The five most intriguing boys teams in the AAAAA field –
Milton – The odds-on favorite, Milton is seeking its fourth straight state finals appearance and second championship in three years. The roster is full of major Division I recruits led by 6-8 wing Evan Nolte (Virginia signee), point guard Charles Mann (Georgia), forward Shaquille Johnson (Auburn) and center Tevin Glass (offered by Georgia Southern and Jacksonville). Jalyn Patterson, who scored 24 points in the Region 6 final against Alpharetta, is a nationally known sophomore. Milton’s record is 23-4, but three of losses were victories overturned by forfeit, and the other, to Tift County, came when Mann was out of the lineup. Milton is ranked as high as No. 3 in national polls.
North Cobb – The most surprising team in Class AAAAA has been North Cobb (24-4), ranked No. 2 after winning 16 of its past 17games. Though always respected as coach who got the most from limited talent, Terry Gorsuch has his first 20-game winner at North Cobb in his 11 seasons. Jordan Neff, a a 6-foot-7 junior, is a rising Division I recruit. He’s one of five juniors in North Cobb’s starting lineup that also includes Jon Beausejour,Lee Moore, Saxon Steele and Dennis Young-Coleman. North Cobb has never advanced past the round of 16.
Shiloh – The Generals (24-4) failed to win their Region 8 and lost two of three game Berkmar, but they remain the more intriguing team partlly because of Thomasville transfer Robert Carter, the 6-foot-9 forward who has signed with Georgia Tech. Another player to watch is 7-foot sophomore Trayvon Reed, who has been erratic but had 15 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots in the 51-50 loss to Berkmar. Note that Shiloh and Berkmar share tough draws. Berkmar must face defending state champion Norcross in the first round, while Shiloh is seeded to play Milton in the second round – if the Generals can get past Mill Creek (21-6).
Westlake – Westlake (24-3) was unbeaten against Georgia opponents until the Region 2 semifinals, when beaten by M.L. King 61-59. The result is a No. 3 seed and a first-round visit to Tift County. Westlake and Tift each have been ranked in the top five at times this season, so this should be this week’s most interesting opening-round matchup. Tift was a semifinalist last season and is led by star stophomore Tadric Jackson. Westlake’s top player is junior Tony Bagtas, a 5-10 point guard who got some starts on Westlake’s 2010 state runner-up team.
Wheeler – A four-time state champion since 2002, Wheeler remains a marquee team in any state tournament despite patches of mediocrity that have led some to count this team out. The 16-10 record isn’t pretty, though most losses are to out-of-state teams. The Wildcats have survived the loss of two early-season starters for academic reasons and won the games that have counted most. That includes a victory in the Region 5 tournament. Charles Mitchell, a 6-8 senior, remains one of the state’s top post players. High-scoring guard Kejuan Johnson is one of the handful of best freshmen in the state.