As we were sitting around The List HQ this week, having a spirited discussion about the best basketball players who have ever come out of the state – it got a little testy when someone suggested Howard Thompkins was better than Dwight Howard, and the expletives were flying – the conversation turned a bit to titles.
Is that what separates the greats from the goods and the pretty goods? Some would say so. If so, of course, there’s a heck of a group that wouldn’t make it into the conversation of the best ever.
And that’s where we started to look – who are the best players in state history to never win a state title? Here they are:
10. Horace Grant, Hancock Central (1983)
A far cry from the 6-foot-10 big man who patrolled NBA lanes for more than 15 years, Grant was a skinny kid when he played at Hancock Central, but he was a skinny kid who could put the ball in the basket and dominate a game. In his last two years, though, Hancock couldn’t make it out of the first round.
9. Jarvis Hayes, Douglass (1999)
The former Georgia star averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds and was an Honorable Mention All-American when he led Douglass to the Class AAAAA semifinals as a senior but never won the big prize. After several unspectacular NBA seasons, he’s been trying his hand at the European leagues since 2011.
8. Ryan Harrow, Walton (2010)
Harrow was simply great for the Raiders, averaging more than 31 points his senior season. But he had the misfortune of playing during a stretch when hardly anyone can win in the highest classification, and his high school career ended with back-to-back losses to powers Wheeler and Milton.
7. Walt Frazier, Howard (1964)
Still the only NBA Hall of Famer to hail from Georgia, Frazier was a tremendous athlete who excelled at three sports in high school. In fact, he was considered by many to be better at football, where he quarterbacked the team to a lot of wins under coach Herman Graves. He didn’t get a title in basketball, though, nor did he really get close. His legend would really build in the NBA, where he won two championships and the 1975 MVP.
6. Dale Ellis, Marietta (1979)
He was a huge star for the Blue Devils, and his legend was cemented when he led them on a run to the semifinals in his final season before losing an epic 64-63 game to Northeast Macon. He went on to be a two-time All-American at Tennessee, then was one of the NBA’s best shooters for 16 years.
5. Kwame Brown, Glynn Academy (2001)
The first high school player to be drafted No. 1 in the NBA, Brown had a much-heralded career at Glynn Academy, where he set all-time school marks for rebounds and blocks. His senior-year team took Berkmar to overtime before losing in the semifinals. Unfortunately, his NBA career hasn’t panned out, and the journeyman has played for eight teams in 11 years.
4. Tree Rollins, Crisp County (1973)
He earned his nickname “Tree” – his real name is Wayne – during his freshman year playing around Cordele, according to him because he was very tall, skinny and had an afro. It served him well during a great career at Crisp, though the team never made a serious playoff run. He went on to star at Clemson and be a force in the NBA for almost 20 years.
3. Mike Mitchell, Price (1974)
It’s tough to find too much information on Mitchell’s high school career, but he did help lead Price to the Class AA quarterfinal in 1973. Post-high school, though, the lithe forward was a star at Auburn, becoming the first Tiger to score 2,000 points and then putting together a very productive 12-year NBA career, averaging nearly 20 points per game. He died of cancer in June 2011.
2. Pervis Ellison, Savannah (1985)
Famed “Never Nervous” averaged an eye-popping 27 points, 19 rebounds and 7 blocks during a dominant senior season, leading Savannah into the playoffs before a first-round overtime loss to Monroe. When healthy, he was nearly as dominant in the NBA, averaging 20/11 and 17/9 over two early years with the Bullets before injuries plagued the rest of his career.
1. Octavius Thomas, George (1991)
Called “Ox” or “Oct” in high school, he’s still talked about in revered tones by some who saw him play at old George High. An amazing athlete, he could score pretty much whenever he wanted. His biggest stage was carrying George to the 1991 Class AA final, where they lost a 71-70 thriller to Mitchell-Baker, and he was considered by many to be the second-best high school player in America, behind future NBA Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. For whatever reason, though, he never panned out after that. He never played a minute of college or NBA ball and faded into obscurity. Today, his name comes up as a cautionary tale more often than as one of the greats.
Now we want to know what you think. Who do you think is the greatest to never win a title? Got any stories about watching these guys play? Could you have taken Thomas one on one? Let us know in the comments here or on Twitter at @ajcprepsports.