As teams get deeper and deeper into the post season, their level of competition is bound to go up significantly after every round of games. As we look ahead to this weeks sweet sixteen games, our staff highlighted some matchups that stood out amongst the rest.
Next to Brandon Boston and Deivon Smith, there isn't a junior guard matchup that I have looked forward to more than Eric Gaines(12th ranked in our 2020 class) and Caleb Byrd(31st ranked in our 2020 class). Both players have drawn interest from our staff and division one coaches through the course of the season. In Gaines you'll see one of the states best playmakers in transition along with a very undervalued ability to set up others. Caleb Byrd has scored points at a break neck pace, being one of the few prospects in Georgia to surpass the fifty point mark. For players that are on different ends of the spectrum, the one thing that remains as a constant is that they can produce in their own respective ways.
There's a time in every player's career in which he's forced to grow up. This could be the case with Tift County sophomore Jatarion Warren as he goes toe to toe with Wheeler senior Malachi Rhodes. Rhodes made a name for himself with his work ethic and was later awarded with a handful of division one offers, ultimately deciding that Bucknell was his future home. Warren projects to have a similar story as he's already created a niche for himself as one of the states better sophomore rebounders. While Malachi's is written, things are set up for Warren to add a significant chapter to his story if he takes care of business.
Another battle of old vs. new as two of the states best forwards face off in south Georgia. Mckenzie Mcfatten has been a HoopSeen regular, shining on our stage as he play his way into his Georgia Southern commitment. Joyful Hawkins has made waves with his play as a freshman by being named one of our Fall Preview camp top performers and leading the Atlanta Big Five to a Best of the South Championship. On top of that, Hawkins is the sole sophomore in the state that was named player of the year in his region. There's some throwback appeal to this one as it's not everyday that a games best matchup is composed of interior threats.
Two players that will surely be in our 2021 rankings are set to matchup as Tri Cities Peyton Daniels and AJ White have put together stellar sophomore campains. Neither guard has shown any signs in slowing down as they have both been catalyst to their teams sweet sixteen run. Daniels played well enough at this years Tournament of Champions to earn an offer from James Madison as White has earned the reputation as an elite point producer. As we look ahead to the future, this game could have major implications in regards to our rankings. It would be easy to predict that this won't be the last post season matchup of their careers.
Tyler Johnson has been a constant force for Cedar Shoals and so far he's been rewarded with a shot to advance to a elite eight. The player that looks to stand in front of his championship pursuit is unhearlded freshman guard Scoota Henderson. His game has created the fanfare of a Bruce Thornton or a Dillon Hunter, but nonetheless, his freshman campaign has shown the signs of a player that will make a ton of noise in the later part of his career. Senior guards CJ Henderson and Justin Perry have contributed in big ways to a Longhorns team that will make for a tough out. A great post season run from Tyler Johnson could turn division one buzz into offers.
Jaxon Etter and Devin Gordon has the makings of one of the more intriguing unsigned senior matchups in the sweet sixteen. With Pebblebrook's sophmores getting the bulk of this seasons attention along with senior guard Jared Harper, Gordon has provided some much needed outside shooting for a team that's one game away from the twenty win mark. Etter remains as a do-it-all prospect that put together a memorable post season run dating back to last season. Both players are college level prospects that have one their fare share of games through their high school career. Coaches in need of size on the wing should circle this one on the calender.