On Wednesday, Etowah held its Summer Shootout Showcase, featuring Johnson-Gainesville, Harrison, Campbell, Johns Creek, Etowah, Whitefield Academy, East Hall and Milton. Each team played two games with the event tipping at 4 PM and concluding after the 7 PM time slot. I was able to catch two games: Johnson vs. Johns Creek and East Hall vs. Whitefield Academy.
Johns Creek 55, Johnson-Gainesville 41
A school-best 24-5 record last season wasn’t enough to save Pete Goggin’s job, meaning Keenan Temple takes over the reins at Johns Creek. Temple has learned under the tutelage of Eddie Martin while at Norcross and most recently Scott Bracco at Lambert with a head coaching stop for three years at Parkview sandwiched in between. Coach Temple inherits a team that loses its top five scorers and looks to be in-line for a down year, but not so fast.
The Gladiators jumped out to a 10-0 run and never looked back. A big reason why Johns Creek cruised to victory? Rising sophomore guard Neil Ilenrey. The 6-foot-2 guard got his feet wet at the varsity level last year, making a few short appearances. In Year 2, he looks ready to take control of the team. Ilenrey poured in a game-high 16 points to go along with his four rebounds and four assists. He knocked down three deep balls and got in the lane when he needed to. Ilenrey looked like the real deal and should explode onto teams’ radar this season with the major increase in role and playing time.
Senior Andre Taylor provided 12 points off the bench from an off-guard position. He scored in bunches and provided a nice lift whenever Ilenrey caught a breather on the sidelines. Inside, seniors Alex Ruoff and Topher Sullivan hurt the smaller Knights. Ruoff posted eight points, eight rebounds and two blocks while Sullivan chipped in eight points.
Johnson-Gainesville’s guard play failed them at times, struggling to find open baskets for teammates and allowing Johns Creek’s full-court press to take them out of their rhythm. Dwayne Wilson and Will Richter were the only two players to score more than four points. Wilson, a 6-foot-5 senior, netted 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks. When he touched the ball on offense close to the paint, good things usually happened for the Knights.
Richter, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, will bring shooting to the Johnson backcourt. He hit two three-pointers and finished with 12 points and two assists. On a team that is streaky from beyond the arc, Richter will be heavily relied upon to stretch defenses and allow Kylan Curry and Marcus Jones space to drive and kick while also giving Wilson room to score inside.
5-foot-10 senior Issac Hernandez came off the bench and sparked Johnson-Gainesville with his energy. The cross country standout finished with four points, two assists and two steals. Though he won’t keep scorekeepers busy with his scoring, if Hernandez can bring the same intensity he brought off the bench on Wednesday all season long for Coach Tim Slater, he could play a valuable role this year.
Whitefield Academy 40, East Hall 34
East Hall came into Etowah boasting the youngest roster at the Showcase hands down. Coach Joe Dix loaded his roster with a majority of freshmen with a few sophomores sprinkled in. Imre Earls, a highly touted eighth grader, even saw some playing time. Dix didn’t have much of a choice but to throw his boys into the fire as junior sharp-shooter Luke Cooper broke his ankle during the first day of practice.
Even though they were shorthanded and lacking in experience, the Vikings played hard till the final horn, losing to Milton and Whitefield Academy in competitive games. Luke Holtzclaw was a bright spot in their low-scoring loss to the Wolfpack. The sophomore stroked three threes and finished with a team-leading nine points to go with his three steals.
Senior Mahki Brown collected four points and nine rebounds. The 6-foot-4 post was a double-double threat a year ago and will be asked to anchor the paint and give the Vikings some more offense now that Tylor Brown has graduated and Markese Jackson has decided to forgo his senior season on the hardwood and focus solely on becoming a D-I football receiver.
Whitefield Academy’s Isaiah Hart was East Hall’s main target defensively. The senior guard that averaged 20.1 points per game in 2015-16, was held to six points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals, which helped the Vikings stay within striking distance. Sophomore guard Noah Dryden seems poised for a strong season in the backcourt along with Hart. Missing was 6-foot-7 Tyson Jackson who was not in attendance.