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GHSA Class AAAAAAA Preview



Region 1

Tift County (26-3)
Camden County (21-6) 5A
Lowndes (15-14)
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.


Region 2

Westlake (27-4)
Pebblebrook (23-10)
Wheeler (22-6)
Campbell (21-9)
Newnan (11-15)
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.


Region 3

McEachern (26-4)
North Cobb (15-14)
Kennesaw Mountain (15-14)
Marietta (13-12)
Hillgrove (14-15)
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.


Region 4

Woodstock (14-15)
Etowah (14-14)
Cherokee (12-14)
Roswell (10-16)
Walton (10-16)
Lassiter (3-22)

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.


Region 5

Lambert (27-4)
Milton (23-9)
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.


Region 6

Collins Hill (25-5)
Peachtree Ridge (19-11)
Duluth (16-10)
Mountain View (13-13)
Mill Creek (14-15)
Discovery (11-14)5A
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.


Region 7

Norcross (26-4)
Berkmar (20-9)
Brookwood (17-9)
Lakeside-DeKalb (14-10)
Central Gwinnett (13-14)
Parkview (10-16)
Meadowcreek (7-20)

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.


Region 8

Newton (26-5)
Shiloh (24-6)
Grayson (22-8)
Rockdale County (16-12)
Archer (10-17)
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.

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.

GHSA Class AAAAA Preview



Region 1

Warner Robins (21-3)
Bainbridge (21-9)4A
Harris County (9-16)
Thomas County Central (5-21)4A
Veterans (3-23)4A 

The last team to beat Miller Grove in the state playoffs? Warner Robins in 2014-15. The Demons are the only hiccup in the Wolverines’ seven state titles in eight years. Last year, Warner Robins lost only three games but was bounced too soon, losing in the Sweet 16 to Southwest DeKalb, 65-60. Marquez Callaway is off to Tennessee to play football while 6-foot-8 Donovan Brown is set to play at Columbia State.  Juniors Jacolbey Owens (10 ppg) and Nelson Phillips (12 ppg) are next in line to lead the Demons. Owens is a big shot maker while Phillips is a long wing that can defend the ball well and create his own shot. Junior guard Champ Dawson moves in after averaged 10.8 points at First Presbyterian Day and will make an immediate impact to a young and talented backcourt. Jaron Zanders (6 ppg), Jaydon Norman (5 ppg) and Jam’l Dillard (4 ppg) round out a rising junior class.

Terry Smith takes over the reins at Bainbridge after coaching at Peach County. It will be a challenging task as UGA signee Tyree Crump, DeVonte Jones, Trevon Shaw and Myles Thomas all graduate. Senior D’Anta Williams should see the scoring burden placed on his shoulders after averaging 7.8 points and 5.6 rebounds as a 6-foot-4 guard.

Harris County and Head Coach Patavious Sorrell lose a pair of 17-point per game scorers in Donald Johnson III and Jaylyn Richardson. Junior 6-foot-2 guard Riqueito Leonard IV and 6-foot-7 senior Aquavious Fanning are the foundation of the Tiger team. Leonard averaged 11.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals while Fanning averaged a double-double and blocked nearly four shots a game. Senior three-point specialist AJ Coker moves into the starting lineup after serving as sixth man last year. He shot 45% from three in 2015-16. Guards Tre Terry and Tailique Williams are set to make their full-time debuts on the varsity squad and will bring with them tenacious perimeter defense.

Thomas County Central exits a deep 11-team Region 1-AAAA for the smaller five-team group in Region 1-AAAAA. The Yellow Jackets had to deal with five teams with 19 wins or more last season and should see a little more success this year. 5-foot-7 junior guard Tae Cooksey led the team in scoring at 9.9 points. 5-foot-11 senior Berle Jones should round out the backcourt after netting 6 points on average.

Veterans flopped to 3-23 last year, but talent returns for the Warhawks. Veterans will be anchored by a pair of seniors: 6-foot-7 Josh Linder and 6-foot guard Dathan Boyd. Linder averaged over 13 points and 12 rebounds while Boyd led the team in scoring with upwards of 14 points a night. The slender and active forward committed to Georgia State over the summer. The Warhawks will be under new leadership as Nick Brooks, a former Warner Robins assistant, assumes the head coaching job.


Region 2

Statesboro (22-9)
New Hampstead (17-11)4A
Ware County (17-14)
South Effingham (7-19)
Wayne County (4-24)4A

Statesboro had its ups and downs last year in Region 3-AAAAA, a region that featured six teams with 17 or more wins. It looked as if the Blue Devils had peaked at the right time but Statesboro fell in the Region title game to Camden County. They quickly rebounded, beating Cross Creek in the opening round of the state playoffs and looked destined to upset Riverwood in the Sweet 16, but the Raiders held the Blue Devils to just 13 points in the second half as Riverwood stormed back for a wild and controversial 48-47 victory. For the 2016-17 season Statesboro will rely on its guard play led by 6-foot-2 senior Marcus Kirkland. Kirkland along with junior Tyler Goodman worked well in the offseason together. Statesboro is at its best when they are knocking down threes.

New Hampstead set a school-record in wins with 17 last year under the guidance of Coach Tonya Mackey. Since opening in 2012, Mackey has overseen the steady progress of the Phoenix basketball team. In fact, the now fifth-year school has made the postseason every year except for its inaugural season. The Phoenix earned their first postseason win last year as they upset Upson-Lee, 73-56 as a No. 4 seed. New Hampstead returns its top seven leading scorers, six of which are now seniors led by the dazzling play of 5-foot-7 lefty Oronte Anderson. Anderson poured in 22.1 points and added 4.6 assists as a junior. The dynamo long-distance sniper hit on 63-of-102 threes for a 62% rate. Joining the attack is 6-foot-6 Xavier Jones (14.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg) and Calvin Turner Jr. (12.8 ppg).

Ware County surged into the playoffs winning 11-straight games before dropping three straight to finish the season with an 89-61 loss to Warner Robins in the first round. Senior guard JeMar Lincoln finished up a strong junior campaign and will be the presumed go-to guy now that Michael Flynn has graduated. Jared Richardson, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, also returns as an important piece moving forward.

South Effingham’s returning leading scorer will be senior Derrick Newberry who pitched in over 6 points per game. The Mustangs graduate six seniors including top scorers Travis Simmons and Ben Brennan. Five sophomores suited up last year and should be in line to make contributions in 2016-17.

Wayne County will try to be more competitive this season after hiring Lemetrice Ray. The Yellow Jackets haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. Though they only won four games last year, the Jackets scored major upsets of Ware County, 65-47 and Long County, a 20-win team, 74-64.


Region 3

McIntosh (29-3)
Morrow (22-8)
Fayette County (15-12)4A
Whitewater (14-11)4A
Starr’s Mill (12-12)
Riverdale (10-15)4A
Griffin (7-18)4A 

The most successful era in McIntosh basketball came to a close after losing to Miller Grove in the Class AAAAA Final Four, 72-52. Jordan Lyons (Furman), Dishon Lowery (Wofford), Will Washington, Isaac Kellum, Chase Walter all graduate; the Chiefs’ entire starting five. The future of the program now lies within 6-foot-7 shooter Cole Guenther. The rising junior is long and lanky and can catch fire with the best of them. It will be interesting to see him in his new found expanded role. If Guenther can add some more weight onto his frame and continue to build his confidence, the sniper could warrant some college looks. Guenther put on a three-point exhibition with Furman on hand to watch and has a handful of schools starting to lineup to track his progress. Senior forward Ben Bryant along with guards Will Strowman, Jaylen Holloway and Mitch Maxwell return with varsity experience.

Morrow was ahead of schedule last year with a young team, improving from 10-15 to 22-8. The Mustangs edged Shaw in overtime 57-55 in the opening round of the state playoffs before dropping to Allatoona 52-41. Junior guards Leviticus Glover and Keion Shinka-Parris spearhead the attack. Glover poured in 17 points per game while Shinka-Parris tossed in 11.1. Inside, 6-foot-5 senior forward Stanley Henderson averaged 13 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Di’Jon Brown also brings firepower to the table, scoring over 8 points per game and earning All-County Honorable Mention honors. With a now proven core still intact, the Mustangs could emerge as the team to beat in Region 3.

The reigning Region 5-AAAA Player of the Year, Furman-commit Noah Gurley, will try to help Fayette County make another trip back to the Sweet 16. The Tigers upset Buford 69-62 and later fell to Monroe in overtime, 72-67. Gurley, 6-foot-7, blossomed into a D-I prospect his junior season after earning Most Improved Player honors for AAAA. He averaged 16.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. Senior guards Austin Nesmith (9 ppg, 5.5 apg) and Phillip Young (8.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) will join Gurley after second-leading scorer Jaylon Cheffin has graduated and Eric Williams has transferred to Sandy Creek.

Whitewater is in search for a new go-to guy on offense and some leadership after their top five scorers – all seniors – graduate. 6-foot-3 senior forward Jordan Wright posted 5.7 points and 6.0 rebounds a game last year and will likely be a focal point along with senior Josh Anthony and junior Josh Graham.

Starr’s Mill is next in line to breakthrough and make the playoffs sooner rather than later. The young team has gone through its growing pains but still managed to post a 10-8 record in Region 4-AAAAA last year. Junior guard Zach Pina leads the attack, averaging 15.5 points per game and 2.6 assists. He was named All-County last year following his Freshman Region Player of the Year honors in 2014-15. He had help from rising sophomore 6-foot-4 Nate Allison, who went for 12.2 points and 6.5 rebounds as a freshman. Allison followed in Pina’s footsteps, winning Region Freshman of the Year for 4-AAAAA. The inside-out punch also features junior Drew Hudson who chipped in 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. At 6-foot-5, Hudson poses matchup problems with his ability to shoot the long ball, rebound and defend. Only three seniors graduate from last year’s team. A winning record would be their first since 2012-13 when the Panthers finished 18-11.

Coach Derick Powell has taken baby steps in returning Riverdale back to its glory days. In his first year back on the sidelines, Powell directed the Raiders to a 10-15 season after Riverdale finished 6-18 in Xavier Trice’s final year. All five starters return for their senior years headlined by All-County Honorable Mention selections Jonathan Foster, James Johnson and Jeran Walton.

Willie Reese takes over as head coach at Griffin after a one-year stint at Meadowcreek.  The Bears have some talent for a 7-win team. 7-foot senior center Tyshaun Crawford is a late bloomer starting to come into his own. He committed to Georgia Southern and will be a long term project with an interesting ceiling. Right now the raw big man is a space eater that alters shots and has become more aggressive attacking loose balls and scoring inside. He averaged 9.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks as a junior.  Tyrique Williams is a 6-foot-5 senior forward that led the team in scoring with 9.5 points and 5.2 rebounds. Junior Darrell Evans added 6.7 points and rising sophomore point guard Jacarlin Dennis pitched in over 6 points on average.


Region 4

Eagle’s Landing (24-5)4A
Stockbridge (14-10)
Woodland-Stockbridge (14-10)
Jones County (16-13)
Dutchtown (11-15)
Union Grove (9-16)
Locust Grove (9-17)4A
Ola (3-20)
Hampton (0-26)4A

Eagle’s Landing saw a fantastic season destroyed in the first round of the state playoffs, losing to Bainbridge 80-49. The Eagles must replace top two leading scorers Jordan Lewis (15.6 ppg) and Antonio Gibson (11 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Back are young guards Tarrence Evans and Chris Hood who both produced as underclassmen. Evans averaged 10.2 points as a sophomore while Hood netted 7.8 points per game as a 6-foot-3 freshman. New to the fold is 6-foot-8 center Mohammed Abubukar who transfers in from Hamilton Heights, TN. The recent North Carolina A&T-commit is a major post presence that has a nice skill set inside and could become a game-changer with steady guard play around him. He is comfortable attacking from the high post, getting to the basket and has shown confidence in launching from the three-point line. The Eagles also added All-County First Team selection junior guard Brandon Thomas. The 6-foot-3 shooter averaged close to 18 points per game at region foe Locust Grove and has earned interest from D-I schools in the southeast with his pure jumper, netting an offer from Kennesaw State.

Virgil Fields and JaDon Davis take their talents to Albany State after starring in the backcourt for Stockbridge. The duo put up video-game like numbers, Davis averaging 23 points and Fields going for 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Next in line to take over looks like Kavonte Ivery, a 6-foot-6 forward that averaged 11.1 points as a sophomore.

Woodland-Stockbridge loses some of its top scoring options but junior Jaylyn Clark and senior JayQuan Coles are expected back. Coles, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive tackle on the football team, averaged 7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds as a space eating post. Senior Benjamin Ross is a high-flying wing that brings energy to the Woodland perimeter.

Jones County made a run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 4 seed, upsetting Camden County 66-62 before falling to Mays 70-68. The Greyhounds lose a lot from their explosive offense with Devin Wooten (23.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.1 apg), Landravious Bowden (16.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Jayvaugn Patterson (13 ppg, 5.6 rpg) all graduating. Junior forward Kylan Hill’s transfer to Central-Macon hurts as well as he led the team in rebounding at 7.6 while averaging 8.9 points. Coach’s son, Dennis Woolfolk Jr., returns for his senior season after posting 5.6 points and 6.2 assists per game. Help could be on the way as Wooten’s younger cousin, Bryson Wooten, is set to attend Jones County for his freshman year. The 5-foot-10 guard could see playing time as a freshman after putting together a nice summer with 14U Macon United HypeSouth Elite.

Jamal Basit looks to steer Dutchtown in the right direction in his first year as head coach after a stay at South Gwinnett. Bryce Parks is in place for his senior season after averaging over 11 points per game. Parks works hard on both ends of the floor and isn’t afraid to facilitate. He will need some help around him as Que Askew and Innocent Onyegbula have both graduated as top scoring options.

With their top five leading scorers coming back, Union Grove has its sights set on making some noise and sneaking up on some teams. The Wolverines put together a 22-2 summer, winning their respective tournaments at Florida State and Georgia College. Junior guard Wesley Simpson is the catalyst after averaging 11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals as a sophomore. Senior Jeffrey Crawford returns his 7.5 points per game as well as senior Austin Atkins who posted 7.3 points on average. The play of 6-foot-6 senior Braelen Bridges inside could be an X-factor if the post is able to control the paint after averaging 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Locust Grove continues to regroup behind rising 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard Renarldo Smith, who earned Honorable Mention for his play. The loss of Brandon Thomas is huge.

Ola returns juniors Chris Rodriquez (10.2 ppg) and Kaelon Hinton (9.8 ppg) along with senior post Bevon Wray (6.9 ppg) to a team that managed just 1-win in Region 4-AAAAA.

Hampton enters Year 3 of existence and comes off a 0-26 season following a 3-23 mark in their inaugural 2014-15 season. Senior guard Jaylen Love led the team in scoring as a junior at 11.2 points per game. Rising seniors David Brown and SirVetus Ratcliff were the team’s second and third leading scorers with over five points per game.


Region 5

Miller Grove (31-3)
Lithonia (26-5)4A
Southwest DeKalb (25-6)
Columbia (14-13)4A
Arabia Mountain (10-16)4A
Chamblee (7-19)4A
Clarkston (6-18)
Cross Keys (0-22)4A

Miller Grove captured its seventh state title in eight years with a 50-48 win over Allatoona, but life will be much different now that Head Coach Sharman White has taken his unparalleled success to Georgia State where he is now an assistant. Rasul Chester gets the nod as head coach after spending one season as the head man at Stephenson after years of being an assistant on White’s staff at Miller Grove. Guard play will once again power the Wolverines but a new lead dog has to step up with McDonald’s All-American Alterique Gilbert (UConn) and Aaron Augustin (Stephen F. Austin) gone. Aidan Saunders and Colin Young were also integral pieces while 6-foot-6 forward Raylon Richardson begins his college football career at UAB. Back is Tae Hardy, an explosive senior guard who now steps out of the shadows of Gilbert and Augustin. White described Hardy before last season as, “quietly kept as probably one of the best players in the state with his ability and what he can do with the basketball.” Hardy averaged 16.5 points per game at Southwest DeKalb before moving over to rival Miller Grove his junior season. The instant offense 6-foot-3 guard should balloon his scoring average which was 9.4 points last year. Top perimeter defender, senior Joshua Jackmon, is on the mend after tearing his ACL this summer. Jackmon’s athleticism can change games and he is a great rebounder for a 6-foot-3 guard. He posted 5.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per contest. He is not yet 100%, but hopes to be soon. Sophomore guards Jalen Mason and Maurice Harvey seem poised to take the mantle as the next leaders of the pack moving forward. Junior AJ Bey and seniors Lorenzo Anderson and George Wilson provide depth and scoring as well at guard. Inside, 6-foot-7 junior Kevin Paige has increased his production and 6-foot-6 sophomore Tworn Seals is a rising prospect that is polishing his game around the rim. Seals has the body but his skillset isn’t at a level where he can be an impact player just yet. Added to the mix is Arabia Mountain transfer Jermon Clark. The 6-foot-7 junior post averaged 5.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. He will be a nice piece that should have a chance to start while Seals continues to work on his craft.

Lithonia was loaded last year and came away with the Region 6-AAAA title, the best region in Class AAAA.  The Bulldogs took a trip to the Final Four but fell to eventual state champion Liberty County, 81-68 after falling in an early 16-0 hole. It looks like it could be a rebuilding year as Jacara Cross (Jacksonville State), Rodney Chatman (Chattanooga), Tyleen Patterson and Tyheem Freeman all graduate. The most experienced players returning are senior guards Robert Hatchett III and Cortez Roberson, two guards that will be asked to carry the offense while rising juniors Sydarius Stinson and Ziven Alexander could see bigger roles this year.

Southwest DeKalb bowed out of the Class AAAAA playoffs in the Elite Eight with a 56-44 loss to Allatoona. 6-foot-4 forward Keith Gilmore was a tough cover and averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists his senior season. Nathaniel Ambersley also leaves a void graduating his 12.5 points and 4.7 assists. Lastly, center TiQuan Lewis (10.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is also off to college. Diminutive 5-foot-7 senior point guard Darius Hogan is the team’s returning leading scorer. The streaky shooter hit a team-best 68 threes at a 37% rate on his way to averaging 8.8 points. Junior Mandarius Dickerson is an improving playmaker that should put together a nice season after posting 7.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Dickerson is teetering on the verge of solidifying himself as a D-I prospect. Two other juniors, Quincy Carter and Joshua Archer, bring quickness and potential to the Panther backcourt.

It’s hard to find a school that made a bigger splash than Columbia. Following an uninspiring 14-13 finish and an 8-10 mark in Region 6-AAAA, Coach Kerry Sandifer has stepped aside making way for 5-time state champion Dr. Phillip McCrary, who returns to Columbia after spending 25 seasons (1988-2012) on the bench, compiling a 546-185 (.746%) record. The Eagles return a long and athletic lineup bolstered by three transfers. Senior team captain Jalen “JJ” Cobb averaged a team-high 11.7 points as a junior guard. Rising juniors TJ Boykin and Lorenzo McGhee look ready to explode onto the high school scene after strong seasons with 16U Southern Stampede. McGhee, a 6-foot-4 guard, is an all-around scorer, able to get to the hoop with ease and can bury the three when open. He is also effective on the glass both defensively and offensively. Boykin, 6-foot-6, is a versatile wing player that disrupts passing lanes with his length. Cobb, Boykin and McGhee will be joined in the starting lineup by seniors Kenton Eskridge (Tucker) and Reyhan Cobb (Pius XI, WI). Eskridge starred with the crosstown Tigers as their leading scorer last year. The barrel-chested point guard can bowl over smaller defenders when attacking the cup. Eskridge ran with 17U Southern Stampede and played with and against some of the best players in the nation. Cobb played with Columbia his sophomore season before moving to Wisconsin where he averaged 10.7 points as a junior. The 6-foot-7 shot blocker provides energy, able to run the floor well and finish in transition. He will anchor the Eagles in the paint. 6-foot-7 freshman Joshua Taylor moves in from Holy Spirit Prep and represents a potential gem down the road that should make an impact in Year 1. He has a nice skillset, able to handle the ball in spurts and knock down jumpers. If Columbia can put it all together and build some depth behind its talented starting five, the Eagles should challenge for the region crown and have a chance for a postseason run.

A nucleus of Darius Giles, Jordan Sterling and Jamal Middleton should net Arabia Mountain some wins in a tough region. Giles, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, averaged a team-high 14.3 points last year. Sterling, a junior, averaged 8.5 points while Middleton, a senior, chipped in 5.1 points, 3 rebounds and 1.8 steals. The trio will be tested night in and night out and must hold their own. The loss of 6-foot-7 big man Jermon Clark will hurt the Rams’ interior defense.

Chamblee returns senior guard Odell Ferrell as their top scorer. Dazz Riggins and 6-foot-5 Glenn Robinson will be relied upon heavily in their final seasons as well. Robinson is a double-double threat after collecting five his junior season and provides toughness inside for the Bulldogs.

The Clarkston Angoras haven’t notched a winning record since 1988 – 28 years. The Angoras do however have a hidden gem in 6-foot-3 senior guard AJ McNeil. The sweet shooting and explosive athlete averaged 16 points per game and blocked 1.3 shots a night. McNeil broke out with 17U Team EAT this summer and has put himself in a nice position to continue his upward trajectory. The only problem is he hasn’t had much help, the Angoras scoring only 46.8 points per game last year. Running mate Mo Musa does return however for his senior season after averaging 10.8 points at point guard.

Cross Keys has lost an astounding 99-straight games dating back to 2012. Valiant efforts have been put forth by good coaches over the past five years with Arabia Mountain’s Dedrick Whiting the last coach to win a game back in 2011. Whiting’s final two seasons saw him go 0-35 while Kingston Clark, the current Woodstock head coach who brought the Wolverines their first playoff berth in 20 years in his first season at the helm, finished 0-41 from 2014-15. Last year it was Ron Jackson’s turn to feel the Indian woes, going 0-22. Cross Keys lands Duane Kelley, former Stockbridge and Alcovy head coach, who will try to resurrect the program. There is no light at the end of the tunnel yet. The Indians haven’t finished above .500 since 2006.


Region 6

Riverwood (29-2)
Grady (28-4)4A
Jackson-Atlanta (15-14)3A
Carver-Atlanta (10-12)
Decatur (11-15)3A
Lithia Springs (10-18)
North Springs (6-18)
Banneker (5-21)

After dominating with a stingy defense (46.5 ppg) and a workhorse inside in 6-foot-7 Kohl Roberts (16.1 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 3.1 spg, 4.3 bpg), Riverwood will lean on its guard play following a school-record 29-win season. Coach Buck Jenkins’ son, Elijah, broke through his junior season as an up-and-coming college prospect. Jenkins averaged 4.4 points as a sophomore but last year honed his three-point shot and became one of the best shooters in the state, going 89-of-194 from beyond the arc, hitting at a 46% rate on his way to averaging 11.9 points. Jenkins, 6-foot-3, has good genes as his father is the All-Time leading Scorer at Columbia University. Jenkins committed to Embry-Riddle this past weekend. Also in the backcourt is senior Charnchai Chantha.  Chantha returned to Georgia after spending his sophomore year at Hamilton Heights, TN and brought with him a toughness versatile scoring attack. He hit 40% of his threes and finished averaging 10 points per game along with his team-high 4.9 assists. Both Jenkins and Chantha are proven commodities. The play of Amir Smith, Christian Sutton, Josh Brown and Nassir Mohammed will prove vital. Smith, a senior, steps into play important minutes in the backcourt now that Elijah Johnson has graduated. Sutton, a rising junior, did some good things this summer while Brown and Mohammed fill the gap left by Roberts. Brown is a springy 6-foot-6 senior while Mohammed is still growing into his body as a 6-foot-6 junior who hit a major growth spurt this past year. Last year scoring lulls killed the Raiders at times, but their defense carried them when they hit dry spells. When the Raiders are knocking down their three-ball, they can beat anyone. When they have an off night, Riverwood has to grind teams out which they did successfully in 2015-16.

Grady finished with a school-record 28 wins and advanced to the Class AAAA Final Four. The Knights however, were forced to vacate 10 wins, victories from January 26 on, for an ineligible player. Nonetheless, Grady put forth one of the best surprise seasons in the state even though expectations were high. Region Player of the Year Avi Toomer is off to Bucknell and will force Class AAAA Coach of the Year Brian Weeden to find a new go-to guy. A logical choice would be 6-foot junior guard DJ Brittian. The electrifying athlete averaged 9.7 points and 2.3 steals. He will be in charge of heading Grady’s lightning quick defense. The Knights will be small and quick this year with one of the youngest lineups in the region. Three to four freshmen are expected to contribute right away and see time in the starting lineup. Weeden’s incoming ninth graders will be the tallest players on the team aside from Louisville tight end commit Kemari Averrett, a 6-foot-7 presence in the low post who is still deciding whether or not to play basketball his senior season.

Jackson-Atlanta snuck its way into the playoffs by stunning 22-3 Westminster in the Region 4-AAA tournament, 53-48. JaQuavius Hayes rides momentum into his junior season after the 6-foot-6 post was named Most Improved Player in Class AAA, posting 21.9 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks per game. Senior guards Michael Graham (8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Quincy Gonzales (8.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.9 apg, 3 spg) surround Hayes. Travis Williams, a former head coach at Tennessee State, brings superior wisdom to the sidelines.

Carver-Atlanta attempts to build around seniors Patrick Hudson, Kenny Atkins and sophomore Demontra Hudson after the program failed to notch a winning record.

Terrill Hall, a dynamic three-sport athlete, powers Decatur. The 6-foot-4 senior averaged a team-high 14.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Next in line will be Dennis Bell, a senior power forward that chipped in 7.8 points per game. Uriah Pickens, a 6-foot-2 guard, is cleared to play his senior season after transferring from Clarkston and having to sit out. He had a very nice showing at the SEBA Atlanta All-Star Shootout.

Lithia Springs graduates their double-double machine, 6-foot-3 James Williams who posted 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game his senior season. Senior Ceaunte Zachary returns with the most experience and success on the varsity level after averaging 8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals. The combo guard is a nuisance defensively and thrives in the open floor.

A nice core is in place for North Springs as the Spartans are expected to return their top five scorers. Junior guard Vinnicius Viana led the way in scoring as a sophomore at 13.1 points while rising 6-foot-4 senior Grant Showell followed suit at 10.1 points, 9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. 6-foot-4 junior Josh Smith, a baseball player, chipped in 5.3 points his sophomore season.

Banneker loses 6-foot-4 post Cramonta Snell, a Region 6-AAAAA Second Team selection. Snell averaged 14.5 points and 9.6 rebounds his final season. Along with Snell, in total the Trojans graduate their top seven scorers. 5-foot-1 point guard Deshon Astin is the team’s returning leading scorer at 3.5 points per game. Former North Springs head coach Carlos Cliett will try to turn Banneker’s fortunes around.


Region 7

Villa Rica (18-10)
Kell (16-13)
Rome (13-11)
Carrollton (13-15)4A
Cass (10-16)
Hiram (11-19)
Woodland-Cartersville (5-19)
East Paulding (5-21)
Paulding County (5-21)

Villa Rica put together a great 2015-16 season and nearly upset Gainesville in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs before falling 68-62. County Player of the Year Tye Hill (16.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg) headlines one of three huge losses. Also gone are Justus McWilliams (13.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg) and Noah Smith (12.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg). The Wildcats will go back to an up-tempo aggressive style of play that will be paced by a trio of senior guards in Rodney Thomas, Nigel Taylor and RJ Williams. Williams provides versatility as a 6-foot-3 pass-first point guard that can play passing lanes and help on the glass. Thomas is a strong outside shooter that has improved his dribble-drive game and is a leader on the team. Taylor is another tenacious on-ball defender that can get past his man on offense. Joining the trio is junior Javonte Hart, a high-IQ point guard that Coach Jason Robinson simply describes as a “winner”. Left-handed senior Jamarcus Middlebrooks is an energetic defender that plays above the rim while Adrian Sanchez and Jacob Forrester both stretch defenses from beyond the arc. Lattrel Swanigan could be an X-factor with his scoring touch. He averaged close to 20 points per game on the JV as a sophomore.

Kell earned a state playoff berth behind the play of emerging 6-foot-8 power forward Brian Thomas. Thomas saw his stock skyrocket in the offseason with 17U Game Elite before a foot injury slowed him down in the latter months. Thomas committed to Florida Gulf Coast after posting 16 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks per game at Kell. Seniors Demetris Page, Caelon Ball and Wayne Bryant support Thomas while rising juniors Savvon Delgado and Jahwan Smith should see increased roles. Coach Jermaine Sellers has overseen the steady improvement of the program while JV Coach Chris Marcusky has helped with the development of the younger Longhorns.

Rome graduates key players Jai Creamer, Daniel Reyes and Trey Driver. Guard Jaden Rivera returns as one of the Wolves’ top options.

After losing in the state championship in 2014-15, last season Carrollton slipped to 13-15 overall. Top scorers Jarel Rowe and Desmond Webb both graduate leaving Carson Culverhouse as Coach Tim Criswell’s grizzled veteran. The 5-foot-11 shooter is lethal when left open and can carry the Trojans. He brings a toughness and a confidence to Carrollton who is rebuilding behind the likes of sophomores Caleb Mitchell and Trevon Reddish and junior Jeffery Johnson. Freshmen Melvin Edwards and Marcellious Lockett represent a bright future. Both youngsters played well at the HoopSeen Elite Preview, battling against older players. Lockett posted 11 points, five rebounds and four assists against the likes of Jarred Godfrey (Sandy Creek), Trey Stevens (Hillgrove) and Jalyn McCreary (Kennesaw Mountain). Lockett dropped 41 points as a 6-foot scorer at the Future150 Atlanta Main Event in April. Edwards, 6-foot-2, is an active defender with a knack for blocking shots.

Cass scrapped its way to a 10-16 mark under young first-year head coach David Brock. The Colonels showed signs of improvement coming down the stretch however. Gone is Bartow County Co-Player of the Year Mike Sims but Ashton Burley and CJ Bennett compose a steady and often explosive backcourt. Burley enters his junior season after putting together a nice summer with 17U Active Elite while Bennett is back for his senior season following an All-County selection along with Burley.

Hiram graduates eight seniors including 6-foot-8 Alcorn State signee Devon Brewer who led the Hornets with 10 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Coach Darius Hodge’s returning leading scorer is senior guard Elijah Hoffman who averaged 2.4 points.

Woodland-Cartersville took some thumpings last year but hope they will be better for it in the future. Top players Jonathan Pritchett, Jarvis James and Brady Jernigan all graduate.  Returning starters senior guard Camden Royal and sophomore Justice Hayes will play big roles as the Wildcats’ most experienced duo. Seniors Trevor Knowles, Jaden Pressley and sophomore Jaylen Ballard project to get major minutes. Colman Roberts, former girls head coach, looks to build a winning culture.

Joby Boydstone’s “System” didn’t work out in Year 1 at East Paulding. The Raiders averaged 71.6 points per game but allowed 85. Four of East Paulding’s five wins came by 20+ points, but 14 of their losses came by 20+ as well. Football star Jalen Browder poured in 20.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a junior. Outside of Browder, the Raiders’ next returning leading scorer is senior Caleb Ivey who pitched in 5.6 points.

Paulding County moves on from Malik Rush who averaged 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Seniors Dionte Ruffin and Dawson Kramer are the returning leading scorers. Ruffin averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 rebounds. Kramer, a 6-foot-4 post, added 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. Sophomore guard Jamal McIver saw quality playing time as a freshman and posted 4.7 points a night. Junior Vance Anderson brings help at the wing. Anchoring the paint is massive 6-foot-8, 285-pound senior center Marcus Austin. The immovable post has been working on his conditioning after averaging 4.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. Austin is still extremely raw but has shown progress with his back to the basket on offense.


Region 8

Cedar Shoals (29-3)
Walnut Grove (24-5)4A
Flowery Branch (16-11)
Buford (16-12)4A
Clarke Central (8-17)
Johnson-Gainesville (7-18)4A
Loganville (3-21)

Cedar Shoals nearly broke the 30-win barrier last year as the Jaguars lost to Allatoona in the Class AAAAA Final Four 48-46 in a thriller. Coach L’Dreco Thomas returns all his starters except for sparkplug point guard Jerrick Mitchell, who was named Most Underrated in the state. The Jaguars don’t have imposing size but they do have excellent chemistry and play hardnosed defense. Phlan Fleming, a 6-foot-5 senior, committed to Charleston Southern after a stat-stuffing summer with AC Georgia Phoenix. Fleming does it all as a long-armed defender who can get hot in a hurry from all over the floor. The Jags can space teams out and pick them apart when Fleming and 6-foot-3 senior Snipe Hall are hitting. Hall is another dangerous shooter that has expanded his all-around game. Scrappy guard AJ Jones and football tight end 6-foot-4 Stavion Stevenson, provide hustle and energy on both ends of the floor. In order for the Jags to sustain their success, all eyes will be on senior guard Damarrea Lowe. The slight of build point guard fit into the Cedar Shoals offense seamlessly this summer. Though he might not have the speed or overall leadership of Mitchell just yet, Lowe is a good passer who gets everyone involved and can rebound and defend well out of his position. Jai’vanni McDavid, Q’titrius Dillard and Darien Appling could all play important roles off the bench.

Walnut Grove jumped into the statewide picture with 24 wins but quickly fell out come playoff time as they were defeated 64-45 by Jonesboro in the Region 4-AAAA Championship and then were blown out by Monroe 71-45. The Warriors go back to the drawing board now that their top four leading scorers all graduate including guards AJ Jones and Faizon Jackson. 6-foot-3 senior forward Dashun Smith returns with the most experience after posting 7.8 points and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game.

Flowery Branch didn’t make the state playoffs, but did win bragging rights in Hall County by winning the program’s first ever Lanierland title in the 56th annual edition. The Falcons lose major contributors in big men Gabe Holston and Trey Bailey, but return a savvy backcourt between seniors John Mills and Brannon Clark. Junior guard Blake Coxworth served as a top backup last year and should see his role expand. Senior Dalton Gerdts is a threat from behind the arc with nice 6-foot-4 length. Junior Justin Quick, 6-foot-3, has had a very strong offseason and should be a key piece moving forward. Freshman Caleb Murphy moves in from the Norcross district. The shifty guard might be able to contribute in his first year if he gets stronger on defense against bigger guards.

Coach Eddie Martin looks to continue to build Buford into a powerhouse in Year 2. In Year 1, Buford went undefeated in Region 8-AAAA but was upset by Fayette County in Round 1 of the state tournament, 69-62. True floor general Alex Jones is back for his junior season. The 5-foot-9 guard is one of the best pure passers in the state with advanced court vision. He has plenty of options to pass to this year as 6-foot-8 senior Sahlil Patel is back in the paint. Expect four new faces to suit up in Green and White. Sophomores Donell Nixon II, Marcus Watson and Karston Miller head to Buford while junior David Viti makes his way over from Lambert. Nixon, 5-foot-7, is a dangerous three-point shooter that averaged 12.4 points at Mountain View and drained 69 threes at a 45% rate. Watson comes from West Forsyth, NC and brings with him an imposing high energy 6-foot-6, 210-pound build on the wing with his best ball ahead of him. Miller averaged 7.9 points as a 6-foot-1 guard at North Gwinnett. Viti is a physical forward with some nice bounce that will attack opponents inside and outside.

Central Clarke held its own this summer and should be set for a better year behind 6-foot-3 starting quarterback and leading scorer, Jack Mangel. The junior is a streaky shooter that can carry the Gladiators when hot. He averaged 9.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Fellow juniors Martavius Darden and Quamontae Monfort bring back a nice cohesion. Darden chipped in 6.9 points and 1.5 steals while the 6-foot-5 Monfort put up 5.4 points, 4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

Coach Tim Slater stepped in to take the reins at Johnson-Gainesville following an impossible act to follow up; the Knights finishing 29-1 the year before behind Ty Cockfield and Roderick English. Though they didn’t have much success, the Knights look towards the future with sophomore guard Kylan Curry and juniors Qua Butler and Will Richter stabilizing the backcourt. Richter, 6-foot-2, moves in from St. Francis and should instantly fill a need of perimeter shooting. His experience with St. Francis and the Georgia Stars over the summer should bode well down the stretch. He has worked on attacking the basket and looks much more aggressive as the season nears. Curry is a pass-first point guard while Butler brings energy. Seniors Marcus Jones and Dwayne Wilson round out Johnson’s primary components. Wilson, 6-foot-5, is the Knights best player who came on strong at the end of last year. Good things usually happen when the athletic forward has the ball in his hands. Wilson should warrant attention when crashing the boards as well. For Johnson-Gainesville to hold its own, Wilson will need to become a nightly double-double threat. Also in the fold is 6-foot-4 junior Alex Sims who fits in nicely as role player in the post.

Loganville finished with three wins for the second consecutive season. Rising 6-foot-3 sophomore Jamar Moore could be a potential winning lottery ticket in years to come if he continues to progress. The athletic forward has raw upside that needs to be drawn out of him. Junior guard Tyler Circi returns some experience to the Red Devil backcourt.

GHSA Class AAAA Preview

Class AAAA


Region 1

Carver-Columbus (18-9)5A
Shaw (19-10)5A
Northside-Columbus (18-10)5A
Westover (19-12)
Americus-Sumter (15-9)
Columbus (9-17)5A
Hardaway (4-21)5A
Cairo (2-24)

Carver-Columbus led No. 1 seed McIntosh 21-17 after the first quarter in the opening round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs before the wheels fell off and they lost 100-69. The Tigers graduate nine players, but 6-foot-4 senior forward Daniel Melvin returns. Melvin will be asked to take over the offense full-time as Lorenzo Madden, Stefan Harris and Jawon Pass all graduate. R.J. Cummings and Alex Wilson could help pick up the load also.

Coach Terry White guided Shaw from an 8-win season to a 19-win season in 2015-16. The Raiders suffered a cruel fate, losing 56-55 to LaGrange in the Region 1-AAAAA Championship then falling to Morrow in the first round of the state tournament, 57-55 in overtime. Shaw graduates its top four leading scorers headlined by Dakeen Diaz (16.4), Kourtney Shakespeare (11.8) and late blooming 6-foot-6 big man Cam Paulding who averaged 11.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. With four starters gone and junior point guard Kam Parker returning, the Raiders will have some turnover with new faces ready to step in. Senior Devan Porter-Wilson is a 6-foot-4 post that averaged 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds, but has experience being a go-to guy, averaging 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds as a starter in 2014-15. Junior Jalen Ken is now healthy after an injury sidelined him for the second half of the season. The 6-foot-3 wing chipped in 6.8 points per game; Shaw going undefeated with Ken healthy to open the year. Senior Chris Hicks is a knockdown three-point shooter. The addition of versatile 6-foot-5 junior Lincoln Smith gives Coach White a solid scoring option and athletic defender. He averaged 11.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while at region rival Columbus.

Northside-Columbus must fill a big hole literally and figuratively as 6-foot-8 Davion Thomas graduates after posting 17 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game. 6-foot-4 sophomore Jaykwon Walton made a major impact his freshman season averaging 10.6 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals, but he has transferred to Carver, Al. Undersized forward Cordale Scott will take over for Thomas. At 6-foot-3 the senior averaged 9.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Rising sophomore Aaron Green turned some heads at the CB Hoops & Perfect Practice Fall League, the strong-bodied guard hitting seven threes in a game.

Westover caught fire and took a magical run to the Elite Eight before being done in by a reverse layup at the buzzer by Grady’s Avi Toomer to score a 54-52 win. The Patriots were up-and-down for most of the season before their strong guard play steered them to a 7-3 finish down the stretch. Floor general Allec Williams graduates after posting 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.2 blocks. Also gone is 6-foot-7 Jacobi Cratic who anchored the paint at 9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Game-changing talent returns however in junior Kris Gardner (8.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.2 spg) and sophomore Jordan “Snow” Brown (8.2 ppg). Gardner is more of a distributor while Brown is a lights out shooter with deep range. Brown hit 48 threes at a 49% rate while Gardner was no slouch himself, draining 40 deep balls at a 53% clip. 6-foot-3 senior Quindavious Smith provides toughness with his 7.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals.

Americus-Sumter dropped from 26-6 to 15-9 as its two leading scorers graduated following 2014-15. The Panthers went with a more scoring by committee look last year with rising senior Kiante Sims averaging a team-high 9.5 points. Sophomore Joshua Lusane showed some promise as a freshman and junior Eric Hall Jr. should see more responsibility after averaging 6 points his sophomore season.

Columbus only saw a two-game win increase but has its leading scorer, a junior, returning. All-State All-Name Team member Noah Lott led the Blue Devils with 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.9 steals. The 5-foot-8 guard must cut down on his turnovers (4.2). Senior Elijah Gardner should see a boost in production following the loss of Lincoln Smith to Shaw. He averaged 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as the team’s fourth leading scorer in 2015-16.

Hardaway loses its top scorers but returns 5-foot-10 senior guard Antonio Campbell. The Hawks haven’t had a winning season since 2012-13. Kendall Mills is expected to take over the time consuming duty of now coaching the boys team along with the Lady Hawks. Mills replaces Pershin Williams who has accepted a job at Columbus State.

Cairo went from Final Four Cinderella story in 2014-15 with a 20-12 record to 2-24 last year. The Syrupmakers graduate just two players after sporting three sophomores and four freshmen.

Region 2

Upson-Lee (23-4)
Perry (18-11)
Mary Persons (18-11)
Spalding (11-14)
Howard (11-16)
West Laurens (3-23)

Upson-Lee saw its dominant season upended in the first round of the state playoffs, stunned by New Hampstead 73-56. O’Qualon Harris graduates, but the Knights return enough to the tank to be a force in Class AAAA. 6-foot-3 junior guard Tye Fagan averaged over 19 points and 7 rebounds as a sophomore. 6-foot-4 sophomore defensive end Travon Walker holds an offer from Alabama to play football but also is a standout on the court. The big man still has a few inches left in him and is a double-double machine with his soft hands on the low block. Walker should be regarded as one of the most reliable big men in Middle Georgia moving forward. Sophomore guard Zyrice Scott powered the 16U Middle Georgia Supersonics to a USSSA National Championship alongside Walker and Fagan. Scott should burst onto the scene this year at point guard and will continue to improve as he gets stronger.

Perry’s Damion Bagley did it all last year, pouring in 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds as a 6-foot-3 junior forward. He joins senior Evan Lasseter and junior Jacori Burks in the backcourt. Junior guard Jake Smith played with the 16U Middle Georgia Supersonics and presents an unselfish and versatile 6-foot-1 guard. He averaged 5.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals.

Burgeoning star Cameron Holden enters his junior season for Mary Persons. The 6-foot-5 guard put up big numbers, averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.1 blocks. Holden scores inside and out and is patient when surveying the defense. His top three teammates in terms of scoring all graduate. He must receive help from rising seniors Roger Akins (6.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Clay Moore (5.3 ppg).

Spalding is the only new team added to the mix in Region 2. The Jaguars didn’t have a sparkling overall record but they still managed to go 8-5 in the difficult Region 4-AAAA. Spalding gave a scare to some of the top teams in the region, losing in overtime to 24-5 Eagle’s Landing 59-57, to Henry County 74-70 and to 20-10 Eastside, 65-62 to end their season in the Region Tournament. Senior Rasheed Marshall and sophomore Zion Puckett will help lead the offense.

Howard graduates its top six leading scorers including center Chris Quainter who averaged a double-double. Junior forward Christian Butler returns with the most experience.

It was a struggle for West Laurens last season but the Raiders do return everyone except 6-foot-5 forward Kintevius Robinson. 6-foot-4 junior Keyonta Tyler led the team in scoring (11.1), rebounding (9.1) and blocks (1.1) as a sophomore. Senior CJ Watson chipped in 7.1 points and 2.6 assists as shooting guard while rising sophomore Ty Edmond handled himself well, averaging 4.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and a team-leading 3.2 assists per game. Ed Ford comes in as head coach after serving at Montgomery County.


Region 3

Richmond Academy (22-7)5A
Thomson (19-9)
Burke County (16-8)
Cross Creek (14-12)5A
Baldwin (10-16)
Hephzibah (0-24)3A

Richmond Academy had eventual state champion Miller Grove on the ropes with a lead heading into the fourth quarter before bowing out 64-57. Leading scorer Madison Williams (Illinois State) graduates along with key pieces Rashad Calloway and Chris Jones. 6-foot-5 senior forward Moses Williams returns after posting 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Rising left-handed junior guard DT Stephens pitched in 8.7 points per game and has a chance to take his game to the next level with Williams gone.

Thomson is a tough-nosed team that fell to St. Pius 56-55 in the Sweet 16. 6-foot-8 San Antonio Brinson broke his wrist late in the season and hindered the Bulldogs’ chance at a deep playoff run. Six seniors are gone including Brinson. Leading the charge this year are seniors Darius Turman, Radaren Johnson, Rodriguez Wiley, Jucorius Thomas and Tra Parker. Johnson and Turman were honored as Second Team All-Region selections while Wiley and Thomas were Honorable Mention. Turman, 6-foot-4, and Johnson, 6-foot-1, will power the Bulldogs. Turman averaged 12.3 points while Johnson chipped in 11.2 points. Both are Team Captains. Thomas, a 6-foot-2 receiver on the football team, averaged 9.4 points per game and brings physicality inside but also a soft touch outside. Wiley averaged 8.3 points per game off the bench as a sharp shooter. 6-foot-4 sophomore Zavian Smith has a chance to impact the paint. Coach Michael Thomas Sr. enters his 34th season at Thomson and has tallied 594 career wins.

Burke County fell in the first round 73-67 to Mary Persons in the state tournament. The Bears battled with Liberty County and Thomson throughout the season in Region 3-AAAA. Coach Purvis Dukes must replace First Team All-Region performer Kamario Walker. Luckily, 6-foot-6 senior Quan Wilson is back after garnering Second Team honors. Senior guard D’Zarious Holmes looks to build off his Honorable Mention selection.

Cross Creek scratched its way into the playoffs, earning a No. 3 seed after losing to Richmond Academy 82-47 in the Region 2-AAAAA semifinals and beating Jones County 72-67 in the third-place game. In the state playoffs the Razorbacks were bounced in Round 1 by Statesboro 66-54. Guard Moses Jones graduates after leading the team in scoring with 17.6 points. Seniors Artis Chapman (8.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and KJ Brown (7.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.3 bpg) hold the most returning experience.

Coach Buck Harris left the glitz-and-glam of Laney to build up Baldwin in Milledgeville. Like any program filled with youth, the Braves had their ups and downs. The future looks bright however as Donta Justice and Brendan Robertson powered the team as a freshman and sophomore respectively. 5-foot-10 Justice netted a team-high 14.3 points to go along with his 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals. Robertson went for 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals.

Hephzibah took an 0-fer in Class AAA and will try its hand at AAAA. The Rebels will need to replace Reggie Fields who also starred on the soccer team.


Region 4

Eastside (20-10)
North Clayton (19-11)3A
Salem (17-12)5A
Henry County (15-11)
Woodward Academy (15-13)
Druid Hills (14-12)5A
Luella (8-16)5A

The winner of the regular season gets an automatic bid to state in Region 4-AAA. A lot will be different for Eastside as one of the state’s top scorers, Isaiah Miller, has now transferred to Newton for his senior season. Miller poured in 25.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 1 block per game. Also gone is team captain Joshua Cammon, who posted 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.2 steals as a junior guard. Cammon is off to Tucker. 6-foot-4 senior wing Keiondre Perry is the last remaining key piece. He averaged 15.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3.2 steals and 1.2 blocks. Perry should see his numbers explode after a great summer scoring the ball in a variety of ways. Senior center Jesse Walden stands 6-foot-9 and is a late blooming big that right now is a space-eating rebounder.

North Clayton will look to play inside-out with 6-foot-8 Lipscomb-commit Ahsan Asadullah back on the low block. The skilled big averaged 15.1 points as a junior.  Coach Martisse Troup’s senior class will be the deciding factor in how far the Eagles go. The group is used to winning, claiming the Clayton County ninth grade championship and the JV title the following year. Jamal Buster and Alexander Quaynor must play bigger roles since Jamarcus Sanders and Kindle Vildor have graduated. Buster has garnered D-II and JUCO interest at point guard.  Football players Jordan Alexander (6-foot-4, 210 lbs) and Yaya Diaby (6-foot-5, 190 lbs) bring size and strength in the paint next to Asadullah. The group played well this summer, winning Session I of the Georgia State Team Camp.

Salem fought its way into the postseason out of the incredibly deep Region 8-AAAAA. The Seminoles fell to Allatoona 61-49 after pushing the Bucs to the brink in the first half. Gone however is leading scorer Michael Green (17.4). Forward Chandler Davis and guards Parris Woods and Devontae Hedgespeth also leave holes. Seniors Jordon Simons and Denzell Bryan will see expanded roles this season.

Henry County has the goods to become a threat in Class AAAA. Seniors Javon Greene, Damion Rosser and Kovi Tate all boosted their stocks in July, especially Greene who committed to George Mason. The 6-foot-2 guard can catch fire from beyond the arc and leads the offense as the primary ball handler. Rosser, a New Orleans-commit, is a 6-foot-4 guard that attacks the rim. His length and strength makes him hard to stop once he gets going downhill. Tate, a 6-foot-5 forward, was ineligible to play last year after transferring in from Woodland-Stockbridge. Tate is a high energy post that plays above the rim. He brings great work ethic and toughness in the paint. Seth Brown also gets cleared to play. Brown, who joined the trio with 17U Atlanta All-Stars this summer, is another 6-foot-4 athlete that can help out in multiple ways. The Warhawks can make some noise if they can get stops consistently on defense.

Woodward Academy scored a 53-52 win over Monroe Area in the opening round of the AAAA State Playoffs before dropping to Westover, 75-66. A strong three-man senior core returns in Julian Cameron (11 ppg), Hunter Falconer (9.9 ppg) and 6-foot-6 Brennan McDaniel (9.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg).

Coach Jerome Lee helped Druid Hills capture their first winning season since 2013. The Red Devils lose just one senior in Noah Harrison (5.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg). 6-foot-5 senior wing Dillan Hall (7.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.5 bpg) brings versatility while Jordan Foote (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg) and Antonio Edge (7.7 ppg) both return. Cameron Starkes has transferred to Lakeside-DeKalb after posting 8.8 points per game as a junior.

Luella returns seniors Hunter Davis and Dwayne Thomas along with junior Kymain Williams after losing Javaun Anderson and Jordan Campbell to graduation.


Region 5

LaGrange (23-6)5A
Sandy Creek (21-8)
Cartersville (20-7)
Central-Carroll (13-15)3A
Cedartown (9-14)3A
Troup County (7-14)
Chapel Hill (8-19)5A

LaGrange graduates a strong senior class filled with guards, highlighted by Rico Smith, a potent playmaker. Back however is senior Laperion Perry who has more than enough juice to carry the load in the backcourt. Big men Bryan Fanning and Kenan Gray both stand 6-foot-6 and will bring balance to the Granger offense in their senior season.

Sandy Creek takes a big blow from their Elite Eight team, losing Christian Turner (Gardner-Webb), Keith Heard II and AJ Freeman to graduation. Rising senior, 6-foot-6 Elias Harden who led the team in scoring at 20.9 points, has transferred to Pebblebrook and has committed to play at Xavier. 6-foot-7 Evan Jester will shoulder the load as an inside-out threat stretch-four. The bouncy high-IQ forward has interest from a handful of Ivy League schools after posting 9.7 points and 8.6 rebounds as a junior. TJ Bickerstaff represents a bright future as a 6-foot-6 wing. Xavier Brewer provides length as a 6-foot-8 junior while Chris Porter, Kameron Miller and Jarred Godfrey all will see increased roles as juniors in the backcourt. Eric Williams transfers in from Fayette County to help as a forward and Khalid (KJ) Wilkins comes in for his senior season after leading Mt. Vernon Presbyterian in scoring.

Cartersville moves out of Region 7-AAAA, which they dominated, and now faces a step up in competition. Jaylon Pugh guides the Purple Hurricanes his junior season. The 5-foot-10 guard was the Region Player of the Year as a sophomore, averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 assists per game. Pugh’s court vision and deft three-point stroke (97 made; school-record of 10 in a game) makes him the catalyst on offense. TJ Horton brings back starting experience after averaging 6 points and 3.3 assists per game. 6-foot-5 sophomore Isaac Gridley and 6-foot-6 junior Trevor Lawrence will anchor the paint. Lawrence, who is ranked the No. 1 player in the entire country for the Class of 2018 in football as a 5-star quarterback, enters his first season with the Hurricane basketball team. He had an outstanding summer rebounding and blocking shots for Coach Mike Tobin. Another newcomer, Avery Showell, transfers in from St. Francis. The Wake Forest football commit is an athletic 6-foot-1 forward that can slash to the basket.

Central-Carroll took a trip to the Class AAA state playoffs earning a bid out of tiny Region 5 with a 4-7 mark in region play. East Jackson ended their season in Round 1, 72-63. Deion Sims slides over as head coach and will look to build on last year’s success. Soccer standout, rising junior Jarrod Jackson is back after leading the Lions in scoring at 11 points per game. Senior Xavier Hammett brings size and help on the glass at 6-foot-3, the team’s biggest player.

Cedartown returns Second Team All-Area guard Quan Neal as their best player. Trevon Wofford, 6-foot-4, is a rising junior that earned an Honorable Mention selection.

Troup County must replace Dexter Shealey in the backcourt along with four other seniors. The Tigers are set to return three juniors and two sophomores. Rising juniors Jarrious Jefferson and Montez Crowe are expected to become focal points of the offense after playing well in spurts last year.

Long-time coach Ken Austin steps in to take over at Chapel Hill after last serving as a girls assistant at Langston Hughes. Nine panthers graduate including First Team All-County selection Dallis Jacks who netted over 17 points per game. New faces will join Austin as just four seniors are back and Kevin Burton Jr. enters his sophomore season.


Region 6

Northwest Whitfield (20-7)
Heritage-Catoosa (20-9)
LaFayette (12-13)
Southeast Whitfield (9-17)
Pickens (9-20)
Ridgeland (6-19)
Gilmer (5-19)

Northwest Whitfield earned the No. 3 seed out of Region 7-AAAA. The weak region took a thumping against the classification’s best, Region 6. Region 7 brings everyone back except for Cartersville to the new Region 6. The North Georgia region suffered losses by an average of 33.5 points in the first round, none uglier than the Bruins’ 88-37 loss to Lithonia. The Tunnel Hill group returns its two best players this season in senior Paxton Pardee and junior Luke Shiflett. Shiflett, the quarterback of the football team, was an All-Area First Teamer while Pardee earned Second Team honors.

Heritage suffered a 70-38 loss to Columbia as the No. 2 seed. Cole Wilcox, a 6-foot-5 forward and ace pitcher, led the Generals with 13.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a sophomore. Tylon Gaines brings quickness to the Heritage backcourt after posting 7.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals as a junior.

LaFayette boasts the Class AAAA Freshman of the Year, 5-foot-11 guard Alex Kelehear. The sweet-shooting playmaker canned 60-of-137 threes (44%) en route to averaging 14 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.3 steals. The young Ramblers lose just one senior who played sparingly off the bench meaning Kelehear and the group could push for a postseason bid. Tyrese Hunter enters his senior season after averaging 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals as a 5-foot-11 guard. Rising sophomore Andrew Pendergrass is a versatile piece at 6-foot-1. He averaged 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals while hitting 42 threes. Senior post Austin Shropshire helps on the glass, posting 5.1 points and 5.3 rebounds.

The state’s best scorer you’ve never heard of, Ty Pendley, graduates from Southeast Whitfield. The North Georgia scoring wizard poured in 27.8 points per game, good for third-best in the entire state. Pendley, a 5-foot-10 guard, even led the nation in free throw percentage his final two seasons, nailing 93% as a junior and 90% as a senior on a whopping 254 attempts – 9.7 trips per game his final season. As great as Pendley was, the loss of 6-foot-4 post Noah Ramsey also hurts the Raiders as the double-double threat averaged 8.8 points and 9.0 rebounds. Pendley was named The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year while Ramsey earned Second Team honors. Senior Cristian Antillon (8.1 ppg) and 6-foot-4 junior Luke Johns (7.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) must pick up the load.

Pickens snuck into the postseason for the first time since 2010-11 and were quickly outclassed by Grady, 78-44. The productive inside-out duo of big man Trent Rizoti (12 ppg, 7 rpg) and guard Holden Roop (16.9 ppg) has graduated leaving the Dragons in search of a new top scorer. Fourth and fifth-leading scorers Joseph Gossett and Avery Luke are set to return. Gossett, a junior guard, averaged 4.9 points while Luke, a senior forward, chipped in 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. Junior forward 6-foot-6 Blake Gorth has a chance to make an impact.

Ridgeland will lean on its backcourt with senior Markieon Jones and junior Markeith Montgomery. Jones teamed up with now graduated Tavian Bridges to form a potent 1-2 punch last season and will be asked to be the Panthers’ number one option in 2016-17.

Gilmer graduates an experienced senior class and looks to six rising seniors from last year’s roster which included zero underclassmen. Riley Hice, 6-foot-2, enters his senior season as the Bobcats’ presumed favorite to anchor the offensive attack. Coming up from the JV will be Kell Weaver and Noah Chastain who were among the team’s top scorers last year.


Region 7

White County (17-9)
Blessed Trinity (13-14)3A
West Hall (13-15)3A
Marist (9-18)
Chestatee (0-23) 

White County sees prolific scorer Whit Mauney graduate after the Region 8-AAAA Co-Player of the Year pumped in 24.5 points per game and finished his career with 1,381 points. All-Area Honorable Mention selection Brad Hurst (11.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg) also graduates, but 6-foot-5 wing John Ward returns after his Region 8-AAAA All-Region junior campaign where he posted 18.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Sophomores Austin Harris and Jay Lepkoske bring back varsity experience as does junior football standout Kaleb Crane.

Built on their foundation of playing grind-it-out defense, Blessed Trinity will try to bounce back from a sub-par 13-14 record; their first under .500 record since 2005-06 which was in part to playing a very difficult schedule which featured nine state playoff teams. Jackson Svete and John Michael Bertrand graduate, but rising senior guard Kyle Swade and sophomore CJ Abrams are experienced in the backcourt. Swade is a nice shooter who was a team captain last year averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists while knocking down 83% of his free throws. The 6-foot-2 three-year letterman entering his senior season played over the summer with the FCI Warriors. Abrams, a three-sport standout, provided athleticism and scoring as a freshman. At 6-foot-1, Abrams was the team’s third-leading scorer at 9 points per game. 6-foot-2 Ben Shappard enters his junior season coming off an injury in the final game of the regular season. He averaged 7 points and 3 rebounds as a versatile piece that can play positions 1-4 for Coach Patrick Hughes.

West Hall turns the page on a tumultuous scandal-filled offseason and looks to former girls assistant Bobby Pless to regain stability of the program. Esteban Ulloa exploded his senior season to post 22 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals per game as he was named Second Team All-Area. The graduation of Dylan Curry and Tyquan Statham hurt, but the Spartans return talented 6-foot-4 swingman Xzavier Reid who should get the lion’s share of shot attempts his senior season.

Marist struggled in the difficult Region 6-AAAA, but gets a fresh start in Region 7. Patrick Zeck, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 13.6 points, 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks his final season before signing with Gardner-Webb. Senior guard Whid Childs steadies the War Eagle backcourt along with shooter David Sever. Junior 6-foot-5 forward Jake Mauldin brings versatility and the ability to score in the paint and from the perimeter.

Brookwood assistant Kevin Strickland takes over the task of trying to turn a winless Chestatee team into a winner. Junior guard Donovan Hernandez has started on the varsity his entire high school career and brings poise and composure to the backcourt. Junior Cooper Wilson, senior Joel Salcido and sophomore Cameron Gwyn are all floor stretchers with their shooting. Senior Barron King and junior Nick Lyles return as starters in the frontcourt and bring with them their toughness from the gridiron.


Region 8

St. Pius (24-7)
Stephens County (16-9)
Madison County (15-12)
Jefferson (9-18)3A
Oconee County (8-17)3A
North Oconee (7-22)

St. Pius exits Region 6 and finds a much more comfortable home in Region 8. First Team All-Region selection Kerney Lane is gone as the 6-foot-7 forward begins his career at Alabama-Hunstville. Key pieces Christian Merrill and Jakob Spitzer also depart from the Golden Lion starting lineup, but there is still more than enough left for St. Pius to make a run at the region crown after snagging the No. 4 seed and taking a trip to the Elite Eight last year. The backcourt is both young and talented with Matt Gonzalo entering his sophomore season along with twin brother Brian who is coming off hernia surgery. Matt is a strong athlete at point guard who is continuing to blossom as his role grows larger. Senior forward Will Lucado is also on the mend after breaking his wrist during the soccer season. Rising juniors Christian Mattei and Everett Lane, Kerney’s younger brother, have put in work during the offseason and should see their production increase. Senior Carson Seramur has the opportunity to put a stamp on a winning career while move-ins Kennedy Willis and Troy Stephens bring their own dynamic to the roster. Both juniors, Stephens is another guard who will vie for playing time while Willis is a skilled yet raw 6-foot-7 forward from Therrell. The Golden Lions will be patient on offense and won’t beat themselves.

Stephens County looked good as gold heading into late January before the wheels fell off. The Indians lost their last five games of the season after starting 16-4 and in the process missed out on the playoffs. Tay Jones graduates but a nice core is intact for Coach Chad Bridges. Deundra Singleton anchors the Indians in the paint as a 6-foot-7, 240-pound junior. Surrounding him is senior guard Nunu Walker, junior Jackson Bell and sophomore Ty Nails. Nails, 6-foot-4, might have the highest upside out of the group along with Singleton.

Madison County returns two of their top scorers in seniors Keith Gantt and Trevon Daniel who played well out of the Red Raider backcourt. 6-foot-3 senior Golston Gillespie provides some size while Jackson Bailey is a 6-foot-4 junior.

Coach Bolling DuBose enters his 41st year at Jefferson, coming off of a state playoff appearance even though the team finished nine games under .500. Three starters are gone heading into AAA play. Big men Daniel Butler and Kasen Rainey return as starting frontcourt members. Finding consistent guard play will be important for the Dragons now that star running back Colby Wood is focusing on football.

Oconee County hires Dawson County head coach Thad Burgess to take the reins. The Warriors have some experienced players returning headlined by senior guard Roques Dowdy. Junior Ty Paschal has quick hands defensively while rising sophomore Rahul Das is the most talented out of the bunch. The 6-foot-3 forward doesn’t pass the eye test, but his fundamentals and his exceptional rebounding makes him an impactful player. Das is a nice piece for Burgess to build around moving forward, especially with the loss of Jace Bonds on the perimeter, a transfer to East Jackson.

North Oconee brings back a pair of All-Area performers in 6-foot-3 senior standouts Jack Chambers and Matthew Quint. The Titans made a postseason appearance but were thumped in Round 1 by Sandy Creek, 84-38.

GHSA Class AAA Preview

Class AAA


Region 1

Monroe (22-7)4A
Worth County (20-8)4A
Crisp County (19-8)4A
Cook (6-21)4A
Dougherty (5-22)4A 

Monroe took a trip to the Elite Eight where they fell short against eventual Class AAAA champion Liberty County, 71-61. The senior-led Tornadoes lose Emeshaun Offord (15.5 ppg), Trentavious Jackson (10.5 ppg), K’Naurtica George (9.5 ppg) and Napoleon Harris (8.9 ppg). 6-foot-4 senior guard Ulysses Williams is back as the team’s leading scorer after posting 6.7 points and 3 rebounds per game.

Coach Roney Mays of Worth County has the unenviable task of trying to replace the best 1-2 punch in the state down low between Brandon Moore (21.8 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg) and Auburn signee Anfernee McLemore (15.6 ppg, 13 rpg, 5.9 bpg). The Rams’ best experience returns in the backcourt between senior Tyre McKinney and junior Austin Jackson (4.2 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.6 spg).

Crisp County loses point guard Dontavious Tolbert (7.3 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.6 spg) but returns every other key piece. Senior shooting guard Quentavious Dean emerged as one of Region 1-AAAA’s top scorers as a junior, pumping in 18.3 points. Guard Ijon Owens (8.9 ppg) and power forward Valdis Daniel (7.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) are back for their senior seasons as well. Junior post JaQavian Walker showed promise as a 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore, posting 4.7 points and 5.9 rebounds. The wide receiver will bring some toughness once football season is over.

Cook sees four seniors graduate including dual-sport standout Tavian Allen. Eight rising juniors saw time on the varsity last season. The Hornets haven’t had a winning record since 2013-14.

Ty Randolph damaged the Dougherty program before leaving for Lanier County in the offseason. The Trojans had a solid team last year, but had to forfeit 17 games for playing an ineligible player. Things got even worse when a second player was found to be living outside the school district, leading to Dougherty being fined $1,000 and receiving a postseason ban for the upcoming 2016-17 season. With the program in the dumps, the Trojans hit a grand slam hiring five-time state champion head coach Rufus McDuffie, who won over 600 games in his 29 seasons at Mitchell-Baker High School. McDuffie brought titles home in ’90, ’91, ’98, ’99 and ’00. McDuffie had an excellent piece to build around in 6-foot-4 combo guard David Quimby, but the senior has transferred to Greenforest Christian. 6-foot-7 Israel Shead and 6-foot-3 Terry Lewis figure to play prominent roles their senior seasons. Shead averaged 6.4 points, 6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.


Region 2

Liberty County (28-1)4A
Long County (20-8)2A
Tattnall County (18-10)
Brantley County (15-11)
Pierce County (4-20)
Appling County (3-19)

The gold standard when it comes to Class AAA backcourts. Liberty County marched its way from Hinesville to Macon to win their first ever state title under first year head coach Julian Stokes, 58-52, stopping Jonesboro’s attempt at a Class AAAA three-peat. The Panthers’ big three should return in seniors Davion Mitchell and Richard LeCounte along with junior Will Richardson. Mitchell, an Auburn-commit, averaged 24.2 points, 7.1 assists and 2.9 steals. Five-star UGA football-commit, LeCounte, is a freak athlete that poured in 20.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals. LeCounte’s availability could be  in question as he could instead choose to graduate early to enroll at UGA. Richardson, the championship game’s X-factor who coolly netted 19 points picked up a UGA offer after his big game performance. He averaged 13.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals. The only question mark if there is one with the Panthers will be their lack of size inside, especially if they run into a team with a dominant big man.

Long County went from 6-22 to 20-8 last year, winning the Region 2-AA tournament. The Blue Tide fell to Lovett in the Sweet 16, 76-61. Coach Deshon Brock returns juniors Henry Blair (11.8 ppg), 6-foot-4 post Christian Bass (10 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and point guard Ryhiem Izzard (8.3 ppg, 2.1 apg, 2.1 spg). Gone is graduate Eric Shaw (8.4 ppg) and senior guard Perrell Brisbane. Brisbane transfers to Pierce County after leading the Tide averaging 12.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals.

Tattnall County fell in the first round of the Class AAA tournament to North Clayton 73-68 after posting their fourth consecutive winning season.  First Team All-Sub-Region selection Javarious Butler and Second Teamer Jamaine Coney have graduated. Junior guard Craig Saxton returns after earning Honorable Mention.

Brantley County boasts one of the best kept secrets in Georgia, 6-foot-6 rising sophomore Jaylin Williams, who earned First Team All-Region as a freshman. The bouncy and versatile forward already holds an offer from Kennesaw State and has HM schools such as Wake Forest courting him for his services. Williams should breakout even more this year and become a household name as he and senior guard and fellow Sub-Region First Teamer Mikel Collins return to try and lead the Herons into the playoffs.

Pierce County seeks its first winning season in years. Joseph Garner brings over a winning pedigree after serving as a Tift County girls assistant. Honorable Mention picks DeMarkus Folsom and Brit Williamson graduate alongside forward Blake Chancey. Everyone else however is set to return. Junior Quashawn Conaway, sophomore Dee Bethea and Moses (Jr.) and Ziggy (So.) Shider represent a young core. The addition of Perrell Brisbane brings a true No. 1 option to Blackshear.

Appling County was hard-pressed to find wins, but at least Second Team selection Devon Moore returns for his senior season along with Honorable Mention selections Stanley Heller and Latavious Nesmith.


Region 3

Jenkins (28-5)
Islands (20-7)
Johnson-Savannah (20-8)
Southeast Bulloch (15-14)
Savannah (12-14)
Windsor Forest (10-15)4A
Beach (6-20)
Groves (2-21)2A

Jenkins missed out on a Class AAA repeat, falling to Morgan County in the state championship 66-56. Michael Coffee (11.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Dimetri Chambers (11.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg) graduate, but the rest of the Warriors’ sturdy core is back with star seniors Region Player of the Year Trevion Lamar and Zion Williams. Lamar, a 6-foot-5 powerfully built forward, led Jenkins in every statistical category last year posting 16.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. Williams, who moved in from Savannah High, put up 13.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.1 steals at his new home. Tyrone Scott will see his role increase his junior season. He is an athletic 6-foot-3 forward that averaged 8.4 points and 7.2 rebounds. Myles Walker moves in from Windsor Forest for his senior season after the 6-foot-3 guard averaged over 15 points per game.

Islands posted a school-record 20 wins and have increased their win total every year since the young school opened in 2010. The Sharks however, tripped up in the region tournament, losing to Tattnall County and failed to reach the state playoffs. Ready to take a bite out of their new region, the Sharks return every starter and their top eight scorers. Pacing them is the school’s all-time leading scorer, Justin Cave, a 6-foot-2 All-Region First Team guard that averaged 20.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals as a junior. Son of Savannah State University head coach Horace Broadnax, Trae Broadnax represents the most talented young guard in the Savannah area. As a freshman the 6-foot-2 playmaker averaged 12 points per game and was named to the All-Region Second Team. Seniors Hugh Durham (12.5 ppg) and Justin Cutter (7.6 ppg) were named Honorable Mention along with junior Kimon Mosley (6 ppg). Durham also comes from a storied coaching tree as his grandfather by the same name coached Florida State (1966-78), Georgia (1978-95) and Jacksonville (1997-05), amassing a 634-430 record with four SEC Coach of the Year awards sprinkled in. The Sharks will need to build depth in order to compete with Jenkins for the region title.

The Johnson-Savannah Atomsmashers lose two First Team players in Da’Monte Greene (17.8 ppg) and Daeshawn Loadholt (11 ppg). Emerging junior Amanze Ngumezi is a 6-foot-8 active stretch forward that can block shots and run the floor. He earned his first offer from Rutgers in the summer and will have a chance to boost his stock even in 2016-17. Brothers E’Maury (8.6 ppg), Eleik (7.3 ppg) and Elavian (4.7 ppg) Bowles enter their junior seasons in the Johnson backcourt after Ernest graduates.

All-Region Second Team selection Markel Ming graduates from Southeast Bulloch. Seniors Aaron Houston and Caleb Carter are back however. Carter, a 6-foot-4 post, averaged over 7 points and 7 rebounds while Houston chipped in nearly 11 points per game from his shooting guard position.  Both players were Honorable Mention picks.

Savannah slid to its worst record in over five years but returns their top three leading scorers. Senior Asante Boyd poured in a team-high 16.4 points and 5.5 rebounds as a 6-foot-2 guard.  Marshall Barber, a 6-foot-3 rising senior, posted 11.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks. Matt Sams played well as a sophomore, adding 8.5 points to round out the Bluejackets scoring attack.

Windsor Forest drops to Class AAA and loses Myles Walker, a potent scoring guard who leaves for Jenkins. 6-foot-5 junior Donovan Lewis returns as the team’s top rebounder.

Beach must stop its slow decline since winning 17 games in 2012-13. Rising senior Romello Royal was selected as a First Team All-Sub-Region player.

Groves won just two games last year in Class AA and now moves up to Class AAA without leading scorer and rebounder Torrence Johnson. Senior Chamel Chaney brings back the most experience as the Rebels look to rebuild a once proud program under new leadership at head coach in Xavier Woods who comes from Twiggs County.


Region 4

Central-Macon (27-3)
Westside-Macon (22-7)
Rutland (9-16)
Jackson (5-19)
Kendrick (5-20)
Peach County (2-22)
Pike County (1-21)4A 

Central-Macon was upended by South Atlanta in the Elite Eight, 92-79. A potent scoring trio takes a hit as football quarterback Derrick Evans graduates after being named All-Middle Georgia Second Team by posting 15.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 2.9 steals per game. The loss of center Kentrevious Jones will be difficult to overcome. Rising senior Antarius McCoy is the lone shooting star back. The tough guard averaged 16.7 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists as a junior. Energy guy Rakwon Iverson must be replaced as one of the team’s top defenders. Jones County transfer, junior Kylan Hill, could fill that role. The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 8.9 points and 7.6 rebounds with the Greyhounds.

The state’s No. 1 ranked player in the Class of 2018, All-Middle Georgia First Teamer Khavon Moore, will try to lift Westside-Macon over the hump after getting thumped by Calhoun in the Sweet 16, 71-43. Moore, a 6-foot-8 five-star point-forward, posted 20.7 points, 11 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.6 steals and 3.1 blocks per game. His supporting cast will be the best it’s ever been this year with senior Samone Reed (11.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.1 spg) being joined in the backcourt by Rutland transfers, seniors Trey Foster (15 ppg, 8 apg, 3 spg) and Jaylyne Brown. The Seminoles will be anchored inside by massive 6-foot-11, 285-pound center Kentrevious Jones after he posted 17.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game at Central-Macon. The huge region changing transfer committed to Xavier in September.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer as Rutland loses two of its top players in the aforementioned Foster and Brown after slipping to 9-16 after owning the region in 2014-15 with Ty’lik Evans leading the Hurricanes to a 27-4 mark. Senior forward Jaikez Mann will see the bulk of the load placed on his back after being named All-Middle Georgia Honorable Mention.

Former Rockdale County Head Coach and Athletic Director Al Williams steps in to turn around the Jackson program. A large senior class graduates, making way for the Red Devils to a find a new leader.

Kendrick looks for its first winning season since 2013-14, after falling to 5-20, their worst record since 2007-08. Junior Tyler Brooks and sophomore Jalen King could play a role in the Cherokees’ future resurgence.

Peach County sees Prelvis Paster enter as head coach after leading Lamar County to an 11-14 mark and a state playoff berth in Class AA. Senior guard Jared Johnson returns with his 19.9-point per game average and represents a true No. 1 option for Paster to lean on. Fletcher Hooks chipped in a second-best 8.5 points as a junior.

Pike County was handed some of the worst beatings in the state last year in Class AAAA. Losses of 68 (Eastside), 61 (Jonesboro) and the coup de grace, a 102-point loss (116-14) to Jonesboro, highlighted a dreadful season. The Pirates’ only win of the season came in overtime against 0-26 Hampton, 49-47. 6-foot-10 senior center Acton Shirley averaged 11.1 points and 9 rebounds. He cashed in his play with the Pirates and with Team Forrest over the summer, committing to Gardner-Webb.

Region 5

Pace Academy (21-10)2A
Westminster (22-3)
Lovett (22-7)2A
Cedar Grove (21-8)
Redan (16-9)4A
Stone Mountain (12-14)4A
Towers (5-20)
McNair (4-19)

Two big name transfers flirted with joining the reigning Class AA state champion Pace Academy Knights, but neither enrolled. Instead Pace will have to settle with five-star 6-foot-10 senior center Wendell Carter Jr., who is viewed as the No. 1 player in the nation by some and by others, a consensus Top 3 prospect. Carter was named Player of the Year in the state of Georgia by Sandy’s Spiel and will attempt to repeat and lead the Knights to the promise land again, a team that opened up the year 2-8 and bounced in and out of the state rankings due to their tough national schedule. Back with Carter is 6-foot-7 junior forward Isaiah Kelly, a highly touted prospect in his own right. With Zack Kaminsky now at Penn and Caleb Holifield transferred to Peachtree Ridge, seniors Barrett Baker and Mark Sommerville must continue to bring solid play out of the backcourt.

Westminster was the biggest shocker in region tournament play as the Wildcats entered Region 4 with a 22-2 record but were eliminated by 15-14 Jackson-Atlanta, 53-48, denying Westminster a trip to the state playoffs. Star forward Will Benson has graduated and was the No. 14 pick in the MLB Draft, selected by the Cleveland Indians. Also gone are guards Philip Jones and Tyler Barry. 6-foot-5 senior forward Mikael Sampson now becomes the unquestioned go-to guy. He has diversified his game and will have the ball in his hands more now that Benson has left. Sampson will be challenged nightly by a tough new region.

Much to Lovett’s chagrin, the Lions move up to Class AAA but are still stuck with Pace, who they lost to by 13 and 14 points, sandwiched in between by a 66-63 overtime victory over the Knights. The Lions lose First Team All-Region performer Henry Richardson (18.5 ppg) but return the best freshman in Class AA last season, Ryan Greer. Greer averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists and was named All-Region. The mature guard is the epitome of a winner and a leader.  Joining him will be junior Crawford Schwieger, a deadly three-point shooter when left open. Sophomore Nick Jackson will see major minutes this season as an undersized, hard working 6-foot forward. Seniors Ryan Pate and Kyle Riley should have chances to see the floor. Pate is a streaky three-point shooter that can help open the floor while Riley, 6-foot-6, is back after missing last season with a blood clot.

Cedar Grove took a trip to the Class AAA Final Four where they were eliminated by Jenkins, 68-59. Antonio Reeves graduates, but 6-foot-8 senior Jelani Woods returns after averaging 12.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. Woods is an Oklahoma State football commit at quarterback. Slotting in will be sophomore Devon Barnes, a 6-foot-2 guard that already showed his scoring prowess as a freshman with multiple big nights. Junior Jamari Dean brings back his lunch pail work ethic on the glass after averaging 5.9 rebounds per game.

Redan doesn’t catch much of a break after leaving the powerful Region 6-AAAA, joining a just as difficult Region 5-AAA. The Raiders lose two pieces of a potent backcourt but do return the man who spearheaded the attack in senior guard Tyronn Stuckey. Stuckey, 5-foot-11, averaged a team-high 14.6 points, 5.4 assists and 2.8 steals while shooting 50% from three-point land. The shifty guard earned First Team All-Region honors as well. For the Raiders to repeat their success, 6-foot-4 senior Jibril Wykcoff will need to help fill the scoring voids left by Darryl Moody (13.1 ppg) and Chae McLaurin (12.2 ppg) and pick up the slack on the glass after losing Ashaki Powell (7.2 rpg).

Stone Mountain follows Redan into their new region but lose heavy firepower in Muhammad Dent (14 ppg), Michael Graham (12.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Donnell Stafford (7.6 rpg). Senior guards Michael Williams and Eric Huff are the presumed top options in the Pirates backcourt.

Towers graduates eight players from a 5-win team. Top players Tyler Wright, Dalvis Morris, Jamal Benton and Jermaine Neal are all gone. Rising sophomores Jaronta Sims and Damaje Hicks saw varsity experience. Hicks is 6-foot-7.

Jarion Davis graduates from McNair, leaving the Mustangs without their primary post presence. The team only had three seniors last year and bring back a heavy junior class for their final year in 2016-17.


Region 6

Calhoun (27-1)
Coahulla Creek (21-7)
North Murray (19-9)
Sonoraville (11-13)
Murray County (10-17)
Ringgold (10-18)
Adairsville (9-19)
Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe (6-20)
Bremen (3-21)2A
Haralson County (1-23)

Calhoun’s magical undefeated season came up short, falling to Jenkins in the Elite Eight 84-78 after making a furious comeback. Top scorers Kaelan Riley (15.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Jireh Wilson (13.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.5 apg) both graduate and now start their collegiate football careers at Mercer and Wofford, respectively. Riley ranked second on the team in scoring his freshman year and led the Yellow Jackets his following three seasons in points per game, making him a massive loss and an all-time Calhoun great. Second leading scorer Chapin Rierson returns for his senior season after posting 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds as a versatile 6-foot-5 forward. Rierson could see an uptick in his scoring role now that Riley, Wilson and Ray Reeves (9 ppg) are gone. Guards Malik Lawrence (6.8 ppg), Rhett Abernathy (3.5 ppg) and Porter Law will all see major minutes. Lawrence and Abernathy enter their senior seasons as experienced backcourt members while Law brings toughness and physicality to the perimeter as a junior.

Coahulla Creek enters its sixth season and has seen progress each year. Last season the Colts recorded a school-record 21 wins and earned their first state playoff berth, losing 80-61 to Banks County in the opening round. Major changes are coming for the Colts however as Head Coach Matthew Queener has stepped down and senior standouts Alex Fisher, JR Laird and Caleb Lewis have graduated. Matthew Legg, a Murray County assistant, now enters to lead the Colts. He will need to replace Fisher, an All-Region performer that did it all for Coahulla Creek and nearly led the Colts to an upset of Calhoun before falling 65-58 in overtime in a classic. In fact, Coahulla Creek was the only team all year long to stay within 10 points of the Yellow Jackets, losing their first meeting 60-52. Senior and Second Team All-Area honoree Tyler Phillips brings back the most experience as a fundamentally sound player and active rebounder inside.

North Murray has developed a proud young program in short time, posting winning records every season since joining the GHSA back in 2011-12. Top guard Noah Allen transferred to North Carolina last season but that didn’t stop the Mountaineers from taking another trip to the state playoffs where they lost 55-54 at Lumpkin County. Second Team All-Area performer Lucas Sexton graduates along with Jordan Couch.  Inside, 6-foot-6, 285-pound rising sophomore Luke Griffin is a handful. He recently committed to play football at UGA.

Sonoraville loses Hunter White and Austin Carter as strong guards but return 6-foot-4 post Bryce Waters. Junior Wil Walraven is a capable guard going on scoring tears. A fully healthy Brad Wilson will star in the backcourt as a knockdown shooter from beyond the arc.

Murray County graduates 10 seniors, meaning plenty of new faces will get a chance to step up. Football standouts Dominick Genitempo and Braden Weaver enter their senior seasons and should help out on the hardwood. Cade Vice made the Indians roster as sophomore and could contribute this year in the backcourt.

Dual-sport star Mac Brower powers Ringgold in football and basketball. The 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 18.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game as a junior. Rising junior Nathan Camp (5.7 ppg) and senior Davantae Jackson (5.6 ppg) represent the most help returning.

Adairsville returns it top core of a 9-win team, bringing back the team’s Offensive Player of the Year (Sr. Cole Hewatt), Defensive Player of the Year (Sr. Juan Perez) and Most Valuable Player and All-County selection senior Ronald Hardin. Junior guards Hunter Hice and Ethan Belcher also hold promise moving forward.

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe is led by junior post Zach Thompson (9.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg), senior guard Noah Harris (9 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and junior guard Andrew Brock (6 ppg). Senior Triston Bennett is a steady rim protector (5.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.1 bpg).

Bremen moves up from Class AA to AAA in search of finding more wins. The Blue Devils have bright future as sophomores Charlie Crafton and Jason Houston both made All-Area Honorable Mention as 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3 freshmen. Crafton led the Blue Devils in scoring with 14.4 points to go along with his 5.8 rebounds. Dalton Smith could fill a role as a three-point specialist in his first season with Bremen.

Haralson County played in the smallest and possibly weakest region in the state last year, 5-AAA, but still finished 1-23, their only win coming against state playoff participant 8-18 Rockmart. Bremen won just three games last year with two coming against Haralson County, 46-30 and 39-35. Top player, J.C. Garrett an All-Area Honorable Mention pick, has graduated. Coach Vic Coggins enters his second year at the helm. Senior Kris Boyd, sophomore Nick Vaughn and junior Noah Ray will be important pieces while incoming freshman Bryson King could be a key cog in the Rebels’ eventual turnaround.


Region 7

East Hall (21-8)
North Hall (21-8)4A
Lumpkin County (19-11)
Greater Atlanta Christian (17-11)2A
Union County (16-14)2A
Dawson County (13-13)
Fannin County (11-14)

East Hall took a trip to the Sweet 16 where they were eliminated by Westside-Augusta, 79-59. Coach Joe Dix will need another masterful coaching performance this year as the Vikings lose key players and size. Graduates Tylor Brown, Triston Cooper and Andy Lara represent a backcourt that was heavily relied upon. Brown, a First Team All-Area selection, averaged 19.3 points his final season. Senior Markese Jackson is focusing on football full-time. His athleticism will be sorely missed. Luke Cooper is coming off a broken ankle he suffered during the Vikings’ first practice of the summer. The absence of all the aforementioned players afforded Dix the opportunity to load his offseason roster with freshmen and sophomores. Sophomore Luke Holtzclaw showed a nice three-point touch and could see important minutes this year. Lone veteran, 6-foot-5 forward Mahki Brown, is a senior that will be asked to control the paint after averaging 7 points and 5.5 rebounds. Senior guard Keilen Dowdy returns from an ACL injury and will bring quickness to the Vikings backcourt. Senior guards Tony Martinez, Deonte Evans and Joseph Buffington will be valuable pieces while sophomores Trevor Rider and Cambren Harrison help out from the guard and post position, respectively. Eighth grader Imre Earls saw some action this summer. The guard will be a player to keep an eye on in the coming years in Hall County.

North Hall lost a heartbreaker to Carrollton in the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament, 59-56. The Trojans drop back to Class AAA where they finished 29-4 in 2012-13 but sank to 6-20 the following year. Coach Tyler Sanders has seen the rebirth of the program but must take the next steps without Carson Heinen and Sam Jackson, one of the most reliable backcourts in Hall County. Heinen was a First Team All-Area pick after posting 19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game and earning Region 8-AAAA Co-Player of the Year. Jackson was a strong leader on the floor that got Heinen and Evan Easton the ball. Easton, a rising 6-foot-4 senior post, was Second Team All-Area following a season in which he averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds and was named First Team All-Region 8-AAAA. Joining Easton will be seniors Jake Meeler, Justin Rabb, Alec Volle and Alden Lewallen. Meeler brings toughness to the interior at 6-foot-2 while Rabb, Volle and Lewallen all have waited patiently and now get a chance to make an impact at the varsity level.

Lumpkin County got off to a hot start to open the Jeff Steele era, winning 13 of their first 16 games, but sunk back to the pack once Region 7-AAA play opened, losing seven of their next 12 before entering the state tournament. Even with the bumpy end to the season, the Indians won 10-more games than they did in 2014-15 and picked up a 55-54 win over North Murray before losing to Laney in the Sweet 16, 91-45. All-Area Second Teamer Jack Howard must be replaced. The big-time scorer averaged 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Honorable Mention big man Brandon Zarate is gone as well after becoming a double-double machine. Senior guard Zach Pulley is in-line for a big year with Howard graduated.

Coach David Eaton experienced some turbulence in his first season at Greater Atlanta Christian, but was able to steer the Spartans into the Sweet 16 in Class AA after two of the team’s best players were dismissed halfway through the year. Rising sophomore point guard Hunter McIntosh played beyond his years as a cool-headed ball handler that was able to fill it up when asked. He should continue to improve and has next level written all over him if his freshman season was just a preview. California, Stanford and Florida Gulf Coast have all shown interest. 6-foot-8 Air Force-commit Charlie O’Briant is a skilled player that can stretch defenses. To fully maximize his potential, he will need to add some more weight to his slight frame, but the skill set is there. Sophomore Chris Hinton allows O’Briant to be the finesse player while he lays the boom inside. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Hinton is a bruiser inside that can finish down low and hit the glass hard.

Union County took a trip to the Sweet 16 before getting annihilated by Thomasville 65-30.  The loss of 6-foot-8 Chase Shook (10.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.2 bpg) hurts the Panthers inside but the team’s top two scorers are set to return in Lawson Baenninger and Crawford Colwell. Baenninger, a 6-foot-2 senior, averaged 13.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.2 steals. Colwell, a 6-foot-1 junior, posted 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Dawson County had a reason for optimism with Chad Pittman stepping in as head coach from Chestatee and a strong junior class coming back. A monkey wrench was thrown into those plans however as centerpiece Gabe Bryant, a 6-foot-8 animal inside, decided to return home to South Carolina. Nonetheless, Pittman still has four starters (all juniors) returning highlighted by All-Region member Cullen Reed and Jeremiah Crumley as top scoring options with plenty of experience. Football standout Coey Watson and Ryan Gallenkamp round out the starting group that remains intact. The loss of Bryant leaves the Tigers without much size, their tallest players standing 6-foot-2. Seniors Joseph Cronan and Corey Hammond will be asked to provide leadership while 6-foot-2 Kane Palfrey will see important playing time as a junior.

Fannin County joins a tough region and will look for leadership from seniors Clay Ware and Logan Holt who were among the team’s leading scorers last season.


Region 8

Morgan County (26-4)
Jackson County (18-12)
East Jackson (17-12)
Monroe Area (15-13)4A
Franklin County (7-19)
Hart County (6-20)

Morgan County recaptured the Class AAA crown by upending rival Jenkins 66-56, giving the Bulldogs their second title in the past three years. Jordan Ford (Jackson State), Jailyn Ingram (FAU) and DeVorious Brown (FAU) all leave big holes across Morgan County’s starting five. The next big thing coming out of MoCo however looks to be Alec Woodard. The rising sophomore broke a school-record with 10 threes in a game. Obviously, Woodard at 6-foot-3 can shoot the lights out of the ball, but he can score when attacking the basket as well. He will be Coach Jamond Sims’ lead dog in 2016-17. It will be interesting to see who steps up around Woodard. One likely candidate to do so is 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Tyrin Lawrence who moves in from Monticello where he averaged 5.9 points per game. Lawrence built a bond with Woodard over the summer with the Atlanta Celtics.

Class AAA Coach of the Year Chuck Butler successfully changed the culture surrounding the Jackson County program seeing a turnaround from 4-22 to 18-12, in the process capturing their first state playoff win in 51 years when they defeated Rockmart 75-52. The Panthers met their demise in the Sweet 16 with a loss at Jenkins, 70-51. Now it is up to Butler and top assistant Brad Hayes to continue Jackson County’s rise from obscurity. A senior class that stuck together and bought into Jackson County’s E.A.T. mentality was the key to success. Out of those seven seniors the losses of Joel Ellis, Preston Giroux, Malique Wade, Stephen Fogarty and Jase Latty hit home the hardest. Ellis was a First Team All-Area selection after banging inside to average 18 points and 9 rebounds. Giroux was a Second Teamer that brought versatility to the table while Wade, Fogarty and Latty all bought into their roles. Rising senior Christian Smith will be relied upon to pack a scoring punch for a Panthers team that must continue to play hard. Brock McCullum and 6-foot-4 Kyron Baker are a pair of seniors that will factor into Coach Butler’s system. New addition Tae Woods is an athletic 6-foot-4 forward that hails from Gainesville. Woods has a chance to provide some much needed versatility, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Point guard Owen Purvis is a leader by example while sophomore bigs Chase Daniel and Wright Wilson represent playable size over their final three seasons.

Things are a lot different at East Jackson now that David Boyd has stepped away from the program. Drue Drinnon and Travis Anderson have gone their separate ways. Senior guard Jaylen Morgan also transfers out, taking his bounce to Central Gwinnett. David Akin takes over as head coach and has started to implement a next-level approach for preparing the team, using advanced video break down for statistical analysis. With all of the Eagles blue-chippers out the door, the fearless Akin has still scheduled six exposure events including a date with defending Class AA state champion Pace Academy. Junior Kobe Haley is 6-foot-3 on the wing and should have plenty of scoring opportunities. Cody Nix provides a 6-foot-4 frame on the perimeter and Zay Clark, a junior, is the only returning starter. Junior guard Jace Bonds transfers in from Oconee County as an athletic and active backcourt member. Sophomores Miles Addington and Marcus Wingfield both have chances to earn major minutes.

Monroe Area lost a heartbreaker in the opening round of the Class AAAA playoffs, losing 53-52 to Woodward Academy. Coach Chris Jackson enters Year 3 and looks to make it 3-for-3 in making it to the state playoffs. In his first season in 2014-15, he turned a 4-22 program into an 18-12 unit. Expectations are high for a young group in 2016-17.  Chandler Gibson is a veteran leader that averaged 15.8 points and 3.4 assists while being named First Team All-Region 8-AAAA.  Junior guard Devin Sheats is steady with the ball in his hands and boasts a high-IQ. 6-foot-6 junior wing Elijah Goodman was out with injury after Christmas when he broke his foot. Now on the mend, healthy and ready to go, the lengthy shooter has a chance for a breakthrough season. The Hurricanes put together a 24-5 mark over the summer and look poised to push for the playoffs even though only two seniors are projected to see important minutes.

Franklin County must replace KeAndre’ Morrison and Phoenix Roberts in the backcourt. Four sophomores suited up for the varsity last year.

Hart County sunk from 16-14 to 6-20. Senior Marquavian Walker will be joined by a group of juniors: Mondriquez Craft, Tyler Dalton, Tevin Craft, Jalen Brown and PJ Rucker in hopes of turning the Bulldogs back into a contender.