Tag Archives: HoopSeen

2018 Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions notes

Friday night of the 2018 Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions supplied a look at some of Georgia’s top players. Though the majority of the games were blowouts in the first round of bracket play, there was still valuable intel collected at Suwanee Sports Academy.

Atlanta Celtics 82, Palm Beach Bulls 30

Alec Woodard
Alec Woodard

The Atlanta Celtics overwhelmed a smaller Palm Beach Bulls team. The Celtics were sparked off the bench by Morgan County 2019 standouts 6-foot-3 Alec Woodard and 6-foot-4 Tyrin Lawrence. Woodard played centerfielder in the Celtics’ full court press and nearly posted a triple-double thanks to his quick instincts. The three-point marksman showed his entire skill set finishing with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists and 9 steals.  Lawrence, who holds offers from College of Charleston and Robert Morris, collected 9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 1 block.

2019 6-foot-7 forward Armani Harris (Newton) played well inside. He provided physical play with some nice offensive footwork, able to attack from the foul line and spin his way to the cup. He had 9 points and 8 rebounds.

Ole Miss-commit 6-foot-10 Rodney Howard (Centennial) continues to improve. He did the majority of his damage on rim runs, finding and sealing his defender deep underneath the basket for easy finishes. He used his size to his advantage and was unstoppable against the smaller Bulls when he got good position. Howard is still a little mechanical and stiff in his movements however. He has a high arcing release on his jump shot and a nice touch on it, but it can be a slow developing stroke that might not be as effective against taller defenders. Overall, Howard dominated like an SEC big man should against a small 6-foot-4 front line, finishing with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block.

Brenden Tucker (Dacula; 15), Kamar Robertson (Cambridge; 12) and Reco Hallmon (Grayson; 9) combined for 36 points in the lopsided blowout. Tucker had three breakaway dunks. Hallmon added 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.

Atlanta Xpress 80, HESE Wolverines 20

No Anthony Edwards, no problem for the Xpress on Friday night. 2019 6-foot-3 CG Chase Hunter (Westlake) was electric with his trademark tenacity. Hunter is the epitome of a two-way player, a guy who will hound you on one end and dunk on you on the other. Hunter is much more than just a YouTube sensation with his aerial assaults on the rim. He has deep range, knocking down two threes with a handful of pull-up jumpers from the mid-range as well. Couple that with his quick first step that lets him get to the basket and its easy to see why High Major offers have been pouring in this spring. He had 22 points, 5 steals and 1 block.

6-foot-8, 215-pound 2019 PF Ibrahima Jarjou tallied 13 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals and 3 blocks. The Greenforest big man follows in the school’s tradition of finding mature built forwards. He is an active rebounder that is rounding into form offensively. He knocked down a jumper and showed the ability to put the ball on the floor on some straight-line drives to the rim.

2019 6-foot-8 F Ahmir Langlais (Parkview) picked up 7 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks. Langlais is very young and very skilled for his age. Reclassifying is not completely out of the realm of possibility. With that being said, Langlais can sometimes fall in love with his finesse side. He can tend to do a little too much and be too flashy with the ball when showing his ball-handling and passing. In a closer, more structured game I think Langlais is a tough cover on the block with his lefty hook and spins inside. He just has to bring that same focus and toughness whether it’s a blowout or a close game and avoid drifting too far away from the paint.

Game Elite 77, ALLBALL 56

Before he even played a varsity game, I tagged 2019 6-foot-7 F Jalyn McCreary (Kennesaw Mountain) as a potential big-time difference maker in the state of Georgia. So far, McCreary has lived up to the billing and is getting even more traction with nine offers in hand. The lefty can score from all three levels. He plays above the rim, rebounds, handles the ball and can block shots. McCreary is a one-man fast break when he gets the ball off the backboard. He posted 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. With his size and versatility, McCreary should be destined to become a High Major signee when all is said and done. As long as he stays focused and doesn’t get too high or too low during the flow of the game, McCreary should be the best player on the floor in almost every game he plays his senior season.

2019 5-foot-9 Jaire Eastmond (Wheeler) hooked up with McCreary for three alley-oops. Eastmond has a nice touch on his lob passes. He finished with 7 assists. He must improve defensively and make up for his small stature. He was able to come away with three steals and does good work in transition.

Georgia South 59, Manzer Black 54

AJ Watts
AJ Watts

5-foot-10 scoring dynamo AJ Watts (Carver-Columbus) netted nine of his 11 points in the first half. The 2019 guard is a competitor. He uses a nice crossover to get free and attack the paint. Defensively, Watts has active hands, swiping at the ball-handler. He produced 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block.

Westover’s 2019 trio of Jordan Brown, AJ Jackson and Mike Todd Isler combined for 28 points, doing it in different ways. Brown, 5-foot-9, struggled with his outside shot, going 2-of-8 from three. He finished with 7 points. Like all great shooters, Brown must ask himself how can he positively affect the game if his shots not falling? He had one nice finish at the rim in transition. I think getting into the paint should be a priority for him when his shot isn’t on.

Jackson, fresh from Father Lopez, FL, is an absolute jumping jack at 6-foot-2. He is an explosive athlete that will supply plenty of highlights. His downhill attack should couple nicely with Brown’s outside shooting. Jackson had 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.

Isler is might be the least skilled out of the trio but brings maximum effort to cover up for any shortcomings. He is a 6-foot-4 combo forward that is a garbage guy. The lefty finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. You will never have to worry about asking Isler to play hard from what I saw on Friday.

Georgia Cup IV/Summer Shootout notes Pt. 1

Unsigned Seniors Update

Roscoe Spruill
Roscoe Spruill

17U Justus League rolled with the experienced backcourt of 2018s 5-11 PG Nayari Dampier (North Cobb) and 5-8 PG Roscoe Spruill (South Cobb). The two-headed monster led Justus League to a 79-49 romp of the Georgia Stunners. Dampier drilled four threes on his way to 14 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. Spruill, a stout speed merchant, posted 12 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals. Spruill thrived in transition, outracing the defense and making the right decision on whether to take it himself or find shooters. Both guards have been in the weight room and have the muscle to help out which ever programs pick them up.

Tough Guards

Chandler Minton
Chandler Minton

2020 5-11 CG Chandler Minton (Mt. Pisgah) and 2019 6-1 SG Cameron Gwyn (Chestatee) went at it in 17U Team Recruit’s 69-49 win over Inspire Atlanta. Though he was on the short end of the scoreboard, Minton did everything he could to keep Inspire Atlanta competitive. Built like a running back, Minton poured in 29 points (3 threes) and grabbed 6 rebounds. He was the only player that could consistently create his own shot, getting it from beyond the arc and when putting his head down an attacking, finishing 6-of-7 from the foul line. Minton averaged 10.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as third fiddle at Mt. Pisgah.

Cameron Gwyn
Cameron Gwyn
Photo: @HoopSeenGA

Gwyn got Team Recruit off to a hot start, knocking down four threes over the first three quarters of play. He finished his day with 21 points. When left open, Gwyn often made Inspire Atlanta pay. He was a Region 7-AAAA Honorable Mention selection this year and should be asked to carry the load his senior season after the Class of 2018 graduates eight members.

Myles Todd
Myles Todd
Photo: @HoopSeenGA

2019 6-0 PG Myles Todd (Pace Academy) is taking all the steps this offseason to have a breakout year at the helm of the Knights. Todd has been a habitual producer with the Ballin Blazers so far, running the show at point guard and showcasing his scoring and his ability to run a team. Todd put up 11 points, 5 assists and 3 steals in a win over Sports Academy South and controlled the game. His quickness allowed him to get to the rim in a hurry. Todd has no other choice but to step up his senior year. With Pace Academy currently devoid of any D-I names, Todd has to be a consistent leader. He has shown flashes in years past, but also showed a tendency to take a backseat role in some bigger games while freshman Josh Mininberg took some minutes. As the only returning senior from last year’s roster, its Todd’s time to shine.

Sleeper Alert

Jahleel Roundtree
Jahleel Roundtree

He didn’t have the sexiest stat line and he may never reach his potential, but 17U Sports Academy South’s Jahleel Roundtree (Burke County) has the raw tools to become a college recruit. At 6-foot-6, the 2019 wing can wreak havoc with his long arms and athleticism. He tallied 6 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 2 blocks against the Ballin Blazers, pretty much right at his season average this high school season with Burke County where he averaged 7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks per game. Roundtree can get you the occasional highlight dunk, but he must get more aggressive on offense and do some more individual skill training. Right now, he is more of a versatile glue-guy with a focus on defense, using his frame and energy to make an impact. From the game I saw, he is still far off from becoming a go-to-guy on offense and is more of a passive slasher and a guy who can clean up some misses around the rim. Burke County graduates their top three scorers ahead of Roundtree, so he should have every opportunity to showcase his all-around game his senior season. If he can develop a jump shot (attempted 0 threes; 44% FT shooter), he could turn into a talented late bloomer in Waynesboro. If not, his ceiling will be however far his defense can take him.

Kalib Clinton
Kalib Clinton

2021 6-4 G Kalib Clinton (Jackson County) has only played two years of organized basketball, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by the way he plays. Clinton was a major stock riser this weekend as he brought the energy to 16U BCB. Playing up didn’t affect Clinton’s ability to be productive. After averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman, Clinton was right back at it, tallying 14 points and 9 rebounds. Clinton is a smooth athlete with bounce that can get to where he needs to go on the floor. He is more of a slasher right now, but he showed he can hit some tough mid-range jumpers in traffic. When he put his head down and got to the basket, if he was met with resistance he made the right play of kicking it out instead of forcing it. His lateral quickness projects him to become a lockdown defender. Clinton has a high ceiling and with year-round coaching, he is heading in the right direction.

2022 Fresh Face

Sedrick O'Neal
Sedrick O’Neal

Although I wasn’t able to catch his entire game, I fell in love with 14U Eightball Elite’s 6-2 C Sedrick O’Neal (Maynard Jackson). O’Neal will be heading into his freshman year and should be able to make an immediate impact for Coach Travis Williams. O’Neal was an absolute monster in Eightball Elite’s run to the championship. He dumped in 21 points in a statement win over the Georgia Kings and followed up with 26 points in the title game. O’Neal checks all the boxes for a big man. He is physical and strong with great hands. He knows how to use his body and can score around the rim with a variety of drop steps. He was a double-double machine, gobbling up every rebound and even showed that he can handle the ball enough to ignite his own fast breaks. He has an easy, yet explosive elevation that reminds me of ELCA’s Jamaine Mann’s, that helps him rise above the rest and alter/block countless shots. O’Neal was a man amongst boys. If he is able to grow a few more inches, watch out. With Maynard Jackson graduating their top three scoring options, I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Neal grab major minutes from Day 1 alongside 2020 post 6-foot-5 Timpia Ogoun. The two could form one of the best defensive front courts in the area and could blossom together.

Atlanta Jam notes

HoopSeen’s Atlanta Jam provided the stage for unsigned seniors to make their final impression on college coaches and for rising high school standouts to emblazon a name for themselves. 

Unsigned Seniors Update

Eli Lawrence

I’m not sure what the delay is, but colleges are still moving slowly on recruiting Class 6A First Team All-State selection 6-foot-5 SG Eli Lawrence (Tri-Cities). Running with the 17U South Fulton Lions, Lawrence continued to show why he is the best available wing in the state (outside of Tye Fagan who announces on Monday) and should be a priority for Low Majors/D-II. Lawrence finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in a 63-59 win over Chattanooga Elite. Lawrence is an above-average athlete with a knack for rebounding. He averaged 21.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.1 steals playing in the Classification’s toughest region, where he saw the likes of Virginia Tech-signee Landers Nolley. Lawrence can knock down the deep ball and glides to the basket. The southpaw reminds me of a taller version of Fagan, but not quite as polished with his all-around game. Nonetheless, Lawrence is a D-I level player, but the clock is ticking and time is running out for programs to realize it.

Kam Miller

A long time favorite of mine, Kam Miller (Sandy Creek) strapped them up this weekend. Standing only 5-foot-7, Miller brings so much more to the table than the typical little man. Of course, he does exactly what you want from a diminutive guard: acting as a pest all over the floor and priding himself on his defense. Knowing that he is overmatched in size each time he steps on the floor, Miller makes it a point to outwork his competition with his tenacity and water bug quickness. What you don’t see from most guards his size, is his ability to rebound. Miller uses his small frame to sneak through cracks of the defense to earn his team second-chance opportunities on the glass. He put up 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in a win with the 17U South Fulton Lions. Miller will provide effort and energy wherever he ends up.

Nick Edwards

17U Atlanta All-Stars 6-foot PG Nick Edwards (Grayson) took full advantage of the Atlanta Jam stage with one of Georgia’s best non-shoe company programs. Graded as one of the better lead guards still available, Big Game Nick put up 10 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in a romp of the Carolina Wolves and picked up his second offer, this time from Andrew College. Edwards truly flourished his senior season, stepping out of the shadow of Travis Anderson (Charleston Southern) and shining, averaging 14.7 points, 3 assists and 2 steals per game as the Rams returned to the Class 7A Final Four. While Anderson battled injuries his senior year, Edwards picked up the slack and turned in big performances in big spots, highlighted by Edwards’ orchestration of an 18-point comeback to beat Langston Hughes 65-64, Edwards scoring 24 points including the game-winner with one second left at the BCB Showcase. Edwards isn’t overly flashy or the most elite shooter or the most electric athlete, but he is a player that knows how to produce.

Stock Risers

Devin Butts

Word on the street this spring has been about the emergence of 17U Team Georgia Magic 2019 6-foot-5 CG Devin Butts. I got my first look at him since last summer and boy did he not disappoint. The Stratford Academy guard buried seven three-pointers en route to a smooth 27 points, tickling the bottom of the net with misses few and far between. Colleges like knock down shooters. Knock down shooters with size and handles? That’s something schools love. Butts showed the ability to drive and convert tough finishes, proving he’s more than just a one-trick pony. Heading into a 2018-19 season with many unknowns as to who will assert themselves among the state’s best, Butts has an early claim to being in the discussion of becoming one of Georgia’s elite 2019 players.

Brady Spence

2019 6-foot-8 C Brady Spence (Alexander) controlled the paint for 17U Atlanta All-Stars. I have tracked the growth of Spence from his freshman year to now likely his final season of travel basketball, and the thought process of “big men develop later” has never been truer. Spence was a gangly youngster still filling into his body when I first saw him. He learned how to alter shots around the rim without fouling as a sophomore, but his hands still weren’t where they needed to be. His junior season he needed to get stronger, but the production was starting to become apparent and hard to deny. Fast forward to present day, and the pieces are getting closer and closer to assembling a finished product. Spence scored 7 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, handed out 2 assists and blocked 2 shots in a win over the Carolina Wolves. Spence continues to trend in the right direction and is picking up steam with D-I schools. He does a nice job of keeping rebounds high and with more time in the weight room, his rebounding and defensive dominance at the high school level will convert more easily to the college ranks. Spence can score around the rim with some spins to the baseline and some drop steps, but he is still more of a defensive anchor than a back-to-the-basket go-to-guy on offense. Playing against elite competition week-in and week-out, Spence should have major momentum heading into his senior season.

Jayvion Rucker

17U Atlanta All-Stars always have bevy of high academic D-I/D-II recruits with a few late blooming sleepers along the way. This year’s “who’s that?” guy looks to be 2019 6-foot-6 F Jayvion Rucker. Out of East Hall, Rucker is a name that the entire state will have to be cognizant of come Fall. All arms and legs, “lanky” probably doesn’t do Rucker justice. He can cover ground like a gazelle offensively and defensively. He had 9 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in a win. He drilled three corner threes. With his ability to knock down the open long ball coupled with his length and athleticism, Rucker looks like a stretch-four. If he improves his ball-handling and playmaking, he could provide quality minutes at the three as well. His progress will be interesting to track as he heads back into the high school season with plenty of experience under his belt.

2019 6-foot-8 F Sammy Mike (Northside-Warner Robins) played well for 17U AC Georgia. Mike was a name we heard about a few years ago, but never really saw him blossom into a big-time high school player. It’s now or never heading into his senior season and he took a big step on Saturday in becoming a name that sticks. The svelte stretch-big collected 14 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks against the Tennessee Bobcats. Mike knocked down two 15-footers and drilled a three. He is very mobile and moves well, even putting the ball on the deck. There is a lot to be intrigued about with his skill set, now it’s up to him to bring it all to fruition.

Bucket Getters

DaMarcus Johnson
DaMarcus Johnson

Two human microwaves did what they do best on Saturday: score. In Class 6A, two 2019 guards are instant offense in 6-foot-2 Kalen Williams (Lakeside-Evans) and 6-foot Da’Marcus Johnson (Tri-Cities). With 17U Team Power, Williams dumped in 17 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. Williams has grown his game each year since first bursting onto the scene with the Georgia Bulls. He has a knack for scoring the ball and a mean-streak on the floor. He has a little bit of a funky release, but Williams can burn you from deep. He is continuing to improve as a passer and someone who makes his teammates better. He has some deceptive bounce that helps him play above the rim and earn some chase down blocks. At Lakeside-Evans, Williams averaged 22.8 points, 6 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Johnson is a pure shooter that can get in the lane as well. He provides strong on-ball defense, bringing effort on both sides of the floor. Johnson finished with 19 points (3 threes), 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals for 17U South Fulton Lions. The lefty has played against the best of the best at Tri-Cities and averaged 15 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.5 steals.  It will be interesting to see how he plays now that Eli Lawrence has graduated. He will now garner the lion’s share of the attention that defenses throw at the Bulldogs.

HoopSeen Tip-Off notes

Meet BJ

BJ Wright - Perry High School
BJ Wright

Walking out of the gym on Sunday afternoon after a fun day at the HoopSeen Tip-Off, something caught my eye on Court 4. That something was 6-foot-7 2021 forward BJ Wright of Perry High School. Playing with the 16U Middle Georgia Ballers, who don plain all-red uniforms, Wright’s strong build caught my eye and when I found out he was only a freshman this season, I knew I had to stay.

It wasn’t the best litmus test, a 29-point blowout win, but the raw tools were too much to ignore. Wright scored 13 points on a bevy of highlight dunks. Wright plays more on the wing with some trips to the block, giving him elite size at his age and position. He had one nice assist on a pick-and-roll slip which provided a glimpse into what his potential might be.

With all young players, college ball is still in the distant future, but that future will come quick. Wright has the god given body and natural skills to become an interesting prospect. He will need to continue to work on his craft and more importantly, everything else away from basketball. If he can put school first with basketball a close second, it will be very fascinating to see what the narrative is surrounding Wright come 2021.

Henry County height

LayPonius Davis
LayPonius Davis

Coming off of an extremely successful 18-11 campaign with a state playoff berth in Year 1 under Coach BJ Thomas, the War Hawks have even more reason for optimism, and that’s not even taking into account that their top two scorers are set to return.  The 2020 class holds two potential breakout candidates on the varsity level in 16U Georgia Impact frontcourt mates 6-foot-6 LayPonius Davis and 6-foot-4 Jeqhuan Carter.

They might not set the world on fire, but they will be usable pieces for Coach Thomas. Davis is a long shot blocker that also posts up well. He will need to get stronger and work on keeping rebounds high, but his size and willingness to run the floor bode well. He had 4 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 3 blocks in a win.

Jeqhuan Carter
Jeqhuan Carter

Carter is the physical garbage man inside. What Davis might lack in bulk, Carter makes up for with his bullish presence in the paint, most notably on the glass. He collected 15 points and 13 rebounds. Though he doesn’t have the elite leaping ability right now, Carter could provide a similar skill set that ‘17 Kovi Tate brought to the table during Henry County’s 2017 Final 4 run.

Super Smash Bro Kirby

Ja'Queze Kirby
Ja’Queze Kirby

2020 6-foot-6 forward Ja’Queze Kirby isn’t pink and isn’t round, but he can float above the rim just like his video game predecessor. The Class AA First Team All-Stater has long been known for his electric athleticism, but this weekend with 16U Upward Stars SE he showed more than just his hops. Kirby piled in his customary 20 points but drilled four three-pointers in the process. Defensively he moved his feet well and came away with two blocks. Kirby is one of the state’s best prospects and the gem of South Georgia. It’s easy to see how he stuffs stat sheets on a nightly basis at Jeff Davis; it’s harder to understand how he hasn’t received a scholarship offer yet – that will change soon.

15U War Eagles Elite

Derek McDonald - Marist
Derek McDonald

Marist’s 2021 group has some talent moving up the pipeline in the form of 5-foot-11 point guard Luke Benson and 6-foot-2 forward Derek McDonald. Benson is a crafty ball handler with poise and a little cool swagger. He gets some nice elevation on his jump shot and can pull-and-pop from the mid-range. McDonald is the workhorse. Already physically strong and to no surprise a football player, McDonald plays a 3/4 role as one of the tallest players on the team. He uses his strength to his advantage to attack the glass and finish drives. He is a high effort player that likes to stick his nose into the action. He has range to the three-point line but will need to solidify the shot as he gets older to make it a true weapon in his arsenal. He scored 16 points in a 45-43 OT loss.

17U SBC Select impresses

Donell Nixon
Donell Nixon

Led by 2019 5-foot-9 point guard Donell Nixon (Buford), SBC Select finished their weekend at the HoopSeen Tip-Off 3-0. Nixon scorched nets all tournament, drilling three after three. He nailed five in a win over the Greater NE GA Warriors, where he finished with 19 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals. His passing may have gotten a little overshadowed playing with Lipscomb-signee Alex Jones the past two seasons, but make no mistake, the dynamic dynamo can dish it out. Wofford, East Tennessee State and Rutgers have all shown interest.

Teammate Grant Van Beveren will see an uptick in his recruitment heading into his senior year. The 6-foot-6 post from Chattahoochee is a sturdy big man that knows how to use his body. You can pencil him in for 10+ rebounds a night. Offensively, Van Beveren showed he can knock down the straightaway three and even pull up off the dribble.

Elberton’s Elite

AJ James - Elbert County
AJ James

Elbert County pieced together a 23-5 record and a trip to the Sweet 16 in Class AA. All-State Honorable Mention 6-foot-3 2019 forward AJ James played a massive role in the Blue Devils’ 9-win increase. James reminds me of current Piedmont Lion and former ’17 Lakeview Academy Lion, Josh Randolph. James is athletic and physical and plays all over the floor for his teams, usually positions 3-5. James bangs inside for the Blue Devils during the regular season, but his wing prowess was on display this weekend with the Greater NE GA Warriors. James posted 11 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks.

I love how he attacks rebounds. Maybe most impressive, is his fearless post defense. James is used to giving up size on a nightly basis and has had wars with 6-foot-7 North Georgia-signee Dylan Orr of Banks County. He had to tussle with big man Grant Van Beveren this weekend and give him fits with his blend of strength and quickness and ability to not foul when denying deep post position. James is a great glue guy that can help teams win on both sides of the ball at multiple positions.

Impressions from the Georgia Cup Finals

HoopSeen hosted its final installment of the Georgia Cup series this past weekend. As always, present and future standouts of the GHSA were on display. With summer team camps getting under way, players will begin to transition back into their respective school’s system of play but will be bringing with them an invaluable measure of experience from earlier in the offseason.

Two high school teams took to the Georgia Cup Finals as Riverwood (29-2) and Dacula (19-7) both began their 2016-17 journeys without some of their best players in school history. Riverwood, who set a school record in wins last year and made a trip to the Elite Eight, gave us a first look at life after Kohl Roberts (GCSU). Dacula flaunted its new-look lineup without Kevon Tucker (Wofford) and Derek St. Hilaire (Gordon State).

Riverwood went 2-2 this weekend while Dacula finished 5-0, rolling to the championship. The Raiders lost to Dacula 63-45 in the semifinals. Rising seniors Elijah Jenkins, Charnchai Chantha and Amir Smith played well in the backcourt, but they didn’t have enough fire power to contend with Dacula after jumping out to an early lead. Riverwood was among the state’s leaders in points allowed last season, relying on a stingy defense, but the Raiders’ bugaboo has always been can they score enough? When Jenkins and Chantha are hot from deep, they are a tough duo to stop, but if they aren’t hitting, Riverwood is susceptible to offensive lulls. Springy 6-foot-6 senior forward Josh Brown along with the play of rising juniors Christian Sutton, Lamin Williams and 6-foot-6 and still growing Nassir Mohammed will determine how well the Raiders cope with the loss of such an important senior class.

Dacula Falcons Taking Flight

Dacula escapes one of the toughest regions in the state and will be one of only two Gwinnett County schools (Lanier) in Region 8-AAAAAA, avoiding the state’s highest classification as well. With such a young group, growing pains could be an issue early on in the season, but the harmonious syncing of the backcourt could offset the loss of the school’s leading scorer (Kevon Tucker).

Sophomore Mekhail Bethea, junior Arusha Hunter and senior Justin Goodson create a backcourt that compliments each other well. Bethea earned more playing time as the season went on last year and will be inserted into a starting role from Game 1 his sophomore season. Bethea was masterful in Dacula’s 80-63 win over Active Elite for the 17U Georgia Cup Finals championship. He finished with 22 points, three assists and four steals. Bethea will need to get stronger, but he already has great composure with the ball in his hands and can create open shots for teammates when diving the lane.

Hunter poured in 19 points in the second half and netted a game-high 23. He was an X-Factor with his ability to knock down threes (3) and attack the boards (8). Hunter even added three assists from his small forward position.  Goodson didn’t get much burn as a junior, but the streaky three-point shooter looks poised for a breakout senior season along with senior Gary Bishop after a strong summer and a few transfers helping open the way. Goodson banged home four deep balls and scored 21 points in the championship.

Once again, the Falcons won’t have much elite size with their tallest player standing 6-foot-4 last season, but that player, Shayne Buckingham, returns for his junior season. Buckingham has seen varsity playing time since he was a freshman and is continuing to gain confidence in his game and become more and more of a consistent contributor. He scored 24 points in a win over Sports Academy South. If Buckingham can run the floor, rebound well and play with a high-motor, he can improve vastly on his 4.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Other Standouts

Lambert won’t have big men Connor Mannion (Navy) and Ross Morkem (North Georgia), but they should have more than enough to be a team that opponents don’t want to face. Andrew Melms will be running the show again at point guard and will enter the 2016-17 season as one of the state’s most underrated tenacious point guards. Musa Thompson enters his senior year as well. Thompson looked impressive with Melms in the Atlanta Warriors backcourt. Thompson has good length at 6-foot-4 and is a fluid athlete that can stretch defenses. Rising juniors Austin Deckard, Damon Stoudamire and Jordan McIlwain all provide depth along a talented backcourt.

BJ Millard, a recent Dunwoody graduate that averaged 16 points and 7.9 rebounds his senior season, played well for the Atlanta Warriors. The 6-foot-5 forward’s work at Dunwoody might have gone unnoticed by those outside of the region, but he is a good player that works hard in the paint.

Shamar Barrett put up big numbers his senior season at Grovetown (17.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.0 apg, 3.1 spg, 2.0 bpg) and is nearing a college decision. Barrett has been a stalwart for Sports Academy South, pitching in 26 points in a loss to Dacula this past weekend.

Keep an eye on Discovery High School. The second-year program returns an interesting cast of talent highlighted by guard DJ Young, 6-foot-5 forward Jaden Stanley and 6-foot-7 forward Kalu Ezikpe, who is only a rising junior. Travis McDaniel also joins the fold as an assistant after coaching at Lanier.