Tag Archives: Sandy Creek

Georgia State Team Camp Session II Preview

Session II of the Georgia State Ron Hunter Basketball Team Camp is here. The first session saw North Clayton powered by center Ahsan Asadullah march its way to the title with a win over Dacula. This Friday and Saturday (June 24-25) returns an even more loaded field. If you’re in the Atlanta area and are a major ‘hoop-head’, this is a must see event but I caution you, some teams will not be at full strength with their top players out at individual elite camps or college visits, so buyer beware.

Nonetheless, the field is absolutely juiced with powerhouse programs, up-and-comers and individual standouts. To break it down for the casual fan and not to slight anyone, here’s a quick synopsis of the teams on display.

Top Tier: Greenforest Christian (A-Private State Champ), St. Francis (A-Private Runner-Up), Miller Grove (AAAAA State Champ), Cedar Shoals (AAAAA Final Four), Pace Academy (AA State Champ), Jenkins (AAA Runner-Up), Treutlen (A-Public Final Four).

2015-16 State Tournament Teams: St. Pius, Sandy Creek, Chattooga, Lambert, Tucker, Grayson, Woodstock, South Forsyth.

Those are just a bulk of the teams that have had success recently. With graduations, transfers and coaching changes, everything is subject to change. Teams like Westminster, New Manchester, Duluth, Etowah, Parkview, King’s Ridge, Therrell and more are what really make this a great field, entering as the great unknowns as to how good they can be this upcoming season.

With a majority of the teams listed, here’s a further breakdown of some interesting/subtle storylines.

Jenkins has two great seniors returning in point guard Zion Williams and Trevion Lamar. Williams flourished in his first season at Jenkins after transferring from Savannah. The lightning quick guard averaged 13.5 points and 3.6 assists. The offense centers around 6-foot-5 do-everything forward Trevion Lamar.  He averaged 16.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.7 blocks. Lamar is one of the best players in South Georgia.

Life will be different without Connor Mannion (Navy) and Ross Morkem (North Georgia), but Coach Scott Bracco isn’t conceding too much of a drop off at Lambert. Tenacious, gritty, savvy and experienced are all words that can be used to describe Andrew Melms. The senior point guard makes the Longhorns offense go, but Musa Thompson and Austin Deckard are lethal as well along with Damon Stoudamire who enters his junior season. Thompson has the measurables to become a very good player as a 6-foot-4 wing. He has a chance to put it all together his senior season.

Individual standouts line South Forsyth, King’s Ridge and Forest Park. These three schools won’t be mistaken as perennial powers in the state of Georgia, but they do hold hidden gems. South Forsyth’s Evan Cole has a shot to establish himself as the best post player in camp after a steady summer with the Atlanta All-Stars. The deceptively athletic 6-foot-8 forward should see a major leap in recruitment his senior season. The double-double machine can score all over the floor and is a threat to go coast-to-coast.

Though he hasn’t become a star at the GHSA level after battling to become eligible, King’s Ridge’s Tolu Jacobs will be hard to miss. The 6-foot-11, 275-pound rock of muscle enters his junior season. I haven’t been able to see him play, but if he is there on Saturday, you can expect to see me at his court. With size like that, there will always be college suitors. It’s up to him to determine his ceiling.

Going from big to small, Avery Wilson, a 6-foot-1 guard at Forest Park, is a fun player to watch. Wilson is uber-athletic and was one of the state’s top scorers in Class AAAAA. He poured in 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. The down-hill scorer took a whopping 180 free throws last year. If he can diversify his game and improve the confidence of his three-point shot (20-for-50, 40%), Wilson should start to gain more statewide attention his senior season.

Sandy Creek will see a lot of young faces take on big roles this season after the graduation of Christian Turner (Gardner-Webb) and the transfer of Elias Harden (Pebblebrook). The Patriots are a long team with 6-foot-7 forward Evan Jester leading the charge his senior season. Jester is no joke. He averaged 9.7 points and 8.6 rebounds a year ago but will be the focal point on offense this season. 6-foot-6 sophomore TJ Bickerstaff can play every position on the floor while juniors Jarred Godfrey, Xavier Brewer, Kameron Miller and Chris Porter have been working hard this offseason.

Etowah and Duluth look to revamp their programs with new head coaches in place. Allen Whitehart leads Etowah while Cabral Huff returns to high school at Duluth after winning a state title at St. Francis and taking a stop at Alcorn State. Both teams have played well this summer.

I have hyped Mountain View this summer and think they can still be very competitive even after the transfer of sophomore point guard Donell Nixon II to Buford this offseason. Another sophomore, Anthony Edwards, is a stud at Therrell. If the 6-foot-3 guard decides to stick it out all four years in Atlanta, he can put Therrell on the map.  He led the Panthers in scoring as a freshman and stuffs stat sheets nightly.

Looking for another super sleeper team? Parkview will build upon their 10-16 campaign. The Panthers are super young, graduating just two seniors. The youth Coach Nick Gast has is exceptional. Ahmir Langlais is a long 6-foot-7 sophomore whereas Jamiel Wright is a 5-foot-8 point guard that worked on his craft along with Langlais recently at the Under Armour Best of the Best Camp. ‘Elder statesmen’ Jack Lapenta, Cam Chavers and Truitt Spencer all return. Lapenta (7.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Chavers (10.3 ppg – leading scorer) are now juniors while Spencer (9.8 ppg) is a sophomore.

Another team with some intrigue surrounding them is Chattooga. The Indians came out of a weak Region 7 in Class AA that saw each team get swept by Region 6 in the first round of the state playoffs. The Indians opened the season 22-1 and spent time in the Top 10 but tapered off, losing four of their last five games to end the year. Only three players graduate meaning the Indians will be a strong favorite to romp through their region again. Twin brothers Isaiah and Isaac Foster are set to return for their senior seasons. Isaiah is a lethal scorer at guard that stretches defenses with his three-point shooting. Senior Jay Shropshire is back as well to provide scoring.

For more insight on a couple of teams not listed, feel free to read my previous analysis of other summer team camps.


No. 3 McIntosh Smokes No. 6 Sandy Creek On Jordan Lyons’ Historic Night

5ANo. 3 McIntosh 69, 4ANo. 6 Sandy Creek 51

Sandy Creek High School was jam packed on Saturday afternoon in a game that featured two top ten programs hailing just 10 minutes apart from each other. What the fans received was a highlight laden contest, but a lopsided result as No. 3 McIntosh outclassed a talented No. 6 Sandy Creek team, 69-51.

The atmosphere was set for an intense game, meaning there was no better stage for Jordan Lyons to make history. The prolific scorer signed to play his college ball at Furman entered trailing former Chief Jeff Sheppard for the all-time boys scoring record by two points. Sitting at 1,917 points, a three-pointer would shatter Sheppard’s record of 1,919. To nobody’s surprise all it took was seconds into the game for Lyons to etch his name in the record books and continue to build on a legacy that will never be forgotten.

On the very first play of the game, Wofford signee Dishon Lowery swung the ball to the right wing where Lyons was ready to catch and fire. Bang. His three-pointer didn’t only move him into first place in boys program history and second behind Gabby Seiler for the school record, but it also set the tone as McIntosh led nearly wire to wire and never relented in a statement game that proclaimed the Chiefs are still the team to beat in Fayette County.

McIntosh leapt out to a quick lead and rode Will Washington the rest of the way. Three dunks in a row put the Chiefs up 9-4 early in the game after monster slams from Lowery and Chase Walter after sloppy defense by the Patriots. In total, the Chiefs would throw down four dunks in the opening frame highlighted by a Washington to Walter alley oop. At the end of the first quarter, McIntosh held a 20-15 lead in a fast pace game.

The Chiefs began to open up a lead, but Elias Harden kept Sandy Creek in the game and hit three three-pointers in the first half to draw the Patriots to within 27-26. But from that point on, it was all McIntosh. The Chiefs used a 16-0 run to blow open a 43-26 lead early into the third quarter. Washington was the key cog from his point guard position, making dazzling play after dazzling play. At the half McIntosh led 38-26 with Washington creating 25 of the team’s points, scoring 14 of his own and handing out five assists.

Sandy Creek had no answer for Washington and the bruising play inside of Lowery and Walter, who finished the night with 14 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and four blocks and 10 points and seven rebounds respectively.

The Patriots went ice cold after drawing within one-point in the second quarter and McIntosh knew what to do after smelling blood in the water. Sandy Creek would never threaten in the second half.

My Take: Will Washington is the best pass-first true point guard in the entire state, hands down. His game is so smooth and his ability to find open teammates is uncanny and unteachable. For the third time this season, Washington left me shaking my head wondering why D-1 schools are not all over him. He finished with 25 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals and completely outplayed Christian Turner, a Gardner-Webb signee, who was stuck on six points for most of the game until a couple garbage time baskets. I wondered if Sandy Creek’s pressure could get to McIntosh’s guards — a resounding ‘no’. I wondered if Evan Jester and Keith Heard II were up to the task of banging bodies with the bulkier and more experienced Chase Walter and Dishon Lowery — ‘no’. Lowery and Walter combined for 24 points, 20 rebounds, three assists and five blocks while Jester and Heard only mustered up nine points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block.

The most troubling thing I saw tonight was Sandy Creek trying to throw lobs off the backboard down 17 in the second half. There is a time and place for that; it’s not when your crosstown rival is throttling you. Elias Harden played well with 25 points, but he and the rest of the Patriots lived by the jumper and died by the jumper in the first half. Christian Turner wasn’t his usual aggressive self and didn’t attack the paint with much success. The Patriots hadn’t played for two weeks and it showed; definitely a brutal draw to play such a powerful team after the long layoff. Coach Anthony McKissic will have a lot of bulletin material to use and will have a nice opportunity to do some teaching and get Sandy Creek back inline as they re-enter region play.

Top Performers

Will Washington – 25 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals
Dishon Lowery – 14 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks
Jordan Lyons – 13 points
Chase Walter – 10 points, 7 rebounds

Sandy Creek
Elias Harden – 25 points, 5 rebounds
Christian Turner – 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Evan Jester – 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Keith Heard II – 3 points, 6 rebounds

Feature Photo By Adam Hagy

Westminster Can’t Shake Slow Start Against No. 5 Sandy Creek

4A No. 5 Sandy Creek 62, 3A Westminster 47

St. Francis High School was host to the Verizon Hoops for a Cure Classic which featured No. 5 Sandy Creek and a Westminster program coming off an 18-8 season. Right away the up-tempo Patriots established their dominance with Gardner-Webb signee Christian Turner hitting Elias Harden on the left wing for a three-ball to open the game. Harden drilled three deep balls all in the first half and finished the game with 15 points.

As good as Harden was from distance, it was Turner who powered the Patriots. He helped ignite a 10-1 run in the first quarter that would give Sandy Creek all the space it needed as Coach Anthony McKissic’s team took a 17-11 lead into the second quarter. Turner scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the first half and bullied his way to the bucket at-will against the smaller Westminster guards.

The Wildcats managed to hang around in the first half with big man Mikael Sampson in foul trouble. The junior picked up his second foul at the 1:21 mark of the first quarter and didn’t score in the first half. Dual-sport star Will Benson was quiet as well in the first two quarters before slamming home a dunk in the final minute of play in the second quarter to give him the team lead with seven points entering the break as Westminster trailed 32-22.

In the third quarter it seemed like momentum would finally swing in favor of the Wildcats as rim protector Keith Heard II picked up his fourth foul at the 4:18 mark of the third with Westminster down 36-26, but McKissic elected to leave him in and seconds later he was rewarded when Heard caught an alley oop and laid it in. Heard fouled out with 1:48 to play in the third with the Patriots holding a 42-28 lead. Entering the fourth Sandy Creek was in control 46-31.

Coach McKissic gearing up for the fourth quarter
Coach McKissic gearing up for the fourth quarter

Sampson and Benson came alive in the fourth quarter, both scoring six apiece, but they could not get any help and Turner continued to control the action for the Patriots. He scored seven points in the final frame and AJ Freeman added five to keep the Wildcats at bay. Westminster was unable to cut the lead to single digits as Sandy Creek’s defense came up with the stops it needed to keep a comfortable distance.

Turning Point: Off a high miss off the backboard, Will Benson came soaring in for a thunderous putback dunk to bring Westminster within 46-33 with 7:10 to play, but the Patriots quickly raced the ball down the court and AJ Freeman converted on a three-point play to take the wind out of Westminster’s sails.

Highlight of the Night: Will Benson turned the tables on “Lob City South” as he recorded three big dunks. His putback dunk, which almost looked like a pass off the glass, left those in attendance marveling at the Duke baseball commit’s athleticism.

My Take: Sandy Creek looks and plays the part of a Top 10 team in the state. They are long, athletic, can shoot and showed discipline; all signs of a well-coached team. Their defense is what can make them a state title contender. The activeness of Keith Heard and Evan Jester inside will be something to watch all season. Christian Turner was a bulldog attacking the basket and abusing the smaller guards of Westminster. He would put his head down and attack at-will, but also was able to find open men outside. Elias Harden settled for too many threes in the first half. Once he started attacking in the second half, it was clear to see why many high major programs are after the junior. Xavier Brewer ended up being the X-factor today. The long sophomore entered in the first quarter and quickly sparked the Patriots. He finished with five points and seven rebounds. Westminster was a little shorthanded due to the football season, but the Wildcats showed flashes of promise. Will Benson didn’t get a ton of chances to create in the first half and I would have liked to see the ball in his hands some more. Mikael Sampson had a slow start to the game but came on strong in the second half. Philip Jones didn’t score much from his point guard position but he filled out the stat sheet in other areas. Tyler Barry, former NBA’er Jon Barry’s son, did not shoot well at all finishing with six points and a lot of missed opportunities. If the core of Jones, Benson and Sampson can control the offense and have it run through them, the Wildcats should have another successful season.

Top Performers:

Sandy Creek
Christian Turner – 23 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals
Elias Harden – 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Evan Jester  – 6 points, 9 rebounds
AJ Freeman – 9 points, 2 assists
Xavier Brewer – 5 points, 7 reboundsFullSizeRender (2)

Will Benson – 18 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block
Mikael Sampson – 9 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block
Philip Jones – 5 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Tyler Barry – 6 points, 3 assists, 2 steals FullSizeRender (1)


Primer: No. 5 Sandy Creek (2-0) vs. Westminster (0-0)

4A No. 5 Sandy Creek (2-0) vs. 3A Westminster (0-0)

A highly talented Sandy Creek team, who enters the season ranked No. 5 in Class AAAA, will matchup against AAA Westminster in the Verizon Hoops For A Cure Classic hosted by St. Francis.

The Patriots behind new Head Coach Anthony McKissic have lived up to the moniker of “Lob City South”, crushing opponents behind alley-oops and suffocating defense. They have notched wins over Morrow (scrimmage) 93-55, Cambridge 82-37 and Banneker 75-36. Saturday’s showdown will be a step up in competition against a Wildcat program coming off an 18-8 season.image2

Four-star guard Elias Harden leads the balanced Patriots offense which averages 78.5 points through two regular season contests. He enters with a 19.5 scoring average while grabbing seven rebounds per game. Evan Jester and Keith Heard II anchor the paint. Jester, a 6-foot-6 junior, is averaging a double-double early in the year with 16.5 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-8 pogo stick Heard, is posting four points, eight rebounds and 4.5 blocks. AJ Freeman is going for 14 points a night and Gardner-Webb signee Christian Turner is logging 12 points on average from his guard position. The onslaught of offense has put up big points, but it has been the defense igniting the Patriots, coming up with 27 steals per game.

Will Benson | USA Baseball
Will Benson | USA Baseball

Westminster will look to Philip Jones to handle the high defensive pressure the Patriots will bring. Jones is an experienced senior guard who has played in some big games over his career. The offense runs through Will Benson, a 6-foot-5 forward who brings shades of Bo Jackson onto the hardwood. The AAA All-State Honorable Mention Benson is a premier baseball prospect that will be drafted in 2016. He has committed to Duke and will attempt to play both sports if he decides against going pro. On the court he is a physical specimen with burly shoulders and ball handling skills that allow him to attack the rack. The southpaw truly looks like a man amongst boys with his athleticism and playmaking ability.

X-Factor: Sandy Creek’s Keith Heard will play an important role on Saturday. His ability to alter shots and clean up misses could be a difference maker. If he is active on both ends of the court for McKissic, the Patriots will be in good shape. Westminster has a big guy of its own who is slowly beginning to come into his own. Junior Mikael Sampson is another strong bodied power forward who likes to mix it up inside. His strength and athleticism will challenge the Patriots’ big men inside. Sampson had a good summer at the 2015 HoopSeen Fall League and will try to build on his success.

Faith & Excitement Surround McKissic & Sandy Creek

If you haven’t heard, there is a new sheriff in town leading the Sandy Creek boys program. A new head coach who is a self-proclaimed “Hype-man” for his team. Anthony McKissic has taken the reins of the Patriots after spending eight years at Morrow, coaching the boys for five years and most recently the girls team for three seasons. With his new gig, McKissic inherits a team that went 17-11 in 2014-15 and enters 2015-16 as Class AAAA’s No. 5 ranked team.

McKissic and his family have lived in Peachtree City for the last two years and with his wife already working at Sandy Creek, pouncing at the job opening after Coach Willie Reese left for Meadowcreek, was a no-brainer.

Bringing over a versatility of coaching both boys and girls in the past, there are different approaches that McKissic uses to get the most out of his players.

“There’s a big difference. There’s a different motivating tool when you’re coaching girls. Boys are usually a little bit tougher, getting them to understand using skill,” explained McKissic. “Girls are obviously more skilled than boys, because boys are more athletic and tend not to want to use skill. That’s how the better teams use a mix of athleticism and skill.”

Coach McKissic uses a variety of ways to make sure his players stay fundamentally sound and play the right way. More importantly, he wants to grow men and women as people off the court. He has held a multitude of positions over his coaching career, helping coach football, tennis, cross country and being the lead recruiting coordinator while at Morrow, but possibly his most gratifying job title has been Minister. McKissic is a man of God and leans heavily on his beliefs to not only guide himself, but help others along the way.

“I think that’s the basis of my whole philosophy. I’m just blessed to be at the position that I am and somebody helped me out at a young age and I just try my best to give back to the kids and be a good role model for them and be a leader in the community and in the school.”

His faith has allowed him to touch numerous people around him, players, parents and coaches alike. When it comes to how he leads on the court, McKissic believes he pulls from both ends of the spectrum.

“I would think I am a mix between a players’ coach and a hype-man,” he said. Some coaches play it close to the vest, but McKissic is a strong supporter of making sure the players have fun while striving for the goal of being the best they can.

“I just think that if they play excited and are happy about what they are doing they’ll do it with a lot more passion,” explained the energy filled coach. “The kids are kids. They want to have fun…I think they get a better experience out of it not making it necessarily a job for them. That’s how the kids get burnt out because coaches come in and they want it to be [like a job]. I believe you can work hard and have fun at the same time.”

Hype Machine

Coach McKissic is likely one of the funnest coaches to play for in the state. His advanced knowledge of cutting up videos, making highlight tapes and putting together pictures promoting the team have been littered all throughout social media, making fans at the Creek as excited as they have ever been for an upcoming basketball season, proud to stake claim to the fact that they are “Just a kid from Sandy Creek.”

One of McKissic’s many graphics

“It’s something that I’ve done since the start of my career,” he said when speaking about his numerous ways of marketing and advertising his teams through social media.

“I use technology as a recruiting piece and a marketing piece to get the guys looked at. A lot of coaches don’t want players using it at all, but I tell them it’s okay to use it as long as you’re mature with it and are being responsible with your social media.

“It’s a tool; you can reach college coaches across the nation with the click of a finger instead of having to send out letters and DVDs. You can just shoot a link to it or shoot out a hype video to the fans and they can get excited about coming to see us play, whereas if we didn’t do that, they might not know what we have here at school.”

Patriot Pride

With hype videos being released to the public, there needs to be a good product on display. Sandy Creek shouldn’t worry about there being a letdown if everyone continues to buy into McKissic’s philosophies.

“They [fans] can expect an exciting and fast paced game. We want to give them something to come back to. We are going to work hard,” stated McKissic.

I may have put a target on the Patriots’ back this season, ranking them No. 5, but it is a challenge and responsibility that the team will embrace.

“The ranking means nothing to us, but, it does put a big target on your back so you have to make sure that you come in and every game play as if you’re respecting the person who gave you the ranking and not disrespecting them by coming out and playing lackadaisical and making it seem like the person didn’t know what they are talking about,” McKissic explained of the Patriots who were eliminated in the first round of the state playoffs last year, 63-46 by 2015-16 preseason No. 6 St. Pius.

“So if you’re going to be the No. 5 team in the state, you need to play like a No. 5 team in the state and not play down to the level of your opponent.”


The Patriots are ranked No. 5 in the state for a reason: good coaching and loads of talent. McKissic had great things to say about everyone on his roster but seven players stood out to me as being potential game-changers night in and night out.CS5eWkQVAAA3GcJ

Seniors Christian Turner, Keith Heard and AJ Freeman will be leaned on heavily to balance the offense.

Turner is a 5-foot-11 guard that is committed to Gardner-Webb.

“He’s a solid point guard. It all flows through him. He controls the ball, he’s not afraid to pass and give up shots to get his teammates involved.”

Heard, a 6-foot-8 power forward, brings length and a high-motor.

“He’s a hard-working kid. He can rebound, he’s big on put-back dunks and he’s a shot blocker.”

Freeman is a guard with good size that often gets overlooked playing alongside other great talent.

“A lot of people aren’t talking about him but he’s a great shooter.”

Juniors Elias Harden and Evan Jester both bring versatility and athleticism. Harden, a four-star wing prospect according to 247Sports, has a chance to be special.

“He’s got offers from about six or seven Division-I schools and he’s just a pure shooter. He’s an athletic kid. He’s gotten a lot better since we’ve been working on him this offseason.

“Jester is another one of those unknown kids,” McKissic told me. At 6-foot-6, his skillset projects well in Sandy Creek’s style of play. “I’m expecting big numbers from him this season on offense and on defense.”

Xavier Brewer will also see plenty of time as a sophomore and freshman guard TJ Bickerstaff has had an exceptional offseason and will fight to see the court.

“We are going to use him [Bickerstaff] kind of to just get his feet wet this year…If you don’t guard him he’ll put up a lot of numbers this season.”

Piecing It Together

With a talented roster expected to do great things this year, the one question mark was would the players be able to mesh with their new coach and form a quick bond heading into the season. Luckily for Sandy Creek fans and possibly bad news for the rest of the state, Coach McKissic feels like everything has gelled quickly.

“I think it was just a match made in Heaven. They are great kids, the community is a great community and I think they bought into it very quick what I was selling, with my main goal for them is just help the kids get scholarships and get looks. I think being that that was my main goal and it wasn’t all about winning, they bought in real quick.”

It takes a special group of kids to get adjusted to a new leader so seamlessly.

“They are just great people, I can say that. The kids are a different kind than the ones I’ve worked with in the past. They are all self-motivated and they all have high GPAs and are very focused…It wasn’t a hard transition.”

The perfect recipe is in place. A fun-loving leader who can keep players motivated with a great group of kids who are hungry to compete and contend for the program’s first-ever state championship. Before long, Sandy Creek might not just be known as a football powerhouse, but a force to be reckoned with come winter time as well.

All Photos Courtesy of Anthony McKissic & Sandy Creek Basketball