Sixty-four things to know before we tip off the 19-20 HS season in Georgia
The high school season is upon us here in the great state of Georgia and there are plenty of things to get excited about. The talent is deep and teams have reshuffled and restocked as we prepare for another March to Macon.
In an annual tradition, I dive into 64 things you need to know about Georgia high school hoops. Let’s get into it.
1. Repeating is hard. Well, kind of. We have a tendency to see the same teams stand alone at the end of the season. We've had repeat state champions every year but twice since 2008 in Georgia. Dynasties live in the Peach State.
Can we see history repeat itself this year? Let’s dive into each of the defending state champions.
2. Can Class AAAAAAA champs McEachern repeat? The Indians ran a perfect 32-0 season last year and ranked among the best teams to ever in Georgia high school basketball history. That’s a hard act to follow. This year’s squad has some new faces but the Indians still have Sharife Cooper leading the way in the backcourt. The future Auburn Tiger is one of the nation’s best and one of the best point guards in Georgia high school basketball history. He’ll have a relatively new roster to work with. Out-of-state transfers Dylan Cardwell (from Oak Hill) and Randy Brady (from Brentwood Academy in Tennessee). Jovan Tucker comes over from Cumberland Christian. He’s committed to Mercer. Bobby Moore comes over from North Cobb Christian. Keep an eye on junior guard Jens Rueckert. We saw him quite a bit on our HoopSeen stage and love his athleticism and ceiling as a player and prospect. Class AAAAAAA is always a marathon to the championship. Winning it all is the hardest thing to do in Georgia high school hoops. The Indians did it last year perfectly well and with one of the most dynamic players in America at the helm, there’s no reason to think they can’t just do it all over again in 2020.
Can Class AAAAAAA champs McEachern repeat?— HoopSeen Georgia (@HoopSeenGA) November 1, 2019
3. Can Class AAAAAA champs Tri-Cities repeat? In short, yes. Absolutely. But first, how can we forget about the absolutely magical finish (VIDEO) to Tri-Cities state title win over Tucker? Gone is most of the starting lineup from that magical team that won 26 games last season. But Peyton Daniels is back. And the junior guard is absolutely terrific. He’s one of the best bucket-getters in the state of Georgia regardless of class. He has big game and big play ability. Expect an another stellar season from him. Senior wing Demetrius Rives is primed for his turn now at Tri-Cities. He was a starter on the state title team and got better as the season grew older. At 6-foot-4 and athletic, he’s a tough player for teams to match up with. South Atlanta transfer Julius Lymon fits the bill for the type of big man that the Bulldogs have had success with him in the past. Tri-Cities is in good position to be a contender once again this year. Bank on that.
Can Class AAAAAA champs Tri-Cities repeat?— HoopSeen Georgia (@HoopSeenGA) November 1, 2019
4. Can Class AAAAA champs Buford repeat? The roster is in reset mode for Eddie Martin’s group this season. The Wolves graduated a plethora of talent from last year’s state championship squad. Try 11 outbound players. Eleven. That’s a staggering number. But if anyone can weather such a transitional year it is Martin, one of Georgia’s Mount Rushmore high school coaches. Senior Caleb Williams, a consistently good player on our HoopSeen stage whether it is in travel ball or on the Preview camp stage, is the only player back who has significant history in the program. He’s big and strong and fits the mold for the type of wing that has had success under Martin over the years. Big man James Munlyn transferred over from North Gwinnett, giving the team one of the biggest players in Georgia in the middle of the defense. From there, the talent is younger but also promising. Sophomores Jaylon Taylor, a 6-foot-6 wing, and 5-foot-10 point guard Caleb Blackwell should see plenty of court time. So should freshmen Malachi Brown, a 5-foot-10 point guard and 6-foot-5 forward London Williams. But repeat? That’s going to be a tough road to drive down with so many new and inexperienced players.
Can Class AAAAA champs Buford repeat?— HoopSeen Georgia (@HoopSeenGA) November 1, 2019
5. Can Class AAAA champs Carver-Columbus repeat? The magical run for both the school’s programs was fun to watch last year. The boys and girls brought home the title. The championship was the first since 1971. AJ Watts is gone but that means it is time for someone new to take over. Keep an eye on youngsters DJ Riles, a sophomore guard on the rise, and 6-foot-5 freshman KJ Smith. Columbus hoop heads are high on the up-and-comers. Central Florida football commitment JaCayis Credle gives the team some athleticism and toughness to lean onto. Can they do it again in 2019-2020? That's goina to be tough in what should be a competitive year in AAAA.
Can Class AAAA champs Carver-Coumbus repeat?— HoopSeen Georgia (@HoopSeenGA) November 1, 2019
6. Can Class AAA champs Morgan County repeat? That's a good question. And a question that seems to bear repeating nearly every year. Rather, will Morgan County be a state championship level team. And more times than not, the answer is a resounding yes. The Bulldogs have a winning program, chalking up a minimum of 22 wins a year since 2011. After their 30-2 run to the championship last year, the roster will look quite different in 2019-2020. There is an entirely new group of players into the Morgan County talent stable as the majority of last year’s team has graduated. This year’s quest to remain not only at the top of the classification will be tough. Even more, the quest win their own region will be a battle worth watching this season.
Can Class AAA champs Morgan County repeat?— HoopSeen Georgia (@HoopSeenGA) November 1, 2019
7. Can Class AA champs Therrell repeat? Yes. I think they can. They should be at least considered the favorite. After their terrific run to the title last year, coach Eddie Johnson has his group ready for a defender’s mindset run this season. The group is anchored once again by one of the most versatile and aggressive forwards in the state in junior Robbie Armbrester. The do-everything high school version of Draymond Green is one of the best rebounders in the state and one of the toughest players to defend. The team has important seniors in the line up and understand what it takes to make a run for a repeat. Roman Son, one of the best point guards in the 2020 class in the Peach State, and RaSean Frederick is primed for a big year on the wing. Cameron Fortson is a strong wing that demands attention on both sides of the ball.
Can Class AA champs Therrell repeat?— HoopSeen Georgia (@HoopSeenGA) October 31, 2019
8. Can Class A Private champs St. Francis repeat? Why not? The Knights return some star power to the lineup. Dwon Odom is one of the most competitive players in the state of Georgia and even in the Southeast. The future Xavier guard will go down as one of the very best that have played at the Alpharetta private school. His fiery play in the backcourt is hard to contest with for opposing teams. Odom won’t settle for anything but a state title on his way out of the program. Along side him is Chase Ellis, a steady force in the starting lineup. Ellis has been one of the most consistent high school players in Georgia. Junior forward Jasuan Holt is coming off a productive spring and summer. His play vaulted himself into the top 10 for the class of 2021 in Georgia. Holt is the perfect modern-day big man that can step out and shoot the three all the while be a menace on the glass as a rebounder. With three state championships since 2014, St. Francis is in good position to do it again in 2020. But, the road to Macon won’t be easy. It never is in Class A Private. This is a deep class with some top-heavy talent in the group. St. Francis will have to battle through some games to bring home another trophy.
Can St. Francis repeat as the Class A Private champs this season?— HoopSeen Georgia (@HoopSeenGA) October 30, 2019
9. Can Class A Public champs Calhoun County repeat? There aren’t too many people in the state of Georgia who are talking about the absolutely amazing 32-0 season that Calhoun County had last year. Thirty-two and zero. Undefeated. Unblemished. Perfect. That’s quite the tall task and the Cougars didn’t have much push back in that journey either. The team boasts one of the best players outside of the Atlanta area in junior guard Tykevious Curry. He and Jahmad Wiley make for a nice 1-2 punch in the backcourt. The roster is quite different from here though. They enter the season as one of the hottest teams in the nation. Can Curry and Calhoun County continue it on?
Can Calhoun County repeat as the Class A Public state champs?— HoopSeen Georgia (@HoopSeenGA) October 29, 2019
10. Region 2 is the toughest region in AAAAAAA this season. And that’s the case nearly every season. Only one team - Newnan - had a losing record last year and since only four teams can advance to the state playoffs, there is always a state tournament worthy team that misses the cut as an automatic bid. East Coweta surprised the state with their terrific 24-4 season last year. Can someone like Campbell run the table this year and improve upon their 14-13 run? Or will regard stalwarts like Pebblebrook or Wheeler or Westlake use the tough region schedule help propel them to the next stratosphere?
11. Region 5 is the toughest region in AAAAAA this season. The defending state champs - Tri-Cities - reside here. So does Alexander, Douglas County and Langston Hughes. The state champ has come from this region for the last three seasons as Hughes went back-to-back prior to Tri-Cities. This year will be another slugfest in region play. Tri-Cities lost a lot but return Peyton Daniels, one of Georgia’s best 2021 players, and Langston Hughes has a good core of talent back, including recent Campbell commitment PJ Carter back. Alexander’sJaylen Brown and Marvier McGhee make up two of the most underrated seniors in Georgia. Douglas County has a terrific 1-2 punch of their own. However, their strength lies within the paint and out to the wing. Juniors Omarion Smith and Jaylen Jackson are athletic and rugged forwards that will pose a challenge.
12. Region 5 is the toughest region in AAAAA this season. The Dekalb County grudge match has historically been one of the best counties in the state of Georgia. Some of the best coaches, best players, best programs and best home court advantages live here. Get to a game in Region 5 this year. There are plenty to find. But get there early. Trust us. Get. There. Early. Lithonia and Southwest Dekalb are our early contenders for the top spot in the league but Miller Grove got better as the season grew older last year and Columbia is always going to be a threat with Dr. Phil McCrary leading the way with the immense talent that he always has on his roster. I’ll just leave this right here though - this is the year of Eugene Brown. The future Ohio State guard has been waiting for this moment for almost a year since he broke his leg. Brown has a chance to have special senior season. Mr. Georgia Basketball levels of special.
13. Region 4 is the toughest region in AAAA this season. The league conversation will start with Woodward Academy, naturally. The War Eagles have one of the premier big men in the nation in Walker Kessler. The North Carolina bound big man anchors the middle of what has morphed into one of the best starting lineups in the state. Seniors Jacorrei Turner and Michael Whitmore are back in their familiar starting roles. Emory Lanier, a Davidson commit, moved to Atlanta from Tennessee when his dad, Rob, took the head coaching position at Georgia State. Seniors, size and skill round out this terrific roster. Eastside is my sleeper team this season. The Eagles won 15 games last year Chauncey Wiggins is one of Georgia’s best rising prospects. The long wing is just a sophomore and he played junior varsity last season. He’ll get his first taste and test of the big stage this year. Long term, he’s one of the most interesting players in the Peach. Point guard Myles Rice is a name you’re going to want to familiarize yourself with this season. The junior could be the backcourt player we talk a lot about this year. North Clayton has the right mix of size and senior leadership to be a problem this year. Seniors Xavier Valley and Onuma Dieke both stand over 6-6 and both can play valuable roles as interchangeable forwards. Senior Jermaine Lattimore is a perimeter threat.
14. Region 8 is the toughest region in AAA this season. Northeast Georgia has always been one of the best pockets in the Peach for good high school hoops. This year may be the pinnacle. The action in Region 8 should be high-level. Morgan County and Hart County met up in the state title game last year and swept the three games they met up with each other. As we mentioned earlier, Morgan County has lost a ton. And Hart County lost some key members of the state runner-up squad. But Shone Webb is back and he had a really nice showing on the travel season. Six-foot-7 freshman Tahj Johnson should be a name you put on your get-to-know list. Demetrius Glenn returns after a year in Athens at Cedar Shoals. Spoiling all of the fun, though, could be Franklin County. After all, Franklin County knows a little something about surprising folks. They earned an at-large bid last year and then went on to win a pair of road playoff wins and then lost by a bucket in the third round of state. Titus Brown and Micah Roebuck are terrific seniors and will be asked to lead this crew back to the post-season. Jefferson won 17 games last year and will lean on Navy-bound big man Jacob Radaker.
15. Region 2 is the toughest region in AA this season. This region is no joke as four teams should contend for a seat at the top all season. Get ready for some battles down in Southeast Georgia. With full gyms and full end-to-end action, Region 2-AA is never short of exciting. There are five teams - Jeff Davis, Metter, Swainsboro, Vidalia and Woodville Tompkins - that will be above the .500 line this year. Woodville Tompkins went a stellar 29-1 on the year last season. Paced by Benard Pelote, one of Georgia’s best senior sleepers, the squad from Savannah will be tough again. But the balance of an always-tough Vidalia team is hard to contend with. And Jeff Davis has one of the best players in the entire state of Georgia in Murray State bound Ja’Queze Kirby.
16. Region 6 is the toughest region in A this season. That’s always the case, in my opinion. With 19 teams in the region and it broken up into sub regions, you can always find tough in-season games in the private school division of the GHSA. St. Francis continues to wear the bullseye at the top spot. But with that many schools in the region, the hunt is on. Christian Heritage, Mt. Bethel, Mt. Paran, Mt. Pisgah, North Cobb Christian, Pinecrest, Walker and Whitefield all field talented teams that will compete in the Power Rankings.
17. Of the 15 players who were named All-State from last season in AAAAAAA, only two players return this season - Sharife Cooper (McEachern/1st team) and Deivon Smith (Grayson/1st team). That’s quite the exodus of talent. It also tells the story of what to expect in AAAAAAA - a lot of wild twists and turns in Georgia’s biggest classification.
18. Of the 15 players who were named All-State from last season in AAAAAA, three of those players return to the classification. Chattahoochee returns a pair of All-State players - junior guard AJ White was a first team selection last year while Rice-bound senior Cameron Sheffield was named to the second team. Tucker’s runner-up season was highlighted by Jermontae Hill, who was a second team All-State selection last year. Mathew Cleveland was an all-state selection as a sophomore at Cambridge but has since moved to Pace Academy in AAA.
19. Of the 15 players who were named All-State from last season in AAAAA, four of those players return. Lithonia’s Eric Gaines is the only first team All-State selection back in AAAAA. He was a no-brainer selection as a junior last year. Super scorer Anthony Hardy, Jr. was a third team All-State selection at Lithia Springs last year. Cedar Shoals returns a pair of All-State selections as forward Quincy Canty and Tyler Johnson were both on the third team. Caleb Byrd was a 1st team All-State selection at Rome last year but he's since transferred to Newton. KD Johnson was also a first team All-State selection as a junior at Southwest Dekalb. But he's since moved to Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia.
20. Of the 15 players who were named All-State from last season in AAAA, Woodward Academy’s Walker Kessler is the only returning 1st teamer to the classification. Denmark returns point guard Sutton Smith, who was a second team selection. Americus Sumter returns Trae Brown, who was a third team selection.
21. Of the 15 players who were named All-State from last season in AAA, there are zero returning first teamers. There are only three All-State players back to AAA from our picks last year. And all three were just sophomores last year. Sol C Johnson's Emondre Bowles, Javian Mosely of Westside Macon and Central Macon big man Quay Primas.
22. Of the 15 players who were named All-State from last season in AA, nine are back this season. That’s the most of any class in Georgia. Robbie Armbrester of Therrell and Jaqueze Kirby of Jeff Davis were no-brainer first time All-State selections. Glenn Hills has a pair of returning All-State players in forwards Emmanuel Jones and John Whitehead. Jaylin Sellers of Spencer and Roman Son of Therrell were on the second team. Three players from our third team are back - Carl Cleveland of Banks County, Demetrius Coleman of Callaway, and Ja’Quavian Florence of South Atlanta.
23. Of the 15 players who were named All-State from last season in A, eight players are back again this season. Jordan Meka of Mt. Bethel, Dwon Odom of St. Francis and Chance Moore of Holy Innocents' were all named to the Class A 1st team last year. They're all back this season. So are Chandler Baker (Walker School), Chase Ellis (St. Francis) and Lamar Oden (Greenforest). They were all named to the second team All-State. Shad Dabney of Riverside Military and AJ Hopkins of Whitefield were named to the third-team and both are back in Class A this season.
24. The best senior in GHSA is Sharife Cooper. The Auburn-bound point guard from McEachern has my McDonald’s All-American vote. He’s one of the best guards and most accomplished floor generals we’ve had in the Peach State. This year’s team will be different than year’s past as his longtime running mate Isaac Okoro is now at Auburn. Nevertheless, Cooper is one of the true playmakers in the nation and the most entertaining players in the nation.
25. The best junior is GHSA is Jabari Smith. It’s interesting to see summer ball intersect with high school ball. This time last year we said things like “Jabari Smith is going to be good.” And he was as a sophomore for Sandy Creek. But he was good in his role on a senior laden team last season. Now, here we are in the preseason and Smith could be the No. 1 player in the nation and a guy who NBA teams are calling about. A lot can change in those summer months. Do people in Georgia really even know just how good Smith is? Like, just how good he is? Smith is our No. 1 player in the class of 2021 in Georgia and a major contender for the No. 1 spot nationally. It is hard to argue with his body of work in the travel season and on the individual level with USA Basketball.
26. The best sophomore in GHSA is up for debate. And what a great debate it will be. But after from what I saw this travel season, I think the answer is Scoot Henderson from Kell. He’s got a dog in him and his game continues to only get better and better. I saw him get better at USA Basketball. He's a different player in November than he was than he was in February. And that's scary. For now, Henderson is my top sophomore in the state of Georgia.
27. The best freshman in GHSA is…? Oh, who knows? Oh, who cares? I’m a big supporter of letting the young guys take their time to get to the levels of individual notoriety. There are a number of players that can stake this claim. And whoever the answers is now, the answer for who the best senior is when the class of 2023 is in that position could completely change. Enjoy the ride, kids. Enjoy the ride.
28. The best senior in metro no one talks about is Terrence Edwards, Jr. Now at Tucker, the 6-foot-6 wing will be a guy that demands attention this season. Tucker was a runner-up team last year and now they add one of the premier scoring wings in the state. Edwards has transferred around and sat out last year, per GHSA rules. No one knows how to use a scoring wing quite like Tucker head coach James Hartry. Don’t be surprised to see Edwards become one of the most talked about and recruited seniors in state.
29. The biggest breakout star in the state of Georgia is Jaylin Galloway of The Skill Factory. The 6-foot-6 wing is already off to a hot start at the independent prep school program and looking like a guy who will, and should, draw a nice crowd of coaches. He’s not ranked in our junior rankings at the moment. That will change in a big way. Galloway is a sharp-shooting catch-and-shoot assassin. His brother, Kryin, was a late bloomer and shining now at UNC Greensboro. The younger Galloway has a more advanced offensive game at the same stage. Big things ahead for Jaylin.
30. The biggest underclassmen that should break out this season is Isaiah Nelson-Ododa of Winder-Barrow. Sure, the 6-foot-9 junior had a nice showing in June during the NCAA camps and team camps. His name generated a lot of buzz then and then he followed it up in September at our Fall Preview camp. All of the buzz was justified. But he didn’t play a super big role last year as a sophomore. New Winder-Barrow head coach Travis McDaniel will use the face-up four man in a variety of ways. His production should double across the board.
31. The best match-up at Georgia's Elite 8 Tip-Off Classic will be Kell's Scoot Henderson and Westlake's Dillion Hunter. The two USA Basketball guards start the season paired up against each other in what will be a terrific battle of contrasting styles. Henderson, as noted above, is my pick for the top sophomore in the Georgia. Hunter is in the same conversation. He’s the best game-managing guard in the class and knows how to run a high-powered team. The back-and-forth of styles will be fun to tip the season off with. The game is Saturday, Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. at McEachern.
32. The best match-up at the Hawks Naismith Tip-Off Classic is East Coweta’s Chris Youngblood and Therrell’s Robbie Armbrester. The two wings are two of the toughest players in Georgia. Both compete with a winner’s mindset and will do anything and everything to get a win. East Coweta has redemption on their mind after an early season exit last year while Therrell begins the quest of another state championship push. This should feel like a mid-season grudge match of toughness. See this one on Friday, Nov. 15 at Pace Academy.
33. The best match-up at the Jared Cook Classic is Grayson against Milton. If you’re into great guard play, and who isn’t?, this is the game you’re going to want to see. Come out to North Gwinnett on Monday, Nov. 25 at 9:15 p.m. for what should be a nice preview into the now and the future. Grayson boasts the best backcourt in the state with Deivon Smith (Mississippi State), Caleb Murphy (South Florida) and Toneari Lane (Winthrop). Milton’s Bruce Thornton is one of the premiere defenders in the country and he’ll certainly be pressed against this terrific Grayson backcourt. Milton freshman Kanaan Carlyle has a ton of hype coming into his high school career. This is a big early test for the promising prospect.
34. The most intriguing game at the loaded Holiday Hoopsgiving event is Sandy Creek against Berkmar on Friday, Nov. 29 at Holy Innocents’. Why? Well, a couple of reasons. The main one is Jabari Smith. The state’s top junior is also a candidate for top overall junior in the nation. Several hoop mavens will be in town for this game and that opinion could really grow legs after this game. For Berkmar, the new roster will have a big test right out of the gate. Jalen Deloach transferred into Berkmar from South Carolina and the 6-foot-8 forward will be one of the most-watched players in Georgia's 2020 graduating class. What a great match-up for recruiters to see him in.
35. The best game you’ll want to see at the Tournament of Champions Showcase on Dec. 7 at Wheeler High School is Pebblebrook against Chattahoochee. Both teams will play at a break neck speed. Both teams have rosters that can win a state title. Both teams love to put points on the board. Both teams play an entertaining brand of basketball. At last year's TOC tournament, Chattahoochee had one of the best wins I saw all of last season with a 93-90 five overtime win against Greenforest. Don't be surprised to see this game but just as fun and back-and-forth.
36. You'll want to be at Norcross on Dec. 14 for the Hawks Naismith Holiday Classic. The entire day is jam-packed with big time match-ups. Pick an hour and you're going to be glad you came by. Westside Macon against Milton, Central Macon against Lambert. Gainesville against Sandy Creek. Discovery against SW Dekalb. Grayson against McEachern. Norcross against Tucker. Pick any of them. The very best in Georgia will be there.
37. There are a number of other events you'll want to keep up with this high school season in Georgia (and beyond). Bookmark this page for the events you'll want to know about and go to. Be sure go to the games. Support local teams and programs. There's nothing better.
38. Be sure to follow our team on Twitter for coverage this season. Our HoopSeenGA account follows all things Georgia. Terrific follow for season-long coverage. Follow me because I love a good self-promotion. Follow Tai Young, Daniel Paccione, Ty Freeman, Stan Johnson and Austin Smith.
39. The best team in Albany is Dougherty.
40. The best team in Augusta is Glenn Hills.
41. The best team in Cherokee County is Sequoyah.
42. The best team in Clayton County is North Clayton.
43. The best team in Columbus is Carver.
44. The best team in Cobb County is McEachern.
45. The best team in Coweta County is East Coweta.
46. The best team in Dekalb County is Tucker.
47. The best team in Douglas County is Alexander.
48. The best team in Fayette County is Sandy Creek.
49. The best team in Forsyth County is Lambert.
50. The best team in Fulton County is St. Francis.
51. The best team in Gwinnett County is Grayson.
52. The best team in Henry County is Dutchtown.
53. The best team in Hall County is Cherokee Bluff.
54. The best team in Macon is Westside.
55. The best team in Northeast Georgia is Dawson County.
56. The best team in Savannah is Sol C Johnson.
57. I think Wilcox County will win A Public state title.
58. I think St. Francis will win the A Private state title.
59. I think Therrell will win the AA state title.
60. I think Pace Academy will win the AAA state title.
61. I think Sandy Creek will win the AAAA state title.
62. I think Carrollton will win the AAAAA state title.
63. I think South Cobb will win the AAAAAA state title.
64. I think McEachern will win the AAAAAAA state title.