GHSA Boys Basketball Preseason State Rankings

2021-22 Preseason GHSA Boys State Rankings

PRO Movement
Sandy's Spiel Tip-Off Classic


1. Milton
2. Newton
3. Berkmar
4. Grayson
5. Pebblebrook
6. North Gwinnett
7. Archer
8. Norcross
9. Etowah
10. East Coweta


1. Wheeler
2. Westlake
3. Kell
4. Buford
5. Osborne
6. Lanier
7. Statesboro
8. Effingham County
9. Evans
10. Centennial


1. Eagle’s Landing
2. Jonesboro
3. Tri-Cities
4. St. Pius X
5. Calhoun
6. Clarke Central
7. Walnut Grove
8. New Manchester
9. Warner Robins
10. Decatur

Class AAAA

1. Baldwin
2. McDonough
3. Spencer
4. Fayette County
5. Monroe
6. Cedar Shoals
7. Mays
8. North Oconee
9. Westover
10. Dougherty

Class AAA

1. Sandy Creek
2. Windsor Forest
3. Salem
4. LaFayette
5. Thomson
6. Hart County
7. Peach County
8. Oconee County
9. Monroe Area
10. Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe

Class AA

1. Pace Academy
2. Columbia
3. Westside-Augusta
4. Butler
5. Woodville-Tompkins
6. Thomasville
7. Chattooga
8. Northeast-Macon
9. Washington County
10. Rabun County

Class A-Private

1. Providence Christian
2. Galloway
3. Greenforest
4. Christian Heritage
5. North Cobb Christian
6. King’s Ridge
7. Mt. Pisgah
8. Darlington
9. Walker
10. First Presbyterian Day

Class A-Public

1. Drew Charter
2. Social Circle
3. Portal
4. Chattahoochee County
5. Dublin
6. Warren County
7. Lanier County
8. Bowdon
9. Manchester
10. Turner County

It was a record-breaking offseason for all the wrong reasons. The 189 discovered transfers this offseason are by far the most I’ve ever encountered over my seven years of coverage. As the new saying goes, state titles are won and lost in the offseason. Who knew the housing market was so good this summer?

Class 7A

The hardest thing to do in all of high school athletics is to win a GHSA basketball state championship in Class 7A, especially as the favorite. Last year, No. 1 Milton proved it could be done and now they will try to repeat as state champions in the highest classification for the first time since 2006-08 when Norcross three-peated. Following an 0-1 start to the season and a 2-2 mark after four games, Milton won 26-straight including rallying to beat Berkmar 52-47 in the state championship before falling 73-68 to IMG in GEICO Nationals. The Eagles trailed Berkmar 41-34 with 1:37 left in the third quarter before holding the Patriots to just six points in the final frame to come out on top. With three starters returning, the Eagles managed to reload this offseason. 6-foot-8 senior Kendall Campbell transferred to Pebblebrook, but 6-foot-2 senior Chase Cormier (Greenforest) and 6-foot-7 senior Jonathan Murray (Huffman, AL) have moved in. Cornerstones remain in the backcourt headed by reigning Class 7A Player of the Year Ohio State-commit 6-foot-2 Bruce Thornton (17 ppg, 7 rpg, 9 apg) and 6-foot-2 five-star junior Kanaan Carlyle (18 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.5 apg). On the wings, much improved 6-foot-5 George Mason-commit Cameron Walker and 6-foot-3 junior Seth Fitzgerald provide Coach Allen Whitehart with toughness and versatility. Set to play one final year before focusing on football full-time is 6-foot-5 junior LT Overton, the number one ranked recruit in the country. With so much back and already understanding their role along with the addition of Cormier’s three-point shooting and playmaking and Murray’s ability to score inside and out, Milton is rightfully regarded as one of the best public schools in America and will have as big a target on their back as a school has ever had in the GHSA. No. 2 Newton lost TJ Clark to the Overtime Elite league, a big blow, but the amount of talent coming back and also being added to the mix is enough for the Rams to blow past last year’s 14-9 record, a season ended 87-59 by Pebblebrook in the Sweet 16. 6-foot-6 junior Stephon Castle has emerged as a premier High Major recruit while 6-foot-3 junior Jakai Newton (Indiana) and 6-foot-4 junior Marquavious Brown have done the same, all three regarded as four-star prospects. 6-foot-2 junior MJ Whitlock turned heads in the summer with his three-point shooting and elite athleticism, landing him multiple D-I offers. The Rams added even more athleticism with 6-foot-7 senior Daniel Pounds coming in from Forest Park where he averaged 15.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1 steal and 1.2 blocks per game. He along with 6-foot-5 senior forward Malachi Hardy (Morgan County) will join 6-foot-7 senior Miokaye Grant in the frontcourt. 6-foot-1 sophomore Tay Jefferies, 6-foot-2 sophomore Jabez Jenkins and 6-foot junior Ashton Pennamon give Coach Charlemagne Gibbons a talented rotation with upside. Why Newton over Berkmar for No. 2? Don’t forget the Rams did beat the Patriots 58-57 last December behind Whitlock’s 20 points. No. 3 Berkmar finished 25-6 losing 52-47 to Milton in the state championship. Three starters are back led by 6-foot-10 Ole Miss-commit Malique Ewin (17.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.1 bpg), 6-foot-2 senior point guard Jameel Rideout and four-star 6-foot-3 slasher Jermahri Hill. The forward positions will be replaced as Destin Logan went to TSF and rugged rebounder Dara Olonade signed with Life University. 6-foot-7 senior Antoine Hurns (Central Christian Academy, IN) and 6-foot-5 guard Brycen Blaine (LC Bird, VA) transfer in to shore up any holes. 6-foot-2 senior Ahmed Soumahoro has patiently waited for an opportunity to play and should get meaningful minutes his final season after impressing in the offseason with his 40-inch vertical and well-rounded game. The transfer bug bit No. 4 Grayson this offseason with their biggest loss being Ole Miss-commit Robert Cowherd who is now on his fourth school in four years with his move to Southern California Academy. Seniors Kaden McArthur (Collins Hill) and Abduhl Diaby (Centennial) left along with sophomores Ahmad Clark (St. Francis) and Tyler Jewell (Walnut Grove) but the Rams did pick up 6-foot senior Caleb Blackwell from Buford who emerged as a dangerous scorer a season ago. He joins 6-foot-1 North Carolina A&T-commit Tyrese Elliott in the backcourt as part of a group that went 22-4 with a 57-56 Sweet 16 loss to McEachern. While Ian Schieffelin (Clemson) and Taje Kelly (Charleston Southern) leave huge voids, there is still major talent up front anchored by 6-foot-9 Clemson-commit Chauncey Wiggins who should be able to play closer to the basket now. 6-foot-7 junior Chad Moodie will get a chance to showcase his talent full-time as a smooth forward that nabbed a Hofstra offer in April. 6-foot-7 freshman Amir Taylor is a big body that could see minutes in Year 1 while 6-foot-5 sophomore Kylan Fox (Valdosta – 6.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg) may add depth once he gets off the football field. Keep an eye on 6-foot-4 sophomore Gicarri Harris. Highly touted as a freshman, Harris has looked great over the summer and could burst onto the scene as an X-Factor with a much larger role his second season. Late movement helps No. 5 Pebblebrook open in the Top 5. Last year was supposed to be the year for the Falcons with a loaded senior class that featured four D-I signees but they fell 74-67 to Milton in the Final Four, ending their season 25-4. The Falcons will look much different now, this time turning to a high scoring backcourt led by 6-foot-2 senior Kami Young and 5-foot-11 Troy-commit Andre Young. 6-foot-4 junior Xavier Bell is a powerful athlete, 5-foot-11 junior Thomas Holmes will provide toughness once he gets off the football field and 6-foot-1 senior Nyle Hillmon brings veteran leadership. 6-foot-6 junior Jaiun Simon should earn multiple D-I offers by the end of the season. He reminds of recently graduated Jamall Clyce (Georgia State) with his offensive versatility, able to consistently score in the mid-range and punish his man when on the low block. The additions of 6-foot-8 senior Kendall Campbell (Milton) and 6-foot-1 Jordan Brown (Chattahoochee) give the Falcons experienced firepower. Campbell, on his third school, can control the game from within the paint and cause mismatches when he steps outside but has reportedly suffered a knee injury, putting his senior season in jeopardy. Brown, also on his third school, is a score-first guard that can light it up from the perimeter. No. 6 North Gwinnett has improved each of the past four seasons under Coach Matt Garner going from 3-22 to 11-15 to 18-12 to last year’s 21-8 finish, winning a Region 8 Championship and making it to the Elite Eight where they fell 75-58 to Pebblebrook. Suwanee is beginning to attract talent as 5-foot-11 senior Amaru Grosvenor has moved in from Alpharetta while 6-foot-7 senior Deterrius Clayton has jumped from Peachtree Ridge. The two will bring some dynamic scoring around 6-foot-7 senior RJ Godfrey who averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks as an All-State selection. 6-foot-6 senior Thomas Allard has blossomed into one of the best shooters in the state and has improved his creativity with the ball while 6-foot-5 senior Dylan Gary is a sneaky good player that can play multiple positions and scores inside and out. The Bulldogs can throw out a rock-solid starting five and have some important rotational players in 6-foot-5 junior Blake Seitz and 5-foot-7 senior Gunnar Carlberg. Coming off a 15-13 season, No. 7 Archer is a trendy pick to play disruptor in the state tournament. The Tigers are a senior-laden group that can limit possessions and grind you out while playing an unselfish brand of basketball on offense. Tucked in difficult Region 7 with Berkmar and Norcross, finding a way to a top two seed will be imperative come tournament time. The Tigers beat Norcross 44-42 in the region tournament and lost 53-48 to Berkmar in overtime in the region championship, further proving they can play with anyone. Archer was eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Milton 63-42 and have goals of taking a deep run at state. Head Coach Joel Lecoeuvre turns to 6-foot-4 Christian Drummer as the straw that stirs the drink, a two-way standout that was named Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the region. 6-foot-5 Damoni Harrison and 6-foot-4 Ryen Jones are punishing wings that are physical and play above the rim. 5-foot-10 Mark Peah and 6-foot-2 Major Freeman round out the backcourt. Finding ways to avoid scoring lulls will be important for the Tigers to overcome. In their five combined losses to Berkmar and Norcross, Archer managed to score just 42.4 points per game. It has been back-to-back ugly ends to the season for No. 8 Norcross who has seen the rest of the state catch up. Two years ago, it was a 65-27 loss to Grayson in the Elite Eight and last year the Blue Devils were suffocated in a 38-37 Sweet 16 loss at North Gwinnett, capping a 21-8 season. Loaded with D-I talent, the core of the program will be tested as five-star 6-foot-6 sophomore Jahki Howard (Donda Academy, CA), 6-foot-10 sophomore Peyton Marshall (Kell), 6-foot-4 sophomore Justin Mitchell (St. Francis) and 6-foot-8 senior Ryan Mathieu (Tri-Cities) have all transferred out. It could be addition by subtraction however as a shortened bench may help chemistry. 6-foot-4 junior London Johnson was spectacular this offseason and is well on his way to becoming a five-star point guard after averaging 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 steals as a sophomore. Fellow juniors 6-foot-3 Mier Panoam and 6-foot-3 Samarion Bond are monster athletes, Bond named to the Region 7 All-Defensive Team. 6-foot-8 senior Jerry Deng is a lethal three-point shooter that picked up an offer from Akron in August. 6-foot-9 sophomore Aiden Sherrell is a budding High Major recruit, a long stretch-forward that blocks shots, scores inside and has a feathery touch from beyond the arc. Ranking No. 9 Etowah in the Top 10 to open the year last season may have turned some heads, but the Eagles proved to be rock-steady under Coach Jason Dasinger, recording an 18-8 record and losing 73-67 to Collins Hill in the first round albeit without 6-foot-4 junior Mason Etter due to injury. Etter holds a Kennesaw State offer along with 6-foot-1 junior Brandon Rechsteiner, someone I tabbed as a potential impact player back in August 2020 before his sophomore season, who also has offers from Mercer, Texas State and Jacksonville State. The duo of Etter and Rechsteiner sees cohesion around them as only one key senior graduates. This year’s senior class is highlighted by 6-foot three-point specialist Jonah Hamilton, 5-foot-10 energetic defender Dajaun Devonish and physical tough-guy 6-foot-5 Josh Hughes who holds offers from Piedmont and Reinhardt. 6-foot-6 junior Rand Miller provides length while 6-foot-2 sophomore Dimitri Angelakos is a multi-level scorer that was named Region 5 Honorable Mention as a freshman. While toppling Milton will be a tall task, Etowah will be battle-tested heading into the state tournament if they can avoid missteps against Cherokee and Roswell, both contending for the two-seed. No. 10 East Coweta has the firepower to match some of the top teams in the state. Coming out of unforgiving Region 2, the Indians went 16-10 but were bounced by North Paulding 69-56 in the first round. 6-foot-3 senior Jordan Edun moves in from Northgate where he was named Region 2-5A First Team and averaged 20.1 points and 5.5 rebounds. He joins 6-foot-4 senior Sammy Moss (21.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg), 6-foot-8 Kent State-commit Delrecco Gillespie (13.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg), 5-foot-11 senior Josh Cameron (10.7 ppg) and 5-foot-9 junior Austen Colton (6.9 ppg, 3.7 apg) who was prolific as a scorer and dazzled as a passer this summer.

Class 6A

A drop down to Class 6A gave us a predictable result as No. 1 Wheeler repeated as state champs, finishing 27-5, beating region rival Kell three times including in the title game, 71-61. The Wildcats graduate their imposing size in Ja’Heim Hudson (Georgia State) and Kaleb Washington (Dayton) along with some key shooters but hit the transfer market again, landing 6-foot-6 junior Jalani Reynolds (Marietta – 5.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg), 6-foot-7 sophomore Klairus Amir (Osborne – 9.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and 6-foot-9 junior Cameron Brown (Mays – 2.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 bpg). The trio joins five-star 6-foot-3 junior point guard Isaiah Collier and 6-foot-2 Radford-commit Kyle Burns who will finally crack the rotation. 5-foot-9 senior Juvon Gamory has turned into a lethal three-point shooter while 6-foot-3 junior Damien Mitchell is a high-energy slasher that could earn minutes. 6-foot-8 junior Arrinten Page will be asked to serve as a defensive anchor inside. While the depth of Region 6 might not be quite as strong, Wheeler will still be tested by the likes of Kell and up-and-comer Osborne. Coming off a 17-4 season which ended with a 78-68 loss to Kell in the Elite Eight, No. 2 Westlake landed two key transfers to strengthen their core. 6-foot-2 senior Mitchell Taylor comes in from Carver-Atlanta where he was a Class 3A All-State Honorable Mention selection while 6-foot-5 junior Rodrecus Rouse shifts over from Maynard Jackson after earning Region 6-5A Second Team honors. The duo joins reigning Region 4 Player of the Year 6-foot-4 Charleston Southern-commit Gaddis Heath, who erupted last year averaging 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 blocks per game. Running mate 6-foot-5 senior Jalal McKie is a powerful wing that poured in 20.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Georgia Tech football-commit 6-foot-6 Horace Lockett will provide beef in the middle if he decides to play, weighing 280 pounds. Things have changed at No. 3 Kell. Scoot Henderson left school early to go to the NBA G-League and the Longhorns have now seen three transfers pour into the school to try and replace his production. 6-foot-8 senior Sahmir King (Gainesville) and 6-foot-10 sophomore Peyton Marshall (Norcross) give Kell what they lacked a year ago from their 21-7 team that lost to Wheeler in the state finals – elite size. Also into the mix is bouncy 6-foot-2 sophomore Josh Langefels (Sprayberry). Tim Fuller from Shelby County was expected to transfer to Kell but reportedly stayed put in Kentucky, now attending Ballard. 6-foot-3 senior Dylan Cambridge will be a leader for Coach Jermaine Sellers. Cambridge plays with a non-stop motor and jumps out of the gym, doing most of his damage around the rim. 6-foot-5 junior Aaron Smith has battled nagging injuries throughout his career but is a capable double-double threat that is expanding his offensive game. 6-foot-4 junior Parrish Johnson could have a breakout season as a long guard with a nice mid-range jumper while 5-foot-11 sophomore Jaylen Colon looks ready to orchestrate the offense. No. 4 Buford’s native son Benjie Wood has returned to take over the program replacing legend Eddie Martin. The Wolves went 19-8 out of the state’s toughest grouping, Region 8, and lost 76-72 to Chattahoochee in the Sweet 16. All-Region guard Caleb Blackwell transferred to Grayson in the offseason but 6-foot-7 senior Jaylon Taylor is back to lead an experienced group which features 6-foot-3 senior Alahn Sumler, 5-foot-10 junior Malachi Brown, 6-foot-6 junior Cameron Kelly and 6-foot-6 junior London Williams. No. 5 Osborne has stockpiled talent under second year Coach DeMarques Lakes. The Cardinals went just 8-14 out of Region 6 missing a tournament berth but are loaded to contend with some of the state’s best. 6-foot-3 senior Zocko Littleton, a recent Appalachian State-commit, leads the charge averaging 19 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals. 6-foot senior Jahmeir Chapman is a tenacious on-ball defender that tallied 9.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Inside, 6-foot-6 seniors Cris Carroll (8.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Jon Carroll (5.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg) are difference makers. Cris is a versatile workhorse that can overpower opponents on the glass, finish through traffic, attack off the dribble and shoot the three while Jon is a more defensive-minded post that cleans up misses and protects the rim. Osborne’s length extends to the perimeter with 6-foot-4 junior Justin McCarter (7.2 ppg), a long swingman that creates offense off the bounce and crashes the glass. High profile 6-foot-7 sophomore Klairus Amir left for Wheeler, but Osborne added 5-foot-11 senior Kyle Hanson, a Region 6-5A First Teamer that averaged 13.2 points at Midtown, 6-foot-5 junior Keshawn McPherson (McEachern) and 6-foot-3 junior Kevin Hicks (Grace Christian). Keep an eye on 6-foot-2 freshman Akai Fleming. He could end up being a special player; a wiry shooting guard that is a knockdown three-point shooter that can also get to his spots in the mid-range. The Cardinals play an attacking full court press that can overwhelm opponents that aren’t mentally prepared. No. 6 Lanier finished 19-7 out of Region 8 and lost 77-64 to Wheeler in the Sweet 16. Coach Branden Mayweather’s youth movement will see the Longhorns rely on a trio of talented sophomores led by 6-foot-7 Jayce Nathaniel who anchors the team from the post position. Tahai “Boogie” Morgan and CJ Hyland are crafty perimeter players that will take turns scoring and facilitating. 5-foot-11 senior Justin Birch is a scoring-minded guard that can light it up with his perimeter jumper. He could emerge as an alpha male when a big shot is needed. 6-foot-8 senior Blaine Bell has length to alter shots inside and clean up misses. No. 7 Statesboro put together a 19-4 mark but fell to Heritage-Conyers 81-57 in the first round, missing a few key pieces. Loaded with multisport athletes, the Blue Devils have a ton back including Region 2 Offensive Player of the Year 5-foot-11 senior Albert Mikell, a physically strong guard that gets what he wants on offense. 6-foot-3 senior Tim Taylor and 6-foot-2 senior Willie Ballard were First Team All-Region picks while 6-foot-6 junior Leslie Black and 5-foot-10 sophomore Jarquez Garrett were pegged to the Second Team. 6-foot-3 sophomore Kam Mikell, quarterback of the football team, was an Honorable Mention selection. Right behind Statesboro in Region 2 is No. 8 Effingham County. Everyone returns from an 18-8 group that lost 67-64 to Evans in the opening round of state. 6-foot-3 junior Keion Wallace is the reigning Co-Player of the Year in the region while brother 6-foot-3 senior Khiry Wallace was a First Team pick. Keion is a physical specimen at 215 pounds, able to get downhill at will and holds football offers from ACC and SEC schools while Khiry is a more perimeter-oriented swingman that can keep defenses off balance with his outside shot and slashing ability. 5-foot-11 junior Rashad Scott is a dangerous three-point shooter that was named All-Region Honorable Mention. 5-foot-10 senior Caleb Williams was named Region 2 Defensive Player of the Year. No. 9 Evans had a terrific season, going 21-3 and falling 81-68 to Centennial in the Elite Eight. Long-time Head Coach Kevin Kenny hung up the whistle in the offseason leaving assistant Kevin Musick in charge of keeping things rolling. Key seniors graduate and losing 6-foot-8 junior Tyson Jones to Clarke Central stings. Either way, the Knights will still have firepower in their backcourt between 6-foot-3 senior Devin Story, a great shooter and all-around scorer and 6-foot-3 senior Brasen James, an elite hustle player that fills up the stat sheet nightly with his effort on both sides of the ball. They are joined by 6-foot-1 senior Jaydnt Stephens, a Region 3 Honorable Mention pick and 6-foot senior Jourdain Spann. Their margin for error will be slim with Grovetown dipping into the transfer market. No. 10 Centennial squeaks into the final spot following a 24-5 season which ended with a 73-63 loss to Wheeler in the Final Four. Region 7 will be up for grabs with River Ridge, Riverwood, Sequoyah and Chattahoochee all bringing their own dynamics to the table. For the Knights to hold off the competition, 6-foot-2 junior Mansir Williamson (10.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg) must continue his development and bring his game to the next level after Centennial’s top three scorers graduate, leaving 37.3 points per game to be accounted for. 6-foot-7 senior Wade Kahl has shown flashes of his high skill level throughout the course of his career and has a chance to double his production from a year ago when he averaged 6.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. 5-foot-11 senior Brian Baylor (5.1 ppg, 2.2 apg) returns with experience but the rest of the roster hasn’t been asked to do much heavy lifting. 5-foot-9 junior Jonah Hibbert and 6-foot-1 senior Mark Asare will see some increased burn. New additions seniors 6-foot-4 Abduhl Diaby (Grayson) and 6-foot-1 Darion Galloway (Meadowcreek) will be key cogs in the rotation.

Class 5A

No. 1 Eagle’s Landing ran away with the Class 5A title a season ago, finishing 29-1 winning by an average of 28.6 points per game in the postseason ballooned by a 41-point Sweet 16 win over Forest Park and a 42-point win over Chapel Hill in the Final Four before beating Tri-Cities 81-69 in the championship. The Eagles successfully exercised their demons of futility in the second round and have now ascended into the conversation as one of the best teams in the entire state with their dynamic play in transition. Three starters return led by First Team All-State picks 6-foot-2 junior David Thomas and 6-foot-5 senior AJ Barnes. The duo combined for 40 points in the title game. 6-foot-4 senior Jordan Fordyce is quickly emerging into a troublesome third option. He scored all 15 of his points in the second half against Tri-Cities and rode that momentum into an impressive offseason. 6-foot-5 senior wing Fabian DeSilva plays multiple positions and adds strength and toughness around the rim while 6-foot-5 junior Kenneth Brayboy is a long and athletic swingman that will see a much-increased role this season. Also keep an eye on Eagle’s Landing’s talented underclassmen who could see more minutes as the season progresses. Though Region 3 didn’t win a state championship a season ago, all year long the balance of power was held in the brutal eight-team grouping that saw four teams ranked for the majority of the season. This year has already been no different with all eyes on the region this offseason. No. 2 Jonesboro got a haul in the transfer market, adding five players to last year’s 17-7 team that lost 57-51 to Dutchtown in the Sweet 16. Only one key player is gone in 6-foot-7 Nate Adams (14.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg) but plenty is back headlined by 6-foot-4 junior Devon Rainey (11.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.8 apg) and 6-foot-7 senior Yannis Woods (8.1 ppg, 9 rpg). The two All-Region Honorable Mention selections welcome back 6-foot-2 senior Chadrick Bernard (6.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.5 apg) and 6-foot-2 junior Lathan Minnifield (6 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg) as experienced backcourt members. 5-foot-9 sophomore Ammar Abdul-Rauf will be in the rotation providing outside shooting. New to the mix is 6-foot-3 sophomore guard AJ Horton (McEachern) and 6-foot-1 junior Adrian Campbell (TACA, TX), who moves back after starting his career at Jonesboro as a freshman. The Cardinals added more gamechangers as well. 6-foot-4 senior Kaymen Brown is a multi-time All-Region player at Lovejoy who will provide immediate toughness and a defensive presence. The biggest bomb came in October as region rival Forest Park officially saw the remaining pieces of a talented 12-7 team dismantled with 6-foot-2 All-State junior Jaquez Akins (18.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.9 spg) and 6-foot sophomore Montez Redding (9.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.8 spg), the 2021 Class 5A Freshman of the Year, move over to Jonesboro. The eligibility of the two however remains in limbo with the pair as of now both expected to be ineligible forcing them to play JV but of course, things change quickly in the GHSA. Forest Park also lost 6-foot-7 Daniel Pounds to Newton and 6-foot-5 Micah Norris to Solid Rock Academy, dropping the Panthers from the Preseason Top 10 and erasing a contender out of Region 3. Still in the mix in the region however is No. 3 Tri-Cities. The Bulldogs finished 23-5 with a 12-point loss in the state championship to Eagle’s Landing. Class 5A Player of the Year Peyton Daniels (Vanderbilt) is one of four starters that has graduated. Lone returner 6-foot-1 point guard Simeon Cottle is a Kennesaw State-commit that has great court vision and a smooth scoring touch. He will form a formidable backcourt alongside 6-foot-1 junior Kory Mincy who moves in from Luella where he was a Class 4A First Team All-State selection after averaging 19.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Also in is 6-foot-1 senior Eric Smarr (8.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 spg) from Newnan. 6-foot-7 junior Eltramon Smith flirted with coming over from Sandy Creek and actually appeared at Fulton County Media Day with the Bulldogs before showing up on the Vertical Academy, NC roster the following week in mid-October. 6-foot-8 senior Ryan Mathieu will be at Tri-Cities however after transferring from Norcross. 6-foot-1 junior Noricco Danner moves in from Mundy’s Mill where he was a Region 3 Honorable Mention pick after tallying 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game, but it remains to be seen whether he will be eligible or not. Tri-Cities has also been rumored to have size coming in from the west coast. Holdovers 5-foot-10 junior Kyndon Wilburg and 6-foot-9 senior William Norwood should see bigger minutes this season. No. 4 St. Pius X is still hunting their first state title but the Golden Lions are always in the mix and may have their most balanced team ever this season. Coach Aaron Parr ran his record up to 221-55 over his nine seasons of work as St. Pius finished 24-4 with a 73-71 loss to Tri-Cities in the Elite Eight. The Golden Lions lose their three All-Region performers but have plenty of experience led by 6-foot-5 senior wing Eamonn Kenah, a breakout candidate and fellow seniors 6-foot-2 Owen McCurdy and 6-foot Devin Portee. 6-foot-9 junior Spencer Elliott missed last season due to injury, but is a legitimate D-I prospect with his length and skill level. Elliott gives Coach Parr a go-to option on the low block that can score with his back to the basket with nimble footwork and can alter shots defensively. 6-foot-1 junior Blake Wilson moves in from New Canaan, CT and is expected to be a top player immediately. With graduation hitting both Lithonia and ML King and transfers chewing away at Southwest DeKalb, it looks like another sweep of Region 5 is likely. Outside of the Top 4, the rest of Class 5A gets a little muddled. While football will likely impact the beginning of the season, No. 5 Calhoun could be a force in Northwest Georgia with their top five expected back and only two seniors graduating from last year’s 15-11 team. The Yellow Jackets lost 56-36 to Chapel Hill in the opening round of state, but return two anchors in All-State picks 6-foot-8 junior Dylan Faulkner (17.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.8 bpg) and 6-foot-6 senior wing Peyton Law who had a monster offseason averaging a double-double following a junior campaign which saw him post 13.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while going 51-158 (32%) from three. Law’s inside-out offensive versatility and Faulkner’s ability to dominate games from the interior will pose mismatch issues for opponents, especially when adding in both players’ athleticism. If Coach Vince Layson can get consistent guard play around the dynamic duo, the Yellow Jackets could reach the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2016-17 when they finished 23-5 and fell in the Class 3A Final Four. Seniors 5-foot-10 Christopher Lewis (5.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.5 apg), 6-foot-2 Jaylan Harris (5.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and 6-foot Blaze Hammett (5.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg) must provide production. Dual-sport athletes anchored No. 6 Clarke Central in their run to the Elite Eight, finishing 20-7 with a 72-64 loss to Dutchtown. The football-laden group loses physical Region 8 Player of the Year Rio Foster and NoNo Mack, but adds 6-foot-8 junior Tyson Jones (Evans) and 5-foot-11 senior Roderick Jones (Monsignor Donovan – 21.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 6.6 apg, 4.5 spg) to replace them. Reigning Region Coach of the Year Dr. Stefan Smith has some experience to lean on in returning senior starters 6-foot Khyle Cowan, 6-foot-1 Kahari Dean and 5-foot-5 Antonio Jewell. 6-foot-3 senior Lamar Haynes will play a huge role this season with his non-stop motor as a slasher and rebounder. No. 7 Walnut Grove is the second team out of Region 8 to crack the Top 10. The Warriors overhauled their roster adding three key transfers to build upon last year’s 10-15 team which fell 81-58 to St. Pius X in the first round of state. All-Region pick 6-foot-5 senior Shawn Walker is the workhorse for Coach Will Witherspoon, averaging 11 points, 10 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. 6-foot-1 senior DeMyron Williams is a veteran guard that can catch fire from beyond the arc while 6-foot-4 junior John Mark Avitabile is also a threat from deep. 6-foot-1 junior Nick Tyre and 5-foot-11 senior John Knott give the guard rotation depth. Newcomers 6-foot-9 senior Valdy Zephir (Central Gwinnett), 6-foot senior Amar Maccius (Trinity Prep) and 5-foot-8 sophomore Tyler Jewell (Grayson) all bring unique skill sets. Zephir is a physical post presence that can score around the rim but also step outside and shoot the three while Maccius is an energetic athlete and Jewell is a deadeye shooter with range. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, No. 8 New Manchester surprised, going 16-10 and winning Region 6. The Jaguars took a trip to the Elite Eight before falling 70-44 to eventual champion Eagle’s Landing. Coach Chris Robinson has slid over a chair to assume the role of Head Coach after James Bailey was let go. While scorers three through six graduate including All-Region selection Derrick Earley (9.6 ppg), Robinson does return Region 6 First Teamer 6-foot-6 senior Jordan Edmond (10.6 ppg) and son 5-foot-8 sophomore Chase James-Robinson, a three-point sharpshooter that netted 9.6 points per game as a freshman. 6-foot-4 senior Josh Dixon moves in from Westlake to provide strength around the rim while seniors 6-foot-2 Rhian McCoy, 6-foot-4 Robert Winn and 6-foot-1 Kaden Brown fly around making plays. No. 9 Warner Robins has a chance to reclaim Region 1 supremacy but it won’t be easy. Injuries helped derail a promising 5-1 start to the year with Greg Jones breaking his arm. The Demons finished 13-12, losing 79-75 in overtime to undefeated Veterans in the region championship before getting upset 59-57 by Locust Grove in the first round of state. This year, the injury bug has bitten Veterans with Mercer-commit TJ Grant out for the year with an ACL tear after averaging 18.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 1 block. While senior Tahj Williams (11.1 ppg) and 6-foot-10 junior Aaron Jones (7.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg) are still in the mix, losing Grant and DeAngelo Hines (16.2 ppg – Covenant College) could crack the door for Warner Robins to return atop the region. 5-foot-10 sophomore Camryn Perkins dazzled as a freshman, earning Region 1 First Team honors as a savvy playmaker. The Preseason All-State pick has lethal shooters to kick to in 5-foot-10 senior Jordyan Keith, a Region 1 Second Teamer and 6-foot senior Rashaun Williams. If and when junior Vic Burley returns from the football field, the five-star defensive lineman will add a 6-foot-5 265-pound mountain to the middle of the paint. No. 10 Decatur was sneaky good last year albeit in just 16 games finishing 8-8 with a 59-52 loss to New Manchester in the Elite Eight. While strength of schedule was definitely an issue, there are signs pointing to a strong season and a potential home game in the first round of the state playoffs. The Bulldogs are scheduled to return their top players once football season is over headlined by Region 5 First Teamer 6-foot-3 junior Kenric Lanier. 5-foot-10 senior Parker Axam is a three-point marksman that emerged as a dangerous scorer this offseason playing year-round with his Decatur teammates. He was an Honorable Mention selection along with 6-foot junior Turner Cummings. 6-foot-1 senior Antonio Dawson provides athleticism. The Bulldogs may not be the most talented team top to bottom, but their cohesion and team chemistry could keep them in the Top 10.

Class 4A

We said all season long last year that Class 4A was a crapshoot, up for grabs as there was no clear-cut favorite. In the end, No. 1 Baldwin completed a dream season at 17-0, capturing their first title since 1981 after Will Freeman’s mid-range jumper bounced on the rim and dropped in with 3.8 seconds left to give the Braves a 54-53 win over Fayette County in front of a home crowd. The Braves graduate just three seniors from last year’s balanced attack losing leading scorers Freeman (11.3 ppg) and Jermyus Simmons (10.3 ppg). A now battle-tested junior class headlines Coach Anthony Webb’s never-say-die group. 6-foot-2 Jacobi Nixon (9.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), 5-foot-9 Rudolph Satcher (7.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.9 spg) and 6-foot-2 Shatavious Hogan (7.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.1 bpg) return as leading scorers. A season-ending injury limited 6-foot-3 junior Christian Burnett to just one game but the deadly shooter is a highly regarded prospect that averaged 13.3 points per game and went 49-119 (41%) from three as a freshman at Georgia Military before transferring last offseason. 6-foot-4 senior Jahzi Norman (5.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg), 6-foot sophomore Quamond Dennis (4.8 ppg) and 6-foot senior Lataeveon Roach (4.2 ppg) round out a seemingly endless number of options for Coach Webb to turn to. No. 2 McDonough was one of many legit title contenders that were toppled by Baldwin in the state playoffs. The Warhawks let the Braves off the hook in the Final Four, squandering a 27-15 halftime lead and losing 46-42 to close the season 18-10. Four of McDonough’s top five scorers are back although senior Jordon Gix (10.1 ppg) left for Stockbridge. Even with the loss, Coach BJ Thomas’ team is deep. 6-foot-2 junior Amon McDowell is an All-State guard that averaged 12.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals, leading a defensive-minded group. 6-foot-4 junior Ne’Kyle Williams averaged 8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while 6-foot-4 senior Demauriye Gasque chipped in 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while leading the team in three-point shooting at 39-111 (35%). 6-foot-1 Keenan Gray was named Class 4A Freshman of the Year, the hard-playing do-everything guard tallying 6.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game. 6-foot-5 senior Howard Fagan (5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is a physical presence inside. 6-foot-7 senior Tre Thomas can be used in spurts to provide length and is adept at drawing charges. 6-foot junior Da’Avion Thomas will burst onto the scene and has All-State potential as a sharp playmaking point guard. He missed last season, ruled ineligible after moving over from Eagle’s Landing. Also new this year is 6-foot-3 junior Avante Nichols, a transfer from New Creation Christian. Nichols boasts freakish athleticism that will show on defense, on the glass and on drives to the basket. No. 3 Spencer has become a destination in Columbus with nine transfers over the past two seasons, five this offseason to add to a 17-2 squad that was supposed to win a state title last year but were shocked at the buzzer by Westover 50-49 in the Sweet 16, Kavon Johnson going the length of the court against the press for a layup. Eric Allen has stepped aside for cousin Quantavias Allen (Columbus) to take the role of Head Coach and restructure the offense. On paper, the Greenwave may have the deepest team in Class 4A with a mixture of size and athleticism. 6-foot-7 junior Tycen McDaniels is a budding star, but has gotten lost in the shuffle at times with Spencer’s style of play, pressing full court and subbing frequently. He is the Greenwave’s best prospect and should be a D-I player if properly developed. Spencer has great size to pair with McDaniels in 6-foot-4 215-pound senior James Smyre and transfers 6-foot-7 245-pound junior Jhalieene Drake (Jordan – 5.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg), 6-foot-5 240-pound junior TJ Cochran (Carver-Columbus – 3.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 6-foot-4 210-pound sophomore Shawn Hollis (Chattahoochee County). The Greenwave added more physical power with 6-foot-1 220-pound Vasean Moody (Russell County, AL). The bruising frontcourt will be led by Spencer’s guard play with 5-foot-10 senior Randall Dixon, a steady scorer with experience and 5-foot-10 junior YD Scott, an explosive bucket-getter from Kendrick. If the Greenwave can figure out their rotations and get all their pieces to mesh, they could physically overwhelm opponents, but finding offensive structure in the halfcourt remains paramount. No. 4 Fayette County still has the best player in the classification making them a threat to win a state title, but pieces will need to be replaced from last year’s 18-12 State Runner-Up. The Tigers didn’t run from anybody, playing a grueling schedule that had them sitting at 5-9 midway through the season before hitting their stride in late January, winning nine-straight before losing 54-53 to Baldwin in the state championship, star wing 6-foot-8 Kaleb Banks playing only 19 minutes missing a bulk of the game after getting hit above the eye in a loose ball scramble which required stitches before reentering. Banks, an Indiana-commit, was a First Team All-State selection after pouring in 23.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Versatile wings Terry Brown (12.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.8 apg) and Cardell Bailey (10.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg) will be tough to replace but 6-foot-1 junior RJ Kennedy (9.4 ppg, 2 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.2 spg) looks ready to take another step in his development. 6-foot senior Tariq Mumphery averaged 4 points per game but stepped up with 11 in the state finals as a dangerous shooter that connected on 24-88 (27%) threes over the course of the season. Expect seniors 6-foot-2 Duane Burks (4 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and 6-foot-5 Donovan Hand (2.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg) to get a chance to showcase what they can do. Hand should fill in for Brown as a versatile swingman that impacts the game in multiple ways. No. 5 Monroe was rolling until a “junk” defense completely derailed them, losing 29-25 to McDonough in the Elite Eight, the lowest scoring boys state playoff game since 1950 when Jordan beat Brown 27-26. Coach Michael Hoffpauir held the ball the entire third quarter trying to coax the Warhawks out of their box-and-one defense which held All-State 6-foot-2 senior Domonik Henderson (20.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 2 spg, 2.8 bpg) scoreless and resulted in neither team scoring a point in the frame before McDonough pushed ahead for good with a 12-5 fourth quarter to close the Golden Tornadoes’ season at 18-5. With Henderson and second leading scoring 5-foot-10 senior Cedric Johnson (9.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.9 spg) back, Monroe has an opportunity to atone for last year’s shot clock inducing boring exit. 6-foot-1 junior Andrico Jackson (5.3 ppg) and 6-foot-2 senior Boss Diallo (5.1 ppg) will be important in helping take the scoring load off Henderson in a tough Region 1. No. 6 Cedar Shoals opens in the middle of the pack but if the Jaguars are back in the Macon Centreplex, it shouldn’t come as any surprise. In what was supposed to be a bit of a re-tooling year following a State Runner-Up season in 2019-20, Cedar Shoals put together a 20-9 record losing 70-50 to Westover in the Elite Eight. This year’s edition is loaded with senior leadership and firepower in the backcourt. Region 8 Player of the Year 5-foot-9 senior Kashik Brown is an All-State scoring dynamo that poured in 21.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. 5-foot-8 senior Jerdavian Colbert is another jitterbug quick guard that has big-game experience and brings explosiveness from the football field. 6-foot-2 senior Elijah Curry is a potential X-Factor, mixing in athleticism, a high motor and multi-level scoring ability. Loaded with 2023s, No. 7 Mays didn’t quite reach their potential a season ago, but with youth no longer a hindering factor there should be no excuse for the Raiders to not improve upon last year’s 12-11 team that still finished with a Sweet 16 berth, losing 52-49 to McDonough. With the core of the team now upperclassmen, Coach Desmond Williams shouldn’t have to worry about anymore growing pains, especially if you add in the fact that Miller Grove, Stephenson and Arabia Mountain have been decimated by graduation. The Raiders are the team to beat in Region 6 behind 6-foot-4 junior Saulamon Evans (14.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 apg, 2.7 spg, 1 bpg), an All-State guard that is a powerhouse playmaker as both a scorer and distributor. 6-foot junior Mykel Williams averaged 10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 2.7 steals and was named Class 4A Best Passer. 6-foot-2 junior Jaylen Weems (4.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1 spg) is an active wing that is capable of filling out the box score while 6-foot junior Donovan Davenport (4.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.3 spg) and 6-foot-5 sophomore JaQorian Wiggles (4.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.4 apg) are key contributors as well. 6-foot-9 Cameron Brown (Wheeler) and 6-foot-4 David Freeman (Peachtree Ridge) transferred out but 5-foot-10 sophomore Darron Lindsey has moved in from Westlake and will bring scoring and quickness to the perimeter. The key to winning a region championship may be solving Marist’s defense. The Raiders were swept by the War Eagles 49-37, 49-34 and 55-38, failing to crack 40 points once. Coach Rick Rasmussen wins everywhere he goes; No. 8 North Oconee set a school record at 22-7 in his second year on the job. The Titans fell 74-57 to Luella in the first round of state but have momentum heading into the new season. Cole Kelly’s decision to step away from basketball hurts, but 6-foot-3 junior Jake Chandler could enjoy a breakout year following the graduation of the school’s top two all-time leading scorers Dylan Garrington (Valdosta State) and Jace Saxton. Chandler, a lefty, is a three-point specialist that has shifty moves when getting to his spots in the mid-range. 6-foot-3 senior Brodie Scott is a double-double machine while 6-foot-4 senior Wilson Sibley is a bouncy forward that won the GHSA Slam Dunk Contest this past year. 6-foot-2 senior wing Thomas Clausen returns with starting experience and 5-foot-10 sophomore Byrd Carter should see consistent minutes. 6-foot-1 junior David Dorbin should make an immediate impact upon transferring in from Parkview. No. 9 Westover finished 13-6, losing to Fayette County 59-50 in the Final Four after making it all the way to the semifinals as a three-seed out of Region 1. Long-time Head Coach Dallis Smith has his work cut out in trying to fill the voids left behind by 6-foot-8 Isaac Abidde (14.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2 bpg – Wichita State) and Shamir Wingfield (7 ppg – Middle Georgia Prep). 6-foot-4 senior Effrin Smith (11.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg) returns with plenty of big-game experience. 5-foot-10 junior Kavon Johnson is teeming with potential and could take off after averaging 8.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals as a sophomore. 6-foot-2 senior Keshay Walton (6.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.6 spg) and 6-foot-3 junior Kemari Leverette (5.7 ppg) will be integral pieces. The third team from Region 1 and the final team in the Top 10 to open the year is No. 10 Dougherty. Even with the transfer out of state of 6-foot-8 Zion Gardner, Coach Bakari Bryant has enough to make things interesting in South Georgia. As he’s done throughout the course of his career, Bryant got his team to peak at the right time, winning five-straight before falling 56-42 to Fayette County in the Elite Eight, ending the year at 14-8. Dougherty will look much different in the paint with powerful space-eater Jadyn Shider (Middle Georgia Prep) graduated, meaning guard play will be even more important. 6-foot senior Elijah West (8.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 3.7 spg) can be an explosive scorer at times while 6-foot-3 senior Kennard Norris (6.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.7 spg) is a freakish athlete that puts his fingerprints all over games with his hustle. 6-foot-1 senior Chris Lamar (6.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 3.3 spg) is another veteran guard that will see big minutes alongside 5-foot-9 senior Lavonta Clyde (3.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.9 spg) and 5-foot-10 junior Jacob Stallworth (3.5 ppg, 1.4 spg).

Class 3A

It was supposed to be a foregone conclusion a season ago, No. 1 Sandy Creek expected to steam roll their way to their first ever state title, especially after winning by an average of 31.5 points per game in the postseason but All-American Jabari Smith II (23.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.6 spg, 2.5 bpg – Auburn), Myles Rice (19.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6 apg, 2.4 spg – Washington State) and Deshon Proctor (8.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg – Houston Baptist) were shell-shocked in a 57-49 loss to Cross Creek, finishing their senior year 28-5 and State Runner-Up. With a new look group that is much younger, it will be another attempt for Sandy Creek to end their plight as the GHSA’s Sisyphus. 6-foot junior Vic Newsom (8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.2 spg) returns as Coach Jon-Michael Nickerson’s leading scorer. 6-foot-7 sophomore Micah Smith, a High Major recruit, will get more opportunities to score the ball after averaging 6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1 block per game. Three transfers bolster the lineup headlined by 6-foot-2 sophomore Amari Brown (Cibola, NM), a crafty lefty that fills it up on the perimeter. 6-foot-6 sophomore Kani Rashied-Henry (Ridgeview, FL) provides long-term upside while 6-foot-7 senior Aidan Bevrotte is a plug-and-play forward that saw a high level of competition back at McMain, LA. Sandy Creek’s margin of error is infinitely slimmer this year. The Patriots will need to play at a high level all season to hold off No. 2 Windsor Forest, who could be this year’s Cross Creek. The Knights open up behind Sandy Creek, but with a single Patriot loss, no matter the level of competition and a clean week from Windsor Forest, you can expect the team from Savannah to quickly take pole position. The Knights made the most out of last year’s disjointed season, battling through Chatham County protocol to record a 12-4 record. Windsor Forest lost in heartbreaking fashion to Cross Creek 77-76 in the Final Four on a shot with two seconds left from Corey Trotter (Miles). Coach Aaron Clark loses his leading scorer Shamar Norman (17.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.1 spg – Middle Georgia Prep) and Ray Williams (10.1 ppg) but returns High Major recruit 6-foot-7 senior D’ante Bass, an elite athlete that posted 16.4 points, 7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. The lefty will have new running mates in 5-foot-10 senior Javonte Landy (17.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.4 spg, 35% 3PT), a Region 3 First Team selection from rival Beach and 6-foot-3 junior Donte Dorman (13.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.4 spg) from Bethesda Academy. The two will blend in with 6-foot senior Mike Cabellero (8.7 ppg) and 6-foot-3 junior Qurahn Anderson (7.1 ppg) who played big roles for the Knights a year ago. With main rival Johnson-Savannah rebuilding, Groves and Southeast Bulloch look like they may be the only teams that can compete with Windsor Forest’s firepower in Region 3. It will be difficult for No. 3 Salem to recreate the success of last year’s 20-6 team that lost 60-57 to Windsor Forest in the Elite Eight, but Coach Wallace Corker still does have a talented roster even with the loss of leading scorers Javen Flowers-Smith (graduation) and Jarrod Taylor (East Nashville Magnet, TN). The Seminoles are sturdy up front and can control the glass behind 6-foot-6 senior Brandon Kincaid, 6-foot-5 senior Jeremiah Flournoy, 6-foot-3 senior Jacori Porter and 6-foot-3 junior Amir Watkins. 5-foot-10 senior Ju’wel Wilson brings veteran leadership to the backcourt while 5-foot-10 sophomore Clark Mastin and 6-foot-2 sophomore Jamir Russell seem ready to carry the load as top perimeter scorers. Last year was No. 4 LaFayette’s most talented team in school history but the Ramblers were once again foiled by cross state rival Cross Creek in the Elite Eight, 72-60 putting an end to a 22-2 season. 6-foot-7 DeCameron Porter (Middle Georgia Prep) graduates, but 6-foot-8 Ohio-commit Aidan Hadaway (23.4 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.5 bpg) is back for one last season. The state’s premier double-double machine is the best player in Class 3A and has quick little guards around him in Region 6 First Teamer 6-foot senior Junior Barber and 5-foot-8 senior Jaylon Ramsey. Finding some outside shooting and overall offense around the trio will be important in an improving region which may be closing the gap. No. 5 Thomson had a young group finish 15-7 with a 76-46 Elite Eight loss at Hart County. Region 4 First Teamer 6-foot point guard Lavonta Ivery was named Class 3A Freshman of the Year. Second Team pick 6-foot sophomore Jahkiaus Jones is built like a linebacker and brings physicality to the backcourt. 6-foot-3 senior Tydrekis Braswell is a tough-nosed slasher with an aggressive mindset while 6-foot-1 junior Jaquan Farmer and 6-foot sophomore Tramon D’Antignac will be fixtures in the rotation for years to come. With graduation tearing apart defending state champion Cross Creek, the Bulldogs should be an early favorite to win the region. The heart and soul of No. 6 Hart County has graduated in Shone Webb (21 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg, 2.5 spg, 2 bpg – Emmanuel). The Bulldogs finished 24-4 in difficult Region 8 and lost 87-56 at Sandy Creek in the Final Four. The team now belongs to 6-foot-4 senior JC Curry (16 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg, 1 spg), an explosive athlete with all the tools to be a D-I player and 6-foot-7 junior Tahj Johnson (11 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 apg, 1 spg, 3 bpg), a highly regarded inside-out combo-forward that can take over games as a matchup nightmare. 5-foot-10 senior Sean Teasley is a fearless veteran that hustles on both ends of the floor. Legendary Head Coach Harry Marsh will have to figure out which pieces will fit next to his three most trusted players. The Bulldogs have no significant experience outside of their three returning starters and will need Curry to impact games by other than just scoring and for Johnson to remain aggressive on offense in order for Hart County to stay atop Region 8. No. 7 Peach County finished 18-7 and captured the Region 2 title but fell in the Sweet 16 to Thomson, 80-77. Coach John Gordon now enters Year 3 at the helm after improving from 3-22 to 14-13 his first year on the job prior to last season. The Trojans have serious firepower in the backcourt behind All-State 6-foot-2 senior point guard Temarius Mathis and 6-foot-4 combo guard Jacory Brooks. 6-foot-3 225-pound center Ladaria Leggett brings great physicality and an explosive leaper to the frontcourt. Losing 6-foot-1 freshman EJ Colson to Cedar Grove hurts Peach County’s ceiling. No. 8 Oconee County marks the second team from Region 8 to debut in the rankings. The Warriors went 18-10 as the three-seed and lost 56-49 at Salem in a tight game. The only key piece Oconee County graduates is Eli Nelson but returns nearly everyone else highlighted by 6-foot-1 senior Zach Oechsle, a Preseason All-State pick after averaging 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Oechsle is the engine for possibly the best three-point shooting team in Georgia. Coach Thad Burgess’ team understands floor spacing and when to make the extra pass to get a great shot instead of a good shot. 5-foot-11 senior point guard Amorie Birston was a Region 8 Honorable Mention selection. He’s a quick guard that can pick up the tempo in transition and get all the way to the rim, but also can stop on a dime and hit the mid-range jumper. 5-foot-11 senior Jack Lonee and 6-foot junior Trevor Oechsle make plays off the dribble with their passing and can both fill it up from beyond the arc. 6-foot-2 junior David Batts brings wiry athleticism while 6-foot-5 junior Noah Hutchinson and 6-foot-4 senior James Whitmire are trustworthy posts that rebound and finish inside. No. 9 Monroe Area checks in as the third team from Region 8. After earning the two-seed, the Hurricanes were knocked off 59-55 by GAC in the first round of state ending their season at 17-11. Coach Kevin Strickland loses 6-foot-7 All-State wing Derrick Brown (Gordon State) but returns three starters led by All-Region pick 6-foot-5 senior Damareon Whitner, a bruising post presence that averaged 8.3 points and 9.4 rebounds. 6-foot sophomore point guard Vonte Newell saw major minutes as a starter in Year 1 serving as a pass-first playmaker that tallied 6.2 points and 2.3 assists per game and shot 37% from three. 6-foot-2 senior Dre Ross (7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.1 apg), the third starter back, is a Swiss Army Knife that plays extremely hard while juniors 6-foot Dre Newell and 5-foot-10 Alan Jones will vie for playing time in the backcourt along with 6-foot-1 junior swingman Jeremey Anderson. 6-foot-6 240-pound junior Larry Crawford could be a difference maker once he gets off the football field. He’s a big body that is starting find an identity on the hardwood. No. 10 Lakeview Fort-Oglethorpe breaks into the Top 10 as the second school out of Region 6. The Warriors posted a 14-9 record and took the three-seed into the state playoffs where they fell 54-52 at White County in the opening round. A torn ACL on January 22 to 6-foot-3 junior forward Amari Burnett took away Coach Joshua Laney’s top interior threat, a strong post that rebounds, scores around the rim and can shoot the three. If he is able to return in a timely manner, he will join the D-I backcourt of fellow juniors 6-foot-1 Jamichael Davis and 6-foot-3 Brent Bowman. Davis is an explosive athlete that does everything for the Warriors. Auburn, McNeese State, Kennesaw State and Voorhees all offered in the Summer after he led Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe in every category as sophomore with 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 0.8 blocks per game while shooting 40.5% from three, 71.7% from the line and 66.1% overall from the field. Bowman is a creative off-guard with a knockdown jumper and good court vision. He picked up an offer from UMKC in July. Building a supporting cast around Davis and Bowman especially if Burnett is still not 100%, will be imperative for the Warriors if they want to stick in the Top 10. They used a razor thin six-man rotation a season ago.

Class 2A

Barring a miracle, it should be a three-peat for No. 1 Pace Academy who annihilated the competition with their explosive second halves, romping their way to another state title by winning their postseason matchups by an average of 31.4 points. The Knights finished 28-2 and pounded Region 6 rival Columbia 73-42 in the title game before losing to Oak Hill Academy in GEICO Nationals 84-77. 6-foot-7 Cincinnati-commit Josh Reed (16.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.5 spg, 1.2 bpg) will be the go-to guy replacing Class 2A Player of the Year Matthew Cleveland (22.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.6 apg, 3.3 spg, 2 bpg – Florida State). 6-foot-8 freshman Bryson Tiller will step into the shoes left behind by Cole Middleton (11.6 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 3 bpg – Cleveland State). Madison Durr (8.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 9.9 apg, 3 spg – Hargrave Military) is replaced by 6-foot-3 sophomore Kyle Greene, a Blythewood, SC transfer. 6-foot-5 sophomore LJ Moore (4.5 ppg) will see a bigger role this upcoming season. On paper, No. 2 Columbia has the most talent outside of Pace Academy and has a little bit more experience on their roster. The Eagles finished 21-7, surviving multiple close calls in the playoffs before meeting their maker in Macon. First Team All-State 6-foot-6 senior forward Mason Lockhart is back to anchor the interior after averaging 13.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Losing DeKalb County assist leader Kawasiki Ricks (11.6 ppg, 7.1 apg, 2.5 spg) to graduation zaps the Eagles of a dynamic playmaker. Columbia also loses their top three three-point shooters percentage-wise (including Ricks) but returns 6-foot-4 senior Daquavious Harrison, a big athletic wing that can catch fire from deep and was effective when attacking the rim, shooting 58% from inside the arc. 6-foot-7 sophomore Mekhi Turner provides defensive activity inside and a scoring touch on the block. He picked up a Southern offer in September. 6-foot-2 junior Rashad Headges and 6-foot-2 sophomore Jaden Baugh provide great athleticism and playmaking from the backcourt. The Eagles added two transfers in 6-foot-2 junior Amir Green-Jones (Wheeler), a lefty three-point specialist on his third school and 6-foot-4 senior Jamari Piercy, a Region 2-5A Second Team selection from Griffin. Over in the CSRA, Region 4 will be another mad scramble to the top. The competitive region places No. 3 Westside-Augusta in front to open the year following a 17-7 season which ended in the Sweet 16 at Washington County 61-51 after the Patriots snagged the three-seed. First Team All-Region picks 5-foot-11 junior AuMauri Tillman (13.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.5 spg) and 6-foot-3 junior Khalon Hudson (11.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) are back as leading scorers. 6-foot-1 sophomore Demarco Middleton (7.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.8 spg) was a Second Team pick while 6-foot-1 junior Jalex Ewing (6.3 ppg, 3 rpg) was tabbed to the All-Defensive Team. Seniors Ryan Gordon and William Baker will add experience to the rotation. The Patriots will have to contend with No. 4 Butler who swept Westside-Augusta and won the region, going 20-5, losing respectably to Pace Academy in the Elite Eight, 58-44. Region Player of the Year Ronnie Striggles (11.7 ppg – Franklin Prep) has graduated but 6-foot-3 senior Kedar Bodie is back, a two-way standout that is a tenacious defender and well-rounded offensive threat that averaged 11.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.3 steals. Coach Cervantes Boddy loses size in 6-foot-5 Trayveyon Perry (10.8 ppg) and 6-foot-8 Zabriel Boozer (7.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg – Allen CC) but has a potential breakout candidate in 6-foot-5 senior Chance Finklin, a wide-shouldered forward with terrific hands and a nose for the ball. He will surely improve upon his 4.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.2 blocks he averaged a season ago. 6-foot-3 senior Elijah Martinez (5.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and 6-foot-3 senior Gemaureon Belton (Glenn Hills) will provide scoring and length. No. 5 Woodville-Tompkins posted a 16-8 record, losing 82-62 at Thomasville in the Sweet 16. 6-foot-3 senior Antonio Hunt transferred to Franklin Prep, NC, but 6-foot-4 senior Lukas Platauna stayed put after flirting with the idea. The Region 2 Second Teamer rejoins 6-foot-3 senior Zion Powers, a First Team selection known for his aggressiveness. 6-foot junior Alfonzo Ross, 6-foot-6 junior Wes Walker and Honorable Mention pick 5-foot-10 senior Julles Spruill compose a veteran core that will be battle-tested by a tough non-region schedule. Also keep an eye on 5-foot-9 freshman Jonathon Pickering. He may see minutes in spurts and has a good future as a playmaker once he fills out. No. 6 Thomasville has the distinct honor of playing Pace Academy the closest out of anybody in the state playoffs, losing 56-44 at home in the Final Four, putting a capper on an 18-2 season and a great Clifford Davis (19.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.3 spg – Chipola) career. Coach Benjamin Tillman loses explosive firepower between Davis and Adrian McQueen (10.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.5 spg) but has a lot back that looks ready to pick up the slack. 6-foot-1 senior Tyson Anderson is the leading returning scorer for the Bulldogs after averaging 10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals. Juniors 6-foot-6 Harrison Jackson (7.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.3 spg) and 6-foot-5 AJ Dent (5.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) are in line for coming out parties. Jackson is a smooth shooter with length and sneaky athleticism while Dent is a wiry lefty that scores inside and out as an active combo-forward. 5-foot-8 senior Amarion Banks (3.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.3 spg) is another valuable piece with experience. The Bulldogs picked up 6-foot junior Jeray Randall from Pelham where he was a First Team Region 1-A selection after leading the Hornets in scoring at 12.9 points per game while adding 3 rebounds a night. After finding ways to win close games and coming back after trailing in the fourth quarter on numerous occasions, No. 7 Chattooga couldn’t find their magic and lost for a second straight year in the Region 7 Championship, falling 55-54 to Model who they beat 56-55 and 51-48 earlier in the year. The loss set up an unfavorable first round matchup at home, the Indians losing 74-67 to state runner-up Columbia, finishing the year 17-4. Only one senior graduates but it’s a big one in 6-foot-6 Cash Allen (12.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.3 bpg – Shorter). Region 7 Player of the Year 6-foot-2 senior Jaylon Johnson is back though after winning Class 2A Most Improved Player upping his averages across the board to 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.5 steals per game while connecting on 36.5% of his three-pointers. Joining him is an experienced group led by 2020 Class 2A Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Region pick, 5-foot-8 junior Damien Smith, a fearless three-point shooter with deep range. 6-foot-1 senior Lamarr Riley brings athleticism and toughness while 5-foot-10 senior Brody Mobbs is another dangerous shooter. Coach Jared Groce’s X-Factor this season could be something other than his vaunted 1-3-1 zone. 6-foot-2 freshman Xaviar Gray enters the program with a chance to be one of the best players in school history; a naturally gifted athlete with a knack for scoring at the rim. No. 8 Northeast-Macon has reason for optimism, returning their top eight players from last year’s 12-4 team that lost 66-56 to Woodville-Tompkins in the first round. The Raiders have a chance to climb up the rankings quickly behind 6-foot senior Travion Solomon, an All-State point guard that averaged 13.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals and holds offers from Mercer, Columbus State and Voorhees while also drawing recruitment as a quarterback. Solomon has a strong supporting cast in Region 3 Defensive Player of the Year 6-foot-3 senior Zion Odoms (12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.4 spg, 1 bpg), 6-foot-3 senior Milandre Pettigrew (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.1 spg), 6-foot-2 245-pound junior Cadricas Stanley (7.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg), 6-foot senior Jaylen Stephens (7.1 ppg) and 5-foot-9 senior Daquavious Coon (6.8 ppg). Northeast-Macon’s continuity gives them the slight edge over two-time defending Region 3 champ No. 9 Washington County, who beat the Raiders 68-61 and 57-54 in overtime but loses their top two scorers from last year’s 16-2 group that fell 49-47 at home in the Elite Eight to Columbia. Kejuan Bloodsaw (13.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 spg) and Jairus Brown (11.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.3 spg) did a lot for Coach Carlos Hope their senior seasons. The two First Team All-Region picks give way to rising seniors 6-foot-3 Javecckio Thomas (10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.9 spg) and uber-athlete 6-foot-1 Caleb Moore (9.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.8 spg) who flies around the floor and plays much bigger than his size. Known for playing a deep bench, expect the Golden Hawks to get bigger contributions from 6-foot-3 senior Travonte Byrd (4.4 ppg) and 6-foot-3 senior Willie Henderson (2 ppg, 1.6 rpg), a sleeper with elite athleticism who is a monster on the glass and an impactful shot blocker and slasher. A weak five-team region opened the door for No. 10 Rabun County and they kicked it down, the Wildcats finishing with a three-seed out of Region 8 but advancing all the way to the Elite Eight before their Cinderella story ended at Thomasville 64-53, bookending their season with a 9-21 mark. While it’s been since 2016-17 that Rabun County last cracked double digit wins at 11-15 and even longer since their last winning season, a 16-13 campaign in 2015-16, the Wildcats have momentum, star power and a wilting region which breeds optimism. Since joining Banks County and Elbert County in Region 8 back in 2016-17, the Leopards and Blue Devils have dominated the group, Banks County wining in 2017, 2018 and 2020 while Elbert County won the region title in 2019 and 2021. Now Rabun County makes a bid to break up the monopoly with the timing being perfect, Banks County losing their top four players and Elbert County graduating all their top players except for Jamil Burton, an All-Region selection as a junior from the Blue Devils’ 11-12 team that won the region. Rabun County returns the best player in the region in 6-foot-4 senior Connor McKay, who emerged as a certified star averaging 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks and upping his output to 22 points and 17 rebounds per game as the Cats upset Heard County 70-50 and Model 53-47. Including McKay, the best athlete on the floor every time he takes the court, Coach David Adcock returns three All-Region picks. 6-foot-1 senior Gus Hood averaged 7.5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 1 block per game while 5-foot-11 senior Grayson Carver pitched in 8.5 points per game. Loaded with seniors that finally got a chance to taste victory in meaningful games and are hungry for more, the Wildcats also picked up 6-foot-2 junior Jaden Gibson from Dawson County, an All-Region 7-3A selection after averaging 8.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Once Rabun County gets their core four together following football season the Wildcats could contend for their first region title since 2016.

Class A-Private

For just the second time since 2013 a team other than St. Francis or Greenforest won the state title in Class A-Private, giving way to more parity and hopefully eliminating foregone conclusions as to who will meet in Macon each season. This year to open up the poll it’s No. 1 Providence Christian that may have a now or never outlook as a dynamic senior duo fuels the Storm. Last year Providence Christian held the number one seed heading into the Region 5 tournament, the strongest region in the state, but succumbed to four-seed Hebron Christian 57-46 before beating two-seed Galloway 46-40 to snag the three-seed heading into the state tournament. The Storm’s season came to a close in the Sweet 16, blitzed by Mt. Pisgah 62-50 after falling behind 40-15 in the first half, closing the year at 23-5. Coach Joey Thacker returns his top two horses in seniors 6-foot-4 VMI-commit Chance Thacker (16.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.5 spg, 40.5% 3PT), his son and 6-foot-8 Citadel-commit Tony Carpio (16.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg). A third scorer will need to emerge to replace the 12.7 points and 7.7 rebounds lost from 6-foot-6 Elijah Williams (Illinois State). A combination of 6-foot-3 senior KJ Kemp, 6-foot-3 junior Thomas Malcom, 6-foot-4 junior Holdyn Johnston and 6-foot-1 senior transfer Sam Witt (Johns Creek) will be asked to take a load off Thacker and Carpio sporadically throughout the season. Region 5 goes 1-2 with No. 2 Galloway returning four of their top five scorers from last year’s 17-5 team that fell 45-42 in the Sweet 16 to St. Francis after slipping to the four-seed. Region 5 Player of the Year 6-foot-2 senior Anthony Arrington powers a gritty defensive team that doesn’t mind methodically working the ball around on offense till good shots present themselves. Arrington, possibly the front runner for Class A-Private Player of the Year averaged 23.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.9 steals per game as the heart and soul of the Scots. 5-foot-11 senior Quentin Alterman (10 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 41% 3PT) is a heady point guard that picks apart defenses with his shooting and passing. Coach Andrew Tulowitsky’s senior-laden group also features 5-foot-9 Bradley Banner (5.4 ppg, 44% 3PT), 6-foot-3 Mark Sguilaro (3.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.7 bpg), 6-foot-1 Sean Simmonds (3.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2 apg, 2.2 spg) and 6-foot-3 Max Grinberg (3.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg). 5-foot-11 junior Amir Arrington could see an increased role after averaging 4 points over 10 games of action. A lack of a true post presence could hurt the Scots in the state playoffs, but their stingy defense (41.1 PPG) has proven it can slow down the most potent offenses. No. 3 Greenforest sits in a precarious position. On paper, yet again, the Eagles have the most talented roster in the classification but haven’t won a state title since Coach Larry Thompson left for Wheeler following their 2017 championship. Greenforest finished 18-5 last season but somehow lost 65-63 in the Elite Eight to a barebones St. Francis team that was decimated by injuries and transfers. Leading scorer Chase Cormier (14.3 ppg) left for Milton this offseason while 6-foot-6 Jaylen Jackson (14.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg – North Carolina A&T) graduated, but plenty is back and of course more has transferred in for Coach Rory Griffin. 6-foot-3 senior Jalen Forrest returns as the team’s leading scorer after averaging 13 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals. The physical combo guard can play either on or off the ball and has multiple D-I offers from schools like Temple, Kennesaw State and USC Upstate, his most recent in 2021. 7-foot junior Gai Chol is a four-star prospect that averaged 10.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while 6-foot-11 junior DK Manyiel is another four-star recruit that posted 6.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game and is rapidly improving. 6-foot-5 senior Florian Tenebay (6.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg) is another big guard that can overpower opponents on drives to the rim. New addition 6-foot-7 senior Jaylen Peterson is an elite athlete that earned First Team Region 6-4A honors at Stephenson averaging 9.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while holding offers from Iona and USC Upstate. 6-foot-4 senior Caleb Smith comes over from Southwest DeKalb where he was a Region 5-5A Second Teamer after posting 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game. 6-foot-7 freshman Daniel Daramola is a future D-I prospect, a bouncy rim-protector with a great motor. Opponents should struggle to score inside against the Eagle’s formidable front line that allowed 54.8 points per game. No. 4 Christian Heritage has quickly become a staple in the Top 10. The Lions clawed their way from unranked in the preseason to a No. 4 finish, going 23-4 with a 66-57 loss to eventual champ Mt. Pisgah in the Final Four. Region 7 Coach of the Year Tyler Watkins rode Region 7 Player of the Year and Class A-Private Freshman of the Year 6-foot-3 Jax Abernathy (20.4 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.4 apg, 3 spg, 36% 3PT) into title contention. The Lions are suffocating on defense, 60 being the magic number. Only three times all year did opponents crack the 60-point barrier but all three times they did resulted in narrow losses for the Lions. 6-foot-2 215-pound center Evan Lester will need to be replaced inside, the physical rebounder now playing football at Georgia Southern. Other than Lester, just Honorable Mention selection Nash Bingham graduates from what was a young team. 5-foot-10 sophomore Zundra Jackson (10 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.8 spg) made an immediate impact and earned Region 7 Honorable Mention. 6-foot-4 junior Braden Koneman and 6-foot-4 sophomore Cash Hare will play increased roles as they replace what Lester brought to the interior. No. 5 North Cobb Christian has retooled and will battle Christian Heritage in a now very competitive Region 7 after finishing 11-11 and losing 72-45 to Mt. Pisgah in the First Round. Coach Greg Matta has a very balanced team that shoots the ball exceptionally well. 6-foot-3 senior Tremain Davis is the returning leading scorer after averaging 15.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and hitting 40% (34-86) of his threes. 6-foot-4 senior Jack Hewitt (13.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 28% 3PT) is a lefty swingman with a knack for getting to the rim. 5-foot-11 junior CJ Wallace (6.2 ppg, 36% 3PT) is another lefty that serves as a pass-first point guard but also holds the single-game record with eight made threes. 6-foot junior Christian Hernandez is a three-point specialist with a quick trigger that can catch fire in a hurry off the bench. Three new pieces are what jolt the Eagles into the Top 10. 6-foot freshman point guard Josh Dixon will be one of the top freshmen in all of Georgia. He shined at the CTC Fall League, leading North Cobb Christian in scoring (17.6 ppg) and pacing the league in assists (2.8). His poise vs. pressure and outside shooting will pay dividends immediately. 6-foot-5 junior Samuel Ayegunle moves in from Solid Rock Academy. He’s a defense-first post presence that rebounds and blocks shots. Maybe the most interesting addition is 6-foot-6 240-pound Albert Wilson III, who comes over from Gilbert Christian, AZ where he has been listed anywhere from a 2022 to a 2024. He is a reclass so the number of years he will be able to play in the GHSA before exhausting eligibility will be something to keep an eye on. Either way, he was a dominant force in Arizona last year averaging 17.6 points and 9.9 rebounds. Wilson can score with his back to the basket, push the ball in transition and convert from the mid-range. If he is able to recreate the success he had out west, he could end up being one of the best big men in the classification. No. 6 King’s Ridge was the Most Improved Team in the state last year, earning the recognition after jumping from 4-18 to 20-6, the school’s first playoff berth since 2017-18. The Tigers fell 55-47 to Darlington in the opening round. Nearly everybody is back for Coach Bob Martin who graduates just two seniors that accounted for 10.8 points per game. The Tigers look like they may be the early team to beat in Region 6 with Mt. Pisgah rebuilding and St. Francis in flux. 6-foot junior Isaac Martin averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1 steal per game while draining 74-179 (41%) three-point attempts for a team that doesn’t hesitate to let it fly in an instant. As a team, King’s Ridge hit over 200 threes making more than seven per game. The Tigers aren’t one dimensional however. 6-foot-5 junior Micah Hoover has blossomed into a workhorse inside averaging 14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game, earning him Preseason All-State honors. 6-foot-3 senior Liam Thomas (10.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 42 3PTM) and 5-foot-11 senior Carson Wolfel (7.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 36% 3PT) help space the floor. The Tigers picked up two valuable pieces in 6-foot junior Zak Thomas (Fellowship Christian) and 6-foot-4 junior Jack Thomas (West Forsyth). Defending state champion No. 7 Mt. Pisgah will look much different this season. The Patriots used a 10-0 run to shock Holy Innocents’ and win their first ever state title on a Kasheem Grady buzzer beater 43-41 to finish their dream season 27-6. Coach Matt Hixenbaugh graduates every player that stepped foot on the floor in the state championship except for 5-foot-11 sophomore Tyson Pittman who logged a minute. One key piece that missed the postseason run is back however in 6-foot-2 senior MJ Winter. He will lead a talented, though inexperienced backcourt which also boasts 6-foot freshman Micah Tucker and 6-foot-3 sophomore Michael Pace. Tucker could be the front runner for Freshman of the Year, a three-level scorer that has D-I written all over him. Pace has a high ceiling, great length and will get better and better as his career goes on. 6-foot-2 senior Benjy Tucker is a Sacramento State baseball-commit that saw valuable playing time during the regular season. The Patriots will be in the mix for another region title contending with King’s Ridge and possibly St. Francis. The Knights were hurt by the graduation of Class A-Private Player of the Year Alabama-signee Jusaun Holt (21.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4 apg, 2.4 spg, 1.3 bpg) and the transfer of Seth Hubbard (18 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.1 spg) and 6-foot-8 sophomore Trentyn Flowers who played with St. Francis over the summer but eventually left and took Hubbard with him to Huntington Prep, WV. 6-foot-4 sophomore Justin Mitchell (Norcross) and 6-foot-5 sophomore Ahmad Clark (Grayson) move in and will help keep the 2021 semifinalist competitive under first-year Head Coach Daryl Armstrong. No. 8 Darlington represents the third team from Region 7 to open in the Top 10. Coach Nathan West loses just two seniors from last year’s 15-9 unit that fell 41-35 to state runner-up Holy Innocents’ in the Sweet 16. The Tigers use a constricting defense that allowed only 45.4 points per game. 6-foot-4 senior Patrick Shelley is a star guard that demands more attention. The dual-sport standout piled in 16.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks per game and could explode even more this season. West Virginia Wesleyan is somehow the only school to offer the 4.2 GPA student. 6-foot-5 215-pound tight end DJ Johnson is a physical presence that will be counted on to influence games in the paint his senior season. The Second Team All-Region pick is joined by Honorable Mention selections 5-foot-10 junior Braden Bell, a dangerous shooter and 6-foot sophomore D’marion Floyd, an electric athlete that could take a huge step forward in Year 2. 6-foot-2 sophomore Jack Bell is a blossoming off-guard that packs an offensive punch while fellow sophomores 6-foot-2 Mackay Rush and 6-foot-2 Asa Shepard have shown signs of growth this offseason. 6-foot-5 junior Szymon Paluch is a sturdy wing that can shoot the three and get downhill from time to time. No. 9 Walker is the fourth and final squad from six-team Region 7 to debut in the rankings. Full of underclassmen a season ago, the Wolverines posted a 13-10 mark and got valuable postseason experience, losing 67-58 to St. Francis in Round 1. Walker hung tough in their region, splitting with North Cobb Christian and Darlington. They were swept by Christian Heritage but improved in a week, trimming a 66-49 loss to a 55-49 defeat in their second meeting. Leading scorer Matthew Brown (11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is gone, but the future is bright with sophomores 6-foot-2 CJ Brown (10.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.7 spg) and 6-foot-4 Ricky McKenzie (7.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg), both receiving offers from Mercer this summer with McKenzie also tacking on a Jacksonville bid. Oregon baseball-commit 6-foot-1 senior Omari Daniel (9.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.3 spg) provides veteran leadership coming off a Region 7 Honorable Mention campaign. 5-foot-11 junior DJ Dennis (5.6 ppg) rounds out a guard-heavy lineup. No. 10 First Presbyterian Day set records with their 22-2 season. The Vikings dominated a vulnerable Region 1 and made it to the Elite Eight, but were edged 59-54 by Christian Heritage, a game which saw prolific scorer Jordan Jones (20.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.7 apg, 3 spg – Mercer) tear his ACL midway through the second quarter. With the school’s single-game recorder holder of 60 points and 13 made threes now graduated, the dynamic Batman and Robin duo now turns to the new Dark Knight, 6-foot-2 senior Jay King, who emerged as an All-State scoring machine averaging 18.5 points, 5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals. King is great in isolation settings and can fill it up from beyond the arc hitting 45-127 (35%) of his threes. Coach Gavin Chapman also returns 5-foot-8 junior Jaylun Goodrum (10.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3 apg, 3.5 spg), 6-foot junior Gavin Greene (8.9 ppg) and 6-foot-3 sophomore Jakhari Williams (7 ppg, 3.8 rpg). The Vikings will need to find a way to create easier buckets when facing tough opponents and avoid being too iso dependent.

Class A-Public

In what felt like a sure-fire lock a season ago, No. 1 Drew Charter dominated throughout the regular season and was on a warpath to the state title. The Eagles broke the 100-point barrier three times and averaged 86.9 points per game in the regular season and won by an average of 40.5 points during a 23-0 regular season. Drew Charter beat Crawford County 76-49 in the opening round of state but slept walked through a 76-67 Sweet 16 victory over Lincoln County, showing chinks in the armor. In the Elite Eight the Eagles were shell-shocked, punched in the mouth by Dublin and eliminated 79-63, putting a disappointing close to a 25-1 season. Now Drew Charter enters 2021-22 with even more to prove and a hungry senior class. Class A-Public Player of the Year 6-foot senior Ja’Quez Thornton and 6-foot-4 senior Ja’Kobe Strozier form a hellacious backcourt tandem, both D-I prospects. Thornton, a lefty, is the emotional leader for the Eagles, setting the tone on defense and scoring and facilitating at will on offense. Strozier is an unmatched athlete at the A-Public level, capable of bulling over defenders on drives to the rim, finishing with highlight slams. The third head of the attack is 6-foot-5 junior Cedric Taylor, a Swiss Army Knife that does a little bit of everything for Coach Samir St. Clair. Taylor uses his length to swallow up rebounds and ignite fastbreaks. He can defend 1-5 and score inside and out. 5-foot-9 senior DJ Rogers is an experienced guard that is a nuisance in the full court press. New to the Eagles is 6-foot-1 senior Cameron Johnson. Formerly a highly touted prospect while at Harrison, earning Region 6-6A Second Team honors as a freshman and First Team as a sophomore, Johnson transferred to Wheeler and sat the bench his junior season. Now with a new lease on life, the bowling ball guard will add even more firepower to the Eagle backcourt his senior season. Ever since Coach Taylor Jackson took the job in 2019, No. 2 Social Circle has slowly been building toward 2022. In Year 1 on the job the Redskins finished 20-8 in Region 8-2A. The drop to Region 8-A last year resulted in a 17-10 record which saw a tough non-region schedule help the Redskins float in the Top 10 for much of the year. An upset loss to Lincoln County in the region tournament forced Social Circle to the three-seed and they eventually fell at state runner-up Hancock Central 68-58 in the Sweet 16, the 2020 champs. Hancock Central would go on to lose to Towns County in the state title 64-60, a region foe of Social Circle whose only Class A-Public loss came to the Redskins 74-64. Fast forward to present day where the target is solely on Social Circle’s back with Towns County losing nearly all of their key pieces from last year’s dream season and the Redskins bringing back everyone, Social Circle enters the season as a heavy favorite to take a deep run. Three-point shooting is what separates the Redskins from the rest of Class A-Public. They drilled 10 threes in their win over Towns County and have even more fire power to join All-State senior guards 5-foot-10 Tyrhell Branch (17.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 41.2% 3PT) and 6-foot-1 KJ Reid (14.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 34.4% 3PT). 6-foot junior twins Lamarius Jackson and Quindarius Jackson sat out last year due to COVID precautions but are back to provide even more scoring and athleticism. Both play extremely hard, lefty Lamarius is a good three-point shooter that can also attack off the dribble while Quindarius really stands out with his defensive effort and rebounding. The two will join long-armed 6-foot-1 senior Cam Gaither (9.2 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.9 apg, 33.3% 3PT) and bouncy 6-foot-2 senior Amarion Russell. The junior class features 6-foot-3 Phillip Baynes, 6-foot-6 263-pound space-eater AJ Vinson and 6-foot-6 Logan Cross. 6-foot-2 senior Trey Douglas rounds out the deepest team in the state that can go 10 deep on any given night. Coming off a 9-17 season, No. 3 Portal emerged as a state title contender, the Most Improved Team in the state finishing 21-7 with a 59-45 loss to Chattahoochee County in the Elite Eight. How did the Panthers improve so quickly? Their unparalleled 2024 class. Class A-Public Freshman of the Year 5-foot-8 Elijah Coleman poured in 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5 assists and 4.1 steals as an elite slasher that lived at the foul line, going 121-190 (64%) averaging nearly seven free throw attempts a game. Running mate 6-foot-2 sophomore Joseph Thomas averaged 14.9 points, 4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game, a confident shooter off the dribble that connected on 51-162 (31%) of his three-pointers. Lastly, the muscle inside came from 6-foot-5 sophomore Amir Jackson. Jackson, who broke his hand and missed the Panthers’ Elite Eight matchup, posted 13.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. The big three will carry the load once again this season, but Coach Jeff Brannen does lose Class A-Public Best Shot Blocker 6-foot-7 Fred Spells (6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 5 bpg – Voorhees). Finding production outside of their top three will be important. 5-foot-10 sophomore Marion Tremble could see an increased role in the backcourt and has good chemistry with the trio, playing year-round with the group during the travel season. With main competition Claxton graduating everyone, the Panthers should be in good shape to win the region outright and potentially sweep. In his first year on the job Coach Dermaris Keeyon Battle successfully reconstructed No. 4 Chattahoochee County, improving from 5-21 to 16-2 with a Final Four appearance, falling 59-45 to eventual champ Towns County. The Panthers lose their third-best scorer in Carlos Dunovant (8.8 ppg) but bring everyone else that played a big role back led by Class A-Public Most Improved Player 6-foot-4 junior Dexter Holloman who upped his output from 8.5 to 16.6 points per game. The high-energy slasher is joined by Region 5 First Teamer 6-foot-1 senior Naketa Ellington (11.9 ppg) and Region Defensive Player of the Year 6-foot senior Jay Beauford (8.6 ppg). 5-foot-9 junior Rico Daniels (5.5 ppg) is another experienced guard that will see important minutes. Though they lose four of their top five scorers, tradition never graduates from No. 5 Dublin. The Irish ran up a 27-2 record out of Region 4 and did what was thought to be impossible at the time, manhandle undefeated Drew Charter 79-63 in the Elite Eight but the luck of the Irish ran out in the Final Four, Jamal Taylor hitting a halfcourt prayer to eliminate Dublin 73-72. While the makeup of Coach Ben Smith’s team may be a little different in Year 3, the culture won’t be. 6-foot-3 senior Zion Davis returns as the go-to guy, a tough-nosed swingman that averaged 10.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.9 steals while hitting 30-91 (33%) from three. Dublin’s physical style and defensive grittiness will give way for players like 6-foot-6 junior Dayshun Peacock (6.4 ppg, 5 rpg), 6-foot-2 senior David Folsom (6.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 apg) and 5-foot-10 senior Qua Ashley (6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.3 spg) to step up on a typically deep roster. No Region 7 tournament forced No. 6 Warren County to the three-seed heading into the postseason. The Screaming Devils finished 13-6 and lost 77-67 to Towns County in the Sweet 16. Coach Uriah Myrick graduates point guard Cortavion Wilder (Mid-Atlantic Christian) but returns 6-foot-2 senior Lorenzo Johnson Jr., an All-State playmaker with explosive athleticism that poured in 20.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game. He ignites a Screaming Devils team that saw great success over the offseason and now has unshakable confidence heading into 2021-22. Seniors 6-foot Ra’Quan Myers and 5-foot-10 DanQuan Baker bring experience and quickness to the backcourt while 6-foot-2 Kenvonte Brinkley and 6-foot-3 Enoch Grier are versatile pieces and 5-foot-11 junior Justyn Burnett is an up-and-comer. No. 7 Lanier County has always been a threat in Class A-Public, but has yet to get over the hump. From 2017 to 2020 the Bulldogs recorded 20+ wins each season with a total record of 69-13, peaking with an Elite Eight finish in 2017-18. Coach Joel Stites took over this past season coming in from Highland Christian and led the Bulldogs to a 16-7 mark, losing 58-49 to Terrell County in the Sweet 16. It’s now the last go round for Region 2 Player of the Year 6-foot-5 senior EJ Brown who entered his junior season with a career average of 14.8 points per game. He is joined by 6-foot-6 senior JaQuan Pope, a First Team All-Region pick. Second Team selections 5-foot-10 senior Ethan North and 6-foot-1 junior Cason Register give Coach Stites four of his top five players back. The Bulldogs should be the favorite to win the region as defending champion Irwin County has graduated their top four players. No. 8 Bowdon has the best scorer in the state, but it remains to be seen if they have anything else. The Red Devils beat up on Region 6 outside of Drew Charter and tallied a 21-6 record but lost to Warren County 78-70 in Round 1. 5-foot-8 junior Authur Johnson is a D-I level guard, a binge scorer that poured in 21.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game and got even better in the offseason, winning CTC Fall League MVP after dumping in 38.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, sinking 31 threes over seven games. The lefty is simply unguardable but his high usage rate and lack of weapons around him could make it tough for Bowdon to contend for a state title. In order for the Red Devils to compete with Drew Charter, someone has to step up and become a legitimate offensive option. 6-foot-2 senior Seth Farmer is a rugged rebounder that averaged 12 points and 8.3 rebounds while 5-foot-11 senior Kolton Drummond brings some athleticism off the football field and is coming off a season in which he chipped in 11.1 points, 6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals. The trio represents Bowdon’s top three scorers from a season ago. The development of 5-foot-10 senior Andrew Hopson (6.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2 apg, 1.9 spg) may determine Bowdon’s upside. He showed some nice flashes throughout the offseason as a second scorer but the Red Devils still sorely need a second reliable ball handler that can alleviate pressure. No. 9 Manchester is scheduled to return their top four players from last year’s 8-6 group that slid to the four-seed out of Region 5 and lost 78-67 to Towns County in the opening round of state. The Blue Devils started 7-1 but too many COVID pauses shattered momentum as they stumbled to a 1-5 finish, their only win coming via forfeit. However, in those five losses two came by one point, one by four and another by six before losing to Towns County by 11 in the playoffs. 5-foot-11 senior Tra’vion Jackson (16.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.9 spg) was a First Team All-Region pick while 6-foot-4 senior Camron Long (7.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.8 spg) was pegged to the Second Team. 6-foot-4 215-pound junior Zy’Juan Gray was a force inside averaging 11.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals. 6-foot-2 sophomore Jayden Washington saw important minutes in Year 1, posting 6.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game. No. 10 Turner County rounds out the rankings, coming off a 17-8 finish out of Region 2, losing 61-42 to Dublin in the Sweet 16. Leading scorer Keonvay Clark (11.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.4 spg – Valdosta State football) has graduated but Coach Shedric Office is expected to return his next three top scorers headlined by First Team All-Region selection 6-foot-3 senior Demarrion Wilson (9.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.9 spg, 1.5 bpg). 6-foot-3 junior Trenton Thompson is a big body that earned Second Team honors after collecting 9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 blocks per game as a sophomore. 5-foot-10 senior Zy’kevion Hillmon was streaky but effective in his nine games, adding 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game.