Class AAAAA boys basketball preview

By Stephen Black and Fletcher Proctor

Score Atlanta

Region 1

The lineup: A – Hardaway, Harris County, Northside-Columbus; B – Bainbridge, Lee County, Thomas County Central

Teams to watch: Hardaway, Bainbridge

Players to watch: Cedric Jackson, Hardaway, Arius Prophet, Hardaway

Strength of region: 1

Last season: Only Bainbridge advanced to the second round.

The skinny: Hardaway returns all but two players from a team that made the playoffs last season. Senior guard Arius Prophet is back after leading the Hawks in scoring with 12.7 points per game. Forward Cedric Jackson also returns after averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. Northside-Columbus made the postseason, but loses five seniors. However, the Patriots return seven rising seniors. There’s nowhere to go but up for Harris County, which won just one game in Region 3B-AAAA in 2011-2012. Bainbridge had an incredible 23-6 region championship team last year, but lost four key players in Paul Chukes, Rodney Glenn, Trey Kelly and Dontavious Marshall.

Teams that could win state: None.

Region 2

The lineup: A – Evans, Greenbrier, Grovetown, Lakeside-Evans; B – Houston County, Jones County, Northside-Warner Robins, Warner Robins

Teams to watch: Lakeside-Evans, Northside-Warner Robins, Jones County

Players to watch: Jarquez Smith, Jones County; Christian Kennedy, Northside-Warner Robins

Strength of region: 2

Last season: Northside-Warner Robins was upset at home in the first round of the playoffs.

The skinny: Jones County will rise and fall on the shoulders of 6-foot-10 center Jarquez Smith, who recently committed to Florida State. Smith will look to help Jones County better its 12-15 mark from one year ago. Christian Kennedy stands 6-foot-10 and is a true big man in the post for Ken Price’s Northside-Warner Robins Eagles. Last season Kennedy teamed with C.J. Jackson, Jarius Smith and Kyle Johnson to push the Eagles to a Region 1-AAAA title. Houston County head coach Stephen Walls is hoping that five returning seniors learned from last year’s struggles and are ready to compete this season. Junior Sam Powell returns to Lakeside-Evans and brings his 13 points per game back for John Kucela’s Panthers. Kucela will also receive a boost when B.J. Raymond joins the team following the conclusion of the football season. “He makes us go at the point,” said Kucela.

Teams that could win state: None

Region 3

The lineup: A – Effingham County, Groves, Jenkins, Richmond Hill

B – Bradwell Institute, Glynn Academy, Ware County, Windsor Forest

Teams to watch: Groves, Jenkins,

Players to watch: Derek Kirkland, Groves; Jabari Bell, Groves; Jakeenan Gant, Effingham County; Miguel Pineda, Bradwell Institute

Strength of region: 3

Last season: Ware County made the second round.

The skinny: Ware County, which won Region 2A-AAAA with a 20-8 (7-3) record, loses nine seniors and will be rebuilding in 2012-2013. Groves, which went 10-8 last season in region play, returns all but two players. Second-leading scorer Derek Kirkland (9.3) and assists-leader Jabari Bell return. Richmond Hill lost five seniors – including its top four scorers – off a team that went 18-9 but missed the playoffs. Effingham County went undefeated in Region 2B-AAAA last year, but lost six seniors. Windsor Forest lost a whopping nine players off its 13-13 squad. There is some talent and potential in Region 3, but no teams jump off the page and it would be a stretch to see any team challenge some of the elite teams from around the state come playoff time.

Teams that could win state: None

Region 4

The lineup: A – Drew, Forest Park, Mt. Zion-Jonesboro, Mundy’s Mill, Ola, Union Grove; B – Creekside, McIntosh, Northgate, Starr’s Mill, Whitewater

Teams to watch: Starr’s Mill, Drew

Players to watch: Phil Cofer, Whitewater; Chris Sanders-McCollum, Creekside

Strength of region: 3

Last season: Drew reached the finals before falling to Columbia.

The skinny: Drew lost a majority of the team that advanced to the AAA state finals last year and is trying to rebuild with a host of underclassmen. Brandon Clyde could contribute once he recovers from a wrist injury while Devonta Cacock will be counted on as a post presence. The team will also receive some valuable minutes from senior Barry Mayes, a part-time starter last year. Mundy’s Mill and head coach Royal Maxwell have a nice player in Darrius Sizemore to try and replace eight seniors, including Rashad Crawford, who suited up for the Tigers last year. Sizemore is one of six seniors, which also includes Larry Glass and Kennon Stevenson. Whitewater’s junior forward Phil Cofer should push the Wildcats into the state playoffs. Brandon Hutchins of Starr’s Mill has some nice size and five seniors on this year’s squad.

Teams that could win state: None

Region 5

The lineup: A – Allatoona, East Paulding, North Paulding, Paulding County, Rome, Woodland-Bartow

B – Hiram, Lithia Springs, New Manchester, South Paulding, Villa Rica

Teams to watch: Allatoona, East Paulding, Lithia Springs, New Manchester

Players to watch: Daniel Fowler, Allatoona; Reed Dungan, Hiram; Leonard Foster, Hiram; Brett Benson, East Paulding; Greg Murphy, Woodland-Bartow

Strength of region: 3

Last season: In Class AAA, Allatoona advanced to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.

The skinny: Allatoona did the most damage last season, but loses six players and three starters to graduation including three former players who are now playing college basketball. However, junior guard Daniel Fowler and his 13 points per game return along with 6-foot-5 center Forrestt Lane and wing Austin Faulkner. Fowler and Faulkner each hit three-pointers at a 40 percent or better rate last season and will be counted on to help replace the loss of Diymichael Ross, the team’s leading scorer in 2011-2012. Woodland-Bartow dominated Region 7-AAAA last year, but lost six seniors and rising junior Corey Tobin, who left with his father, coach Mike Tobin, for Cartersville. New Woodland coach John Howard’s squad lost five of its top seven players, but returns starting forward Greg Murphy and point guard R.J. Williams. East Paulding returns nine seniors, including shooting guard Brett Benson. Like most other regions in Class AAAAA, there are no state title contenders.

Teams that could win state: None.

Region 6

The lineup: A – Clarkston, Dunwoody, Lakeside-DeKalb, North Atlanta, Stephenson, Tucker; B – Arabia Mountain, M.L. King, Mays, Miller Grove, Southwest DeKalb

Teams to watch: Miller Grove, Stephenson, Tucker, Southwest DeKalb

Players to watch: Devante Fitzgerald, Tucker; Keith Pinckney, Miller Grove; Bakari Copeland, Arabia Mountain

Strength of region: 5

Last season: Miller Grove defeated Southwest DeKalb for the Class AAAA title. Stephenson made the Class AAAAA second round. Region 2-AAAAA champion M.L. King advanced to the quarterfinals.

The skinny: Miller Grove will break in five new starters, something that head coach Sharman White has never done in the past. The Wolverines do have eight players back from last year’s title team, Miller Grove’s fourth straight title. Look for star junior point guard Keith Pinckney as well as seniors Earl Bryant and Kyre’ Hamer to contribute this season. Southwest DeKalb lost Shaq Goodwin and Jordan Price, but coach Dwayne McKinney returns Malcolm Battle and welcomes Keyonta Lewis into the backcourt. Devante Fitzgerald will head to Texas A&M after his senior season at Tucker. He was third-team Region 6-AAAA one year ago. White said of this loaded region which added M.L. King and Stephenson to an already loaded lineup, “The state champions come out of this region.”

Teams that could win state: Miller Grove, Southwest DeKalb

Region 7

The lineup: A – Cambridge, Creekview, Forsyth Central, North Springs, Northview, Sequoyah

B – Kell, Osborne, Pope, Riverwood, Sprayberry

Teams to watch: Kell, Creekview

Players to watch: Armel Potter, Sprayberry; Chase Hutchinson, Pope; Jalen Green, Kell; Grant Bryant, Kell; Solomon Ajose, Sequoyah

Strength of region: 3

Last season: No teams advanced out of the first round.

The skinny: Kell finished 4-12 last season in region play, but returns five players who started at some point last season. New Longhorns coach Jermaine Sellers comes over from Hiram with a mostly full cupboard. Meanwhile, Pope, Sprayberry and Osborne are all in rebuilding mode after each lost multiple starters. Pope and Sprayberry each lost four starters and seven total seniors. Sprayberry’s lone returning starter is Armel Potter, who will play point guard for the Yellow Jackets. At Pope, sophomore shooting guard Chase Hutchinson returns after starting as a freshman. He will be joined by brother Chase, who plays forward. Creekview lost four seniors off last year’s playoff squad, but returns six rising seniors. While the region has some depth, there are no true state championship contenders.

Teams that could win state: None.

Region 8

The lineup: A – Apalachee, Flowery Branch, Gainesville, Winder-Barrow; B – Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central, Heritage-Conyers, Loganville, Salem

Teams to watch: Apalachee, Gainesville, Salem

Players to watch: Cameron Blakely, Apalachee; Todd James, Salem; Avery Patterson, Heritage-Conyers; Dedrick Turner, Salem; Dontai Robinson

Strength of region: 3

Last season: Cedar Shoals reached the second round before falling to AAAA finalist Southwest DeKalb. Loganville fell to Miller Grove in the second round.

The skinny: One year ago, Todd Cottrell’s team received a huge lift when Deshaun Watson, Caleb Hayman, Tray Harrison, Fred Payne and Rodney Lackey came over to the football team after suiting up on the gridiron. Apalachee’s Cameron Blakely may be the most dominating player in the region, standing 6-foot-9, 220 pounds and ready to push the Wildcats up and down the floor. Fellow senior Rakim Peters is 6-foot-4, 235 and brings his defensive end mentality from the gridiron to the hardwood. Salem is led by Dedrick Turner (12.3 points per game in 2011-12) and Marques McKoy (10.4). Jamaal Garror is also a threat from the outside (44.7 percent) for Noah Harrell’s Seminoles. Cedar Shoals gave Southwest DeKalb everything the Panthers could handle in the playoffs last year. Dontai Robins will be counted on to once again average double-digit points.

Teams that could win state: Cedar Shoals

13 comments Add your comment

Coach Price

November 8th, 2012
1:08 pm

Christian Kennedy 6″10 Center for Northside,W.R. is signing scholarship to U.T. Chat. Nov. 16th. at NHS.


November 8th, 2012
3:16 pm

Kid at Effingham’s name is Gant, not Grant.

Michael Steele

November 8th, 2012
3:36 pm

Greg Murphy at Woodland Bartow, was the region player of the year last year as well as BARTOW player the year as well as state all star team , as a junior, so u might want to add his name in tje PLAYERS TO WATCH CATAGORIE!

James wilson

November 8th, 2012
5:44 pm

I feel as though jarquez smith, greg murphy, dedrick turner and keith pickney are 3 of the best players in this region and also in the state of georgia. Tucker will be the team to beat this yr.

Andree samuels

November 8th, 2012
5:49 pm

James i totally agree with you but that is 4 players and they all should put up good numbers this year but miller grove has restocked and should defend the title unless salem knocks them out.


November 8th, 2012
9:26 pm

Tucker is back!!!


November 9th, 2012
11:36 am

Salem should look good this year with Dedrick Turner, Marques McKoy, and sleeper Jamaal Garror. Yes Miller Grove is defending state champs and reloaded but AAAAA is open this year. Tucker has stacked the roster but besides Devante their bigs are not strong. Most of the schools don’t have a dominant big in the paint so its going to be all about guard play in my opinion. The 6AAAAA could be the most competitive region this year though. The rivalry of Miller Grove, MLK, SWD, & Stephenson should make for a interesting season like football ball season has been. The ACC of basketball….lol


November 9th, 2012
11:42 am

It will be interesting to see what SWD does this year also after losing 4 senior starters and that R. Bell kid transfering. AJC has them picked to have a chance to go back to state so I wander what they see because there has not been much talk about what the program has brought in to restock or rebuild.

Paulding sleepers

November 10th, 2012
12:49 am

East Paulding is returning 9 seniors and they finally have some good guards to go with the 6′8 and 6′10 post players this season……just saying keep your eyes open.


November 11th, 2012
12:04 pm

Dedrick Turner is the best player in region 8-AAAAA by a landslide.

Decatur 4 Life

November 13th, 2012
2:04 pm

Paulding sleepers

Really? From a team that went 14-12 last season and 8-9 in region play. Plus the region wasn’t that strong, your #1 seed got beat by 40 in the second round

Decatur 4 Life

November 13th, 2012
2:07 pm

BcS2010 & James wilson

We’ll see what Tucker has when they come to the Eagles’ Nest Thursday for a scrimmage with Columbia, my Eagles have a lot of question marks this season but you can’t count us out

Dekalb Central

November 14th, 2012
11:31 am

Arabia Mountain’s Bakari Copeland, can lead them far in the state tournament, with his skill set. Alot of teams are sleeping on Arabia Mountain and Stephenson.