anderson showed flashes of being a sparkplug scorer, putting up 7.0 points a night. Miller Grove’s big men might not lead the team in scoring but will be asked to set the tone inside. Seniors Jermon Clark and Kevin Paige both cracked the 2018 Player Rankings at No. 20 and No. 17, respectively. In fact, Clark is Miller Grove’s returning leading scorer at 9.0 points and 5.8 rebounds while Paige posted 6.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

Cedar Shoals (27-5) vs. Wheeler (21-9)
8:35 PM

Coach Larry Thompson will get an early test with his new Wheeler team as they face Class AAAAA State Runner-Up Cedar Shoals. Over his last three years at the helm of the Jaguars, L’Dreco Thomas has won 79 games. A large cast of 2017 seniors have graduated, but Cedar Shoals has seen talent from the surrounding area schools migrate to the blue and orange. Athens Christian’s top 2020 prospects, Quincy Canty and Tyler Johnson, have joined Cedar Shoals. Canty at 6-foot-5, averaged a double-double as a freshman. Johnson is a high-motor guard that plays on both ends. Also in the mix is Demetrius Glenn, another 2020 guard who moves in from Clarke Central. Johnson and Glenn will join Jai’Vanni McDavid in the Jags’ scrappy backcourt.

Wheeler will have the clear size advantage against the group from Athens however. The Wildcats boast the No. 1 and No. 5 ranked posts in Georgia in EJ Montgomery (Auburn) and Austin Johnson. At 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-9, it will be imperative for the Jaguars to keep them off the glass. Junior shooting guard Isaac Martin and No. 7 ranked 2018 small forward Brandon Younger will have opportunities to step up after both seeing limited playing time in 2016-17.

Tuesday, November 21st

Duluth (19-11) vs. Lanier (14-14)
5:25 PM

 Duluth is trending upward in Coach Cabral Huff’s second season on the job. Senior guard Adam Flagler has emerged as one of Georgia’s premier shooters and the No. 6 ranked shooting guard in the state after pumping in 16.1 points per game. No. 16 combo guard Will Huzzie brings versatility and length at 6-foot-5, averaging 12.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals as a junior. Christian Kelly has put together a strong summer leading into his senior season while Lamont Smith enters his final season as the No. 19 point guard in Georgia following a steady 7.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.8 steals per game season.

Lanier will counter with the No. 17 shooting guard, Adrian Martin. Martin has been a point producer his entire career, even though the wins haven’t been there yet. He averaged 17.3 points last season. Second leading scorer Edmund Ruiz and fellow guards Christian Pasley and Bryan Mungai return for their senior seasons with a chance to capture the school’s first winning record since 2012-13.

Mountain View (21-9) vs. Berkmar (21-8)
7 PM

Coming off their best season in school history, including a Region 6-AAAAAAA title, Mountain View brings its potent backcourt into war with a rebuilding Berkmar squad. Five seniors lead the way for the Bears, paced by No. 9 shooting guard, Spencer Rodgers. Rodgers is one of the state’s best shooters and is coming off a junior season in which he averaged 16 points per game. Miles Long, Jalen Hayes and Kevin Kayongo keep defenses honest while Alex Wesig does the dirty work. Though the Bears lost Brandon Green to Buford, they pick up high-ceiling junior Nahiem Alleyne from South Gwinnett. The 6-foot-3 guard should impact Mountain View on both sides of the ball.

While Mountain View knows its identity, Berkmar will be in search of theirs early on.  Three D-I guards depart and Ian Hardy is off to Discovery. Junior Jalen Durham will try to live up to the lofty expectations left behind by brother Al. Tony Johnson should help right away. The Eufaula transfer is an explosive guard that can get to the basket.

Allatoona (21-9) vs. North Gwinnett (4-21)
8:35 PM

 North Gwinnett’s baby steps to success will take time and be put to the test against Allatoona, a senior-laden group who is now without their star player in Trey Doomes, who jumped ship. Instead, the defensive-minded Class AAAAAA Semifinalists will have to rely on a team effort to put points on the board. Last year it was Mike Johnson and Tyler Jackson stepping up, this year expect Chima Ogboi and Tobi Adeyeye to try and shoulder the load. Ogboi, a 6-foot-4 wing, has shown flashes in the past, but now will have to produce consistently his senior season. Adeyeye is a leaper that can rebound and alter shots. The development of 6-foot-6 junior Jeremiah Sanabria is something to track this season. Allatoona will have an experienced frontline with senior Rolan Wooden also in the mix. Senior guard Chris Lanier is an explosive athlete that may be able to capitalize offensively once he locks in on defense. The Bucs’ guard play will be a determining factor on how successful their 2017-18 campaign will be.

Spielin’ & Dealin’ Ep. 24: GHSA 2018 Player Rankings discussion

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Kyle Sandy fields #AskSpiel questions about August 1st’s Class of 2018 GHSA Player Rankings. Rameen Forghani peppers the owner of Sandy’s Spiel on his process of coming up with the rankings and lets him defend where each player was slotted. Who are the best players left off at each postion, most likely future pro, biggest impact at the college level and what is the most talented position in the 2018 class among many others are all answered.