Warner Robins (21-3)
Harris County (9-16)
Thomas County Central (5-21)4A
The last team to beat Miller Grove in the state playoffs? Warner Robins in 2014-15. The Demons are the only hiccup in the Wolverines’ seven state titles in eight years. Last year, Warner Robins lost only three games but was bounced too soon, losing in the Sweet 16 to Southwest DeKalb, 65-60. Marquez Callaway is off to Tennessee to play football while 6-foot-8 Donovan Brown is set to play at Columbia State. Juniors Jacolbey Owens (10 ppg) and Nelson Phillips (12 ppg) are next in line to lead the Demons. Owens is a big shot maker while Phillips is a long wing that can defend the ball well and create his own shot. Junior guard Champ Dawson moves in after averaged 10.8 points at First Presbyterian Day and will make an immediate impact to a young and talented backcourt. Jaron Zanders (6 ppg), Jaydon Norman (5 ppg) and Jam’l Dillard (4 ppg) round out a rising junior class.
Terry Smith takes over the reins at Bainbridge after coaching at Peach County. It will be a challenging task as UGA signee Tyree Crump, DeVonte Jones, Trevon Shaw and Myles Thomas all graduate. Senior D’Anta Williams should see the scoring burden placed on his shoulders after averaging 7.8 points and 5.6 rebounds as a 6-foot-4 guard.
Harris County and Head Coach Patavious Sorrell lose a pair of 17-point per game scorers in Donald Johnson III and Jaylyn Richardson. Junior 6-foot-2 guard Riqueito Leonard IV and 6-foot-7 senior Aquavious Fanning are the foundation of the Tiger team. Leonard averaged 11.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals while Fanning averaged a double-double and blocked nearly four shots a game. Senior three-point specialist AJ Coker moves into the starting lineup after serving as sixth man last year. He shot 45% from three in 2015-16. Guards Tre Terry and Tailique Williams are set to make their full-time debuts on the varsity squad and will bring with them tenacious perimeter defense.
Thomas County Central exits a deep 11-team Region 1-AAAA for the smaller five-team group in Region 1-AAAAA. The Yellow Jackets had to deal with five teams with 19 wins or more last season and should see a little more success this year. 5-foot-7 junior guard Tae Cooksey led the team in scoring at 9.9 points. 5-foot-11 senior Berle Jones should round out the backcourt after netting 6 points on average.
Veterans flopped to 3-23 last year, but talent returns for the Warhawks. Veterans will be anchored by a pair of seniors: 6-foot-7 Josh Linder and 6-foot guard Dathan Boyd. Linder averaged over 13 points and 12 rebounds while Boyd led the team in scoring with upwards of 14 points a night. The slender and active forward committed to Georgia State over the summer. The Warhawks will be under new leadership as Nick Brooks, a former Warner Robins assistant, assumes the head coaching job.
New Hampstead (17-11)4A
Ware County (17-14)
South Effingham (7-19)
Wayne County (4-24)4A
Statesboro had its ups and downs last year in Region 3-AAAAA, a region that featured six teams with 17 or more wins. It looked as if the Blue Devils had peaked at the right time but Statesboro fell in the Region title game to Camden County. They quickly rebounded, beating Cross Creek in the opening round of the state playoffs and looked destined to upset Riverwood in the Sweet 16, but the Raiders held the Blue Devils to just 13 points in the second half as Riverwood stormed back for a wild and controversial 48-47 victory. For the 2016-17 season Statesboro will rely on its guard play led by 6-foot-2 senior Marcus Kirkland. Kirkland along with junior Tyler Goodman worked well in the offseason together. Statesboro is at its best when they are knocking down threes.
New Hampstead set a school-record in wins with 17 last year under the guidance of Coach Tonya Mackey. Since opening in 2012, Mackey has overseen the steady progress of the Phoenix basketball team. In fact, the now fifth-year school has made the postseason every year except for its inaugural season. The Phoenix earned their first postseason win last year as they upset Upson-Lee, 73-56 as a No. 4 seed. New Hampstead returns its top seven leading scorers, six of which are now seniors led by the dazzling play of 5-foot-7 lefty Oronte Anderson. Anderson poured in 22.1 points and added 4.6 assists as a junior. The dynamo long-distance sniper hit on 63-of-102 threes for a 62% rate. Joining the attack is 6-foot-6 Xavier Jones (14.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg) and Calvin Turner Jr. (12.8 ppg).
Ware County surged into the playoffs winning 11-straight games before dropping three straight to finish the season with an 89-61 loss to Warner Robins in the first round. Senior guard JeMar Lincoln finished up a strong junior campaign and will be the presumed go-to guy now that Michael Flynn has graduated. Jared Richardson, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, also returns as an important piece moving forward.
South Effingham’s returning leading scorer will be senior Derrick Newberry who pitched in over 6 points per game. The Mustangs graduate six seniors including top scorers Travis Simmons and Ben Brennan. Five sophomores suited up last year and should be in line to make contributions in 2016-17.
Wayne County will try to be more competitive this season after hiring Lemetrice Ray. The Yellow Jackets haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. Though they only won four games last year, the Jackets scored major upsets of Ware County, 65-47 and Long County, a 20-win team, 74-64.
Fayette County (15-12)4A
Starr’s Mill (12-12)
The most successful era in McIntosh basketball came to a close after losing to Miller Grove in the Class AAAAA Final Four, 72-52. Jordan Lyons (Furman), Dishon Lowery (Wofford), Will Washington, Isaac Kellum, Chase Walter all graduate; the Chiefs’ entire starting five. The future of the program now lies within 6-foot-7 shooter Cole Guenther. The rising junior is long and lanky and can catch fire with the best of them. It will be interesting to see him in his new found expanded role. If Guenther can add some more weight onto his frame and continue to build his confidence, the sniper could warrant some college looks. Guenther put on a three-point exhibition with Furman on hand to watch and has a handful of schools starting to lineup to track his progress. Senior forward Ben Bryant along with guards Will Strowman, Jaylen Holloway and Mitch Maxwell return with varsity experience.
Morrow was ahead of schedule last year with a young team, improving from 10-15 to 22-8. The Mustangs edged Shaw in overtime 57-55 in the opening round of the state playoffs before dropping to Allatoona 52-41. Junior guards Leviticus Glover and Keion Shinka-Parris spearhead the attack. Glover poured in 17 points per game while Shinka-Parris tossed in 11.1. Inside, 6-foot-5 senior forward Stanley Henderson averaged 13 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Di’Jon Brown also brings firepower to the table, scoring over 8 points per game and earning All-County Honorable Mention honors. With a now proven core still intact, the Mustangs could emerge as the team to beat in Region 3.
The reigning Region 5-AAAA Player of the Year, Furman-commit Noah Gurley, will try to help Fayette County make another trip back to the Sweet 16. The Tigers upset Buford 69-62 and later fell to Monroe in overtime, 72-67. Gurley, 6-foot-7, blossomed into a D-I prospect his junior season after earning Most Improved Player honors for AAAA. He averaged 16.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. Senior guards Austin Nesmith (9 ppg, 5.5 apg) and Phillip Young (8.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) will join Gurley after second-leading scorer Jaylon Cheffin has graduated and Eric Williams has transferred to Sandy Creek.
Whitewater is in search for a new go-to guy on offense and some leadership after their top five scorers – all seniors – graduate. 6-foot-3 senior forward Jordan Wright posted 5.7 points and 6.0 rebounds a game last year and will likely be a focal point along with senior Josh Anthony and junior Josh Graham.
Starr’s Mill is next in line to breakthrough and make the playoffs sooner rather than later. The young team has gone through its growing pains but still managed to post a 10-8 record in Region 4-AAAAA last year. Junior guard Zach Pina leads the attack, averaging 15.5 points per game and 2.6 assists. He was named All-County last year following his Freshman Region Player of the Year honors in 2014-15. He had help from rising sophomore 6-foot-4 Nate Allison, who went for 12.2 points and 6.5 rebounds as a freshman. Allison followed in Pina’s footsteps, winning Region Freshman of the Year for 4-AAAAA. The inside-out punch also features junior Drew Hudson who chipped in 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. At 6-foot-5, Hudson poses matchup problems with his ability to shoot the long ball, rebound and defend. Only three seniors graduate from last year’s team. A winning record would be their first since 2012-13 when the Panthers finished 18-11.
Coach Derick Powell has taken baby steps in returning Riverdale back to its glory days. In his first year back on the sidelines, Powell directed the Raiders to a 10-15 season after Riverdale finished 6-18 in Xavier Trice’s final year. All five starters return for their senior years headlined by All-County Honorable Mention selections Jonathan Foster, James Johnson and Jeran Walton.
Willie Reese takes over as head coach at Griffin after a one-year stint at Meadowcreek. The Bears have some talent for a 7-win team. 7-foot senior center Tyshaun Crawford is a late bloomer starting to come into his own. He committed to Georgia Southern and will be a long term project with an interesting ceiling. Right now the raw big man is a space eater that alters shots and has become more aggressive attacking loose balls and scoring inside. He averaged 9.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks as a junior. Tyrique Williams is a 6-foot-5 senior forward that led the team in scoring with 9.5 points and 5.2 rebounds. Junior Darrell Evans added 6.7 points and rising sophomore point guard Jacarlin Dennis pitched in over 6 points on average.
Eagle’s Landing (24-5)4A
Jones County (16-13)
Union Grove (9-16)
Locust Grove (9-17)4A
Eagle’s Landing saw a fantastic season destroyed in the first round of the state playoffs, losing to Bainbridge 80-49. The Eagles must replace top two leading scorers Jordan Lewis (15.6 ppg) and Antonio Gibson (11 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Back are young guards Tarrence Evans and Chris Hood who both produced as underclassmen. Evans averaged 10.2 points as a sophomore while Hood netted 7.8 points per game as a 6-foot-3 freshman. New to the fold is 6-foot-8 center Mohammed Abubukar who transfers in from Hamilton Heights, TN. The recent North Carolina A&T-commit is a major post presence that has a nice skill set inside and could become a game-changer with steady guard play around him. He is comfortable attacking from the high post, getting to the basket and has shown confidence in launching from the three-point line. The Eagles also added All-County First Team selection junior guard Brandon Thomas. The 6-foot-3 shooter averaged close to 18 points per game at region foe Locust Grove and has earned interest from D-I schools in the southeast with his pure jumper, netting an offer from Kennesaw State.
Virgil Fields and JaDon Davis take their talents to Albany State after starring in the backcourt for Stockbridge. The duo put up video-game like numbers, Davis averaging 23 points and Fields going for 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Next in line to take over looks like Kavonte Ivery, a 6-foot-6 forward that averaged 11.1 points as a sophomore.
Woodland-Stockbridge loses some of its top scoring options but junior Jaylyn Clark and senior JayQuan Coles are expected back. Coles, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive tackle on the football team, averaged 7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds as a space eating post. Senior Benjamin Ross is a high-flying wing that brings energy to the Woodland perimeter.
Jones County made a run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 4 seed, upsetting Camden County 66-62 before falling to Mays 70-68. The Greyhounds lose a lot from their explosive offense with Devin Wooten (23.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.1 apg), Landravious Bowden (16.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Jayvaugn Patterson (13 ppg, 5.6 rpg) all graduating. Junior forward Kylan Hill’s transfer to Central-Macon hurts as well as he led the team in rebounding at 7.6 while averaging 8.9 points. Coach’s son, Dennis Woolfolk Jr., returns for his senior season after posting 5.6 points and 6.2 assists per game. Help could be on the way as Wooten’s younger cousin, Bryson Wooten, is set to attend Jones County for his freshman year. The 5-foot-10 guard could see playing time as a freshman after putting together a nice summer with 14U Macon United HypeSouth Elite.
Jamal Basit looks to steer Dutchtown in the right direction in his first year as head coach after a stay at South Gwinnett. Bryce Parks is in place for his senior season after averaging over 11 points per game. Parks works hard on both ends of the floor and isn’t afraid to facilitate. He will need some help around him as Que Askew and Innocent Onyegbula have both graduated as top scoring options.
With their top five leading scorers coming back, Union Grove has its sights set on making some noise and sneaking up on some teams. The Wolverines put together a 22-2 summer, winning their respective tournaments at Florida State and Georgia College. Junior guard Wesley Simpson is the catalyst after averaging 11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals as a sophomore. Senior Jeffrey Crawford returns his 7.5 points per game as well as senior Austin Atkins who posted 7.3 points on average. The play of 6-foot-6 senior Braelen Bridges inside could be an X-factor if the post is able to control the paint after averaging 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds.
Locust Grove continues to regroup behind rising 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard Renarldo Smith, who earned Honorable Mention for his play. The loss of Brandon Thomas is huge.
Ola returns juniors Chris Rodriquez (10.2 ppg) and Kaelon Hinton (9.8 ppg) along with senior post Bevon Wray (6.9 ppg) to a team that managed just 1-win in Region 4-AAAAA.
Hampton enters Year 3 of existence and comes off a 0-26 season following a 3-23 mark in their inaugural 2014-15 season. Senior guard Jaylen Love led the team in scoring as a junior at 11.2 points per game. Rising seniors David Brown and SirVetus Ratcliff were the team’s second and third leading scorers with over five points per game.
Miller Grove (31-3)
Southwest DeKalb (25-6)
Arabia Mountain (10-16)4A
Cross Keys (0-22)4A
Miller Grove captured its seventh state title in eight years with a 50-48 win over Allatoona, but life will be much different now that Head Coach Sharman White has taken his unparalleled success to Georgia State where he is now an assistant. Rasul Chester gets the nod as head coach after spending one season as the head man at Stephenson after years of being an assistant on White’s staff at Miller Grove. Guard play will once again power the Wolverines but a new lead dog has to step up with McDonald’s All-American Alterique Gilbert (UConn) and Aaron Augustin (Stephen F. Austin) gone. Aidan Saunders and Colin Young were also integral pieces while 6-foot-6 forward Raylon Richardson begins his college football career at UAB. Back is Tae Hardy, an explosive senior guard who now steps out of the shadows of Gilbert and Augustin. White described Hardy before last season as, “quietly kept as probably one of the best players in the state with his ability and what he can do with the basketball.” Hardy averaged 16.5 points per game at Southwest DeKalb before moving over to rival Miller Grove his junior season. The instant offense 6-foot-3 guard should balloon his scoring average which was 9.4 points last year. Top perimeter defender, senior Joshua Jackmon, is on the mend after tearing his ACL this summer. Jackmon’s athleticism can change games and he is a great rebounder for a 6-foot-3 guard. He posted 5.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per contest. He is not yet 100%, but hopes to be soon. Sophomore guards Jalen Mason and Maurice Harvey seem poised to take the mantle as the next leaders of the pack moving forward. Junior AJ Bey and seniors Lorenzo Anderson and George Wilson provide depth and scoring as well at guard. Inside, 6-foot-7 junior Kevin Paige has increased his production and 6-foot-6 sophomore Tworn Seals is a rising prospect that is polishing his game around the rim. Seals has the body but his skillset isn’t at a level where he can be an impact player just yet. Added to the mix is Arabia Mountain transfer Jermon Clark. The 6-foot-7 junior post averaged 5.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. He will be a nice piece that should have a chance to start while Seals continues to work on his craft.
Lithonia was loaded last year and came away with the Region 6-AAAA title, the best region in Class AAAA. The Bulldogs took a trip to the Final Four but fell to eventual state champion Liberty County, 81-68 after falling in an early 16-0 hole. It looks like it could be a rebuilding year as Jacara Cross (Jacksonville State), Rodney Chatman (Chattanooga), Tyleen Patterson and Tyheem Freeman all graduate. The most experienced players returning are senior guards Robert Hatchett III and Cortez Roberson, two guards that will be asked to carry the offense while rising juniors Sydarius Stinson and Ziven Alexander could see bigger roles this year.
Southwest DeKalb bowed out of the Class AAAAA playoffs in the Elite Eight with a 56-44 loss to Allatoona. 6-foot-4 forward Keith Gilmore was a tough cover and averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists his senior season. Nathaniel Ambersley also leaves a void graduating his 12.5 points and 4.7 assists. Lastly, center TiQuan Lewis (10.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is also off to college. Diminutive 5-foot-7 senior point guard Darius Hogan is the team’s returning leading scorer. The streaky shooter hit a team-best 68 threes at a 37% rate on his way to averaging 8.8 points. Junior Mandarius Dickerson is an improving playmaker that should put together a nice season after posting 7.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Dickerson is teetering on the verge of solidifying himself as a D-I prospect. Two other juniors, Quincy Carter and Joshua Archer, bring quickness and potential to the Panther backcourt.
It’s hard to find a school that made a bigger splash than Columbia. Following an uninspiring 14-13 finish and an 8-10 mark in Region 6-AAAA, Coach Kerry Sandifer has stepped aside making way for 5-time state champion Dr. Phillip McCrary, who returns to Columbia after spending 25 seasons (1988-2012) on the bench, compiling a 546-185 (.746%) record. The Eagles return a long and athletic lineup bolstered by three transfers. Senior team captain Jalen “JJ” Cobb averaged a team-high 11.7 points as a junior guard. Rising juniors TJ Boykin and Lorenzo McGhee look ready to explode onto the high school scene after strong seasons with 16U Southern Stampede. McGhee, a 6-foot-4 guard, is an all-around scorer, able to get to the hoop with ease and can bury the three when open. He is also effective on the glass both defensively and offensively. Boykin, 6-foot-6, is a versatile wing player that disrupts passing lanes with his length. Cobb, Boykin and McGhee will be joined in the starting lineup by seniors Kenton Eskridge (Tucker) and Reyhan Cobb (Pius XI, WI). Eskridge starred with the crosstown Tigers as their leading scorer last year. The barrel-chested point guard can bowl over smaller defenders when attacking the cup. Eskridge ran with 17U Southern Stampede and played with and against some of the best players in the nation. Cobb played with Columbia his sophomore season before moving to Wisconsin where he averaged 10.7 points as a junior. The 6-foot-7 shot blocker provides energy, able to run the floor well and finish in transition. He will anchor the Eagles in the paint. 6-foot-7 freshman Joshua Taylor moves in from Holy Spirit Prep and represents a potential gem down the road that should make an impact in Year 1. He has a nice skillset, able to handle the ball in spurts and knock down jumpers. If Columbia can put it all together and build some depth behind its talented starting five, the Eagles should challenge for the region crown and have a chance for a postseason run.
A nucleus of Darius Giles, Jordan Sterling and Jamal Middleton should net Arabia Mountain some wins in a tough region. Giles, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, averaged a team-high 14.3 points last year. Sterling, a junior, averaged 8.5 points while Middleton, a senior, chipped in 5.1 points, 3 rebounds and 1.8 steals. The trio will be tested night in and night out and must hold their own. The loss of 6-foot-7 big man Jermon Clark will hurt the Rams’ interior defense.
Chamblee returns senior guard Odell Ferrell as their top scorer. Dazz Riggins and 6-foot-5 Glenn Robinson will be relied upon heavily in their final seasons as well. Robinson is a double-double threat after collecting five his junior season and provides toughness inside for the Bulldogs.
The Clarkston Angoras haven’t notched a winning record since 1988 – 28 years. The Angoras do however have a hidden gem in 6-foot-3 senior guard AJ McNeil. The sweet shooting and explosive athlete averaged 16 points per game and blocked 1.3 shots a night. McNeil broke out with 17U Team EAT this summer and has put himself in a nice position to continue his upward trajectory. The only problem is he hasn’t had much help, the Angoras scoring only 46.8 points per game last year. Running mate Mo Musa does return however for his senior season after averaging 10.8 points at point guard.
Cross Keys has lost an astounding 99-straight games dating back to 2012. Valiant efforts have been put forth by good coaches over the past five years with Arabia Mountain’s Dedrick Whiting the last coach to win a game back in 2011. Whiting’s final two seasons saw him go 0-35 while Kingston Clark, the current Woodstock head coach who brought the Wolverines their first playoff berth in 20 years in his first season at the helm, finished 0-41 from 2014-15. Last year it was Ron Jackson’s turn to feel the Indian woes, going 0-22. Cross Keys lands Duane Kelley, former Stockbridge and Alcovy head coach, who will try to resurrect the program. There is no light at the end of the tunnel yet. The Indians haven’t finished above .500 since 2006.
Lithia Springs (10-18)
North Springs (6-18)
After dominating with a stingy defense (46.5 ppg) and a workhorse inside in 6-foot-7 Kohl Roberts (16.1 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 3.1 spg, 4.3 bpg), Riverwood will lean on its guard play following a school-record 29-win season. Coach Buck Jenkins’ son, Elijah, broke through his junior season as an up-and-coming college prospect. Jenkins averaged 4.4 points as a sophomore but last year honed his three-point shot and became one of the best shooters in the state, going 89-of-194 from beyond the arc, hitting at a 46% rate on his way to averaging 11.9 points. Jenkins, 6-foot-3, has good genes as his father is the All-Time leading Scorer at Columbia University. Jenkins committed to Embry-Riddle this past weekend. Also in the backcourt is senior Charnchai Chantha. Chantha returned to Georgia after spending his sophomore year at Hamilton Heights, TN and brought with him a toughness versatile scoring attack. He hit 40% of his threes and finished averaging 10 points per game along with his team-high 4.9 assists. Both Jenkins and Chantha are proven commodities. The play of Amir Smith, Christian Sutton, Josh Brown and Nassir Mohammed will prove vital. Smith, a senior, steps into play important minutes in the backcourt now that Elijah Johnson has graduated. Sutton, a rising junior, did some good things this summer while Brown and Mohammed fill the gap left by Roberts. Brown is a springy 6-foot-6 senior while Mohammed is still growing into his body as a 6-foot-6 junior who hit a major growth spurt this past year. Last year scoring lulls killed the Raiders at times, but their defense carried them when they hit dry spells. When the Raiders are knocking down their three-ball, they can beat anyone. When they have an off night, Riverwood has to grind teams out which they did successfully in 2015-16.
Grady finished with a school-record 28 wins and advanced to the Class AAAA Final Four. The Knights however, were forced to vacate 10 wins, victories from January 26 on, for an ineligible player. Nonetheless, Grady put forth one of the best surprise seasons in the state even though expectations were high. Region Player of the Year Avi Toomer is off to Bucknell and will force Class AAAA Coach of the Year Brian Weeden to find a new go-to guy. A logical choice would be 6-foot junior guard DJ Brittian. The electrifying athlete averaged 9.7 points and 2.3 steals. He will be in charge of heading Grady’s lightning quick defense. The Knights will be small and quick this year with one of the youngest lineups in the region. Three to four freshmen are expected to contribute right away and see time in the starting lineup. Weeden’s incoming ninth graders will be the tallest players on the team aside from Louisville tight end commit Kemari Averrett, a 6-foot-7 presence in the low post who is still deciding whether or not to play basketball his senior season.
Jackson-Atlanta snuck its way into the playoffs by stunning 22-3 Westminster in the Region 4-AAA tournament, 53-48. JaQuavius Hayes rides momentum into his junior season after the 6-foot-6 post was named Most Improved Player in Class AAA, posting 21.9 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks per game. Senior guards Michael Graham (8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Quincy Gonzales (8.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.9 apg, 3 spg) surround Hayes. Travis Williams, a former head coach at Tennessee State, brings superior wisdom to the sidelines.
Carver-Atlanta attempts to build around seniors Patrick Hudson, Kenny Atkins and sophomore Demontra Hudson after the program failed to notch a winning record.
Terrill Hall, a dynamic three-sport athlete, powers Decatur. The 6-foot-4 senior averaged a team-high 14.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Next in line will be Dennis Bell, a senior power forward that chipped in 7.8 points per game. Uriah Pickens, a 6-foot-2 guard, is cleared to play his senior season after transferring from Clarkston and having to sit out. He had a very nice showing at the SEBA Atlanta All-Star Shootout.
Lithia Springs graduates their double-double machine, 6-foot-3 James Williams who posted 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game his senior season. Senior Ceaunte Zachary returns with the most experience and success on the varsity level after averaging 8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals. The combo guard is a nuisance defensively and thrives in the open floor.
A nice core is in place for North Springs as the Spartans are expected to return their top five scorers. Junior guard Vinnicius Viana led the way in scoring as a sophomore at 13.1 points while rising 6-foot-4 senior Grant Showell followed suit at 10.1 points, 9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. 6-foot-4 junior Josh Smith, a baseball player, chipped in 5.3 points his sophomore season.
Banneker loses 6-foot-4 post Cramonta Snell, a Region 6-AAAAA Second Team selection. Snell averaged 14.5 points and 9.6 rebounds his final season. Along with Snell, in total the Trojans graduate their top seven scorers. 5-foot-1 point guard Deshon Astin is the team’s returning leading scorer at 3.5 points per game. Former North Springs head coach Carlos Cliett will try to turn Banneker’s fortunes around.
Villa Rica (18-10)
East Paulding (5-21)
Paulding County (5-21)
Villa Rica put together a great 2015-16 season and nearly upset Gainesville in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs before falling 68-62. County Player of the Year Tye Hill (16.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg) headlines one of three huge losses. Also gone are Justus McWilliams (13.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg) and Noah Smith (12.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg). The Wildcats will go back to an up-tempo aggressive style of play that will be paced by a trio of senior guards in Rodney Thomas, Nigel Taylor and RJ Williams. Williams provides versatility as a 6-foot-3 pass-first point guard that can play passing lanes and help on the glass. Thomas is a strong outside shooter that has improved his dribble-drive game and is a leader on the team. Taylor is another tenacious on-ball defender that can get past his man on offense. Joining the trio is junior Javonte Hart, a high-IQ point guard that Coach Jason Robinson simply describes as a “winner”. Left-handed senior Jamarcus Middlebrooks is an energetic defender that plays above the rim while Adrian Sanchez and Jacob Forrester both stretch defenses from beyond the arc. Lattrel Swanigan could be an X-factor with his scoring touch. He averaged close to 20 points per game on the JV as a sophomore.
Kell earned a state playoff berth behind the play of emerging 6-foot-8 power forward Brian Thomas. Thomas saw his stock skyrocket in the offseason with 17U Game Elite before a foot injury slowed him down in the latter months. Thomas committed to Florida Gulf Coast after posting 16 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks per game at Kell. Seniors Demetris Page, Caelon Ball and Wayne Bryant support Thomas while rising juniors Savvon Delgado and Jahwan Smith should see increased roles. Coach Jermaine Sellers has overseen the steady improvement of the program while JV Coach Chris Marcusky has helped with the development of the younger Longhorns.
Rome graduates key players Jai Creamer, Daniel Reyes and Trey Driver. Guard Jaden Rivera returns as one of the Wolves’ top options.
After losing in the state championship in 2014-15, last season Carrollton slipped to 13-15 overall. Top scorers Jarel Rowe and Desmond Webb both graduate leaving Carson Culverhouse as Coach Tim Criswell’s grizzled veteran. The 5-foot-11 shooter is lethal when left open and can carry the Trojans. He brings a toughness and a confidence to Carrollton who is rebuilding behind the likes of sophomores Caleb Mitchell and Trevon Reddish and junior Jeffery Johnson. Freshmen Melvin Edwards and Marcellious Lockett represent a bright future. Both youngsters played well at the HoopSeen Elite Preview, battling against older players. Lockett posted 11 points, five rebounds and four assists against the likes of Jarred Godfrey (Sandy Creek), Trey Stevens (Hillgrove) and Jalyn McCreary (Kennesaw Mountain). Lockett dropped 41 points as a 6-foot scorer at the Future150 Atlanta Main Event in April. Edwards, 6-foot-2, is an active defender with a knack for blocking shots.
Cass scrapped its way to a 10-16 mark under young first-year head coach David Brock. The Colonels showed signs of improvement coming down the stretch however. Gone is Bartow County Co-Player of the Year Mike Sims but Ashton Burley and CJ Bennett compose a steady and often explosive backcourt. Burley enters his junior season after putting together a nice summer with 17U Active Elite while Bennett is back for his senior season following an All-County selection along with Burley.
Hiram graduates eight seniors including 6-foot-8 Alcorn State signee Devon Brewer who led the Hornets with 10 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Coach Darius Hodge’s returning leading scorer is senior guard Elijah Hoffman who averaged 2.4 points.
Woodland-Cartersville took some thumpings last year but hope they will be better for it in the future. Top players Jonathan Pritchett, Jarvis James and Brady Jernigan all graduate. Returning starters senior guard Camden Royal and sophomore Justice Hayes will play big roles as the Wildcats’ most experienced duo. Seniors Trevor Knowles, Jaden Pressley and sophomore Jaylen Ballard project to get major minutes. Colman Roberts, former girls head coach, looks to build a winning culture.
Joby Boydstone’s “System” didn’t work out in Year 1 at East Paulding. The Raiders averaged 71.6 points per game but allowed 85. Four of East Paulding’s five wins came by 20+ points, but 14 of their losses came by 20+ as well. Football star Jalen Browder poured in 20.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a junior. Outside of Browder, the Raiders’ next returning leading scorer is senior Caleb Ivey who pitched in 5.6 points.
Paulding County moves on from Malik Rush who averaged 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Seniors Dionte Ruffin and Dawson Kramer are the returning leading scorers. Ruffin averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 rebounds. Kramer, a 6-foot-4 post, added 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. Sophomore guard Jamal McIver saw quality playing time as a freshman and posted 4.7 points a night. Junior Vance Anderson brings help at the wing. Anchoring the paint is massive 6-foot-8, 285-pound senior center Marcus Austin. The immovable post has been working on his conditioning after averaging 4.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. Austin is still extremely raw but has shown progress with his back to the basket on offense.
Cedar Shoals (29-3)
Walnut Grove (24-5)4A
Flowery Branch (16-11)
Clarke Central (8-17)
Cedar Shoals nearly broke the 30-win barrier last year as the Jaguars lost to Allatoona in the Class AAAAA Final Four 48-46 in a thriller. Coach L’Dreco Thomas returns all his starters except for sparkplug point guard Jerrick Mitchell, who was named Most Underrated in the state. The Jaguars don’t have imposing size but they do have excellent chemistry and play hardnosed defense. Phlan Fleming, a 6-foot-5 senior, committed to Charleston Southern after a stat-stuffing summer with AC Georgia Phoenix. Fleming does it all as a long-armed defender who can get hot in a hurry from all over the floor. The Jags can space teams out and pick them apart when Fleming and 6-foot-3 senior Snipe Hall are hitting. Hall is another dangerous shooter that has expanded his all-around game. Scrappy guard AJ Jones and football tight end 6-foot-4 Stavion Stevenson, provide hustle and energy on both ends of the floor. In order for the Jags to sustain their success, all eyes will be on senior guard Damarrea Lowe. The slight of build point guard fit into the Cedar Shoals offense seamlessly this summer. Though he might not have the speed or overall leadership of Mitchell just yet, Lowe is a good passer who gets everyone involved and can rebound and defend well out of his position. Jai’vanni McDavid, Q’titrius Dillard and Darien Appling could all play important roles off the bench.
Walnut Grove jumped into the statewide picture with 24 wins but quickly fell out come playoff time as they were defeated 64-45 by Jonesboro in the Region 4-AAAA Championship and then were blown out by Monroe 71-45. The Warriors go back to the drawing board now that their top four leading scorers all graduate including guards AJ Jones and Faizon Jackson. 6-foot-3 senior forward Dashun Smith returns with the most experience after posting 7.8 points and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game.
Flowery Branch didn’t make the state playoffs, but did win bragging rights in Hall County by winning the program’s first ever Lanierland title in the 56th annual edition. The Falcons lose major contributors in big men Gabe Holston and Trey Bailey, but return a savvy backcourt between seniors John Mills and Brannon Clark. Junior guard Blake Coxworth served as a top backup last year and should see his role expand. Senior Dalton Gerdts is a threat from behind the arc with nice 6-foot-4 length. Junior Justin Quick, 6-foot-3, has had a very strong offseason and should be a key piece moving forward. Freshman Caleb Murphy moves in from the Norcross district. The shifty guard might be able to contribute in his first year if he gets stronger on defense against bigger guards.
Coach Eddie Martin looks to continue to build Buford into a powerhouse in Year 2. In Year 1, Buford went undefeated in Region 8-AAAA but was upset by Fayette County in Round 1 of the state tournament, 69-62. True floor general Alex Jones is back for his junior season. The 5-foot-9 guard is one of the best pure passers in the state with advanced court vision. He has plenty of options to pass to this year as 6-foot-8 senior Sahlil Patel is back in the paint. Expect four new faces to suit up in Green and White. Sophomores Donell Nixon II, Marcus Watson and Karston Miller head to Buford while junior David Viti makes his way over from Lambert. Nixon, 5-foot-7, is a dangerous three-point shooter that averaged 12.4 points at Mountain View and drained 69 threes at a 45% rate. Watson comes from West Forsyth, NC and brings with him an imposing high energy 6-foot-6, 210-pound build on the wing with his best ball ahead of him. Miller averaged 7.9 points as a 6-foot-1 guard at North Gwinnett. Viti is a physical forward with some nice bounce that will attack opponents inside and outside.
Central Clarke held its own this summer and should be set for a better year behind 6-foot-3 starting quarterback and leading scorer, Jack Mangel. The junior is a streaky shooter that can carry the Gladiators when hot. He averaged 9.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Fellow juniors Martavius Darden and Quamontae Monfort bring back a nice cohesion. Darden chipped in 6.9 points and 1.5 steals while the 6-foot-5 Monfort put up 5.4 points, 4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.
Coach Tim Slater stepped in to take the reins at Johnson-Gainesville following an impossible act to follow up; the Knights finishing 29-1 the year before behind Ty Cockfield and Roderick English. Though they didn’t have much success, the Knights look towards the future with sophomore guard Kylan Curry and juniors Qua Butler and Will Richter stabilizing the backcourt. Richter, 6-foot-2, moves in from St. Francis and should instantly fill a need of perimeter shooting. His experience with St. Francis and the Georgia Stars over the summer should bode well down the stretch. He has worked on attacking the basket and looks much more aggressive as the season nears. Curry is a pass-first point guard while Butler brings energy. Seniors Marcus Jones and Dwayne Wilson round out Johnson’s primary components. Wilson, 6-foot-5, is the Knights best player who came on strong at the end of last year. Good things usually happen when the athletic forward has the ball in his hands. Wilson should warrant attention when crashing the boards as well. For Johnson-Gainesville to hold its own, Wilson will need to become a nightly double-double threat. Also in the fold is 6-foot-4 junior Alex Sims who fits in nicely as role player in the post.
Loganville finished with three wins for the second consecutive season. Rising 6-foot-3 sophomore Jamar Moore could be a potential winning lottery ticket in years to come if he continues to progress. The athletic forward has raw upside that needs to be drawn out of him. Junior guard Tyler Circi returns some experience to the Red Devil backcourt.