GHSA Class AAAAAA Preview



Region 1

Northside-Warner Robins (14-10)5A
Lee County (13-16)
Coffee (11-15)5A
Valdosta (9-16)
Houston County (7-18)5A

It’s a wide open region in Region 1 with Northside-Warner Robins as the only school with a winning record in 2015-16. Team captains Jaylan Sandifer, Trayvon Willis and Tobias Oliver all enter their senior season while Marquaevious Williams rounds out the experienced attack. Sophomore Sammy Mike stands 6-foot-9 and represents a burgeoning rim protector for Coach Matthew Simon. He claims interest from UConn, Mercer, UGA, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Alabama. On the block he doesn’t have a go-to post move just yet, as he is more comfortable facing up and taking the mid-range jumper.

Lee County crept its way into the Sweet 16 and nearly upset Grayson, 60-58. Every key player was set to return for the Trojans as the team’s top nine scorers, but three players have transferred including second leading scorer Jaylin Wimberly, junior Stan Smith and sophomore Pooh Woolbright. Senior point guard Tyler McConnell (11.5 ppg) leads the team in scoring. Junior Otis Reece holds promise at 6-foot-3 after scoring 7.6 points per game. Senior Terrian Wester averaged 6.8 points as a 6-foot-3 guard.

Coffee returns a host of talent after graduation hasn’t hurt the Trojans’ growth. Sophomore guard Jayce Moore led Coffee in scoring and rebounding as a freshman with 9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. Brothers Marquavius and Jarquavius Jefferson bring toughness and energy to the table their junior seasons. Both averaged over three steals per game in 2015-16 and had a nice summer with 16U Terrible T’s GA Boyz along with Moore. Jarquavius and Moore both made the Georgia Cup Finals 16U All-Tournament team. As a team, the Trojans must improve on their shooting. They shot just 87-of-470 from three-point land, a 19% rate.

John E. Slater enters his final season at Valdosta. As a freshman at Brooks County, Slater averaged 16.3 points per game. Upon moving to Valdosta his sophomore season, Slater’s scoring took a backseat. Last year as a junior, Slater began to turn it up again, averaging 13.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.9 steals. The 6-foot-2 guard is best when attacking the hoop.

Now that Ma’Kel Wallace is cleared to play, Houston County enters a region that doesn’t have any dominant favorites. Wallace had to sit out last year after transferring in from Veterans. The 6-foot guard does a little bit of everything on the floor and should have a productive senior season. Zion Johnson, Kolbey Singleton and Amari Colbert all bring back experience, athleticism and versatility for Coach Stephen Walls.


Region 2

Effingham County (22-5)5A
Brunswick (19-8)5A
Richmond Hill (17-10)5A
Glynn Academy (10-13)5A
Bradwell Institute (6-19)5A 

Half of Region 3-AAAAA now calls Region 2-AAAAAA their home with the exception of Camden County, Statesboro, Ware County, Coffee and South Effingham. Effingham County saw a wonderful season come to a close after tripping up in the region tournament, falling to the three-seed and losing to Richmond Academy 85-74 in the first round of the state playoffs. The Rebels went a perfect 13-0 in region play during the regular season behind Deshaun Wilkenson (17.1 ppg), PJ Brown (11.2 ppg) and Rashad Griffin (11 ppg) who all have graduated. Remaining are seniors 6-foot-2 guard Jaden Rodriguez (13.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and 6-foot-2 forward Cody Hilbert (7.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg).

After winning the state title in 2014-15, Brunswick was eliminated from playoff contention after losing to Statesboro in the Region tournament quarterfinals, 48-42. Seniors Kymani Dunham and Dereck Lampkin are the most experienced on the team. Dunham, 6-foot-8, is a load in the low post that can’t be moved off the block. He has improved his ball skills and is more comfortable facing up and attacking the basket. He committed to College of Charleston on August 1. Rising junior guards Marcus Scott, Daquan Humphreys and Jaylen Jackson all represent the future of Brunswick basketball.

Richmond Hill must replace Isaiah Hill’s 20.3 points per game. Senior Trey Deloach (7.0 ppg) and junior Sam James (5.4 ppg) represent the team’s top two returning scorers.

Glynn Academy rolls the dice with head coach Terrance Haywood who was arrested in 2014 after being accused of failing to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Child and Family Services, a misdemeanor. He also was charged with providing false verbal and written statements to the GBI, a felony, while at McIntosh County Academy. Charges have since been dismissed in McIntosh County Superior Court. Haywood gets a fresh start in southeast Georgia. On the hardwood, the Red Terrors have a nice inside-out duo with seniors Durand Green and Dominique Walker. Green, 5-foot-8, led the Terrors with 15.3 points per game while Walker, 6-foot-7, averaged 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

Only three seniors graduate for a young Bradwell Institute team that was loaded with juniors and sophomores. An upset win over Woodville-Tompkins, 36-31, highlighted the Tigers’ season. Seniors Darryl Johnson and Jordan Alexander return as viable pieces. Will Douberly enters Year 1 as head coach.


Region 3

Heritage-Conyers (19-9)5A
Greenbrier (14-12)5A
Evans (13-13)5A
Lakeside-Evans (11-13)5A
Grovetown (11-13)5A
Alcovy (4-21)

Heritage-Conyers jumped out to a 15-1 start last year before hitting speed bumps in region play. Heritage finished with the third-seed out of Region 8-AAAAA and lost to South Paulding in Round 1 of the state tournament, 62-58. The Patriots exit last year’s powerful Region and join a much friendlier grouping on paper. 6-foot-3 senior guard Byron Abrams has committed to Florida Atlantic after averaging 9.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Abrams might not be the clear-cut best player on his team however as Coach Vernon Denmark returns seniors Jordan Thomas and Isaiah Banks to a balanced scoring attack. Thomas, 6-foot-2, led the Patriots in scoring as a streaky three-point shooter, averaging 13.8 points and 2.4 steals while hitting 52 threes at a 32% clip. A true high-flyer, Banks, stands 6-foot-5 and holds an offer from UTEP. The explosive athlete averaged 11.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. 6-foot-7 junior Quez Hicks gets a chance to shine as the anchor of the Patriots defense. Senior guard Donovan Butler will see a boost in action as an energy player on the perimeter with D-II interest. His defense alone makes him a valuable piece. 6-foot-6 sophomore Avante Lederer should produce off the bench as well after gaining experience in the summer.

Greenbrier loses five players including Justen Hartfield. The 6-foot guard graduates after becoming the school’s all-time leader in points scored, pouring in over 1,400. He averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. The two-sport star signed to play basketball at Mars Hill and was Region 2-AAAAA Player of the Year in baseball. The returning roster consists of all seniors except for Richard Crawford III who made the varsity as a freshman and averaged 8.5 points per game as a Second Team All-County selection.

Evans graduates 10 seniors including First Team All-County selection Jo’el Grant. The senior moved in from Augusta Christian and led the Knights in scoring at 17.5 points and 4.5 assists. Big man Michael Steflik was also a First Teamer that needs to be replaced. Sophomore guard Cameron Cabarrus should take over the reins of the offense. He’s an aggressive scorer that isn’t afraid to mix it up inside.

Lakeside-Evans has a chance to spoil the party this year and emerge as a dark horse. 6-foot-6 senior Deon Berrien missed the first half of last season but made a major impact when eligible. He averaged 14.8 points and 13 rebounds as a high-motor big man that is aggressive attacking the ball in the paint. Berrien has grown his game over the summer, now comfortable off the bounce and from beyond the three-point line. South Alabama has shown interest. Berrien racked up the wins this offseason along with Kalen Williams and Brad Hilley on the 16U Georgia Bulls, building chemistry towards the 2016-17 season. Williams made a splash as a freshman last year averaging 13.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Williams can get to the basket and finish through traffic, but also is a lethal shooter, hitting a team-high 46 threes last year at a 40% rate. When driving and dishing, one of Williams’ favorite targets this offseason and in the future is Hilley. The junior whose father Jody has stepped down as head coach making room for Jeff Williams, a former Greenbrier Assistant, is a premier floor stretcher especially from the corner. Kalen Williams orchestrated the Bulls offense masterfully this summer and got Hilley open look after open look which he knocked down. Add rising senior forward Kre’Sean Hall into the mix after he averaged 11.1 points and 6.9 rebounds and the Panthers have a very competitive team.

Grovetown must replace 6-foot-2 guard Shamar Barrett, who led the Warriors in every category: points (17.5), rebounds (4.9), assists (3.0), steals (3.1) and blocks (2.0). Assistant Coach Raymond Epps slides over a seat to take over as first-year head coach. The cupboard isn’t completely bare, even though rising junior Trent Bowdre has transferred to Aquinas. Junior guard Eric Graham averaged 14.8 points and drilled 62-of-151 threes for a 41% rate en route to being a Second Team All-County selection. Joining him is fellow junior guard and All-Name Team member, 5-foot-5 Chance Fugghett.

The Alcovy Tigers continue to rebuild but have hope with AJ Paschal and Carnacion Cosby. Paschal started at point guard as a sophomore and brings a sense of leadership and direction on the floor. Cosby, the Tiger big man, is productive around the basket and is a reliable piece heading into his senior season. Junior guard Shaquille Brown has also shown flashes of being a trusted scorer for Alcovy.


Region 4

Jonesboro (28-5)4A
Tucker (20-7)
Mundy’s Mill (19-11)5A
Drew (13-10)5A
Stephenson (12-12)5A
Lovejoy (8-18)
Mt. Zion-Jonesboro (8-19)4A
Forest Park (7-19)5A
M.L. King (3-21)5A 

Jonesboro saw its bid for a three-peat fall short in the Class AAAA title game against Liberty County, 58-52. Five-star 6-foot-5 guard MJ Walker returns for his senior season after taking his game to the next level averaging 22.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Key guards Eric Lovett and Tariq Jenkins graduate their combined 24.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists. Junior forward Jamari Smith looks for a breakout season as a springy athlete after averaging 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds. 6-foot-4 junior guard Myles Black produced at a high clip this offseason and should be the next playmaker to plug in nicely next to Walker.  Jaylon Terrell joins the team for his senior season after starring in the Lovejoy backcourt as an athletic guard. Terrell holds an offer from Navy and brings a dynamic versatility to Coach Dan Maehlman’s defense.

Tucker loses Kenton Eskridge to Columbia but replaces him with another Eastside exile, Joshua Cammon. The 6-foot-3 senior was a team captain for Eastside after posting 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.4 steals per game. He presents a potentially explosive scorer that should be one of Tucker’s most consistent players. Seniors Joshua Butler, Joshua Vann and Darius Howard should all remain in the fold.

Mundy’s Mill put together a strong season out of Region 4-AAAAA behind Citadel signee Kaelon Harris (18.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg) who has since graduated. First-year Head Coach Dwight Callaway takes over the program after spending time as Lovejoy’s head track and field coach. Before that, he was an assistant at Riverdale. Callaway will look to implement an aggressive full-court pressing defense that doesn’t take its foot off the pedal. Tyree Keith and Mike Malolo are expected to bring back the most experience.

Drew begins life without explosive scorer, James Ruiz (22.3 ppg). William Black, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, is the team’s leading returning scorer at 10.3 points per game.

After one year on the job at Stephenson, Head Coach Rasul Chester returns back to Miller Grove. In steps Dwayne McKinney who from 2011-2013, led Southwest DeKalb to a 59-27 mark. McKinney has a nice nucleus made up of seniors Julian Larkin (9.2 ppg) and Aaron Sterling (7.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg) as an inside-out combination. Rising 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Jamir Chaplin has transferred to Meadowcreek, a huge loss.

Lovejoy loses Head Coach Gregory Freeman to Creekside, but returns a young team. Keith Harris and Antonio Byrd enter their senior seasons while Jordan Huntington, Andrew Burden, Rashad Dugan and Kristian Grant all saw time on the Varsity as freshmen. Malcolm Rouse is now a junior in the backcourt. The loss of Jaylon Terrell hurts the Wildcat backcourt.

DeMaje Carter and TreJohn Taylor make up a scrappy Mt. Zion backcourt. Carter averaged 11.3 points and 4.4 rebounds as a sophomore while Taylor went for 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds as a junior. Jaquan Torian, a 6-foot-4 senior, is also a nice piece that averaged 7.0 points last year.

Everything starts and stops for Forest Park with the play of senior Avery Wilson. The running back looking 6-foot-3 guard plays like he’s exploded out of a cannon with his strength and athleticism. He averaged 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds his junior season. Wilson put together a solid offseason with 17U Infinite Skillz and should parlay his play into a big senior season. He will need help however if the Panthers are to clinch a playoff berth. Fellow senior Jahseel Herbert chipped in 7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals a year ago. The 5-foot-10 guard will be asked to score more with the graduation of Stephen McDonald (13.6 ppg, 6.0 apg) and James Ragland (11.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg).

M.L. King saw one of the steepest declines in the state, falling from a 24-6 team in 2014-15 to 3-21 last year. The rebuilding process continues as Jaquan Jones graduates after posting 20.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 4.0 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. Rising sophomore Diamante Johnson saw some time as a freshman along with James Glisson. Atreyu Smith is the most experienced player after averaging 3.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals as a junior guard.


Region 5

South Paulding (25-5)5A
New Manchester (17-8)5A
Douglas County (16-12)
Alexander (13-12)5A
Mays (13-14)5A
Creekside (12-14)5A
Langston Hughes (11-14)
Tri-Cities (10-14)5A
Northgate (4-19)5A 

Judging by last season’s records, Region 5-AAAAAA doesn’t look like the best, but don’t be fooled – this region should be one of the most competitive in the state even if it doesn’t have the High Major gusto that other regions might have. Region 5 has a chance to hold multiple Top 10 teams throughout the season.

South Paulding is the leader of the pack coming off of the Spartans’ best season in school history, an Elite Eight trip which was ended by eventual state champion Miller Grove, 66-41. Kane Williams has emerged as a D-I talent in Coach Gil Davis’ backcourt, committing to Georgia State. The 6-foot-3 senior averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals per game as one of the state’s top playmakers. His No. 1 running mate is 6-foot-7 forward JaCori Wilson. The slender inside-outside forward gets most of his work done on the perimeter. He averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as a junior. A consistent third scoring option must emerge from this battle tested defensive minded team. Drew Shephard and DJ Jackson round out the Spartan backcourt. The two seniors bring their own dimensions to the table with Shephard being a streaky three-point shooter and Jackson an undersized scrappy floor general with toughness. The addition of Knowledge Ruben inside may prove to be valuable over the next four years. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound freshman has moved in from Texas to join his older brother at South Paulding.  He is a physical presence with soft hands and good footwork on the low block. As he continues to improve his conditioning, Ruben has a chance to earn major minutes and potentially earn a starting spot sooner rather than later.

New Manchester loses a lot off their 17-win team but returns leading scorer Clint Bentley. Bentley is the engine that runs the Jaguar offense, averaging 13.3 points. The 6-foot guard is a tenacious and long-armed defender. Bentley should put up some impressive numbers his final season but will need help from his supporting cast in order to clinch the program’s third state playoff berth.

Brandon Robinson takes his 23 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists with him to UNC, leaving a massive void for Douglas County. Seven seniors graduate as the Tigers look set for a major rebuilding season. Senior guard Jahorie Copeland is expected to have the offense run through him. He put together a nice summer with the Smyrna Stars and should see his 3.4-point per game average in 2015-16 exponentially increase with his new found opportunity.

Alexander could be in line for a major uptick after an up and down 13-12 season. The Cougars’ top four scorers are all set to return. Alexander boasts a talented backcourt with senior Rod Rapley (13.3 ppg) and junior Grant Howard (11.9 ppg). Senior Arealious “Zeek” Copeland has length at his small forward position at 6-foot-4. Inside, senior post Damion Howell is a load at 6-foot-7 and averaged 10.6 points and 5.7 rebounds last year. With a deep backcourt, sophomore Cameron Armstrong is one to keep an eye on for the future. The 6-foot-1 guard has a playmaking slashing ability to his game. He impressed with 15U Team Forrest this summer along with 6-foot-7 sophomore Brady Spence. Armstrong is more of a finished product right now, but Spence’s length can alter shots inside. Both will battle to crack Coach Jason Slate’s deep rotation and for now, may be more of long term plays.

Mays snuck into the postseason and knocked off Sequoyah and Jones County before dropping in the Class AAAAA Elite Eight to Cedar Shoals, 66-45. The guard-oriented team loses Christian Jackson and CJ Arnold as important pieces, but 6-foot-5 junior guard Horace Wyatt, 6-foot-4 junior Malik McClain and tiny senior point guard Reo Wright are back. Wyatt’s status as an intriguing prospect has picked up steam over the past year and he will need to cash in with a solid junior campaign. McClain is another lengthy wing that can wreak havoc on defense. Wright stands 5-foot-9, but the jitterbug guard is a potent scorer. McEachern transfer Clayvon Croom, 6-foot-4, is another lengthy wing that can play a multitude of positions his senior year.

Creekside turns to Head Coach Gregory Freeman to lead the Seminoles into the postseason after Freeman endured a short stint at Lovejoy. The Noles lose over 30 points of combined scoring with the graduation of Shawn Rushing (14.7), Tremell Gooden (12.6) and Joshua Jones (11.7). If three-star football tight end Khalil McClain returns to the hardwood (12.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg), Creekside could have a tough frontcourt with the addition of Tyson Jackson. The 6-foot-7 rising junior posted 7.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game at Whitefield Academy and has gained muscle over the offseason.

Langston Hughes faltered last year in the brutal Region 3-AAAAAA after losing Chuma Okeke to crosstown rival Westlake. Nonetheless, the Panthers still return one of the most underrated backcourts in the state with two D-I caliber players. Khalil Cuffee saw his scoring average drop in 2015-16, but still led the team in scoring at 15.5 points while hitting on 42% of his threes. On August 25, Cuffee committed to SE Missouri State. The college-bodied 6-foot-4 guard teams up with 6-foot-4 Derrick Cook, a fellow senior, who exploded onto the scene his junior season and has since committed to Northeastern. Cook posted 15 points and 5.1 rebounds, flourishing in his lead guard spot. New to the picture is a potential game-changer in 6-foot-5 junior guard Landers Nolley II. Nolley started his career at Lovejoy before transferring to Curie, IL last year where he won a state championship. Now back in Georgia, Nolley provides shooting, playmaking and length to Coach Rory Welsh’s perimeter. If he can get his three guards to click at the same time, the Panthers will be tough to beat, especially if they can get stops on defense every night. Inside, 6-foot-5 senior Ahmid Bryant and 6-foot-5 sophomore Jaylen McCluney provide the bounce and rebounding. McCluney is as springy as they come inside and should be a major help in his expanded role. The energetic forward has progressed nicely this summer and has improved his finishing at the rim.

Tri-Cities big man Jordan Gaines came on late, earning a scholarship to Savannah State after finishing up his senior season. With Gaines gone, the backcourt should now be a strength for the Bulldogs with 5-foot-11 senior Derrick Dawson and potent lefty scorer DaMarcus Johnson returning. Johnson, a sophomore guard, already holds offers from North Florida and Southern. 6-foot-3 junior Eli Lawrence also picked up an offer from Southern.

Northgate searches for a leader after six seniors graduate including Jordan McGruder. Senior guard Nate Lee is expected to be a top option for the Vikings.


Region 6

Allatoona (31-1)5A
Sequoyah (20-9)5A
Dalton (19-7)5A
Sprayberry (18-11)5A
Creekview (16-10)5A
South Cobb (15-11)
Harrison (12-14)
Osborne (8-15)
River Ridge (8-18)5A

Allatoona couldn’t put a capper on their dream season, falling for the second year in a row in the Class AAAAA state championship, this time to Miller Grove in heartbreaking fashion 50-48. Known as the best defensive team in the state, the Bucs have holes to fill with an experienced backcourt graduating. Ephraim Tshimanga keyed the defensive pressure up top, averaging 12.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.1 steals as a senior. Also gone are Kevin Perry (9.9 ppg) and Dylon Ramsey (6.4 ppg) along with 6-foot-8 late-blooming center Randy Legros. Junior Trey Doomes’ stock has exploded this summer, earning offers from the likes of Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida Gulf Coast, Furman, Georgia Southern and more. The long armed 6-foot-3 guard returns after leading the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game and adding 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.6 steals. Doomes’ one soft spot has been his jumper which he has improved upon this summer. His defensive intensity atop Coach Markus Hood’s defense will set the tone this year. The Bucs will need scoring help to repeat last year’s success. Michael Johnson and Tyler Jackson are likely to man the backcourt their senior seasons. Inside, Rolan Wooden and TJ Goodrum must help on the glass. Chima Ogboi could be the team’s X-factor his junior season with his versatility as a 6-foot-4 forward.

Sequoyah goes back to the drawing board after Jordan Usher decided to take his talents to Wheeler for his senior season. Navy signee Cameron Cox is gone also after graduating. Allen Carden takes over as head coach after serving as the Sprayberry’s girls coach and brings a much needed X’s and O’s to the sidelines to try and maximize the Chiefs’ talent. It will be a major rebuilding year. Sophomores DJ King and Emanuel Jenkins likely represent the future.

Dalton loses 3/5 of their starting five including leading scorer Drake McCowan, but the Catamounts return senior point guard Nick Hurt and junior forward Aaron Fraire. Hurt poured in over 16 points per game last year while Fraire contributed mostly with his defense and length at 6-foot-5. Last season depth was a concern.

Sprayberry earned a playoff berth but was quickly dismantled by Miller Grove 101-41. The Yellow Jackets lose a lot of their sting as guards Djimon Wilson, Chris Cottman and Rian Oliver graduate from a quick backcourt. Senior 6-foot-7 forward Mo Merritt is out as well after transferring to North Cobb Christian. 6-foot-5 junior post Andrew Giles should see more time inside. He can score with his back to the basket but must make quicker and more decisive moves on a regular basis. 5-foot-10 senior Eddie Figueroa along with 6-foot-1 three-year starter Rodney Pearson will run the offense as shifty distributors that can get into the paint.

The pieces are in place for Creekview to make a run into the postseason, now it’s up to the Grizzlies to clinch their first berth since 2012-13.  The experience is there between 6-foot-6 senior forward Chandler Wright and senior guard Weber Sandlin. The swagger is there as well with junior guard KJ Jenkins, who filled it up this summer with 16U Team Atlanta.  Jenkins is a player to keep an eye on in Cherokee County with his sweet stroke from deep and his overall scoring mentality. If the core of Wright, Sandlin and Jenkins can produce, the Grizz have a shot to surprise some people.

South Cobb escapes from Region 3-AAAAAA, the toughest region in the state last year. The Eagles held their own and performed admirably, going 6-8 in the region. Trey Wade is gone after posting 19.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Younger brother Trevin doesn’t have his size, but at 5-foot-11, he can fill it up. He averaged 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and a team-best 3.0 assists per game as a sophomore. Fellow junior, Taje Ray, is 6-foot-1 and averaged 9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds. 6-foot-8 senior Ralueke Orizu needs a breakout season in the post after averaging 5.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

Harrison turns to seniors Tate Coston, Juwan Owens and Chris Brown to lead the Hoyas from the backcourt after the graduation of All-Region selection Austin York, the team’s go-to forward.

Senior LaTrell Tate powers Osborne. The lead guard averaged 15 points per game and made Second Team All-Region. Expect the Cardinals to play pressure defense with an aggressive and attacking set of guards.

River Ridge relies on senior guard Noah Fitzgerald, junior guard Chris Williams and senior post Destin Exinor. Fitzgerald averaged seven points per game and will lead from the backcourt along with the 6-foot-1 Williams. Exinor brings a high-energy motor which sometimes can get out of control. If he can stay composed, he is an entertaining competitor for Coach Ben Farist.


Region 7

Johns Creek (24-5)5A
Centennial (14-13)5A
Pope (14-15)
Chattahoochee (12-14)5A
Alpharetta (11-18)5A
North Atlanta (9-18)5A
Northview (8-18)5A
Dunwoody (8-19)5A
Cambridge (6-20)5A

After leading Johns Creek to its best record in school history, Pete Goggin was let go. In steps Keenan Temple, an experienced assistant coach with his previous stop coming at former Region 6-AAAAAA foe Lambert. The Gladiators lose a bulk of their scoring with Mason Henkel (11.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Ian Joseph (10 ppg, 5 rpg) and Miles Clay (9.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) gone. Senior Mark Lancaster led the team in scoring at 15.1 points, but is off to IMG Academy to pursue his football career. Flying under the radar, sophomore guard Neil Ilenrey looks set to take the reins. He was mightily impressive at the Etowah Summer Shootout Showcase as a 6-foot-2 playmaker. He scored from all three levels, rebounded and passed the ball well. The well-built youngster continued his aggressive play with the Georgia Elite Ballers and turned heads at the HoopSeen Fall Preview. He has the makings of being a good one. Senior guard Andre Taylor will also see an increased role and should provide some help scoring the ball. Seniors Alex Ruoff and Topher Sullivan bring size to the table inside at 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6.

Darrian Brown leaves a void at point guard for Centennial. He averaged 11.4 points, 6.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds his senior season. Junior guard Daylan Smith has transferred to Duluth. Junior Aaron Palmer played sparingly, but presents an undeniable size down low at 6-foot-6. Centennial also has bruising 6-foot-6 post Rodney Howard. He is a strong center that should see time as a sophomore. He will need to finish around the rim more consistently.

Pope enters Year 2 of their rebuilding process after graduating a great 2015 class. The Greyhounds have some potential breakout players in 6-foot-4 junior Jackson Baylark and 6-foot-2 senior guard Alex Watson. Watson was named All-Region Second Team last year as a quick handling lead guard. Baylark had a productive summer as a high energy defender and major athlete attacking the rim. With two dynamic pieces in place, Pope could contend for the top of the region.
Injuries hurt Chattahoochee last season as the Cougars were unable to make the postseason. DC Roumou, Trevor Anderson and Alex Kladis all graduate, leaving room for others to step up in 2016-17. Aside from an eight-man senior class, the Cougars suited up just two juniors, three sophomores and one freshman. Sophomore Grant Van Beveren should see some big minutes. The throwback post isn’t sexy, but the 6-foot-5 power forward can score with both hands around the basket and does the little things to help win games. He could carve out a nice niche as a strong back to the basket option, able to score over opponents with baby hooks.

Fredrick Hurt steps down from a wildly successful run at Alpharetta and gives way to Jason Dasinger, a former Pope assistant. The Raiders return a strong core that should put them through to the postseason again. Seniors Carlos Carriere, David Swillum and transfer Ellis Merriweather make up reliable group. Carriere is a lanky 6-foot-6 forward while Swillum is a steady guard that does the little things when he’s not attacking teams with his jumper. Merriweather is a Navy football-commit and on the hardwood, is a dynamic 6-foot-2 scoring guard that can fill it up. He moves in from nearby King’s Ridge Christian. Also in is talented sophomore guard Brandon Barron, who exits Westlake. Barron, 5-foot-8, is a confident guard that can get where he wants off the bounce. He has a soft touch when attacking the lane and a nice pull-up jumper off the dribble. Junior RJ Pass and senior Jaylen Young compose a reliable ball handling backcourt with junior Ryan Jenei a dangerous shooter. Junior Benji Oxman is a streaky knockdown shooter that can carry the Raiders from behind the arc if left open.

North Atlanta went through some growing pains last year and might go through some more now that rising sophomore guard Messiah Thompson has transferred to Pebblebrook. The 5-foot-8 guard led the team in scoring with close to 12 points per game and also chipped in over three steals a night. Over the summer he has manned the point guard position for 15U Atlanta Xpress. Senior power forward Derrick Donagan should be a lead option on offense. Move-in from Etowah, Andrew Stimpson, should see major minutes in the backcourt.

Northview losses last year’s leading scorer in Garrett Milan Stewart but returns 2014-15 leading scorer Justin Brown. Brown began his high school career as a Titan where he averaged 15.1 points per game. Last season he joined Milton but is now back at Northview, set to star as a Titan once again his junior campaign.  The guard will have full control of the offense along with senior Mason McBee who averaged 6.9 points in 2015-16. Sophomore guard Joseph Jones moves in from Missouri and will provide some depth as a defensive-minded athlete.

Dunwoody moves on without star forward BJ Millard who posted 16 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks his senior season. 6-foot-3 junior forward Turner Nims showed promise last year averaging 6.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals. Junior Ty Lilly and seniors Will Benston and Connor Vieria bring back experience.

Coach Chip Flemmer continues to exude patience with fifth-year program Cambridge. Though the fruits of their labor might not come to fruition just yet in 2016-17, the future is starting to brighten up for the Bears. 5-foot-10 guard Kamar Robertson led Cambridge as a freshman last year, averaging 11.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Robertson is an energetic athlete that flies around the floor, stuffing the stat sheet. His aggressiveness will keep Cambridge in many games and could become contagious. He promises 20 wins from the Bears this year. If that’s the case, it will be one of the great turnarounds in the state. Elsewhere, senior Jackson Boyea chipped in 8.3 points and junior forwards Caleb Snyder and Kyler Ingram worked the boards well as undersized 6-foot-2 posts. Ingram quietly emerged as an imposing shot blocker as a sophomore, averaging 1.8 per game and swatting away nine shots in a game against Sprayberry. Sophomore David Banks is a lengthy forward that should make more of an impact in Year 2 after chipping in 3.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. The Bears graduate just one senior from last year’s team.


Region 8

Gainesville (21-6)5A
Apalachee (19-6)5A
Dacula (19-7)
Lanier (9-17)5A
Habersham Central (5-21)
Winder-Barrow (2-23)5A

Even without Georgia State signee D’Marcus Simonds and quality contributors Tae Turner and Messiah Dorsey, Gainesville is still loaded and has a chance to make a deep run in the state tournament. A powerful junior class is expected to carry the Red Elephants. 6-foot-6 KJ Buffen has seen his recruitment heat up, picking up offers from High Major schools such as Georgia Tech. The long forward gets the job done in multiple ways. With 16U Southern Stampede, Buffen controlled the glass and scored inside and outside. When he revs his motor up on both ends, he is a matchup nightmare. Fellow juniors Bailey Minor and Xavier Bledson present issues as well. While Minor may never be “The” guy during his high school career, he is a college level player. The 6-foot-5 stretch forward is automatic from the corners and can also take his man on the block. Minor isn’t afraid to mix it up in the paint on defense either. Bledson is a stocky guard with advanced court vision. He is good for a couple riffle passes a game and will rack up the assists this year as the Elephants like to spread teams out and pick them apart with their unselfish passing. The addition of 6-foot-6 twins Jarred and Jarrel Rosser from Newnan make the Gainesville junior class that much more potent as long as they stay focused, take to coaching and fit into the system. The Rosser brothers have high ceilings and can play spots 2-5 on the floor. Adding them to the mix alleviates some defensive and rebounding pressure off Minor and Buffen. No one will be stepping out of the shadow cast by Simonds more than senior Mike White. The 6-foot-4 guard has had an impressive summer. He is physically strong enough to attack the basket and finish through contact while he can also catch fire from beyond the three-point line. White really has a chance to breakout his senior season. 5-foot-11 junior point guard KaJuan Hale has moved in from Austin-East High School, TN. He is a football standout but also a savvy ball handler with speed and passing, who should fit in well with the Red Elephants’ style of play.

Apalachee graduates the best player in Barrow County history in Butler signee Kamar Baldwin (29.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.7 spg). It might take some time to match their 19-win output from last year, but 6-foot-6 junior Derek Miller showed signs of being a difference maker his sophomore season. Miller is still new to basketball and has untapped potential he is trying to harness. Coach Kevin Morris expects senior guard Omar Ahmed to ignite the Wildcat offense in 2016-17.

Dacula was shutout of the playoffs after an upset loss to Central Gwinnett. The Falcons finished the year 19-7 overall and 12-4 in Region 8-AAAAAA, an impressive feat. The dynamic scoring duo of Kevon Tucker (Wofford-19.7 ppg) and Derek St. Hilarie (Gordon State-18.3 ppg) sounds hard to replace but Dr. Russ Triaga’s Falcons haven’t skipped a beat this summer with sophomore point guard Mekhail Bethea leading the way. At Gwinnett County Media Day, Triaga said Bethea, “is as good as anybody I’ve ever coached. To be completely honest with you, he’s beyond where the three who just left were when they were sophomores.” Bethea’s court awareness and ability to hit big shots has parlayed into a North Florida offer. Bethea leads a talented squad paced by its guards. Junior Arusha Hunter, senior Gary Bishop and senior Justin Goodson all looked good alongside Bethea and junior Byron Wilson. A lack of size always presents a potential problem, but 6-foot-5 junior post Shayne Buckingham looks ready to take the next step in his third year as a varsity contributor. Buckingham is active on the boards and is starting to score around the basket with more consistency. Dacula will challenge for a top seed coming out of Region 8.

Lanier returns plenty from last year’s 9-win team including leading scorer, junior Adrian Martin. The 6-foot-3 guard poured in 15.6 points per game and added 2.2 steals. Joining him are seniors Tyler Taylor (8.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.5 apg), Juwan Jones (7.6 ppg) and Bryan Mungai. Junior point guard Christian Pasley is the orchestrator of the offense.

Habersham Central loses top guard Mason Kinsey (17 ppg, 5 rpg) and forward Cody Patterson to graduation. 6-foot Michael Babers and 6-foot-5 Austin Frady bring back some experience. The Raiders haven’t had a winning season since 2011-12. Junior forward Caleb Hodges showed a nice scoring touch as a sophomore. Sophomore point guard Caleb Gaines is crafty with the ball. He is expected to take the reins of the offense after leading the Currahee Defenders on the travel circuit. Gaines’ floater in the lane is one of his top weapons offensively.

Winder-Barrow looks to rebuild behind seniors Tyrese Demeritte, Deon Williams, Terence Butler and Tyrell Demeritte. The Bulldoggs haven’t been .500 since 2012-13 when current Flowery Branch head coach David Sokol roamed the sidelines.

One thought on “GHSA Class AAAAAA Preview”

Comments are closed.