Tift County (26-3)
Camden County (21-6) 5A
Colquitt County (8-15)
Tift County opens as the favorite in Region 1 after falling to Milton in the Sweet 16, 56-54. The graduation of Tyrie Jackson (Virginia Tech) hurts the Blue Devil backcourt after averaging 16.1 points. Luckily Coach Eric Holland returns a healthy Preston Horne after the 6-foot-6 forward tore his ACL mid-way through the season. When healthy, the physical presence in the paint is one of the toughest covers in South Georgia. He averaged a team-best 16.9 points and 8.1 rebounds. While Horne was sidelined, Fred Lloyd picked up the slack. The 6-foot-5 senior finished the year averaging 7.2 points and 5.7 rebounds. He and Micah Johnson, a 6-foot guard that averaged 8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists as a junior, will be asked to help carry the Blue Devils. Johnson committed to Alabama State recently.
Camden County takes the leap from 5A to 7A but will be without the core of their Region 3 championship team. The Wildcats’ top five scorers all graduate leaving guards CJ Sullivan (5.2 ppg) and Brandon Shelton (4.3 ppg) big shoes to fill in their senior seasons. The Wildcats were upset in the first round of the state playoffs, 66-62 by Jones County.
Diminutive point guard Octavius Fudge powers the Lowndes Vikings offense. The 5-foot-7 guard averaged a team-high 13.4 points as a junior and works the backcourt alongside fellow senior Christian Knight, the team’s leading assist man at 3.1 per game. Lowndes clinched a playoff berth last year, but were blown out by McEachern, 87-57.
Colquitt County lost 41-39 in the opening round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs to North Cobb and returns a young team that boasts a handful of football players who will miss the beginning of the season. When on the hardwood, Coach Andy Harden expects junior point guard Cameron Singletary to be one of the team’s leaders while senior forward DaNas Andrews has emerged as a key piece this summer.
East Coweta (5-22)
Region 2 is the strongest region the state of Georgia has ever seen in history. Period. Loaded with blue-chippers, Westlake highlights the field as the defending state champions after defeating Pebblebrook in the finals, 68-58 in overtime. The Lions transformed from a 13-15 team to a state champion after landing a slew of transfers. High-Major standouts 6-foot-7 senior Chuma Okeke (Auburn) and 6-foot-3 junior Jamie Lewis pair up with lethal three-point shooter Danny Lewis (UCF). 6-foot-9 senior Michael Durr has transferred away to Oldsmar Christian, FL, leaving 6-foot-9 Kelvin Simeon a major opportunity to burst onto the scene his final season. Entering the fold will be sophomore Chase Hunter, a talented guard who missed time last year due to injury. At 6-foot-3, Hunter is an above-average athlete that is tenacious on defense when guarding the ball.
Pebblebrook has bolstered their lineup surrounding emerging megastar Collin Sexton. Upon transferring to Pebblebrook from Hillgrove last year, Sexton poured in 28.3 points per game to lead Class AAAAAA and parlayed his play into breaking the single-season scoring record in the EYBL with the Southern Stampede by pumping in over 30 points per game. That performance led to making the 17U USA team and winning MVP honors and garnering 5-star recognition. Sexton also averaged 7.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals during the high school season. High Major recruits 6-foot-6 Elias Harden (Xavier), point guard Drue Drinnon and 6-foot-9 Auburn-commit Jared Jones all join the Falcons this upcoming season. Harden averaged 20.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals at Sandy Creek while Drinnon posted 21.3 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists a night at East Jackson. Uber-athletic high flyer JJ Smith has decommitted from Ole Miss and has transferred back to North Carolina. Still in the mix are young scorer Dwight Murray and bouncy 6-foot-6 forward Mervin James. Sophomore point guard Messiah Thompson moves in from North Atlanta and will provide another crafty passer manning the ball handling duties.
Wheeler was bounced out of the first round of the state playoffs by Grayson, 59-58 and has done some soul searching as they now enter the gauntlet known as Region 2. To keep up with the Joneses, Wheeler has surrounded rising 4-star senior guard and Louisville-commit Darius Perry with 6-foot-5 USC-commit Jordan Usher (Sequoyah), 6-foot-10 Auburn-commit EJ Montgomery (Montverde, FL) and 6-foot-6 budding star Terry Armstrong (Carman-Ainsworth, MI). Montgomery, a junior, is a highly touted 5-star power forward that will fill the role left behind by Romello White (Arizona State). Armstrong is regarded as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2019. He is a high flyer that can handle, rebound, block shots and pour in baskets from all over. He might have the highest ceiling out of anyone on a star-studded roster. Usher racked up 18.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while at Sequoyah. For good measure, the Wildcats went out and nabbed the No. 39 ranked player in the nation, 6-foot-7 Jordan Tucker, who averaged 17.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks at Archbishop Stepinac, NY. Also in are 6-foot-6 junior Brandon Younger, who averaged 11 points per game at Mt. Pisgah and a pair of McEachern move-ins, 6-foot-8 junior Austin Johnson and 6-foot-5 sophomore Isaac Martin, making it seven transfers this offseason. Still in the fold is Stetson-commit Kenny Aninye, who will battle to see the floor his final season as an off guard. Last year point guard play was Wheeler’s achilles heel as the Grayson backcourt got the best of the Wildcats. The new additions should help move Darius Perry back to the lead guard position his senior season and all but erase any glaring weaknesses on Holt Road.
Campbell was as scrappy as they come last year, beating Westlake once and forcing Pebblebrook into overtime before bowing out 104-101. Overall against the two state finals contenders, the Spartans finished 1-4 with their losses coming by a combined 26 points. Campbell marched their way to the Elite Eight, dropping out against Milton 94-83. The Spartans should take a step back however as Laz Walker (20.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Mike Olmert (15.4 ppg, 8.9 apg), Randy McClure (10.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Jovahn Dunham (5.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.3 bpg) all graduate. 5-foot-9 point guard Tyree Crankfield will be asked to carry the load his senior season after posting 11.9 points per game in 2015-16.
Newnan suffers a devastating loss, losing 6-foot-6 twins Jarred and Jarrel Rosser to Gainesville and 6-foot-9 Jannson Williams to the college ranks at Marshall. Khalil McCoy is also gone after averaging team-best 18 points per game at guard. Senior guard Nick Parks returns with plenty of experience.
East Coweta finished 0-14 in the region last year and will be up against it again to score a win this season. Coach Royal Maxwell enters Year 2 of his slow rebuilding process. Team captains Jamir Williams and Mark Mitchell own valuable experience around 6-foot-9 senior center Elafayette Stone who committed to Indiana State on October 21.
North Cobb (15-14)
Kennesaw Mountain (15-14)
North Paulding (8-18)
McEachern rolled its way into the Elite Eight before running into buzz-saw Pebblebrook, 78-71. The Indians boasted the perfect combination of veterans and youth last season, but are now without Bryce Smith, AJ Jones and Darius Jones. Isaac Okoro will be the focal point on offense and defense as a versatile 6-foot-6 forward that contributes in all facets of the game. Sophomore Babatunde Akingbola is now eligible and presents a game-changing defender in the paint at 6-foot-8. The big man has a Georgia Tech offer in hand. Freshman point guard Sharife Cooper is supposed to be an impact player with his passing and scoring ability. The tiny guard is shifty and creative with the ball in his hands, able to find baskets around the rim against bigger defenders. Both Cooper and Okoro earned scholarship offers from Auburn in late August. Isaac Martin is a big loss after the 6-foot-5 rising sophomore guard hit some big shots during his freshman season. He is now at Wheeler. Seniors Tre Peoples, Robert Clemons and Chris Freeman are all reliable pieces for Coach Mike Thompson.
A massive 10-man senior class graduates from North Cobb’s playoff team, leaving the roster prime for opportunities to be seized. Junior point guard Nayari Dampier will be asked to steer the offense. Dampier needs to facilitate and score when asked to keep the Warriors’ offense in motion. Junior Keanu White and sophomore Kevin Hester should anchor the interior. Hester, a physical 6-foot-6, 210-pound big man, is force rebounding the ball.
Kennesaw Mountain was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by Lee County and now need to replace Brian Vonck (GCSU), Marcel Ellis (Brewton-Parker) and Cory Newman. There is youth on the roster however as five underclassmen were listed on last year’s roster. Class of 2019 guard Jalen Knight stands 6-foot-4 and has a nice future. The Mustangs have a star in the making in the form of 6-foot-6 sophomore Jalyn McCreary. As of now, he will not be eligible to play varsity. Whenever the lefty does get the green light, he is a region changer with his ability to shoot the three, rebound and defend. McCreary shined the brightest at the HoopSeen Fall Preview, dropping 23 points and 9 rebounds against consensus top 2019 recruit Terry Armstrong of Wheeler. Couple McCreary with fellow sophomore Christian Ramsey and the Mustangs have a very bright future.
Marietta narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season but return junior 6-foot-4 guard Fionn Brown, who led the team in scoring and 6-foot-6 senior Malik Brown.
The transfer of Collin Sexton zapped Hillgrove of an elite scorer and in the process saw the Hawks plummet from 23-6 to 14-15. The offense runs through rising senior Demeirre Black who carries the team at times. Trey Stevens is another senior that can give teams fits from the perimeter. Stevens is a very active and versatile 6-foot-1 guard that played well at the HoopSeen Elite Preview, pitching in 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals against stiff competition
North Paulding is not void of talent, but they have been of wins as the Wolfpack search for their first state playoff berth since the school opened in 2007. Senior Chad Terrell is a standout in both football and basketball as a 3-star wide receiver and an important presence in the paint. If Terrell chooses to focus solely on football and forgo his final season on the hardwood, it will be a big loss for Coach Ryan Dyer. Terrell led the Pack with 14 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Senior Ethan Reid is a two-way player, known for his defensive prowess. He can score the ball too, averaging 12.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. If Terrell returns and Reid can fortify his three-point shot, there’s no reason why North Paulding shouldn’t have a puncher’s chance to clinch a postseason berth.
There is no dominant team in Region 4 as annual contenders Wheeler, Milton and Pope have all dispersed leaving six programs trying to start building consistent winning ways. The presumed favorite will be Woodstock. The Wolverines punched their ticket to the state playoffs for the first time in school history (20 years) after eliminating rival Etowah at Etowah in the region tournament. Returning is one of the best players in school history, Tyreke Johnson. The 6-foot-4 senior guard has taken his lumps throughout the years but has worked hard throughout the process and has seen it come to fruition. Johnson averaged 17.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals as the go-to guy on offense and lock-down defender. Johnson is a foul magnet, taking 247 free throw attempts; fifth in the state. The scoring burden should be lifted as Dylin Hardeman transfers back into town after spending time at St. Francis. The junior has an alpha dog mentality and can get his own shot off. Georgia Tech baseball-commit Brant Hurter anchors the paint at 6-foot-6 while late bloomer Cameron Crowe, a 6-foot-6 forward, has impressed this summer with his activity around the basket. Crowe stood out at the SEBA Atlanta All-Star Shootout. He is a sneaky good three-point shooter from the corners and scored a 31 on his ACT. Covenant College, Huntingdon University, Methodist University, Grinnell and Oxford of Emory have all checked in. Hurter has a soft left-handed touch and can stretch defenses out to the three-point line when he isn’t bruising away on the low block. Woodstock has developed playable depth with juniors Quentin Doby, Sid Mesumbe, Will Allen, Noah Frith, Nate Garner and Dominic Hewitt all capable high school players. Senior Jacob Laconi doesn’t score much but he is a steady defender at point guard.
Etowah will try to spoil the party and steal Woodstock’s thunder as the team to beat in Towne Lake. Head Coach Allen Whitehart arrives with a resume filled with winning games and coaching talented players. The Eagles have deadly shooters in Lewis Simonson and Nick Nagy outside while Julian Baldwin gives Etowah a potential-laced big body inside at 6-foot-6. Adrian Cohen has shown flashes of brilliance over the summer, but the well put together 6-foot-4 junior slasher needs to find consistency.
The third Cherokee County based team, Cherokee, has one of the best coaches in the state roaming the sidelines for yet another year in Roger Kvam. Kvam maximizes each player’s talent and keeps the Warriors in games they should have no business winning, like when they upset eventual Class AAA state champion Morgan County 57-52 in the third game of the year at the Battle at the Rock tournament. Senior Phillip Cirillo has designs on playing at the D-I level as a high-scoring 6-foot-4 guard. With the talent he has, he can’t fall into shootouts with other teams’ best players and must continue to trust his teammates. Cirillo originally committed to Air Force but has since reopened his recruitment. Rising senior Elisha Mayberry is a sleeper with his athleticism and length inside.
Roswell will turn loose tight end prospect Tyneil Hopper. The aggressive forward is a little rough around the edges but will be only a junior and can cause problems attacking the basket and on the glass. Senior RJ Frierson is a long post player that should alter shots inside. The scoring void left by Matt Gonda will need to be filled by committee.
Walton has fallen on hard times and experienced a baptism by fire last year with an extremely young roster. Rising senior Juanye Colon is the Raiders’ top scorer as a high-octane shooter from the outside.
It’s been a long rebuilding process for Lassiter. Senior forward Nolan Moon looks to build upon his All-Region Honorable Mention selection in 2015-16.
South Forsyth (14-15)
Forsyth Central (12-15)5A
North Forsyth (9-16)
West Forsyth (7-20)
Milton moves in with the Forsyth County school district and will turn to explosive scorer Alex O’Connell, a Duke-commit, to lead the charge in his final season. The 4-star shooting guard has been described as bouncy and has a fearless swagger to his game. He can score at all three levels and has been a major stock riser over the summer as a highly coveted 6-foot-5 bucket getter. The Eagles will need to reload around O’Connell however as Chris Lewis (Harvard) and Kyrin Galloway (UNC Greensboro) leave massive voids in the frontcourt. Dazzling dribbler Kendrick Summerour returns for his senior season but junior guard Justin Brown has set sail to return home at Northview. Adam Brown enters his senior season after earning some minutes last year as a 6-foot-5 forward. A slew of new faces are expected to join the varsity roster. 6-foot-3 freshman point guard Christian Wright moves in from Holy Spirit Prep and brings with him a very high ceiling. Ulyric Wright is another guard from Texas. Sophomore Brady O’Connell, Alex’s brother, should make his varsity debut as an explosive 6-foot-6 wing. Sophomores Jake Biebess (6-foot-10) and Matthew Bennett (6-foot-8) are also in the picture.
Lambert loses stalwart big men in Connor Mannion (Navy) and Ross Morkem (North Georgia). Tenacious senior point guard Andrew Melms (10 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 7.7 apg) looks to put a capper on a great career while Musa Thompson and Damon Stoudamire attempt to breakthrough. Junior Austin Deckard provides sharp shooting from the outside, but 6-foot-5 forward David Viti has transferred to Buford for his junior season. Lambert will likely play a fast paced game with its abundance of guards, sophomore Mitch Ganote looking to follow in Melms’ footsteps once the veteran graduates.
South Forsyth put a scare into Norcross in the first round of the state playoffs by implementing a snail’s pace before falling 45-37. Evan Cole emerged as one of the state’s top sleepers after averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks and cashed in with a multitude of D-I offers filing in before electing to play at UNC Wilmington. At 6-foot-8, the versatile Cole is a matchup nightmare with his ability to knock down open jumpers and crash the boards for put-backs. The deceptive athlete should be a wrecking ball in the low post this season and continue to see his stock soar. 6-foot guard Isaiah Magee enters his junior season and his first year with the War Eagles after transferring in from West Forsyth. Sophomore Jefferson Stepp is another name to keep an eye on.
Forsyth Central jumps from 5A to the highest classification in the state but lose their top two scorers to graduation. Undersized forward Ethan Hester averaged 9.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks as a 6-foot-4 junior. He can cause some issues for opponents with his ability to step outside and hit the three (28-86; 33%). Senior Patrick Thomas is a nice piece in the paint at 6-foot-5. He is a strong and athletic big man that can rebound and defend the post. Senior guard CJ Smith is a capable shooter that handles a lot of the perimeter duties.
North Forsyth must replace guard Chad Bureau who averaged 16 points and 5 rebounds per game as an All-County First Teamer. He graduates as the school’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, charges taken and games played. A senior class consisting of Caleb Murphy, Connor Stephenson, Bryce Thomas and others must step up. Rising juniors Caelan Thomas and Preston Wiggins bring the most size at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4, respectively.
The rebuild at West Forsyth is underway as former Alpharetta head coach Fredrick Hurt takes over. Hurt captured back-to-back Region 6-AAAAAA titles in 2014-15. Forwards John Peterson and Jay Magee, All-County Honorable Mention performers, graduate. Junior guard Joe Freitas showed great promise last year, highlighted by netting a game-high 27 in a win against Seymour, TN.
Collins Hill (25-5)
Peachtree Ridge (19-11)
Mountain View (13-13)
Mill Creek (14-15)
North Gwinnett (6-20)
Collins Hill stunned Norcross last year to win the Region 7-AAAAAA title, but following a first round 62-52 win over Alpharetta, Pebblebrook knocked the Eagles out in the Sweet 16, 65-55. Collins Hill loses a key core in AJ Cheeseman (New Orleans), TeShaun Hightower (Mt. Zion Prep) and Kai Lambert (Truett-McConnell). The Eagles dealt with heavy injury problems but were able to build depth for the future. Their senior backcourt of JD Ozoh and Max Clark is one of the most experienced in the County even though Clark missed a bulk of the season due to injury. Add JaQuan Morris to the mix from Central Gwinnett and the backcourt is rock solid. Morris exploded this offseason with his scoring prowess, soon to make him a priority among LM schools if he can stay on the floor. He could provide the same scoring punch TeShaun Hightower did last season after coming from relative obscurity. Energy man Kenny Stanciel will see an increased role his senior season after making the most of his playing time in 2016 and scoring the ball well on the summer circuit. Junior Chris Parks must become an impact player inside with his 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame. Rising junior Justin Lee, a 6-foot-6 perimeter player, earned scholarship offers from James Madison and Memphis. He drips with potential due to his size and touch, but will need to improve his shot selection. Lee’s ceiling is very high and he should benefit from Coach Ty Baumgardner’s coaching.
Peachtree Ridge made a trip to the Sweet 16 where they lost to semifinalist Newton 63-61. Milz Tatum and Markel McCollum graduate but Devin Vassell and Fred Payton have impressed over the summer. Vassell is a wiry 6-foot-5 junior wing that should take the reins as one of the Lions’ go-to options. He picked up a North Florida offer over the offseason. Caleb Holifield transfers in from Pace Academy and should bring an outside shooting touch to pair with Payton, both juniors. Dirty work man senior Connor Heyward, a 3-star football athlete, brings his gridiron mentality to the hardwood as an aggressive rebounder and defender. 6-foot-5 senior Kristian Collins is an active forward to keep an eye on.
Duluth turns to former Alcorn State assistant and St. Francis state championship winning coach Cabral Huff after Eddie Hood took the AD position at Central Gwinnett. A feisty backcourt of juniors Lamont Smith and Adam Flagler make the Wildcats a dangerous team even after the graduation of Javis Diaz and shot blocking ace Obinna Ofodile (The Citadel). Brandon Blair transfers away for his senior season, but Daylan Smith moves in from Centennial. Alex Powell, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, holds promise but he must get stronger to become an impact player consistently. 6-foot-5 Jalen Hodges is a physical forward that brings a mean streak to Duluth, always looking to tear rims down. Christian Kelly, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, adds some three-point shooting to the Wildcats backcourt.
Mill Creek won’t wow you with size or athletes even though they are the biggest school in Georgia with nearly 4,000 students. What they will do is play fundamental offense and defense and let other teams beat themselves. Senior forward Christian Mancillas does a little bit of everything and will be the unquestioned leader. Rising sophomores Jayden Marshall, Brandon Fletcher and Matthew McDowell should all be important contributors, especially Marshall who saw quality time at point guard as a freshman. Senior Matty Dobbs brings energy to the backcourt while rising freshman Kendall Latney looks to have a very bright future as a strong combo guard that can score the ball.
The loss of sophomore Donell Nixon II (12.4 ppg, 69-145 3PT; 45%) hurts Mountain View greatly, but the young team full of rising juniors has great cohesion after many of them played together with 17U Heat Check. 6-foot-3 Spencer Rodgers returns as the team’s leading scorer and one of the best shooters in the county. The junior averaged 15.4 points and drilled 79-of-183 threes at a 43% mark. Miles Long and Jalen Hayes round out the backcourt with Kevin Kayongo playing the role of swiss-army knife. Kayongo rebounds, defends and passes at a high level, making him the ultimate glue-guy. KJ Kirby has moved in from GAC to help the guard depth. Senior Uchenna Nwagbara and sophomore Brandon Green must hold their own inside as 6-foot-4 forwards. Green can play all over the floor and much like Kayongo and can affect games in a multitude of ways.
Playing in the deepest region in Class AAAAA last year, Discovery held its own for a first year program. Jaden Stanley transferred in from Montana last season and has improved his game immensely. The 6-foot-5 forward and score inside and out on his man and is primed for a big year. He averaged 7 points and 5 rebound as a junior but now is transitioning to playing the wing full-time. After a strong summer circuit with AC Georgia Phoenix, Stanley has earned interest from Low-Mid Major programs and currently holds an Air Force offer. Senior guard DJ Young is a reliable scorer that was named All-Region after posting 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.5 steals per game. The strongest asset of Young’s game might be his college-level on-ball defense. Junior Kalu Ezikpe is an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-7 with D-I interest after teaming up with Stanley on AC Phoenix. Senior guard Brian Liles stretches defenses with his three-point shooting (39%) and averaged 7 points a night in 2015-16. Newcomers Tyshawn Chaney, Jaylen Bussey and Joseph Phipps all project to strengthen the Titan backcourt.
North Gwinnett was a young team last year and loses three-point specialist Colby Leifson to graduation. Co-Captain 6-foot-6 guard Ethan Smith should be a top scoring option his final season after averaging 7.5 points, 4 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Seniors 6-foot-7 Co-Captain Brandon Maffei (9.2 ppg, 5 rpg) and 6-foot-5 Michael Joseph (8.7 ppg, 6 rpg) are big bodies that bang inside and can score on the block. The trio returns for Coach Matt Garner as a group of experienced starters. Sophomores Cameron Rowland, Tyler Goodson and Warren Burrell are all going to see important playing time as athletic guards. Rowland can score in a hurry from behind the arc and should be a very good player at North Gwinnett.
Central Gwinnett (13-14)
Norcross received a tough draw and lost in the second round of the state tournament to Westlake 61-50, a loss that has provided fuel to the fire coming into the 2016-17 season. The Blue Devils have one of the best frontcourts in the state between 6-foot-9 Lance Thomas (8.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.7 bpg) and 6-foot-8 Rayshaun Hammonds (16.7 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 bpg), both seniors. Both have seen their stocks rise with impressive play on the EYBL circuit. All five starters return including senior Jordan Goldwire, who has seen a major jump in his recruitment as well after averaging 7.9 points and 3.3 assists. JoJo Toppins, a raw 6-foot-6 junior guard from Meadowcreek, presents a potential X-factor. Toppins has picked up offers from UGA and Mississippi State from his production with the Atlanta Celtics. He is an electrifying athlete that should slash in for buckets. Sophomore point guard Kyle Sturdivant will elevate his game in Year 2 after a sensationally steady freshman campaign saw him average 12.1 points and 2.7 assists. Junior Dalvin White pitched in 8.4 points and 3.5 assists as another reliable guard.
Berkmar regained their fearsome form last year behind a deep backcourt. The Patriots got hot down the stretch but were doused by McEachern in the second round, 70-49. Indiana-commit Al Durham (14.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) leads the charge while Jay Estime (12.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and NJIT-commit Zach Cooks (11.4 ppg) are future D-I players. Ian Hardy is a smooth sophomore guard that can fill it up and get after it defensively. He could be next in line to emerge as a D-I prospect. The Patriots will contend with great guard play. An anchor in the paint is all that’s missing from Berkmar’s talented roster.
Brookwood saw a 10-win increase but was edged out by Grayson in the region tournament and didn’t clinch a playoff berth. Micah Kinsey has graduated, leaving behind his 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 4.2 steals. Donald “Bubba” Parham returns as the leading scorer after posting 14.8 per in 2015-16. Senior Trae Higginbotham is a reliable guard (7.6 ppg) that should see an uptick in his scoring. The loss of developing 6-foot-7 Amari Kelly to Meadowcreek hurts Brookwood’s interior. Senior Markus Smith is being counted on to be a game-changer as a 6-foot-4 forward.
Lakeside-DeKalb crashes the Gwinnett County party after registering their first winning season since 2010. Rising juniors Damon Davis and Martin Haggray will be the focal points now that Sean Atwater has graduated. Davis, a 6-foot-2 guard, has played well over the summer with 16U 3-Point Play while Haggary averaged 6.4 rebounds as a 6-foot-6 post for the Vikings. Point guard Cameron Starkes has transferred in for his senior season after averaging 8.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 steals at Druid Hill. He can finish at the rim off the bounce and also has a nice pull-up game that helps loosen up the defense.
Central Gwinnett snuck into the postseason last year, breaking Dacula’s heart in the Region 8-AAAAAA tournament. They won’t be sneaking around anymore with Jalen Hillary leading the charge his senior season. Hillary averaged 13.8 points per game, but loses his top scoring mate JaQuan Morris to Collins Hill. Replacing Morris is athletic 6-foot-4 senior wing Jaylen Morgan who moves in from East Jackson. Junior guard Bernard Kasanda is someone who Coach Branden Mayweather is very high on while freshman Skylar Adams projects to be one of the better shooters in the state. Inside Arrhen Fejokwu and Julian Grajales bring a toughness to the paint.
Parkview could be one of the most improved teams in the state with its roster chock full of juniors and sophomores. Coach Nick Gast’s top three leading scorers return in juniors Cam Chavers (10.3 ppg) and Jack Lapenta (7.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg) along with sophomore Truitt Spencer (9.8 ppg). Parkview could become something special over the next few years as long as Ahmir Langlais and Toneari Lane continue to improve. Langlais, the rising 6-foot-7 sophomore, has a soft touch inside and has the potential to develop into one of the state’s better big men in due time. Lane will also be added to the mix. The 6-foot-5 wing is a highly touted freshman that originally was thought to be heading to Central Gwinnett. Instead he will attend Parkview with Langlais, who he played on the Atlanta Xpress with this summer. Lane is a long attacker who can get to the basket and also help out greatly on the glass.
Meadowcreek turns to Curtis Gilleyen to revamp the program after Willie Reese jumped ship after one season to take over at Griffin. Gilleyen has turned around programs in the past, having success with Druid Hills and Stephenson before coaching the Columbia girls team last season. 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Jamir Chaplin transfers in from Stephenson where he averaged 8.7 points while adding 5.4 rebounds. He can score in the lane, rebound at a high clip and distribute with the best of them. Chaplin has offers from Tulane and Middle Tennessee State. 6-foot-7 junior Amari Kelly has transferred in from Brookwood along with 6-foot-7 junior Cory Hightower. Kelly averaged 6.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while Hightower saw sparing playing time. The trio of new faces all played with Stackhouse Elite over the summer.
Rockdale County (16-12)
South Gwinnett (5-20)
Newton took a trip to the Final Four in Class AAAAAA before running out of gas against eventual champion Westlake, 64-59. The Rams bring back one of the best backcourts in the state led by JD Notae and sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans, who won Freshman of the Year in the state of Georgia. Notae is a scoring wizard, able to score from everywhere on the floor. The 6-foot-2 guard is also an exceptional and willing rebounder. He has seen his recruitment heat up along the LM-MM level. Hagans is a blue-chip point guard that already has offers from SEC schools. Hagans’ court-vision is mature beyond his years and plays at a breakneck tempo when he wants to that leaves opponents in the dust. At 6-foot-3 Hagans is everything you want in a guard, averaging 12 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals per game as a freshman. Senior Josh Tukes came on strong in the paint at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5 Dre Butler brings a rebounding and scoring presence inside as he enters his junior season after injuring his leg halfway through last year and missing the Rams’ postseason run. Butler averaged 8 points and 8 rebounds prior to his season ending. The Rams get a major boost in Eastside transfer Isaiah Miller. The dynamic 6-foot senior guard finished second in Class AAAA in scoring last season at 25.3 points per game to go with his 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 1.0 block. Seniors Darvin Jones amd Dante Johnson along with sophomores Colby Rogers and Armani Harris provide depth for a Rams team that went 22-2 over the summer. Rogers is a versatile 6-foot-3 guard that can score from all three levels and also help out on the glass and defensively with his length.
Shiloh moves on from the Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech) era. After D-I transfers Khalil Richard (Siena) and Darnell Rogers (George Washington) lasted just a few weeks before having to transfer back home, the Generals still put together another dominant season powered by their defense. Anchoring the paint still is Middle Tennessee State-commit TJ Massenburg. The 6-foot-8 senior burst onto the scene from Augusta and saw his stock soar after averaging 11.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 4 blocks per game. Massenburg has even added a three-point shot that has advanced his evolution as a player. North Florida-commit Brian Coffey Jr. transfers in from Greater Atlanta Christian to run the point along with Duluth transfer Brandon Blair. VMI-commit Greg James provides shooting from the outside and will be asked to take his game to the next level now that 6-foot-6 sophomore wing Elias King has transferred to Huntington Prep, WV. Junior TJ Stargell will have opportunities to run the show as a pass-first point guard.
Grayson made a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight by stunning defending champion Wheeler at Wheeler. The dynamic backcourt of Alphonso Willis (18.8 ppg) and Austin Dukes (18 ppg) has graduated, leaving way for understudies Deivon Smith and Justin Fleming to run the show. Smith, a 5-foot-7 freshman, is pound-for-pound as good a freshman guard in the state with his IQ and all-around floor leadership. By the time Smith is a senior, he may follow in the footsteps of Dukes, who grew to 5-foot-11 and put together a great high school career. Travis Anderson transfers in from East Jackson after flirting with attending Grayson a year ago. Anderson brings legitimacy to the backcourt and will take on the lead-dog role as Smith and Fleming find their footing. Anderson has interest from High Major schools across the country after averaging 18 points per game. Inside, 6-foot-6 sophomore Kenyon Jackson brings a stalwart defensive presence. He averaged 10.1 rebounds and 3.9 blocks but must become more aggressive on offense. Senior Kyle Butts is a tough-nosed rebounder in the paint as a 6-foot-5 senior. Senior forward Joey Chavez presents a streaky shooter after seeing sparing playing time last year. Chavez is a good floor stretcher that can get hot from beyond the arc. He had a good summer with Grayson. 6-foot-3 wing Aaron Rowe transfers in from Parkview for his senior season. He will be a nice piece on the perimeter. Sophomore Reco Hallmon is a talented scorer that will force his way into the rotation sooner rather than later. 6-foot-6 senior Gerald Buncum comes in from Jack Britt High School in North Carolina. Buncum is a bouncy big man that can play above the rim and pair nicely with Jackson as two dangerous shot blockers.
Rockdale’s record might not have shown it, but the Bulldogs were as dangerous a team as there was in Class AAAAAA. Just ask Newton who beat the Dogs 99-94 in overtime before being upset on their Senior Night by Rockdale 52-50. Jalen Jordan was a scoring maven (17.5 ppg), but has graduated. In fact Rockdale’s top five scorers all have graduated. 6-foot-6 senior Cameron Gaines is the team’s returning leading scorer at 4.9 points per game. Keep an eye on rising junior forward Sayvon Traylor. The 6-foot-5 well-built big guy looks more like a banger, but he catches opponents off guard with his soft touch from the outside and his skillset which is closer to a guard’s than a post. Traylor’s versatility helped the Rockdale JV to a 14-1 record. He averaged 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Cleveland State has checked in on him. Sophomore guard Torezz Alexander should slide into an important role with the varsity.
Archer graduates Darrion Taylor and his team-best 16.8 points as part of an eight-man senior class. Brenden Tucker is the future. The 6-foot-2 sophomore averaged 9.3 points and 3.2 assists as a freshman and has picked up a Kennesaw State offer after filling in buckets this offseason. Junior guard Shaikim Jenks could see major minutes in the backcourt alongside Tucker.
Ty Anderson steps in to lead South Gwinnett after the Comets sunk to 5-20 overall and 1-16 in Region 8. Junior guard DJ Williams looks ready to lead the attack while 6-foot-5 Brycen Lee provides length and versatility in the paint. Senior D’onte Torrence was among the Comets’ leading scorers last year along with junior Gimal Evans. Senior guard Angelo Taylor stands 6-foot-2 with some untapped potential. Nahiem Alleyne, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard, represents a bright future for South Gwinnett, a team that will defend and compete every possession.