Class A Basketball: Teams making noise early

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

Even though we are just two weeks away from crowing our champions in football, it’s time to start talking a little hoops. Here’s a look at some teams garnering early attention. Let us know who we’ve missed.

GIRLS

SACA wants the crown
The big bad Wolves of Wesleyan have moved on to Class AA. Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, last year’s runner-up, is looking to lay claim to the throne. The Warriors are 4-0 out of the gate, pending an early season showdown on Tuesday with Buford (1-0), last season’s runner-up in Class AA. SACA is paced by seniors Amber Brown, Mia Anthony, and Alexis Carter, and juniors Marquita Daniels and Amy Griffin.

Holy Innocents’ looks to get into the mix
Holy Innocents’ plans to challenge SACA. The Bears are off to a 5-1 start, winning by an average margin of 21 points per game, including a 52-8 stomping of Landmark Christian. The lone loss was a 53-47 defeat at the hands of Class AAAAAA Brookwood, which is undefeated (5-0) thus far. In its season opener on Nov. 16, Holy Innocents beat St. Francis (63-57) – a team that last season went 25-6, won the Region 5 tournament and advanced to the Class A quarterfinals.  The Bears are led by a pair of seniors, guard McKenzie Bolden and forward Reshaundra Owens.

Randolph-Clay attempting return to glory
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Randolph-Clay in southwest Georgia, 50 miles west of Albany, was one of the state’s most successful programs. Between 1990 and 2005, the Red Devils advanced to at least the semi finals nine times and won two state titles (1996 and 2000). They returned to the Final Four again in 2008 and 2009. This season, Randolph-Clay is already 4-1, the loss coming in the first game of the season on Nov. 20 (60-53) to Class AAAA Monroe, which last season went 20-9 and advanced to the Class AAA quarterfinals. Randolph-Clay is led by the veteran senior duo of Kaneika Washington and Andrianna Blackmon, and the young tandem of sophomore guard Shaaliyah Lewis and freshman forward Kobi Thornton.

BOYS

W.D. Mohammed out of the blocks quick
The Caliphs advanced to the second round of the state tournament last season with a roster full of juniors. Those players are now on a mission to make their senior season a special one, and have W.D. Mohammed out to its second 5-0 start in as many seasons. Leading the way are seniors Jihad Hameen and Hussien Clark, who are averaging 15 and 11 points per game, respectively. Junior guard Muhammad Hamilton is averaging 12 points and 8 assists per game, and is shooting a red-hot 66 percent (8-of-12) from beyond the three-point line. Clark, a 6-5 forward, is also averaging 6 rebounds per game.

Whitefield starting over
With program architect Tyrone Johnson moving on to administrative duties and Player of the Year guard Kenneth Gaines moving on to Georgia, it’s a new day for the Wolfpack, last season’s Class A champs. Senior guard Kris Martin and junior forwards Eric Lockett and Braelen Philips return, while longtime assistant coach Eddie James takes over for Johnson, who led Whitefield to three state titles (2003, 2009 and 2012), and four second place finishes in 10 seasons on the bench. The Wolfpack is 2-1 thus far, with the loss (45-43) coming to North Gwinnett (4-0), a team that advanced to the Class AAAAA quarter finals last season before losing to eventual champion Milton.

Stewart County making noise
It’s very early, but folks in Stewart County are buzzing about their Royal Knights (4-0), off to one of the best starts in school history. Stewart County – located 45 minutes south of Columbus in southwest Georgia along the Alabama line – is led by the duo of 6-0 senior Markis Boyd, and and 6-6 junior forward Malik Ponder. Boyd averages 20 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals per game, while Ponder averages, 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks.

35 comments Add your comment

LanFan

December 4th, 2012
12:52 pm

I am sorry but isn’t it a couple of weeks early to start talking Basketball.

S. Thomas Coleman

December 4th, 2012
12:55 pm

@LanFan: Not really. The season started last week for everyone, a couple of weeks ago for some. For now, we’ll devote one blog a week to basketball. We’ll have the previews of the football semi finals on Thursday.

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman

LanFan

December 4th, 2012
1:24 pm

Thanks. I understand but couldn’t help myself.

moto

December 4th, 2012
1:55 pm

STC — Don’t overlook the Holy Innocents’ boys basketball team. It’s the best team they have had in a long, long time. The lost in overtime to AAAAAA Brookwood, but beat No. 9 ranked Hebron Christian by 11 points and are 5-1 on the year.

Do you plan to mention wrestling from time to time?

W

December 4th, 2012
2:01 pm

It’s nice to see a little more coverage on other sports in the AJC. Don’t get me wrong, I love yall’s work with football, but it’s nice to see other sports getting some print!

S. Thomas Coleman

December 4th, 2012
2:28 pm

@LanFan: No problem! Make sure you check in from time to time.

S. Thomas Coleman

Observer

December 4th, 2012
2:35 pm

How’s Jeter the Cheater looking this year at Wilkinson County? The $125k they are paying him (information available of GA Dept. of Audits website) plus all the family employed by the county should buy them a title every now and then…….

S. Thomas Coleman

December 4th, 2012
2:42 pm

@moto: Thanks for the tip. I’ll definitely keep an eye on the Bears. As for wrestling, that blog will most likely start up in January after the holiday break, but I won’t be manning it. Still, make sure you check it out.

S. Thomas Coleman

S. Thomas Coleman

December 4th, 2012
2:43 pm

@W: Thanks for the love. We’ll get the basketball blogs going full throttle in January. Make sure you check us out!

S. Thomas Coleman

S. Thomas Coleman

December 4th, 2012
3:02 pm

@Observer: “Jeter the Cheater.” That’s funny! I believe Dr. Jeter’s squad gets going this week. They went 27-3 last season and advanced to the quarterfinals with a team full of juniors who hadn’t played much the previous year. All of those kids are back, so look for Dr. Jeter and the Warriors to make another deep run.

And I believe his salary is that high because he is also the superintendent of Wilkinson County Schools, and has a doctorate.

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman

S. Thomas Coleman

December 4th, 2012
5:14 pm

@moto: I spoke too soon! The wrestling blog has started as well, manned by our partners at Score Atlanta. Check out this link:
http://blogs.ajc.com/georgia-high-school-sports/2012/12/04/wrestling-archers-wins-southern-slam/

S. Thomas Coleman

Swamp Lizard

December 4th, 2012
6:31 pm

@ STC …. I’m sure we have avid basketball fans out there, but you are killing me man !! ;) I’m sure you’ll have us football junkies something tomorrow? Appreciate your work !!

moto

December 4th, 2012
6:51 pm

STC – Thanks for the info on the wrestling blog. I just posted there. Of course football is my first love, so keep up the good work for all us junkies!

S. Thomas Coleman

December 4th, 2012
10:16 pm

@Swamp Lizard and moto: Fret not, football junkies! We’ll have semi final previews on Thursday morning!

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman

Hubert Green

December 5th, 2012
7:03 am

Now I could be wrong, but isn’t there sort of a conflict of interest if you are superintendent of schools and the basketball coach? That is a first I think.

WCHS77

December 5th, 2012
7:57 am

@Hubert Green…not if there is only one High School in the County.

S. Thomas Coleman

December 5th, 2012
9:00 am

@Hubert: I believe WCHS77 is correct. In sparsely populated counties like Wilkinson, where you have one or two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school, central office administrators hold multiple jobs. Dr. Jeter has come under fire for this situation on many occasions, but none of the governmental entities overseeing school systems in the state have ever done anything about it, nor any of the other similar arrangements in other counties, so I assume it’s OK.

S. Thomas Coleman

athensbball

December 5th, 2012
9:24 am

Athens Christian off to a hot start. beat AA Putnam County by 25 points. Will Jackson, possible player of the year canidate, scores 35 points. And another sophmore, Demetrius McWhorter scored 33….pretty good inside out combo.

athensbball

December 5th, 2012
9:27 am

@Hubert. You are correct. Wilkinson gets every player that can walk and dribble at the same time within about a 30 mile radius….Its funny because the public schools always complain about private schools recruiting…but yet its blatantly done by Wilkinson and Milton (among many other metro schools) and nothing is rarely done about it….with the exception of Milton….finally caught after several state championships.

S. Thomas Coleman

December 5th, 2012
10:15 am

@athensball: I’d be shocked if AC doesn’t make the private school Final Four. Nice early season matchup on Friday between Jackson and Eric Williams at Athens Academy. I’m sure you’ll be there! I’ll try to read the report in the Athens paper, but let me know how it goes from your personal standpoint.

S. Thomas Coleman

athensbball

December 5th, 2012
1:09 pm

@ S Thomas Coleman: Thank you for covering basketball (and yes Swamp Lizard, basketball started a month ago) in a football dominated state. Basketball has to deal with these goofy playoff rules because of football, so the least we can do is cover our seasons from the start! haha

athensbball

December 5th, 2012
1:19 pm

@moto: Hebron is terrible! They lost in the first round of the state last year by the worst margin in the history of GHSA basketball….only scored 12 points in the entire game! #9 ranking??? They might be ranked 9th in their own region.

Basketball Junkie

December 5th, 2012
2:51 pm

North Cobb Christian beating a highly ranked 6A school in North Cobb, counts as making noise early I would think.

S. Thomas Coleman

December 5th, 2012
2:58 pm

@athensball: Thanks for the love! Like most folks in these parts, football is at the top of my list. BUT, I love the other sports as well. Shoot, I’ve even covered girls lacrosse games that were compelling (seriously!). Like I said, we’ll go full tilt with basketball when football ends.

And I too am a bit leary of Hebron. They’ll need to do a whole lot more winning to garner some real respect, in my opinion. Who you play does indeed matter. Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman

S. Thomas Coleman

December 5th, 2012
3:07 pm

@Junkie: Ware, Ho-On and Jelks are legit. I love Coach Matta and fully expect to see NCC back in the thick of things in March.

But I have to reserve judgement because of that horrible loss in the first round last season with all three of those players, plus Harris and Womack on the floor as well. And St. Francis went on to lose in the next round to Whitefield by 40. Not a good look at all for NCC.

S. Thomas Coleman

Basketball Junkie

December 5th, 2012
3:46 pm

I agree about the loss in playoffs, but their schedule last year did not prepare them for a tough team in the playoffs. This year they have already played 3 6A schools and a 3A in there first 5 games. The region will really prepare them this year with Whitefield, and St Francis in the region. This is a much deeper, and talented team in my opinion. Crute is the real deal!! and they have an inside presence this year that has been missing for a long time.

Basketball Junkie

December 5th, 2012
3:47 pm

also a 20 point win over North Cobb is legit no matter what time of year it is played. They return 5 starters from an elite 8 team last year.

Observer

December 5th, 2012
5:37 pm

Actually the cheater is listed as a principal and his wife as an asst. principal at $92k per year. Throw in daughter Chiquita @ $68k year and you have some good old middle georgia nepotism. Where is he bringing in the players from this year? Last year it was from Baldwin County…..maybe Twiggs has some local talent that can get a residence in Honey Boo Boo’s house.

S. Thomas Coleman

December 6th, 2012
8:45 am

@Observer: Wow, you are brutal! If you go to the Wilkinson County School System website, Dr. Jeter is listed as the Superintendent. Another man is listed as the principal of Wilkinson County HS. And I heard about his wife and his daughter. But I guess if it’s OK with the folks in Irwinton and OK with the State BOE, it’s OK by me.

My only beef with Dr. Jeter’s program is that I’d like to see more of his kids move on to play in college and better their lives by earning a college degree, which is the same beef I have with a lot of high school coaches in various sports. But that’s for another day and another rant.

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman

BrunoBars

December 6th, 2012
9:37 am

Congrats to SACA girls for taking down Buford! Coach Cowan and Coach C have the girls ready. They are playing top level competition in all classes which will have them battle tested once the playoffs start. From one Warrior to another Warrior!

S. Thomas Coleman

December 6th, 2012
1:37 pm

@Bruno: Yes, SACA looks like the team to beat this season. Big time matchups this season against Gordon Lee, Wesleyan and St. Francis, and a big test Saturday at Forest Park. Let me know how that one goes. Should be a fun year on Campbellton Road!

Thanks for reading and posting.

S. Thomas Coleman

athensbball

December 8th, 2012
9:14 am

@S.Coleman: Well there goes the possible battle for surpremacy in Athens between Eric Williams(Athens Academy) and Will Jackson (Athens Christian). Athens Christian was up 53-8 at halftime and pulled all their starters to cruise to a 77-21 victory. Will Jackson scored 22 (averaging 30 a game) and didnt even play the second half. Eric Williams….5 points.

Andre

December 11th, 2012
1:53 am

Turner county girls basketball great team featuring a freshman 5′9 pg l. Yancey she’s good.

Basketball Pops

December 11th, 2012
3:08 am

There’s a small private school in middle GA. called FPD that should make itself known this year. Two new additions to go along with the 6′6 senior center Caleb Dupree who averaged over 20 points a game last year and 14 rebounds. The 6′1 junior transfer combo guard from Peach County led the Trojans in scoring last year with 15 ppg after the departure of Ahmed Hill to Aquinas. TJ also left PC during the Christmas break. He is leading FPD in scoring averaging 19 ppg in maxpreps, and joined by freshman Point Guard O’showen Williams averaging 16 ppg. TJ and O’showen both won YBOA championships with the Perry Knights, O’showen in 2009 11U team and TJ with team mate Eric Lockett of Whitefield on the 12U team in 2008. They are sporting a 4-1 record now coming off a overtime loss to 2-AAAA Perry.

Basketball Pops

December 11th, 2012
3:10 am

And thats TJ Sams #23 FPD, O’showen Williams #10