- Seminole County
- Pace Academy
- Crawford County
- Holy Innocents’
- Early County
- Rabun County
Honorable Mention: Bryan County, Greene County, Model, Chattooga, Manchester
They might not be the most highly publicized team, but they still are the defending champs and return everyone except one senior who did not see much playing time. No. 1 Seminole County has emerged as a force and will look to repeat behind a stellar senior class led by Georgia-commit Jordan Harris, who put on the best performance in Macon last year. The 28-3 Seminoles (all three losses to 4A Bainbridge) received a scintillating 41-point, 11-rebound, 4-assist, 6-steal effort from the four-star swingman in the 76-71 state championship victory over Crawford County. The southpaw flew above the rim for every rebound and effortlessly launched long threes, connecting on 4-of-7. During the season Harris poured in 27.4 points, 11 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 3.6 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. Seminole County isn’t a one man show however. Seniors Anfernee King and Jahmyka Pearson are both dangerous scorers that compliment Harris perfectly. King, a guard, averaged 18.3 points, 7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 5.6 steals while Pearson, a forward, pitched in 15.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists 1.1 steals and 1 block a night. Point guard Alex Fudge and forward Dwayne Samson round out the Indians’ starting five under Coach Kevin Godwin.
No. 2 Pace Academy has the best quality size in the classification and will look to use it to their advantage. The Knights rolled last season to a 27-3 record and held the No. 1 spot in the polls throughout the year, but in the quarterfinals, a scrappy Vidalia team stunned the powerful Knights, 48-46. Head Coach Demetrius Smith was unable to exploit their massive size advantage against the Indians on the road and lost a tough one after having to travel nearly three hours. Unanimous No. 1 ranked player in the class of 2017 Wendell Carter Jr. returns after easily averaging a double-double and producing 20-15 nights regularly. The 6-foot-10 center has a skill set similar to Jahlil Okafor as he can face up and hit the mid-range jumper, score with his back to the basket, get to the hole with the dribble and also pass and defend at a high-rate. Pairing up with Carter this season will be sophomore Isaiah Kelly. The long 6-foot-8 forward averaged 16.2 points and 10.5 rebounds as a freshman at Augusta Christian. Rounding out a strong frontcourt is senior 6-foot-6 forward Zack Kaminsky. On the perimeter, sophomore Caleb Holifield is asked to replace his brother Elijah as the Knights’ top outside threat.
Much like Seminole County, last season’s state runner-up No. 3 Crawford County is in a great position to make another deep run under the guidance of Head Coach Clyde Zachery, who enters his 36th year at the helm. The Eagles return EVERYONE from their 27-4 team a year ago. Senior swingman William Jarrell has blossomed into a star, averaging 25.8 points, 13.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 3.5 steals and 3.9 blocks in Crawford County’s high-flying offense. In their state championship loss, Jarrell heated up for 31 points and 6 rebounds. Junior Marcal Knolton stands 6-foot-5 and plays center. As a sophomore he pitched in 17 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game. Sparkplug point guard Monkeize Moore added 9.9 points, 4 assists and 2.8 steals, while seniors Jeremy Raines and Quay Wiggins along with junior Damien Saffold all chipped in over 6 points a night.
No. 4 GAC saw a 19-10 season end with a second round loss in overtime to Crawford County, 88-81. Former GAC two-time region champion and All-County selection as a player back from 1998-2000, David Eaton, takes over the reins for Eddie Martin, who ventures to turn around Buford. Eaton, in his early 30’s, comes over after a successful stint at Wando High School in South Carolina. He brings over a youthful exuberance and a hunger to return GAC to the pinnacle of high school basketball. Eaton has some talent to work with in seniors Garrett Covington (16.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Jacob Hoffman (12.1 ppg). A pair of juniors will be the key to pushing the Spartans to where they want to go. Point guard Brian Coffey added 12.9 points and 5 assists while 6-foot-7 forward Charlie O’Briant can work both the high-post and the low block on offense. Coffey already holds offers from North Florida, UNC-Asheville and Presbyterian. There will be no games off as the Spartans play in one of the best regions in the state, Region 6, dealing with the likes of Pace Academy, Holy Innocents and Lovett.
No. 5 Thomasville finished the season 22-9 and slipped to Crawford County in round two of the state tournament, 80-65. Leading scorer Jordan Willis is back for his senior season after netting 14.8 points per game. Coach Benjamin Tillman might have a secret weapon that gets the Bulldogs deep into the playoffs. Six-foot-six senior forward Alex Perry moves in after averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds at Maclay High School in Florida. Perry brings great versatility and a skillset that Tillman can showcase in a variety of ways. Last season’s third leading scorer Gregory Hobbs returns after chipping in 9 points per game. Shedric Cooper is also expected to see a bigger role his senior season at forward. The Bulldogs will be battle-tested if they are able to return to state. Seminole County looms on their schedule twice. The Dogs played the Indians tough in 2014-15, losing 67-55 and 72-64.
Coach Terry Kelly led No. 6 Holy Innocents’ to a 24-6 season but saw the season slip away in round two in a controversial overtime loss at Swainsboro, 57-52. Travis Anderson paced the offense as a freshman and was the team’s go-to guy, but he is now at East Jackson. Returning is junior Cole Smith, a wing with deep range, and 6-foot-6 senior forward Brett Duncan. Duncan does just that, a powerful high-flier that has been known to rock the rim and swing momentum in the Golden Bears’ favor. Son of NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving, junior 6-foot-5 forward Jules Erving, will be counted on to play a big role for Coach Kelly’s team this season after the Bears have graduated Ashton Meertins and Sam Asbury. Both sophomore Mykel Tubbs and senior Harrison Cobb saw action in 2014-15 and will add depth and quality minutes in 15-16.
The No. 7 Early County Bobcats flew under the radar last season, going 16-12 featuring a second round exit after a 62-55 loss against Model. In 2015-16, the Cats could have some major claws and enter the season as the third (Seminole County, Thomasville) team ranked from Region 1. Coach Randy Isom’s bunch returns all of their key players and will feature a roster peppered with juniors and seniors. Junior point guard Qubilah Hall is tough to wrangle with his shifty 5-foot-6 frame. Hall scored over 15 points per game and displayed a deft touch from beyond the arc. Senior center Tracey Beacham is the team’s leading rebounder and has proven he can play against the best, showcased when he scored 26 points against Seminole County. Another senior, Traquez Wells has had success against the Indians and chipped in 21 points in a 93-89 loss, proving the Bobcats can play with anyone. Juniors Devonte George and Malik Thornton round out this potentially dangerous team.
Under Head Coach Tommy Dalley, No. 8 Vidalia recorded a 28-3 record and a semifinals appearance. In the Elite Eight, the undersized Indians harassed the larger Pace Academy Knights by pressing and trapping all over which led to a 48-46 victory. Vidalia forced Pace into careless mistakes and sped up their offense, effectively lessening the impact that 6-foot-10 center Wendell Carter Jr. could make. Surprisingly, it was the Indians who were able to control the tempo and score in the half court set on floaters and three-balls to negate Pace’s height. Some big pieces have graduated, highlighted by guard Jordan Black, but the proud program that has gone 87-6 over the past three seasons returns senior Wil Chambliss and sophomore Tahj Jones.
At 21-10, No. 9 Swainsboro fought its way to a semifinals appearance before losing to Crawford County 71-58. Coach Bobby Andrews loses a lot from his veteran team and will look to rising seniors to fill the void. Power forward Quan Akins returns after scoring 7.1 points and grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game. Point guard Martez McKinney added 6.3 points and 2.9 assists and is a trusted floor-general to run the offense. Andrews has increased his win total each season since coming aboard in 2012-13. The Tigers have gone 8-17 and 15-14 before breaking through in 2014-15.
No. 10 Rabun County needs to replace leading scorer Austin Dinofrio. Coach Jeff Page has some good choices to lead the way coming back from last year’s 21-9 team that was eliminated by Seminole County in round two, 83-66. Senior point guard Harry Oliver is capable of replacing Dinofrio’s big time scoring. Oliver averaged 14.3 points, 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds to go along with his 2.8 steals as a junior. Running mate Matthew Addis is another quick little guard with the ability to burn defenses. Addis can’t be left from beyond the three-point line as he drilled 108 threes and scored 12.3 points per game. The backcourt duo makes the Wildcats a sleeper to knock off some teams.