Carver-Columbus led No. 1 seed McIntosh 21-17 after the first quarter in the opening round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs before the wheels fell off and they lost 100-69. The Tigers graduate nine players, but 6-foot-4 senior forward Daniel Melvin returns. Melvin will be asked to take over the offense full-time as Lorenzo Madden, Stefan Harris and Jawon Pass all graduate. R.J. Cummings and Alex Wilson could help pick up the load also.
Coach Terry White guided Shaw from an 8-win season to a 19-win season in 2015-16. The Raiders suffered a cruel fate, losing 56-55 to LaGrange in the Region 1-AAAAA Championship then falling to Morrow in the first round of the state tournament, 57-55 in overtime. Shaw graduates its top four leading scorers headlined by Dakeen Diaz (16.4), Kourtney Shakespeare (11.8) and late blooming 6-foot-6 big man Cam Paulding who averaged 11.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. With four starters gone and junior point guard Kam Parker returning, the Raiders will have some turnover with new faces ready to step in. Senior Devan Porter-Wilson is a 6-foot-4 post that averaged 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds, but has experience being a go-to guy, averaging 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds as a starter in 2014-15. Junior Jalen Ken is now healthy after an injury sidelined him for the second half of the season. The 6-foot-3 wing chipped in 6.8 points per game; Shaw going undefeated with Ken healthy to open the year. Senior Chris Hicks is a knockdown three-point shooter. The addition of versatile 6-foot-5 junior Lincoln Smith gives Coach White a solid scoring option and athletic defender. He averaged 11.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while at region rival Columbus.
Northside-Columbus must fill a big hole literally and figuratively as 6-foot-8 Davion Thomas graduates after posting 17 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game. 6-foot-4 sophomore Jaykwon Walton made a major impact his freshman season averaging 10.6 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals, but he has transferred to Carver, Al. Undersized forward Cordale Scott will take over for Thomas. At 6-foot-3 the senior averaged 9.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Rising sophomore Aaron Green turned some heads at the CB Hoops & Perfect Practice Fall League, the strong-bodied guard hitting seven threes in a game.
Westover caught fire and took a magical run to the Elite Eight before being done in by a reverse layup at the buzzer by Grady’s Avi Toomer to score a 54-52 win. The Patriots were up-and-down for most of the season before their strong guard play steered them to a 7-3 finish down the stretch. Floor general Allec Williams graduates after posting 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.2 blocks. Also gone is 6-foot-7 Jacobi Cratic who anchored the paint at 9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Game-changing talent returns however in junior Kris Gardner (8.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.2 spg) and sophomore Jordan “Snow” Brown (8.2 ppg). Gardner is more of a distributor while Brown is a lights out shooter with deep range. Brown hit 48 threes at a 49% rate while Gardner was no slouch himself, draining 40 deep balls at a 53% clip. 6-foot-3 senior Quindavious Smith provides toughness with his 7.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals.
Americus-Sumter dropped from 26-6 to 15-9 as its two leading scorers graduated following 2014-15. The Panthers went with a more scoring by committee look last year with rising senior Kiante Sims averaging a team-high 9.5 points. Sophomore Joshua Lusane showed some promise as a freshman and junior Eric Hall Jr. should see more responsibility after averaging 6 points his sophomore season.
Columbus only saw a two-game win increase but has its leading scorer, a junior, returning. All-State All-Name Team member Noah Lott led the Blue Devils with 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.9 steals. The 5-foot-8 guard must cut down on his turnovers (4.2). Senior Elijah Gardner should see a boost in production following the loss of Lincoln Smith to Shaw. He averaged 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as the team’s fourth leading scorer in 2015-16.
Hardaway loses its top scorers but returns 5-foot-10 senior guard Antonio Campbell. The Hawks haven’t had a winning season since 2012-13. Kendall Mills is expected to take over the time consuming duty of now coaching the boys team along with the Lady Hawks. Mills replaces Pershin Williams who has accepted a job at Columbus State.
Cairo went from Final Four Cinderella story in 2014-15 with a 20-12 record to 2-24 last year. The Syrupmakers graduate just two players after sporting three sophomores and four freshmen.
Mary Persons (18-11)
West Laurens (3-23)
Upson-Lee saw its dominant season upended in the first round of the state playoffs, stunned by New Hampstead 73-56. O’Qualon Harris graduates, but the Knights return enough to the tank to be a force in Class AAAA. 6-foot-3 junior guard Tye Fagan averaged over 19 points and 7 rebounds as a sophomore. 6-foot-4 sophomore defensive end Travon Walker holds an offer from Alabama to play football but also is a standout on the court. The big man still has a few inches left in him and is a double-double machine with his soft hands on the low block. Walker should be regarded as one of the most reliable big men in Middle Georgia moving forward. Sophomore guard Zyrice Scott powered the 16U Middle Georgia Supersonics to a USSSA National Championship alongside Walker and Fagan. Scott should burst onto the scene this year at point guard and will continue to improve as he gets stronger.
Perry’s Damion Bagley did it all last year, pouring in 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds as a 6-foot-3 junior forward. He joins senior Evan Lasseter and junior Jacori Burks in the backcourt. Junior guard Jake Smith played with the 16U Middle Georgia Supersonics and presents an unselfish and versatile 6-foot-1 guard. He averaged 5.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals.
Burgeoning star Cameron Holden enters his junior season for Mary Persons. The 6-foot-5 guard put up big numbers, averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.1 blocks. Holden scores inside and out and is patient when surveying the defense. His top three teammates in terms of scoring all graduate. He must receive help from rising seniors Roger Akins (6.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Clay Moore (5.3 ppg).
Spalding is the only new team added to the mix in Region 2. The Jaguars didn’t have a sparkling overall record but they still managed to go 8-5 in the difficult Region 4-AAAA. Spalding gave a scare to some of the top teams in the region, losing in overtime to 24-5 Eagle’s Landing 59-57, to Henry County 74-70 and to 20-10 Eastside, 65-62 to end their season in the Region Tournament. Senior Rasheed Marshall and sophomore Zion Puckett will help lead the offense.
Howard graduates its top six leading scorers including center Chris Quainter who averaged a double-double. Junior forward Christian Butler returns with the most experience.
It was a struggle for West Laurens last season but the Raiders do return everyone except 6-foot-5 forward Kintevius Robinson. 6-foot-4 junior Keyonta Tyler led the team in scoring (11.1), rebounding (9.1) and blocks (1.1) as a sophomore. Senior CJ Watson chipped in 7.1 points and 2.6 assists as shooting guard while rising sophomore Ty Edmond handled himself well, averaging 4.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and a team-leading 3.2 assists per game. Ed Ford comes in as head coach after serving at Montgomery County.
Richmond Academy (22-7)5A
Burke County (16-8)
Cross Creek (14-12)5A
Richmond Academy had eventual state champion Miller Grove on the ropes with a lead heading into the fourth quarter before bowing out 64-57. Leading scorer Madison Williams (Illinois State) graduates along with key pieces Rashad Calloway and Chris Jones. 6-foot-5 senior forward Moses Williams returns after posting 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Rising left-handed junior guard DT Stephens pitched in 8.7 points per game and has a chance to take his game to the next level with Williams gone.
Thomson is a tough-nosed team that fell to St. Pius 56-55 in the Sweet 16. 6-foot-8 San Antonio Brinson broke his wrist late in the season and hindered the Bulldogs’ chance at a deep playoff run. Six seniors are gone including Brinson. Leading the charge this year are seniors Darius Turman, Radaren Johnson, Rodriguez Wiley, Jucorius Thomas and Tra Parker. Johnson and Turman were honored as Second Team All-Region selections while Wiley and Thomas were Honorable Mention. Turman, 6-foot-4, and Johnson, 6-foot-1, will power the Bulldogs. Turman averaged 12.3 points while Johnson chipped in 11.2 points. Both are Team Captains. Thomas, a 6-foot-2 receiver on the football team, averaged 9.4 points per game and brings physicality inside but also a soft touch outside. Wiley averaged 8.3 points per game off the bench as a sharp shooter. 6-foot-4 sophomore Zavian Smith has a chance to impact the paint. Coach Michael Thomas Sr. enters his 34th season at Thomson and has tallied 594 career wins.
Burke County fell in the first round 73-67 to Mary Persons in the state tournament. The Bears battled with Liberty County and Thomson throughout the season in Region 3-AAAA. Coach Purvis Dukes must replace First Team All-Region performer Kamario Walker. Luckily, 6-foot-6 senior Quan Wilson is back after garnering Second Team honors. Senior guard D’Zarious Holmes looks to build off his Honorable Mention selection.
Cross Creek scratched its way into the playoffs, earning a No. 3 seed after losing to Richmond Academy 82-47 in the Region 2-AAAAA semifinals and beating Jones County 72-67 in the third-place game. In the state playoffs the Razorbacks were bounced in Round 1 by Statesboro 66-54. Guard Moses Jones graduates after leading the team in scoring with 17.6 points. Seniors Artis Chapman (8.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and KJ Brown (7.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.3 bpg) hold the most returning experience.
Coach Buck Harris left the glitz-and-glam of Laney to build up Baldwin in Milledgeville. Like any program filled with youth, the Braves had their ups and downs. The future looks bright however as Donta Justice and Brendan Robertson powered the team as a freshman and sophomore respectively. 5-foot-10 Justice netted a team-high 14.3 points to go along with his 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals. Robertson went for 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals.
Hephzibah took an 0-fer in Class AAA and will try its hand at AAAA. The Rebels will need to replace Reggie Fields who also starred on the soccer team.
North Clayton (19-11)3A
Henry County (15-11)
Woodward Academy (15-13)
Druid Hills (14-12)5A
The winner of the regular season gets an automatic bid to state in Region 4-AAA. A lot will be different for Eastside as one of the state’s top scorers, Isaiah Miller, has now transferred to Newton for his senior season. Miller poured in 25.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 1 block per game. Also gone is team captain Joshua Cammon, who posted 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.2 steals as a junior guard. Cammon is off to Tucker. 6-foot-4 senior wing Keiondre Perry is the last remaining key piece. He averaged 15.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3.2 steals and 1.2 blocks. Perry should see his numbers explode after a great summer scoring the ball in a variety of ways. Senior center Jesse Walden stands 6-foot-9 and is a late blooming big that right now is a space-eating rebounder.
North Clayton will look to play inside-out with 6-foot-8 Lipscomb-commit Ahsan Asadullah back on the low block. The skilled big averaged 15.1 points as a junior. Coach Martisse Troup’s senior class will be the deciding factor in how far the Eagles go. The group is used to winning, claiming the Clayton County ninth grade championship and the JV title the following year. Jamal Buster and Alexander Quaynor must play bigger roles since Jamarcus Sanders and Kindle Vildor have graduated. Buster has garnered D-II and JUCO interest at point guard. Football players Jordan Alexander (6-foot-4, 210 lbs) and Yaya Diaby (6-foot-5, 190 lbs) bring size and strength in the paint next to Asadullah. The group played well this summer, winning Session I of the Georgia State Team Camp.
Salem fought its way into the postseason out of the incredibly deep Region 8-AAAAA. The Seminoles fell to Allatoona 61-49 after pushing the Bucs to the brink in the first half. Gone however is leading scorer Michael Green (17.4). Forward Chandler Davis and guards Parris Woods and Devontae Hedgespeth also leave holes. Seniors Jordon Simons and Denzell Bryan will see expanded roles this season.
Henry County has the goods to become a threat in Class AAAA. Seniors Javon Greene, Damion Rosser and Kovi Tate all boosted their stocks in July, especially Greene who committed to George Mason. The 6-foot-2 guard can catch fire from beyond the arc and leads the offense as the primary ball handler. Rosser, a New Orleans-commit, is a 6-foot-4 guard that attacks the rim. His length and strength makes him hard to stop once he gets going downhill. Tate, a 6-foot-5 forward, was ineligible to play last year after transferring in from Woodland-Stockbridge. Tate is a high energy post that plays above the rim. He brings great work ethic and toughness in the paint. Seth Brown also gets cleared to play. Brown, who joined the trio with 17U Atlanta All-Stars this summer, is another 6-foot-4 athlete that can help out in multiple ways. The Warhawks can make some noise if they can get stops consistently on defense.
Woodward Academy scored a 53-52 win over Monroe Area in the opening round of the AAAA State Playoffs before dropping to Westover, 75-66. A strong three-man senior core returns in Julian Cameron (11 ppg), Hunter Falconer (9.9 ppg) and 6-foot-6 Brennan McDaniel (9.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg).
Coach Jerome Lee helped Druid Hills capture their first winning season since 2013. The Red Devils lose just one senior in Noah Harrison (5.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg). 6-foot-5 senior wing Dillan Hall (7.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.5 bpg) brings versatility while Jordan Foote (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg) and Antonio Edge (7.7 ppg) both return. Cameron Starkes has transferred to Lakeside-DeKalb after posting 8.8 points per game as a junior.
Luella returns seniors Hunter Davis and Dwayne Thomas along with junior Kymain Williams after losing Javaun Anderson and Jordan Campbell to graduation.
Sandy Creek (21-8)
Troup County (7-14)
Chapel Hill (8-19)5A
LaGrange graduates a strong senior class filled with guards, highlighted by Rico Smith, a potent playmaker. Back however is senior Laperion Perry who has more than enough juice to carry the load in the backcourt. Big men Bryan Fanning and Kenan Gray both stand 6-foot-6 and will bring balance to the Granger offense in their senior season.
Sandy Creek takes a big blow from their Elite Eight team, losing Christian Turner (Gardner-Webb), Keith Heard II and AJ Freeman to graduation. Rising senior, 6-foot-6 Elias Harden who led the team in scoring at 20.9 points, has transferred to Pebblebrook and has committed to play at Xavier. 6-foot-7 Evan Jester will shoulder the load as an inside-out threat stretch-four. The bouncy high-IQ forward has interest from a handful of Ivy League schools after posting 9.7 points and 8.6 rebounds as a junior. TJ Bickerstaff represents a bright future as a 6-foot-6 wing. Xavier Brewer provides length as a 6-foot-8 junior while Chris Porter, Kameron Miller and Jarred Godfrey all will see increased roles as juniors in the backcourt. Eric Williams transfers in from Fayette County to help as a forward and Khalid (KJ) Wilkins comes in for his senior season after leading Mt. Vernon Presbyterian in scoring.
Cartersville moves out of Region 7-AAAA, which they dominated, and now faces a step up in competition. Jaylon Pugh guides the Purple Hurricanes his junior season. The 5-foot-10 guard was the Region Player of the Year as a sophomore, averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 assists per game. Pugh’s court vision and deft three-point stroke (97 made; school-record of 10 in a game) makes him the catalyst on offense. TJ Horton brings back starting experience after averaging 6 points and 3.3 assists per game. 6-foot-5 sophomore Isaac Gridley and 6-foot-6 junior Trevor Lawrence will anchor the paint. Lawrence, who is ranked the No. 1 player in the entire country for the Class of 2018 in football as a 5-star quarterback, enters his first season with the Hurricane basketball team. He had an outstanding summer rebounding and blocking shots for Coach Mike Tobin. Another newcomer, Avery Showell, transfers in from St. Francis. The Wake Forest football commit is an athletic 6-foot-1 forward that can slash to the basket.
Central-Carroll took a trip to the Class AAA state playoffs earning a bid out of tiny Region 5 with a 4-7 mark in region play. East Jackson ended their season in Round 1, 72-63. Deion Sims slides over as head coach and will look to build on last year’s success. Soccer standout, rising junior Jarrod Jackson is back after leading the Lions in scoring at 11 points per game. Senior Xavier Hammett brings size and help on the glass at 6-foot-3, the team’s biggest player.
Cedartown returns Second Team All-Area guard Quan Neal as their best player. Trevon Wofford, 6-foot-4, is a rising junior that earned an Honorable Mention selection.
Troup County must replace Dexter Shealey in the backcourt along with four other seniors. The Tigers are set to return three juniors and two sophomores. Rising juniors Jarrious Jefferson and Montez Crowe are expected to become focal points of the offense after playing well in spurts last year.
Long-time coach Ken Austin steps in to take over at Chapel Hill after last serving as a girls assistant at Langston Hughes. Nine panthers graduate including First Team All-County selection Dallis Jacks who netted over 17 points per game. New faces will join Austin as just four seniors are back and Kevin Burton Jr. enters his sophomore season.
Northwest Whitfield (20-7)
Southeast Whitfield (9-17)
Northwest Whitfield earned the No. 3 seed out of Region 7-AAAA. The weak region took a thumping against the classification’s best, Region 6. Region 7 brings everyone back except for Cartersville to the new Region 6. The North Georgia region suffered losses by an average of 33.5 points in the first round, none uglier than the Bruins’ 88-37 loss to Lithonia. The Tunnel Hill group returns its two best players this season in senior Paxton Pardee and junior Luke Shiflett. Shiflett, the quarterback of the football team, was an All-Area First Teamer while Pardee earned Second Team honors.
Heritage suffered a 70-38 loss to Columbia as the No. 2 seed. Cole Wilcox, a 6-foot-5 forward and ace pitcher, led the Generals with 13.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a sophomore. Tylon Gaines brings quickness to the Heritage backcourt after posting 7.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals as a junior.
LaFayette boasts the Class AAAA Freshman of the Year, 5-foot-11 guard Alex Kelehear. The sweet-shooting playmaker canned 60-of-137 threes (44%) en route to averaging 14 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.3 steals. The young Ramblers lose just one senior who played sparingly off the bench meaning Kelehear and the group could push for a postseason bid. Tyrese Hunter enters his senior season after averaging 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals as a 5-foot-11 guard. Rising sophomore Andrew Pendergrass is a versatile piece at 6-foot-1. He averaged 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals while hitting 42 threes. Senior post Austin Shropshire helps on the glass, posting 5.1 points and 5.3 rebounds.
The state’s best scorer you’ve never heard of, Ty Pendley, graduates from Southeast Whitfield. The North Georgia scoring wizard poured in 27.8 points per game, good for third-best in the entire state. Pendley, a 5-foot-10 guard, even led the nation in free throw percentage his final two seasons, nailing 93% as a junior and 90% as a senior on a whopping 254 attempts – 9.7 trips per game his final season. As great as Pendley was, the loss of 6-foot-4 post Noah Ramsey also hurts the Raiders as the double-double threat averaged 8.8 points and 9.0 rebounds. Pendley was named The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year while Ramsey earned Second Team honors. Senior Cristian Antillon (8.1 ppg) and 6-foot-4 junior Luke Johns (7.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) must pick up the load.
Pickens snuck into the postseason for the first time since 2010-11 and were quickly outclassed by Grady, 78-44. The productive inside-out duo of big man Trent Rizoti (12 ppg, 7 rpg) and guard Holden Roop (16.9 ppg) has graduated leaving the Dragons in search of a new top scorer. Fourth and fifth-leading scorers Joseph Gossett and Avery Luke are set to return. Gossett, a junior guard, averaged 4.9 points while Luke, a senior forward, chipped in 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. Junior forward 6-foot-6 Blake Gorth has a chance to make an impact.
Ridgeland will lean on its backcourt with senior Markieon Jones and junior Markeith Montgomery. Jones teamed up with now graduated Tavian Bridges to form a potent 1-2 punch last season and will be asked to be the Panthers’ number one option in 2016-17.
Gilmer graduates an experienced senior class and looks to six rising seniors from last year’s roster which included zero underclassmen. Riley Hice, 6-foot-2, enters his senior season as the Bobcats’ presumed favorite to anchor the offensive attack. Coming up from the JV will be Kell Weaver and Noah Chastain who were among the team’s top scorers last year.
White County (17-9)
Blessed Trinity (13-14)3A
West Hall (13-15)3A
White County sees prolific scorer Whit Mauney graduate after the Region 8-AAAA Co-Player of the Year pumped in 24.5 points per game and finished his career with 1,381 points. All-Area Honorable Mention selection Brad Hurst (11.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg) also graduates, but 6-foot-5 wing John Ward returns after his Region 8-AAAA All-Region junior campaign where he posted 18.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Sophomores Austin Harris and Jay Lepkoske bring back varsity experience as does junior football standout Kaleb Crane.
Built on their foundation of playing grind-it-out defense, Blessed Trinity will try to bounce back from a sub-par 13-14 record; their first under .500 record since 2005-06 which was in part to playing a very difficult schedule which featured nine state playoff teams. Jackson Svete and John Michael Bertrand graduate, but rising senior guard Kyle Swade and sophomore CJ Abrams are experienced in the backcourt. Swade is a nice shooter who was a team captain last year averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists while knocking down 83% of his free throws. The 6-foot-2 three-year letterman entering his senior season played over the summer with the FCI Warriors. Abrams, a three-sport standout, provided athleticism and scoring as a freshman. At 6-foot-1, Abrams was the team’s third-leading scorer at 9 points per game. 6-foot-2 Ben Shappard enters his junior season coming off an injury in the final game of the regular season. He averaged 7 points and 3 rebounds as a versatile piece that can play positions 1-4 for Coach Patrick Hughes.
West Hall turns the page on a tumultuous scandal-filled offseason and looks to former girls assistant Bobby Pless to regain stability of the program. Esteban Ulloa exploded his senior season to post 22 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals per game as he was named Second Team All-Area. The graduation of Dylan Curry and Tyquan Statham hurt, but the Spartans return talented 6-foot-4 swingman Xzavier Reid who should get the lion’s share of shot attempts his senior season.
Marist struggled in the difficult Region 6-AAAA, but gets a fresh start in Region 7. Patrick Zeck, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 13.6 points, 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks his final season before signing with Gardner-Webb. Senior guard Whid Childs steadies the War Eagle backcourt along with shooter David Sever. Junior 6-foot-5 forward Jake Mauldin brings versatility and the ability to score in the paint and from the perimeter.
Brookwood assistant Kevin Strickland takes over the task of trying to turn a winless Chestatee team into a winner. Junior guard Donovan Hernandez has started on the varsity his entire high school career and brings poise and composure to the backcourt. Junior Cooper Wilson, senior Joel Salcido and sophomore Cameron Gwyn are all floor stretchers with their shooting. Senior Barron King and junior Nick Lyles return as starters in the frontcourt and bring with them their toughness from the gridiron.
St. Pius (24-7)
Stephens County (16-9)
Madison County (15-12)
Oconee County (8-17)3A
North Oconee (7-22)
St. Pius exits Region 6 and finds a much more comfortable home in Region 8. First Team All-Region selection Kerney Lane is gone as the 6-foot-7 forward begins his career at Alabama-Hunstville. Key pieces Christian Merrill and Jakob Spitzer also depart from the Golden Lion starting lineup, but there is still more than enough left for St. Pius to make a run at the region crown after snagging the No. 4 seed and taking a trip to the Elite Eight last year. The backcourt is both young and talented with Matt Gonzalo entering his sophomore season along with twin brother Brian who is coming off hernia surgery. Matt is a strong athlete at point guard who is continuing to blossom as his role grows larger. Senior forward Will Lucado is also on the mend after breaking his wrist during the soccer season. Rising juniors Christian Mattei and Everett Lane, Kerney’s younger brother, have put in work during the offseason and should see their production increase. Senior Carson Seramur has the opportunity to put a stamp on a winning career while move-ins Kennedy Willis and Troy Stephens bring their own dynamic to the roster. Both juniors, Stephens is another guard who will vie for playing time while Willis is a skilled yet raw 6-foot-7 forward from Therrell. The Golden Lions will be patient on offense and won’t beat themselves.
Stephens County looked good as gold heading into late January before the wheels fell off. The Indians lost their last five games of the season after starting 16-4 and in the process missed out on the playoffs. Tay Jones graduates but a nice core is intact for Coach Chad Bridges. Deundra Singleton anchors the Indians in the paint as a 6-foot-7, 240-pound junior. Surrounding him is senior guard Nunu Walker, junior Jackson Bell and sophomore Ty Nails. Nails, 6-foot-4, might have the highest upside out of the group along with Singleton.
Madison County returns two of their top scorers in seniors Keith Gantt and Trevon Daniel who played well out of the Red Raider backcourt. 6-foot-3 senior Golston Gillespie provides some size while Jackson Bailey is a 6-foot-4 junior.
Coach Bolling DuBose enters his 41st year at Jefferson, coming off of a state playoff appearance even though the team finished nine games under .500. Three starters are gone heading into AAA play. Big men Daniel Butler and Kasen Rainey return as starting frontcourt members. Finding consistent guard play will be important for the Dragons now that star running back Colby Wood is focusing on football.
Oconee County hires Dawson County head coach Thad Burgess to take the reins. The Warriors have some experienced players returning headlined by senior guard Roques Dowdy. Junior Ty Paschal has quick hands defensively while rising sophomore Rahul Das is the most talented out of the bunch. The 6-foot-3 forward doesn’t pass the eye test, but his fundamentals and his exceptional rebounding makes him an impactful player. Das is a nice piece for Burgess to build around moving forward, especially with the loss of Jace Bonds on the perimeter, a transfer to East Jackson.
North Oconee brings back a pair of All-Area performers in 6-foot-3 senior standouts Jack Chambers and Matthew Quint. The Titans made a postseason appearance but were thumped in Round 1 by Sandy Creek, 84-38.