Class AAAA boys basketball preview

Region 1

The lineup: Albany, Americus-Sumter, Cairo, Crisp County, Dougherty, Monroe, Westover, Worth County

Teams to watch: Westover, Crisp County, Monroe.

Players to watch: Javoris Cooks, Crisp County; D.J. Jackson, Crisp County; Jabari McGhee, Monroe; T.J. Cromer, Westover.

Strength of region: 3

Last season: Albany appeared in the third round of the Class AA state playoffs and Crisp went 17-10 and went to the third round in AAA. Westover bowed out in the AAA second round.

The skinny: Albany is coming off a 25-3 season but lost seven seniors off that team. Cooks and Jackson may make Crisp the team to beat, while McGhee is a big-time recruit and could push Monroe to another level.

Teams that could win state: Monroe appears to have the best chance.

Region 2

The lineup: Baldwin, Howard, Mary Persons, Perry, Rutland, Veterans, West Laurens, Westside-Macon.

Teams to watch: Westside, Howard

Players to watch: Jonathan Robertson, Veterans; Ronnie Mays, Westside.

Strength of region: 2

Last season: Howard went to the second round in Class AAA, Westside went 21-8 and fell in the state tournament opener in AAA.

The skinny: Mays averaged 14 points per game for Westside, which had a breakthrough year last year. Now that the Seminoles have had a taste of state tournament competition, they could be primed to take the next step.

Teams that could win state: None.

Region 3

The lineup: Subregion A – Liberty County, South Effingham, Statesboro, Wayne County. Subregion B – Burke County, Butler, Cross Creek, Glenn Hills, Hephzibah, Richmond Academy.

Teams to watch: Liberty County, Burke County

Players to watch: Aaron Scott, Liberty County; Donquell Green, Burke County.

Strength of region: 2

The skinny: While a handful of teams are coming off solid seasons, Liberty appears to be the most ready to contend. The Panthers have had deep playoff runs recently enough to have a sense of what it takes. Green, who might be the best athlete in the region, will likely get a late start due to football, but he helped Burke to a 15-7 mark a year ago.

Teams that could win state: Best chance is with Liberty.

Region 4

The lineup: Subregion A – Dutchtown, Eagle’s Landing, Locust Grove, Stockbridge, Woodland-Henry. Subregion B – Griffin, Jonesboro, North Clayton, Riverdale, Spalding, Upson-Lee.

Teams to watch: Eagle’s Landing, Jonesboro, North Clayton

Players to watch: Desmond Ringer and Eric Wortham, Eagle’s Landing; Patrick Petty, Cameron Sutton and Chukedubem Okeke, Jonesboro; Stafan Bradley and Devin (Tank) Lewis, North Clayton.

Strength of region: 4

Last season: Eagle’s Landing (AAA), Jonesboro (AAAA) and North Clayton (AAAA) all went to state semifinals.

The skinny: 4-AAAA is loaded at the top, and while Dutchtown and Riverdale were break-even a year ago and look to take a step forward, the region figures to be dominated by Eagle’s Landing, Jonesboro and North Clayton. Ringer, a South Carolina commitment, is one of the state’s best post players, and Wortham gives Eagle’s Landing a great complementary player. Coach Martisse Troup says his club is the fastest he’s had at North Clayton

Teams that could win state: Eagle’s Landing, Jonesboro, North Clayton.

Region 5

The lineup: Alexander, Carrollton, Columbus, Fayette County, LaGrange, Sandy Creek, Shaw, Troup.

Teams to watch: Fayette County, Shaw, Carrollton, Alexander

Players to watch: Lakeithin Buckner, Troup; Riley Criswell, Carrollton; Jake Pauley, LaGrange; Karim Mawuenyega, Alexander; C.J. Johnson, Fayette County.

Strength of region: 4

Last season: Fayette went 25-3 and lost in the third round in Class AAAA; Carrollton went 26-4 and advanced to the state quarterfinals.

The skinny: This is one one of the deepest regions in the classification, with six teams that won 18 or more games a year ago. Fayette has topped 20 wins seven straight seasons and has made the finals and semifinals in that stretch.

Teams that could win state: Fayette County.

Region 6

The lineup: Subregion A – Chamblee, Columbia, Lithonia, Marist, Redan, Stone Mountain. Subregion B – Banneker, Carver-Atlanta, Grady, South Atlanta, Therrell, Washington.

Teams to watch: Chamblee, Columbia, Marist

Players to watch: Quinton Stephens, Marist; Devin Bellamey, Chamblee, Tahj Shamsid-Deen, Columbia; Frank Barthelemey, Washington.

Strength of region: 5

Last season: Columbia won the AAA state title, Marist went to the third round in AAAA and Washington went to the AAA semifinals.

The skinny: Columbia has been the most dominant team in the state over the past seven years, winning five titles in that time. Now, though, coach Phillip McCrary has moved on, as have the Eagles’ three best inside players from a year ago. Columbia still has point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen, who scored 13 points per game and kept things running smoothly.

Teams that could win state: Columbia.

Region 7

The lineup: Subregion A – Cass, Cedartown, Gilmer, Pickens, River Ridge. Subregion B – Dalton, Heritage-Catoosa, LaFayette, Northwest Whitfield, Ridgeland, Southeast Whitfield.

Teams to watch: Dalton, Ridgeland

Players to watch: Alex Bautista, Dalton; Vonn Bell, Ridgeland; Jalen Smith, Ridgeland; Lance Eustus, LaFayette

Strength of region: 2

Last season: Dalton went 21-8 and made the second round of the state tournament.

The skinny: Ridgeland went 13-12 last year, but with Vonn Bell in the lineup with Smith, it’s not hard to see the Panthers making big-time strides. Gilmer started 11-2 a year ago but struggled the rest of the way. The Bobcats have a strong core of players returning.

Teams that could win state: None.

Region 8

The lineup: Chestatee, Eastside, Johnson-Gainesville, Lanier, Lumpkin County, Madison County, Monroe Area, Stephens County, Walnut Grove.

Teams to watch: Walnut Grove, Lanier, Johnson-Gainesville

Players to watch: Montrell McKenzie, Johnson-Gainesville; Quindarious Russell and Chavis Williams, Eastside; Cody Helgeland, Stephens County; Jordan Davis, Lanier; Degarrious Smith, Monroe Area.

Strength of region: 2

Last season: Walnut Grove went 25-4 but bowed out in the first round of the Class AAA tournament. Monroe Area went 19-11 and also fell in the AAA first round.

The skinny: This could be a year of emergence in 8-AAA. Lanier, led by Davis, went 12-14, but none of the losses was by more than 15 points and the Longhorns played everybody close. Johnson had a similar season. Monroe area lost the school’s all-time leading scorer in Ken Jackson but 10 players return.

Teams that could win state: None.

4 comments Add your comment


November 8th, 2012
8:48 am

Degarrious Smith goes to Monroe Area, not Walnut Grove


November 8th, 2012
12:13 pm

I think you are under-estimating the strength of Marist’s basketball team. Only graduated one player from last year’s squad, which ended its season with a 9-point loss to eventual 4-peat state champion Miller Grove. But enough about basketball — back to football!

Marist Bball fan

November 11th, 2012
10:49 am

Agree with WarEagle. If our guys play to their potential they will have a legitimate shot at the state title. Best of luck to the team as they get rolling!


November 12th, 2012
11:30 am

Marist only had two kids who scored last year and lost one of them. One star and 11 role players is tough sledding. Also lost their X’s and O’s coach. Coaching staff suspect at best now!