The showdown between UGA recruits Nick Marshall of Wilcox County and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Greenville High lived up to its advanced billing in this weekend’s state playoffs.
Greenville edged Wilcox County 77-75 in the Class A quarterfinals. Marshall, who signed with Georgia on a football scholarship and plans to “walk on” the school’s basketball team, finished with 16 points. Caldwell-Pope, who signed with Georgia on a basketball scholarship and has been selected to play in the McDonald’s All-America game, exploded for 40 points, including six 3-pointers.
The AJC’s S. Thomas Coleman was at the game and offered his insight:
First, I think it’s appropriate to mention the coaches and other players because as Greenville coach Richard Carter said, the game was more than Caldwell-Pope vs. Marshall. Both Carter and his counterpart, Wilcox coach George Kennedy were solid. They used timeouts wisely and had good plans to deal with the other team’s star.
Carter had Greenville stay in “man” the whole game, but he threw different bodies at Marshall. Senior Kanaan Patterson drew the assignment the majority of the time and did a good job making Marshall work for everything. Kennedy used his second best player, sophomore Johnathan Howard, to guard Caldwell-Pope. He “limited” Caldwell-Pope to 12 points in the first half, and outscored him as well (he had 18 at the half). But when he picked up his third foul early in the second half when Caldwell-Pope started to force the issue more, he wasn’t the same offensively.
Still, he finished with 26 points and is definitely a player to watch, as are juniors Milton Jackson and Quez Mohogany. For Greenville, obviously Mario Alford is “the man” as Carter said. But Willie Bailey, who hit the game-winning shot, is also a good looking athlete – long (about 6-3) and explosive. He finished with 14 points, which included a couple of vicious dunks. And Tedric McGill had an all-around good game for Greenville — 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks. He’s about 6-6. Both he and Bailey are seniors. I hope they get the opportunity to play on the next level because I think they can.
Now for Caldwell-Pope and Marshall. Remember, this is based on ONE GAME, although I saw Marshall play in last season’s quarterfinals as well:
Caldwell-Pope fell in love with his jumper a little too much Friday night, and what’s not to love. It looks like it’s going in every time he pulls the trigger, and Carter says he had the green light as soon as he steps into the front court because he has unlimited range. When he decided to take it to the basket he was pretty successful, but I don’t think he did so nearly enough, as illustrated by the fact that he shot just three free throws in the game and two of those were “and ones.” But some of that may be a result of Greenville’s system, where Alford is the main penetrator. Also, Caldwell-Pope has a nice post-up game. In order for him to be a factor right away in the SEC, he’ll need to gain some weight and get stronger (as is the case with most freshmen). But he’s competitive and tough. He split his lip open but came out just long enough to change jerseys. And it was his scrappy defense that led to the steal in the final seconds, giving his team the chance to win it at the end.
Overall, I came away thinking Caldwell-Pope is the real deal. He more explosive than I thought. He might already be UGA’s best perimeter shooter. When he gets bigger and stronger and gains more confidence in his dribble-drive game, look out.
Marshall is an athlete playing basketball, albeit a phenomenal athlete. His game is based around his athleticism because even though he looks like a decent ball handler, he doesn’t appear to be a great shooter. But his athleticism is off the charts. During a secondary break he took off from about 10 feet way from the basket on the right wing. He looked like he could have dunked it, but he decided to just lay it in instead.
He’s thicker now than he was this time last year, so he’s obviously been in the weight room. He’s fast, quick, strong and explosive, tools that translate to any sport. If he played basketball at UGA he’d be a poor-man’s version of Travis Leslie. But on the football field his physical tools could make him another Champ Bailey.
Thanks, Mr. Coleman. Now it’s YOUR turn. What are your thoughts on these two talented players? Predict the future.