Archive for January, 2010

State’s best player: Let’s start with Harrow

My colleague Chip Saye wrote an article a few weeks back on the best college prospects in Georgia.

Jelan Kendrick of Wheeler came out No. 1 among boys. He’s the consensus choice of the recruiting services. I saw Kendrick play for the first time during the Milton-Wheeler game last month, and I can see why Memphis (to which he has signed) is eager to get him on campus.

But is he Georgia’s best player right now? In high school? Kendrick is outstanding, but is his status as the No. 1 recruit built partly on his upside potential? The season is still young. The state playoffs might decide that.

But here are is my choice: Ryan Harrow. Let these videos speak for the Walton point guard:

Ryan Harrow I

Ryan Harrow II

Another guy I like is Marcus Thornton Click on Marcus for some of his highlights. Not only a great talent (6-7 forward averaging 27 ppg), but a great student. Can’t remember if his coach told me 3.8 or 4.0 GPA.

I’ve seen Harrow, Kendrick and Thornton. I’ve seen the Milton …

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Weather conditions may affect this weekend’s high school events

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AJC's Michael Carvell

Many metro high schools are taking a wait-and-see approach on how this weekend’s winter weather will affect athletic events.
“As it stands right now, it looks like the bad weather is going to stay north of us,” Mill Creek athletics director Gary Long said.
“If we are hit by the bad weather, it could affect the wrestling tournament that we are hosting and the county swim championships that are taking place at West Park Pool.”
Meanwhile, a few other metro schools have already called off Friday’s basketball games against opponents from North Georgia, including Dalton at Sprayberry and Allatoona at Northwest Whitfield.
Northwest Whitfield is scheduled to play at Hillgrove on Saturday, and schools officials are also considering cancelling that game. If so, it would be the second time that particular game would be pushed back.  The original play date of Jan. 8 was postponed, also because of icy conditions.

Many metro high schools are taking a wait-and-see …

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High school baseball season and the warmer days of spring

BaseballHigh school baseball is just around the corner.  With these cold and icy conditions, who is not looking forward to sitting in the baseball stands in the glorious spring weather?

One of the state’s best to watch this year is Central Gwinnett’s Philip Bates.

He is a four-year member of the varsity, playing infield and pitcher. As a sophomore, Bates turned heads with a .366 batting average. Last year, he was one of the state’s top hitters, pushing his average up to .478, good enough to earn All-County honors by the Gwinnett Dougout Club. Bates will play in college at Reinhardt.

Who do you think will be some of the top baseball players in the metro and state for 2010? Please post below.

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North Gwinnett team manager serves as inspiration for wrestlers

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North Gwinnett High’s Nick Abrams is one of wrestling’s feel-good stories of the year.

Abrams is a senior who serves as team manager. He has Down’s Syndrome.

“Nick is an unreal kid who helps out there and is the biggest North Gwinnett wrestling fan ever,” coach Phil Daniel said.

“No, he doesn’t wrestle, but he is just as big a part of the team as any of our kids that will (go to) state. Nick is not verbal, so it’s hard. But he communicates with our kids and me through his heart … and one word sentences of “Go.”

“He works hard to help keep our wrestling room clean, and is there every day at practice. Nick is a very special part of your team and proves that everybody can contribute, if just given a chance.”

Got any members of high school teams that inspire you? If so, please tell their story below.

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Mt. Pisgah Christian goes on shooting spree

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There is great shooting. Then there is great, great shooting.

Two players from tiny Mt. Pisgah Christian put on a shooting exhibition over the weekend.

Hank Shaw sank eight 3-pointers in a 79-061 win over Excel Christian, while Brian Ginty nailed eight 3-pointers 78-40 win over Galloway.

It’s one thing for defenders to have to focus on one outstanding perimeter guy? But two?

Are there any other Georgia teams that have two outside weapons of his caliber?

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Central Gwinnett taps Gainesville offensive coordinator to be new football coach

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Happy 2010 from the AJC's Michael Carvell

Central Gwinnett hired away Gainesville offensive coordinator Todd Wofford as its football coach on Monday night.

It is the first head coaching job for Wofford, 37, who has been an assistant for 13 years, including the last five at Gainesville. He was offensive coordinator for the Red Elephants, while also directing the team’s recruiting efforts with colleges.

“I’m excited about Central Gwinnett because I see great potential,” Wofford said. “Once we get things going in the right direction, I feel like we can build a solid, winning program. We want to be competitive every year in one of the state’s top regions.”

Central Gwinnett was 5-15 the last two years under Ed Stokes. Wofford also has college experience, coaching wide receivers at Presbyterian (S.C.) College.

“Todd is one of the brighest up-and-coming assistants in Georgia,” Central Gwinnett athletics director Brian DeBerry said. “What he did with Gainesville’s offense and getting …

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No. 1-ranked South Atlanta loses amid clock controversy

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South Atlanta basketball coach Michael Reddick is not pointing any fingers, other than to say an incorrect scoreboard affected his “team strategy” in Saturday’s stunning 72-67 loss to Spalding County.

It was South Atlanta’s first regular-season loss to a Georgia team in nearly three years. The Hornets are ranked No. 1 in Class AA, and won last year’s state championship while being led by schoolboy legend Derrick Favors [now at Georgia Tech].

“It was unfortunate, but I don’t feel like the (scoreboard) issue was intentional,” Reddick said. “It just made for a lot of confusion for us at the end of the game.”

For Spalding, it was the biggest win in school history. “That win kind of ranks on top of everything else,” coach Cecil Spear said. “It says a lot for our program and what we’re trying to build.”

Here’s what happened:

> With 40 seconds remaining, South Atlanta had possession of the ball with the …

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Is Georgia a basketball state? For players, yes

We got rankings – Columbia’s boys are No. 1. Milton kept its No. 1 spot despite losing. Redan’s girls keep winning. …

But here’s the issue of today. Is Georgia a basketball state?

From a player standpoint, there’s little question. Look at the NBA – Dwight Howard (SW Atlanta Christian), Louis Williams (South Gwinnett), Josh Smith (McEachern). There are a dozen active NBA players who played high school in Georgia. Derrick Favors, a freshman at Georgia Tech from South Atlanta High, will be another first-round draft pick from Georgia.

But what about from a fan standpoint?

There were games in Marietta last weekend at Wheeler (vs. Milton) and at Walton (vs. Wheeler) where the gyms were closed at least 20 minutes for the boys’ tipoff and fans were turned away. Norcross drew good crowds for an event last week that drew out-of-state teams.

But these are high school gyms. They don’t hold that many people.

Milton coach David Boyd wonders why some of the top match-ups …

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High schools basketball teams raise money for Haiti

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The Centennial and Roswell basketball teams are doing their part to help Haiti.

The two teams are encouraging their supporters to text the word “Shoes” to 85944. A $5 charge will be added to your phone bill and a pair of shoes will be purchased and donated.

All texts contributions between 6 and 11 p.m. on Saturday from the 404, 678 and 770 area codes will be acknowledged as being from Centennial and Roswell High Schools. The two schools will also be collecting money throughout Saturday’s game to donate to the Red Cross.

Numerous college and high schools across the country are joining together for the group named “Samaritans Feet.”

“Many of the Haitian people are receiving food and water, but now they are in need of shoes, due to the remaining debris all over the ground,” Centennial girls coach Lindsay Meekhof said.

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Grayson cross country runner wins Gatorade honors

Grayson’s Kirubal Erassa was named Gatorade Georgia Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Erassa finished first with a time of 15:09.19 at the Class AAAAA championship meet, while placing eighth at the Foot Locker National Championships at 15:34.20.
“Kirubel Erassa hands down was way better than any other runner in the state this year,” Collins hill coach Andrew Hudson said. “He was winning by 30 or 40 secodns in every race … Really, from Virginia to Texas, he was the second best runner in the South.”

Grayson’s Kirubal Erassa was named Gatorade Georgia Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Erassa finished first with a time of 15:09.19 at the Class AAAAA championship meet, while placing eighth at the Foot Locker National Championships at 15:34.20.

“Kirubel Erassa hands down was way better than any other runner in the state this year,” Collins hill coach Andrew Hudson said. “He was winning by 30 or 40 secodns in every race … Really, from Virginia to Texas, he was the second …

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South Atlanta High basketball flourishing without superhero Derrick Favors

Life is good for South Atlanta High basketball in the post-Derrick Favors era.

No, the Hornets aren’t scheduled to play any games on national TV, as they did last year when Favors was on the roster. No, the stands aren’t overcrowded with spectators, including college and NBA scouts, all clamoring to get a glimpse at Parade Magazine’s and USA TODAY’s National Player of the Year, who is now playing at Georgia Tech.

Nearly everything is different with South Atlanta this year except for one thing — the program’s winning ways. The Hornets are off to a 14-1 start, including 8-0 in the region, and ranked No. 1 in Class AAA.

They are threatening to do what many thought was impossible — win back-to-back state championships without the superhero wearing the soon-to-be-retired No. 34 jersey in the middle of the lane.

“We’re not as spectacular as we were with Derrick,” South Atlanta coach Michael Reddick said. “We don’t have that unquestioned leader with unmatched …

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Kennesaw Mountain basketball coach hits the 400 mark

Test

The NBA's Jarvis Hayes (right) is one of the former players under Jesse Bonner, who hit the 400 mark in career wins (AP Photo)

Kennesaw Mountain’s Jesse Bonner picked up his 400th career victory in the 57-48 win over North Cobb.

Bonner, who has been a head basketball coach for 24 years, has an overall record of 400-258 — which includes stops at Villa Rica High, Cartersville, and Frederick Douglass. He has sent more than 40 of his players to college, including the NBA’s Jarvis Hayes.

What are your thoughts on Bonner’s milestone? How difficult is it to get to 400?

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Parkview swimmer breaks school record of Olympian

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You always turn heads when you break the records of an Olympian. OK, Parkview swimmer Ricky Lehner didn’t break an Olympic record. However, he did one of the next best things — Ricky broke the record of a Parkview graduate who later made the Olympic team.

Only a sophomore, Lehner set the school record in the 100-meter breast stroke with a time of 58.82 seconds. The previous record was held by 2008 Olympian Eric Shanteau (58.88).

“I think Ricky has been the biggest surprise for us this season — and last season, too,” Parkview coach Jack Gayle said. “He was a talented summer-league swimmer, but I don’t think we could’ve predicted what he would mean to this team in two short years.

“I’m still blown away that he broke Eric Shanteau’s record. It’s going to take a while for that to sink it.”

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What’s up with Wheeler as Milton game looms?

There’s no shame in losing to Campbell, which won at Wheeler last week in Region 6-AAAAA. But there’s little doubt that Wheeler’s boys – the defending champion in Class AAAAA – are vulnerable heading into their showdown Friday against No. 1 Milton.

In fact, this might be the first time Wheeler has been an underdog in its gym since McEachern had Josh Smith and Morris Almond.

Wheeler also has lost to Centennial, ranked No. 3 in AAAAA. Yes, Wheeler lost to Centennial last season and later to Walton and still won state, so there’s no reason to panic on Holt Road.

The real concern is Milton. Yes, Milton lost a game last week too, but that was the championship of a national tournament in Missouri. Milton is unbeaten in Georgia.

Milton actually had a 15-2 lead against White Station of Memphis on Saturday but couldn’t hold on. Story here. Milton had wins over Chaminade (defending Class 5A champion in Missouri) and Christ of the King (No. 1-ranked team in New York, …

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McEachern’s wrestling team inspired by one of its own

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McEachern’s wrestling team has been inspired by one of its own who wasn’t able to be a member of this year’s team.

Sophomore Weston Crusselle was diagnosed with leukemia last April. As a freshman, Crusselle pushed through the entire season, qualifying for the state tournament, while sick.

“We did not know what was wrong him last season other than something just was not right in him.” McEachern coach Jason Faklaris said. “He worked hard to overcome (everything). By the end of the season, his lymph nodes were so swollen around his lungs that he had diminished capacity to breathe.”

After the diagnosis, Crusselle began treatments which have continued into this wrestling season. “We use Weston as a focus to remember to stay true to your passion and never give up,” Faklaris said.

You can follow Weston’s updates by clicking on this link.

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