Hawks-Naismith Tipoff Classic: Five stars shine, Wheeler picks up another W, MORE
ATLANTA, Ga.—Tis the season for tip off and holiday classics in Georgia. Every Saturday from here until the New Year has some kind of major basketball event in the Atlanta metro.
Saturday had plenty of options, but the Hawks-Naismith Tipoff Classic was where I spent my evening.
Two top-10 prospects, multiple Georgia powers, it was an efficient evening to gather more information to start the season.
Here are some highlights.
Five stars shine
High-end star power was in the building on Saturday as five stars Caleb Wilson and Ace Bailey led their teams to wins.
Wilson was up first with Holy Innocents’—the host school. The 2025 wing dazzled with a 27 point, 20 rebound game that also saw six assists.
The scoring was great, he showed his ability from all levels, the rebounding was great, he’s a long 6-foot-9—maybe approaching 6-foot-10 now. He seems to get bigger every time I see him—but it was his passing that captivated the most.
Wilson threaded the ball through tight spaces to set his teammates up for open looks. He often made reads that his guys didn’t even expect. A trio of consecutive assists helped his official stats, but there was some food left on the table in that regard. Wilson could have easily had a triple-double with how well he shared the ball.
He was major defensively as well with several blocks, steals and deflections. Wilson uses his length well on that end of the floor.
Bailey and McEachern were up next.
Looking to rebound after a season-opening loss, the Indians came out swinging. Bailey did as well.
Early dunks set the tone for his 31 point, 14 rebound night.
The Rutgers signee was sensational per usual. It’s rare to find a player that can electrify the way Bailey can at his size.
His athleticism has a different kind of pop to it, and when he’s mixing in his three-level scoring and playmaking, he’s a show.
Bailey had his complete game going. The stats will only show two assists, but he made some high-level passes to lead to open shots or to get the ball moving.
Which stat line impressed the most? The reader can decide. I’m just happy I was there for both.
Wildcats win again
This Wheeler team is still figuring it out, but they’re doing so while still winning.
The Wildcats improve to 2-0 with a 69-49 win over Newton.
While seniors Ricky McKenzie and Josh Hill did most of the heavy lifting in their first game of the season, Saturday’s game against Newton was a balanced effort.
With 6-foot-11 Hill battling foul trouble, Wheeler leaned on its guards for much of the way, and they delivered. McKenzie and Jacob Taylor led with 11 points each.
Taylor was aggressive and got to the free-throw line to get his scoring started. He took some hard falls when pursuing the rim, but he kept at it and helped Wheeler build a strong first-half lead.
Sophomores La Lewis and Kota Suttle are stepping into larger roles and showed well for themselves on Saturday. Lewis went 3-4 from the 3-point line while adding six assists and six rebounds, and Suttle ended his night with 10 points and five rebounds.
Freshman Kevin Savage III added nine points.
It’s a roster with a talented group of young players and one without an obvious star. However, there’s plenty of talent, depth to keep Wheeler operating among the best in the Peach State. So far, they’ve shown that they can learn, gain experience while still earning their Ws.
Josiah Lawson leads Tucker’s rally
While Wilson was doing his thing for the host school, 2024 W Josiah Lawson led a comeback for Tucker (GA).
Lawson ended his night with 32 points, many of which came late in the game when he seemingly couldn’t miss from the field.
Whether he was pulling with his jumper or using his physicality to play through contact around the basket, Lawson was putting points on the board and fear into Holy Innocents’ supporters as he almost erased their lead on his own.
Lawson has been a bucket-getter for years, and if Saturday was any indication, he’ll have his best season yet.
More quick hitters
- 2026 G Devin Hutcherson delivers again. The young guard has consistently proven himself early in his career. He’s not overly flashy, but he’s as productive, versatile a player as there is in Georgia’s 2026 class. Hutcherson is a high-level finisher around the basket, a multi-positional defensive stopper, and he rebounds his position as well as anyone. He finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds on Saturday.
- Look out for 2025 G Jayden Bynes for the rest of the winter and beyond. He’s a guard that should start to get some looks from college coaches. He’s a shot-maker for McEachern. He has been since last year. Bynes was instrumental in staving off a Kell run with his timely shooting. He had 14 points and went 4-6 from the 3-point line.
- 2024 G Jaye Nash finished with an impressive 13 assists for McEachern. That can be his major role on this team. Get the ball where it needs to go first and foremost, score when needed, and play solid defense. That’s what he did to perfection.
- It was a slower night for him, but CJ Brown still put up 18 points and eight rebounds for Kell. The stat that pops off the page is seven offensive boards.
- Jaylen Colon finished with a double-double for Kell. He had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Colon really stepped up his rebounding during their second-half push.
- Belmont commit Bez Jenkins has taken on the senior leadership role at Newton, and he’s been stellar for the Rams to open the season. While they didn’t get the result they wanted on Saturday, Jenkins finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds.
- Elsewhere on Newton, 2026 G Kevin White III impressed with his effort. He was relentless in stretches on both ends of the floor. He got going after hitting some shots from deep, and then his passing and decision making started to show itself. A small sample size, White III looked like he could give this Rams team some good minutes this winter.