Category Archives: Analysis

Cobb SSA Summer Team Camp Analysis

Day 2 of All Tournament Players Park (aka Cobb SSA)’s, Summer Team Camp took place on Tuesday. From 6/13-16, the 10-team field will take the court, playing two games a night. The participants include: Woodstock, Westminster I & II, Kell, Osborne, Lovett, Cumberland Christian, King’s Academy, Active Elite (AAU) and AC Georgia (AAU).


Coming off of a Class AA Elite Eight appearance, the Lions lose eight seniors. Luckily for second-year head coach Ryan Koudele, sophomore point guard Ryan Greer, sophomore post Nick Jackson and junior shooting guard Crawford Schwieger all return with plenty of experience under their belts. Lovett lost to Active Elite 57-53 and Westminster 53-50, but the Lion backcourt was dynamic.

Greer finished with 22 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals against Active Elite and followed up with 17 points and seven rebounds vs. Westminster. Greer attacked defenses all night, using a hesitation dribble to square his broad shoulders and finish in the lane. Once the defense was keen to Greer getting to the rack, he would stop on a dime and make a pocket pass to an open teammate. Greer plays beyond his years. His maturity level measures up with top seniors across the state.

Crawford Schwieger commanded constant defensive attention
Crawford Schwieger commanded constant defensive attention

Running mate Crawford Schwieger tickled the twine all night as he was the best shooter in the building. He canned six threes en route to a 20-point performance in Game 1, and knocked down three more on his way to 15 points in Game 2. Schwieger is a floor stretcher extraordinaire that commands attention as soon as he crosses over mid-court.

For an undersized post, Nick Jackson played tough inside and corralled 10 boards against Active Elite who featured big-man Chris Agbo.


A 22-3 season ended on a sour note last year as the Wildcats were stunned in the Region 4-AAA tournament and were denied a postseason bid after ranking in the Top 10 for much of the season. Will Benson, a 6-foot-5 workhorse forward, has graduated and was selected by the Cleveland Indians 14th overall in the MLB Draft last week.

The Wildcats scored a 53-50 win over Lovett thanks to the play of senior Mikael Sampson. Sampson, 6-foot-6, was anchored on the block last year. Now that Benson is out of the picture, the offense will run through Sampson. He looked much more confident against Lovett and Coach Tray Malloy put the ball in his hands, taking over the role Benson held. When Sampson put the ball on the floor, he was a freight train.

Mikael Sampson can now score inside and out
Mikael Sampson can now score inside and out

He finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks. Sampson has extended his game to the three-point line even, knocking down a straightaway three. Being able to play on the perimeter will greatly help his stock instead of solely being viewed as a back-to-the-basket energy big man. Sampson will have all the opportunity in the world to stuff the stat sheet his senior season as the offense will run through him.


After waiting 20 years for their first state playoff appearance, the Wolverines will look to build on their success behind a talented backcourt. The Wolverines thumped Cumberland Christian 90-48 and then trounced King’s Academy 71-44.

St. Francis transfer Dylin Hardeman powered Woodstock in the second half. The sophomore hit a three at the buzzer to extend their lead to 34-28 going into the break before he exploded for 12 of his game-high 19 in the final 20 minutes. Hardeman provides good size at the off-guard position standing 6-foot-3, and brings a confident swagger after having a great summer circuit with 16U Team Atlanta.

Senior holdover Tyreke Johnson has garnered the most interest from next level coaches. Johnson played well at the Kennesaw State Elite Camp on Sunday and continued where he left off last season, posting 17 points and five rebounds. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 17.6 points per game last year and shouldn’t have as much pressure on him to score the ball now that Hardeman is in the fold.

Late blooming stretch forward Cameron Crowe had a big game against King’s Academy with 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Crowe stands close to 6-foot-6 and brings with him some nice athleticism inside that will pair well with bruiser Brant Hurter. Crowe rebounded with two hands and showed a nice touch off the glass in the paint.

Rising junior Will Allen played sparingly last season but played exceptionally well off the bench on Tuesday. A long 6-foot-4, Allen drained three three-pointers and tallied 15 points, five rebounds and one block off the bench. He looked confident and wasn’t afraid to let it fly. Allen should be a very nice rotational piece in the mold of graduating forward Zack Wallace but with more aggression.

Once all of Coach Kingston Clark’s pieces are together, including Hurter and Noah Frith, Woodstock has to be an early favorite out of Region 4-AAAAAAA.

Chris Agbo

Senior center Chris Agbo suited up for Active Elite after playing with the Southern Stampede this summer. Agbo by far is the biggest, strongest player I have seen in the high school game since covering it this past year. At 6-foot-8, 250 pounds of all muscle, the Covenant Christian super hero is imposing to say the least.

Active Elite earned a 57-53 win over Lovett and Agbo was a big reason why. Early in the game, Agbo was laboring getting up and down the court, seemingly disinterested. Once he was subbed out, he was grimacing and holding his shoulder. He decided to change shoes and shook out his arms and looked fine the rest of the game. He wrecked the Lions frontline for 15 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks.

Agbo understands how to throw his body into defenders to square up his shoulders, but sometimes over does it when he doesn’t need to, drawing a few silly offensive fouls. He could still use some refining on the low block as far as post moves and counter moves go as he still can get away with overpowering opponents with brute force. Agbo tipped a lot of balls to himself on rebounds and got away with it because of his size. Against bigger opponents however, he will need to grab them with two hands consistently.

Overall, Agbo dominated the paint when he wanted to and came away with a monster stat line. The Nigerian native will warrant college looks from his size alone. If he can rev his motor up and play hard every possession, his recruitment will soar his senior season.

Georgia State Team Camp Session I Analysis

Georgia State held its Ron Hunter Team Camp on Friday and Saturday. The single elimination tournament saw North Clayton come away victorious with a win over Dacula in the championship game. Tournament games lasted only 20 minutes while non-tournament games played the full 40.

Monticello 58, Houston County 45

Coming off of a Final Four appearance in Class AA, the Hurricanes got out of the gates quick against Houston County. Monticello relies on its speedy guards to initiate offense. Junior Ashton Bonner netted a team-high 17 points and added three assists while senior CJ Adams tacked on 11 points and four assists. As a team, the Hurricanes drilled eight threes, three via Adams. The duo of Jakeir Stone and Malik Crawford did damage inside and out. Stone, a 6-foot-3 senior, knocked down two threes and collected six rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Crawford, a rising sophomore that stands 6-foot-5, posted eight points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. A lot will be asked of Crawford after the graduation of De’miria Glover, who averaged a team-leading 13.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.0 block per game inside.

A slow start did in Houston County, but the Bears outscored Monticello 27-26 in the second half. Keep an eye on senior guard Ma’Kel Wallace. Wallace transferred over from Veterans last season but was ruled ineligible and had to play junior varsity. The 6-foot guard pumped in 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals for Coach Stephen Walls. He scored at all three levels, hitting three three-pointers, collecting four points from the foul line and got to the basket for his other hoops. Wallace was a vocal leader as well, communicating well with his teammates. The Bears feature important pieces from the football team and weren’t fully 100% at camp. They should be a competitive bunch once all their pieces come together.

Miller Grove 43, McEachern 42

A great game on paper instead saw a plethora of top players unable to suit up. On the McEachern side, Isaac Okoro, Babatunde Akingbola and Sharife Cooper were all away at Elite Camps while Miller Grove was without defensive specialist Joshua Jackmon, who tore his ACL and MCL. With big names out of the lineup, other players were able to step up in the spotlight. Rob Clemons led McEachern from his point guard position with 11 points and two steals.  Miller Grove was led by senior Tae Hardy, who hit the game winner and finished with 19 points and two steals. Hardy is a Collin Sexton-lite – a pure bucket getter. He will have an opportunity to score the ball a lot this upcoming season. Miller Grove will need production from big men Kevin Paige and Tworn Seals. Paige, a junior, is a meaty 6-foot-7 while Seals, a sophomore, goes 6-foot-6. Both bigs are a bit raw, but have imposing size and can rebound the ball well.

Gainesville 53, Douglas County 34

Without D’Marcus Simonds (GSU) and KJ Buffen (injury), the Red Elephants did not miss a beat. They pummeled the Tigers from the opening tip and never relented. While most of the attention will be locked on the juniors, Buffen, Bailey Minor and Xavier Bledson, senior Michael White had a sensational game. The big guard goes 6-foot-4 and can score in a multitude of ways. He heated up and drilled three threes en route to a game-high 22 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal. Gainesville is always a very unselfish team on offense and shares the ball extremely well, especially with Bledson at the point. He scored eight points and added three rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Minor did what he usually does, stretch defenses and create mismatches. He finished with 15 points and two blocks while canning three three-pointers.

Douglas County will need to find a go-to guy on offense after the graduation of Brandon Robinson (UNC). They struggled to score and had a hard time slowing down Gainesville’s crisp attack.

Eagle’s Landing 45, Allatoona 44

Sophomore Chris Hood buried a dribble handoff three at the buzzer to knock off Allatoona after the Bucs came storming back to take the lead late. Hood has exceptional size at 6-foot-4 and posed problems for Allatoona, finishing with nine points and two steals. The Eagle that turned my head the most however, was Hamilton Heights (TN) transfer Mohammed Abubakar. The 6-foot-8 senior center was a load inside and had a good idea what he was doing on the low block, using quick spins in the lane to free himself on drop steps. Allatoona didn’t have an answer for him as he posted 16 points and six rebounds.  The addition of a post presence like that could help the Eagles come close to repeating their 24-win campaign.

Allatoona didn’t deploy its best five on the court and used an array of players to mix-and-match and gain experience. When it was time to score, it was junior Trey Doomes that was leaned on. Doomes was confident with his jumper and wasn’t afraid to let it rip, netting a team-high 16 points to go with his five rebounds, one assists, two steals and one block. In order for Allatoona to go far, Doomes will need to carry the bulk of the load offensively. Versatile forward Chima Ogboi was out on vacation and will be an important piece upon his return. The 6-foot-4 forward is an exceptional passer and his lanky build projects him to have upside defensively once he completely grasps Coach Markus Hood’s defensive concepts. Senior guard Mike Johnson will need to shoulder some of the offensive scoring burden while senior Tyler Jackson will be asked to handle the ball. Juniors Rolan Wooden and Tobi Adeyeye need to fill the void left by 6-foot-8 center Randy Legros.

Langston Hughes 37, St. Francis 24

The three-headed monster of a backcourt led by seniors Derrick Cook and Khalil Cuffee along with Curie (IL) transfer junior Landers Nolley II, overpowered the new look Knights. Nolley fit in seamlessly with 11 points and was able to drive and dish, creating opportunities for corner threes. Cuffee netted nine points, five rebounds and two assists while Cook went for eight points and six rebounds. The Panthers have good athletes scattered across the floor. Senior forward Ahmid Bryant is a 6-foot-6 post that rebounds well and can alter shots inside. Sophomore Jaylen McCluney will play a huge role this year after seeing limited playing time as a freshman. I like McCluney’s ability as a springy forward that attacks the glass and plays tough defense. The 6-foot-4 forward could have a bright future ahead of him.

A litany of transfers and graduates have zapped St. Francis’ roster, but Coach Drew Catlett is optimistic and loves his young talent moving up through the ranks.  Seniors Wallace Tucker and Drew Smith will be relied upon to shepherd the Knights’ youth and get them ready for the rigors of Class A-Private basketball.

Other Observations

Holy Innocents’ Jules Erving, a senior, looked like he packed on a little muscle. Erving is a superior athlete and used it to his advantage against Eagle’s Landing V2 team. By no means was it the level of competition he will see during the regular season or the rest of the summer, but it was nice to see him impose his will, posting 16 points and eight rebounds in the first half alone. Matt Meadows and Cole Smith also played well throughout the weekend.

In a 24-19 loss to Allatoona, Carrollton senior guard Carson Culverhouse splashed in three deep balls and finished with a game-high 11 points. The 5-foot-11 guard is a sharp-shooter that has the green light to pull from anywhere. Culverhouse is also a deceptive athlete, blocking two shots on the day.

Langston Hughes knocked off Miller Grove in Round 2, 23-21. Derrick Cook hit an And-1 with seconds remaining to give the Panthers the go-ahead hoop. He scored a game-high 12 points and chipped in four rebounds. He has had great summer.

Coming off of a rebuilding 8-17 season, Clarke Central had a nice camp, picking up wins over St. Francis and Heard County before falling to Allatoona in the quarterfinals. Junior Jack Mangel shot the ball very well. He led the Gladiators in scoring at 9.7 points per game last season.

Dacula built off its impressive Georgia Cup Finals showing and made a run to the title game before bowing out against North Clayton’s frontline. Sophomore Mekhail Bethea continued to lead the Falcons flawlessly and went toe-to-toe with every guard put in his way. A win over Langston Hughes in the semifinals was a good barometer as of how good this young Dacula team can be in 2016-17.

Surprise, surprise, North Clayton took home the trophy after edging Dacula. Coming off of a 19-11 season with a Sweet 16 appearance, the Eagles graduated their second, third and fourth leading scorers. Luckily for them, 6-foot-8 senior Ahsan Asadullah is back. The skillful center dominated at Georgia State, one of the latest schools to offer the wide-body big.  After averaging 15.1 points per game last year, Asadullah is in line for another productive season. With enough help around him, the Eagles should be a force in the tough Region 4-AAAA.

Kennesaw State Elite Camp Analysis

Kennesaw State set the stage for some of the top players across the GHSA and some up-and-coming stars across the country to showcase their skills at Al Skinner Elite Camp. Over 100 kids made the trip to Kennesaw, Ga. with states as far west as Arizona to as far north as New York represented.

After being ushered from the main gym to the team’s off-site practice facility, players began to make a name for themselves in 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 settings. Here are a couple players that stood out.


Jaylin Williams  (Brantley County)

Could this be the best kept secret in South Georgia? Jaylin Williams is a 6-foot-6 forward out of Nahunta, Ga.; a population of just over 1,000 people. Only a sophomore, my first glimpse at Williams leaves me wanting more. The long athlete can alter shots on defense and finish inside. His quick bounce allows him to dunk with two hands and rebound anything in his area. In a short 5-on-5 scrimmage where players played roughly five minutes at a time, Williams was able to accumulate six points, three rebounds, one steal and two blocks. A few high major schools are said to already be in the mix and Kennesaw State wasted no time in laying an offer on the table after his performance. He will be an interesting player to track throughout his career.

JD Notae (Newton)

JD Notae was one of the top guards in camp. He had a swagger to his game and a killer instinct, especially in the 3-on-3 setting where his teams were hard to beat. The 6-foot-2 guard can stroke it from the outside and attacked the hole well. He teamed up with Kyle Sturdivant in the backcourt during the 5-on-5 session; a dream tandem for Kennesaw State. Overall he was one of the best performers in camp.

Tre Gomillion (Aquinas)

A lot of people asked me today who was the kid with the frizzy ponytail? That fine mane belongs to Tre Gomillion. It’s hard to believe that the Fightin’ Irish standout is only going to be a junior next season. The 15-year old is built like a fullback and he isn’t afraid to use his body. Gomillion is as sturdy of a guard as they come with good size to him.  He stuffs the stat sheet nightly in Augusta and did the same at Kennesaw. Gomillion is a willing rebounder that can outmuscle most post players. He has two more seasons to heat up his recruitment and I think today was a great first step.

Mo Merritt  (North Cobb Christian)

Spoiler alert: the former Sprayberry Yellow Jacket is set to attend North Cobb Christian his senior season. Mo Merritt was extremely impressive around the basket, able to play above the rim and clean up misses. Merritt stands 6-foot-7 and lets those around him know. He led all players with five rebounds in his 5-on-5 stint. Merritt is tough to keep off the offensive glass and will provide a much needed inside presence at North Cobb Christian. He reminded me of current KSU big man Jordan Jones – who helped run camp – as an active athlete in the paint.

Greg James (Shiloh)

Wearing a shirt with no number and boasting camo leggings, Greg James tried to go incognito but his play wouldn’t let him. James shot the ball well and had some explosion when attacking the basket. It was an overall good day of work for him.

Trey Doomes (Allatoona)

The biggest question about Trey Doomes’ game heading into his junior season was will he be able to craft a reliable jump shot? While he is still working on it becoming a true weapon of his game, Doomes has shown the confidence in his new found stroke and is beginning to take it more willingly. Doomes will be handed the keys to the car at Allatoona as the team’s go-to guy on offense.  Defensively, Doomes’ long arms and big hands make him always one of the toughest defenders on the court and a few more years in the weight room can only help. The way he has played so far this summer bodes well for a big upcoming two seasons.

Avery Wilson (Forest Park)

Avery Wilson pumped in 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a junior and should do even more for an encore. The 6-foot-1 guard produced when his number was called, showing he can pull the trigger from deep and finish with authority at the rim as one of the best athletes in the gym.

Damion Rosser (Henry County)

Another athletic guard, Damion Rosser, played hard as always. Rosser’s downhill attack at the basket always challenges defenders. He filled up box scores in a hurry at Henry County and should have another strong season coming up after a productive offseason.

Ethan Reid (North Paulding)

Coming from a program that has never seen the postseason, sometimes it can be hard to earn recognition. Ethan Reid however, has bucked the trend of jumping ship from a young program still going through going pains and has stuck it out and will try to lead the Wolfpack to their first ever state berth. Reid actively defended the ball and took on challengers. Offensively, he shined in the 3-on-3 portion, getting his teammates the ball off drives to the hoop.

Kyle Sturdivant (Pace Academy)

It’s tough to ever say Kyle Sturdivant stood out because we are so used to seeing him perform at a high level. Once again, the former Norcross Blue Devil played older than a 15-year old. Not many mistakes and a lot of solid decisions. Sturdivant’s mid-range game and pull-ups in the lane were true today.

Kane Williams (South Paulding)

Kane Williams didn’t have his best day shooting the ball, but his ability to get to the basket and his athleticism did look good. Williams also looked comfortable scoring the ball with both hands. He has a busy upcoming few weeks with team camps to continue his upward trajectory into his senior season.




Christiaan Jones (Cardinal Newman, SC)

I saw a lot of Christiaan Jones this summer playing with the Carolina Wolves. Jones is a baby-faced assassin from deep. To no surprise, he shot the ball well from beyond the stripe at Kennesaw. Knock-down shooters like Jones are always a hot commodity in this day and age.

Robert Johnson  (Dillard, FL)

Robert Johnson is a big dude with big intrigue surrounding him after today. A physical presence standing upwards of 6-foot-8 with muscle on him, Johnson locked down the paint with his shot blocking. Johnson moved up and down the floor well and showed he could both move his feet on defense and put the ball on the floor in spurts.

Dishon Thomas (AZ)

Among one of the longest players at camp, a legit 6-foot-7, Dishon Thomas did his work as a wing, not a post. That versatility and skill set alone is something college coaches crave.

Darrien James (Page, TN)

Darrien James played with nice pace from his guard position. Listed at 6-foot-4, the Tennessee-native got into the paint well and looked to be a good leader on the floor.

Garrett Covington (Don Bosco Prep, IN)

Remember Garrett Covington? Covington was a Gwinnett Daily Post Super Six selection heading into his senior season at Greater Atlanta Christian. Halfway through the season, he left and returned to Carmel (IN) where he grew up. Covington was a Swiss army knife at GAC and cut up the defense some more in the 5-on-5 portion of camp. He tallied six points, three rebounds and one steal. The 6-foot-4 forward is well-built and can use his body against smaller wings. After prep school, he should resurface at a good college program.

Biggest Surprises & Disappointments

With each new year, storylines present themselves (unless you’re the AJC, you manufacture your own with wildly inaccurate rankings). This season there have been some pleasant surprises and some early disappointments throughout the state.


In Class AAAAAA, no one stands out more than Johns Creek (12-2). The Gladiators started the season 11-0 before suffering their first loss of the year to another turned around program, Brookwood (10-3), who finished 7-19 last year. The Broncos handed Johns Creek a loss in the Deep South Classic, 65-62 in overtime. If you did your homework and studied up on the Broncos roster heading into ’15-16, it should come to no surprise that they are playing this well. It will be interesting to see if they can keep up their hot start in the treacherous Region 8.

Back to the Gladiators though. After a 14-15 season and 10-8 record last year in Region 6, Johns Creek is now 7-1 in region play behind seniors Mark Lancaster and Mason Henkel. Lancaster is averaging more than 16 points and five rebounds per game while Henkel adds 13.1 points and 5.5 boards. The Gladiators along with No. 5 Tift County and region rival Lambert were the last three teams undefeated in 6A. Yesterday they had the opportunity to see how they measure up against Lambert, the region’s frontrunner and lost 64-53 as the Longhorns’ size proved to be the difference with Navy signee Connor Mannion and North Georgia signee Ross Morkem combining for 50 points and 26 rebounds.

Ross Morkem was too big for Johns Cree | Ty Freeman
Ross Morkem was too big for Johns Cree | Ty Freeman

A few programs have built off strong seasons and have turned into top ten teams in AAAAA. No. 9 Riverwood out of Region 7B sits at 15-1 overall with their lone loss coming to last year’s 4A state runner-up, Carrollton, at the Lake City Classic. Improved three-point shooting, primarily from Elijah Jenkins and Charnchai Chantha, has also made the Raiders a threat as they now have perimeter support around double-double machine Kohl Roberts, who is averaging over 16 points and 13 rebounds a night.

No. 7 Camden County (13-0, 4-0) is one of two undefeateds (No. 2 Allatoona) left in the classification. The Wildcats come off a 19-10 season and are the team to beat right now in Region 3. Seniors Jaylen Smallwood (17.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Logan Ballard (13.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Keyshaun Street (12.5 ppg) are among the catalysts that drive Coach William Moore’s offense.

The biggest turnaround has been the Shaw Raiders (10-2, 2-0), hailing from Region 1. A 8-16 mark a year ago seems like a distant memory as Coach Terry White’s team is off to their best start since ’11-12. Averaging 80 points per game, the Raiders are overwhelming teams with their firepower. Seniors Dakeen Diaz (15.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Kourtney Shakespeare (12.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and the emergence of 6-foot-6 center Cam Paulding (12.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg) has the Raiders in the mix for a playoff berth while battling the likes of LaGrange, Northside-Columbus and Carver-Columbus.

Dakeen Diaz leads Shaw in scoring | Ledger-Enquirer
Dakeen Diaz leads Shaw in scoring | Ledger-Enquirer
Class AAAA

Region 4-AAAA’s No. 8 Eagle’s Landing (13-1, 6-1) has held its own this year with their only loss coming to No. 1 Jonesboro. Jordan Lewis is pitching in 16.6 points per game to pace the Eagles. The competition is stiff in Region 4, but the Chuck Miller Holiday Classic champs are in good shape to contend.

The biggest disappointment in AAAA? UGA signee Tyree Crump’s Bainbridge Bearcats (7-7, 3-3). The boys from Bearcat Boulevard opened up at No. 4 but find themselves struggling to stay afloat in a deep Region 1. With a star D-I guard, big man Trevon Shaw and DeVonte Jones, the team’s top three scorers from an 18-9, 11-7 season all returning, why shouldn’t they have been highly regarded? The Bearcats have played a decent schedule, but with high expectations, flop losses to Dougherty and Americus-Sumter can’t happen. Bainbridge still has the juice to compete, falling to 2A No. 1 Thomasville 63-61 in overtime last night, but it still has yet to be seen if they can get over the hump.

Tyree Crump needs more help at Bainbridge
Tyree Crump needs more help at Bainbridge
Class AAA

Major overhauls have taken place in Class AAA. Jeff Steele has come over from Johnson-Gainesville and has turned Lumpkin County into a contender behind 1,000-point scorer Jack Howard. The Indians cracked the top ten earlier this season and are 13-3 overall and 4-1 in Region 7 after a 9-20, 5-8 campaign. Coahulla Creek has been inserted onto the map going from 14-11, 8-8 in Region 6 to 13-3, 7-1 this year. Region 2 has seen No. 9 Southwest-Macon (11-3, 7-1) transform into a central Georgia hot ticket thanks to transfer Nick Hargrove and Justin Slocum. The 6-foot-6 Slocum averages 22.1 points and 12.6 rebounds while Hargrove adds 20.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

Lumpkin County's "Men of Steele"
Lumpkin County’s “Men of Steele”

A shoutout needs to go to the gang at Jackson County. 4-22 overall last year with a 0-12 Region 8 record. This year they are 8-7 overall and 2-2 in region. Who did one of those two wins come against? My biggest disappointment of the year so far, East Jackson. The Eagles (8-7, 3-2) opened the year ranked No. 4, expected to dethrone current No. 3 Morgan County for region supremacy. A trio of star-studded sophomores were supposed to carry Coach David Boyd’s team in the wide open class AAA. Instead, they have taken their lumps against out of state opponents and haven’t wowed in region play, losing to Jackson County at home 67-63 and falling to Morgan County by 7. The Eagles are better than their record indicates thanks to a tough schedule, but most expected a better showing this far into the year.

Drue Drinnon streaking past Aaron Augustin
Drue Drinnon can steer the Eagles in the right direction | Colin Hubbard

I caught flack for saying it’s been somewhat of a tumultuous season, but look at the facts: Coach Boyd has dealt with health problems, Lamont Smith, one of their two new sophomore guards, has transferred back to Gwinnett County, they’ve taken some bad lumps in national tournaments and a loss to a 4-win team from a year ago isn’t pretty. There is plenty of time left to right the ship. Playing a tough schedule can only benefit the Eagles moving forward as once the state tournament starts, records are thrown out the window and nobody remembers what happened in November. Drue Drinnon and Travis Anderson are still two of the best sophomore guards in the state, but they need more help around them if they are going to live up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon them at the beginning of the year.

Class AA

Much like East Jackson, in AA its Pace Academy (3-8, 2-1) who decided to play a national schedule and couldn’t measure up. No. 2 to start the year, a 2-8 beginning to the season was too much to keep them in the polls. Showcasing big time prospects Wendell Carter Jr., Isaiah Kelly and Zack Kaminsky has hurt the Knights in the Win-Loss column. Now that they are back in Region 6 play, the Knights are looking to recreate last year’s 27-3 success. A win over No. 4 Holy Innocents’ on Tuesday 63-58 is a great start. The cupboard is far from bare for Coach Demetrius Smith. They are battle-tested and ready for a deep playoff run.

Penn-commit Zack Kaminsky is one piece to the Pace puzzle
Penn-commit Zack Kaminsky is one piece to the Pace puzzle

Region 2’s Long County (11-3, 5-1) has been a huge surprise following a 6-22, 1-14 year. Sophomore Henry Blair (11.7 ppg) and junior Perrell Brisbane (10.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg) have been two cogs in the success Coach Deshon Brock has seen.

Class A

My biggest shock in 1A is just how wide open the field is. Outside of No. 1 Greenforest, everyone has shown the ability to beat each other, but in the process have uncovered flaws in each team. I can’t foresee there being any 40-point first round blowouts especially in 1A-Private. Of course there are a few slight favorites to make the Final Four, but it would not surprise me if two or three unfamiliar faces crash the party.

What I Learned During Opening Week

The first weekend of basketball already featured tons of storylines, upsets and big performances. From the GHSA’s denial of transfers Isaac Kellum (McIntosh), Robert Hill (Berkmar), Kovi Tate (Henry County) and more, to a three-point barrage, here is how the weekend shook out.

What I Learned

**Tift County is on the fast track to cracking the 6A Top Ten**

Not ranking the Blue Devils to start the season had me catching some flack. Their play this weekend will only add fuel to the fire as they defeated 4A No. 7 Worth County 77-61 and followed it up with a romp of Coach Eddie Martin’s Buford Wolves, 56-18. Tift faces a major test on Friday against McEachern as the Indians make the long trip south.

**Buck Harris knows how to coach**

That didn’t take long. After Baldwin suffered through a 3-21 season in 2014-15, Coach Harris, who comes over after a ridiculous run at Laney, already has the Braves 2-0 with a monster upset of 5A No. 9 Jones County, 68-41. Donta Justice scored 13 in the win while Keontay Miles and Dalton Strother chipped in 11 and 10 respectively.

**Chicks dig the long ball**

Matthew Addis of 2A No. 10 Rabun County was absurd on Saturday, drilling 13 threes for 39 points to lead the Wildcats over Dawson County, 79-59. Initial reports claimed he went 15-of-16 for 45 points, but Coach Jeff Page gave us 39 points as the official total. Either way, it was a shooting performance for the ages.

**Joby Ball is back**

Joby Boydstone is back in Georgia with his run-and-gun high scoring offense at East Paulding. He picked up a 106-85 victory over Cass in his triumphant return. The Browder brothers powered the Raiders as Jalen scored 30 and Lennard added 23.

**Kobi Simmons needs help**

Class A-Private defending state champion No. 2 St. Francis has struggled out of the gate. The Knights dropped a scrimmage to 2A No. 4 GAC 77-69, but rebounded with a 74-58 win over Sacred Heart Catholic (Ala.) to open the regular season. Saturday however, was a major blemish as unranked Cedar Grove closed out the Knights 72-69. Anthony Showell, a transfer from Duluth, will have to slot in as a consistent No. 2 scoring option. He scored 11 in the win over Sacred Heart. They will need to get things figured out and quickly as 5A No. 3 Gainesville rolls into town on Tuesday.

**What a difference two weeks makes**

6A No. 9 Newton drilled 4A No. 8 Henry County in a scrimmage on Nov. 10, 86-63. The Rams proceeded to blowout Eastside 90-60 in the season opener before running into the Warhawks with the result counting this time. Henry County took advantage of their second chance at the Rams and slipped by 67-66 as Javon Greene hit a free throw to win it. He finished with 20 points while Damion Rosser led the way with 24 points and 12 rebounds.

**Region 8-AAAAA is for real**

No. 3 Gainesville isn’t going to have a cakewalk to the region title. No. 8 Heritage-Conyers and No. 10 Cedar Shoals both look impressive early. The Patriots (4-0) already have notable wins over Rockdale County 75-70, 1A No. 5 Southwest Atlanta Christian 81-49 and 6A No. 8 Berkmar 65-55. Jordan Thomas paces the team with 15.3 points per game while Charles Moore is pouring in 15 and Isaiah Banks 14.3, while leading the team with 6.8 rebounds. The Jaguars have made a statement as well, blowing out Tucker 62-38 before taking down Rockdale 70-56. Phlandrous Fleming, Jerrick Mitchell and Snipe Hall are all averaging double digits.

**No Tookie, No Cookie**

3A No. 3 Morgan County didn’t necessarily get off to a great start at the Battle at the Rock. The Cherokee Warriors kept the Bulldogs at bay and held on 57-52. Life after Tookie Brown is going to be a whole lot different. Devorious Brown and Jailyn Ingram, two FAU signees, must get things on track.

**The GHSA**

I have spilled enough blood with my pen already on this topic, but every day, it seems like more and more revolting things are coming from the GHSA. Denying transfers is fine, but if you are going to do it, you damn well better give a reason why you are denying them. This isn’t mommy and daddy telling their child no, and the kid asking why, only to get the parents’ response as “because I said so.” These are real issues and real kids here. Be a man and stop hiding behind the curtain and let these parents, players and coaches sleep at night. Also, the media is covering YOUR sports. So don’t you dare tell respected media members that they aren’t welcome into state playoff events because they aren’t a newspaper. This isn’t 1960. Wake up, get a clue, and support your student-athletes. The GHSA is hindering its kids’ exposure by not letting all forms of media cover the talent on the biggest stage of the year. Shame on you and shame on your agenda GHSA.


Top Games Results

Montverde Academy (FL) 76,  6A No. 6 Pebblebrook 70 (Montverde Academy Invitational)
2A No. 10 Rabun County 79, 3A Dawson County 59
5A Riverwood 58, 1A Mount Vernon Presbyterian 53
1A No. 5 SWAC 64, 4A Griffin 37
3A No. 10 South Atlanta 77, 5A North Atlanta 41
4A No. 1 Lithonia 65, 4A No. 10 Columbia 58
2A No. 5 Thomasville 71, 6A Valdosta 63
4A No. 5 Sandy Creek 62,  3A Westminster 47 (Hoops 4 the Cure)
3A Cedar Grove 72, 1A No. 2 St. Francis 69 (Hoops 4 the Cure)
4A No. 8 Henry County 67,  6A No. 9 Newton 66
6A  Walton 66, 4A Woodward Academy 64  (Run N’ Shoot Classic)
6A No. 3 Westlake 79, Gray Collegiate Academy (SC) 49 (Run N’ Shoot Classic)
5A No. 8 Heritage-Conyers 65,  6A No. 8 Berkmar 55 (Run N’ Shoot Classic)
1A No. 1 Greenforest 69, 6A Peachtree Ridge 42 (Jared Cook Classic)
1A No. 6 Landmark Christian 89, 1A Fulton Leadership 75
6A Cherokee 57, 3A No. 3 Morgan County 52 (Battle at the Rock)
3A No. 6 Blessed Trinity 55, 5A Lithia Springs 53
3A Westside-Macon 64, 5A Houston County 41
6A Tift County 56, 4A Buford 18
6A Dacula 91, 5A Sequoyah 80 (Jared Cook Classic)
6A No. 6 Pebblebrook 64, Blanche Ely (FL) 63 (Montverde Academy Invitational)
Montverde Academy (FL) 76, 6A No. 4 Wheeler 70 (Montverde Academy Invitational)