Georgia high school basketball: Defending AAAA champs welcome new coaches

By David Purdum / For the AJC

Both the AAAA boys and girls defending state basketball champions begin the season with new head coaches.

At Eagle’s Landing, Eric Wortham, Sr. takes over the program that his son, current Middle Tennessee State freshman Eric Wortham, Jr., helped lead to its first state championship last season. Wortham, Sr., follows coach Clay Crump, who took the coaching job at Harrison High School in the offseason.

Versatile big man Jordan Sessions is the only key contributor from last season’s team that graduated seven seniors. Wortham says expectations haven’t changed.

“Right now, the expectations are to win it again,” said Wortham. “To come in here after a team that graduated seven seniors with five D-I players, you’d think I’ve have to come in here and do a re-building type thing. But I’ve been impressed with these guys.”

Sessions has committed to Georgia State and will be the center piece for the Golden Eagles. Wortham also pointed to senior power forward Devyn Patterson, sophomore point guard Rodriquez Dennis and junior guard Darius Thomas as players to watch.

Wortham, who is familiar with Class AAAA’s talent through his time working with AAU, believes some of the perennial contenders are once again the teams to beat this season.

“Columbia is always going to be Columbia, and South Atlanta is always going to be South Atlanta,” Wortham said. “Statesboro, Rutland, Jonesboro, those same teams are always going to be in the mix.”

Eagle’s Landing opens the season against Greater Atlanta Christian on Saturday.

The Columbia girls also begin their defense of last season’s state title with a new coach. Carla Hollaway succeeds Chantay Frost, who led Columbia to three state championships in the last four seasons, before leaving to take over at Mays High School. Hollaway won two DeKalb County middle school titles, before taking over at Columbia, according to the DeKalb County athletic website.

Columbia opens its season Thursday against another defending champ, Southwest DeKalb of AAAAA.

Favor request from a clueless reporter: So this is my first season covering Class AAAA, and I’m in the process of trying to learn as much about as many teams, players and coaches as possible. It’s not nearly as easy to get up to speed on hoops as it is on football. The information just isn’t as readily available. Often, I’ve found in covering high school sports for 10 years, the best stories and insights come for readers, anyway. So, on this rare occasion when I don’t know it all, please take time to drop some your vast hoops knowledge on me below.

I’d like to know the following:

–Who are the legit contenders in AAAA boys and girls, and why?

–Who are the top layers in AAAA boys and girls?

–Who are the top coaches in the classification, and why?

Thanks … DP

23 comments Add your comment

Old Raider

November 12th, 2013
2:47 pm

You heard it here first…… Redan girls will win it all this year!

Gaprep

November 12th, 2013
2:55 pm

Columbia is going to miss Coach Frost, she is one of the states top girls coaches!! Such a big jump from coaching middle school kids!

Crazy larry...

November 12th, 2013
3:05 pm

Even with a middle school coach…Columbia will still be Redan! Redan’s coach is the absolute worst, not to mention half the team might be academically ineligible.or get hurt playing for their AAU teams during playoffs. State championship thats a joke, They should be happy just being in the Region championship.

some sense

November 13th, 2013
7:02 am

Any chance of keeping the “Crazy larry’s” of the world off the Comments page?

Crazy larry...

November 13th, 2013
9:07 am

No chance…i didn’t say anything new, everyone in Dekalb knows i just told the truth. when it matters most,he will blow it. His players are out of control, because he is out of control.

Marist Bball fan

November 13th, 2013
9:37 am

Unfortunately Marist lost a ton of talent last year (4 players now playing basketball collegiately and 1 playing football) so they will struggle to repeat their past success

White Flight

November 13th, 2013
11:19 am

What past success for Marist is that? Chop blocks don’t help you in basketball, and it takes more than a high free-throw percentage to run with the rest of 285…

KLSouthside

November 13th, 2013
11:38 am

David, so you are a rookie to the 4A boys basketball. That’s okay. I will give a brief overview based on last year. I think the preseason rankings summed it up the best. #1Columbia, #2South Atlanta, #3Marist. Eagles Landing lost the majority of their team to graduation, so not sure what they will look like this year. To be honest and no disrespect to Statesboro and Rutland but the champion will come from the Atlanta Metro area. Not sure what Wortham is talking about. I hear that Columbia has reloaded and has a talented guard along the lines of Taj. Marist still has their two guards from last year, Wiley and Perez. Their big men left, so unsure about the replacements. I hear a few 6′8″ football guys are coming on the team. South Atlanta lost their 2 guards to graduation but heard that they have reloaded also. I hear they have some talented transfers. As far as the girls, Columbia girls until further notice…..

Stan

November 13th, 2013
12:28 pm

4A will be supper strong again. Each coach of the top teams has a different style and gets their team ready. There has been some serious rebuilding i’ve heard and actually seen. Marist wont rebound fully because they are not bringing kids in every year or semester (need real books to get in that place.. real ones) we cant hate. No coach does more with less over the years. I still wouldnt sleep on them. Columbia, S Atlanta will be very tough & bring the goods as well. Dont count out Chamblee or Grady… Relax in that region and you will take an L. That region should be fun to watch.

Decatur 4 Life

November 13th, 2013
1:19 pm

KL What’s up homie?

Once again the region and state is ours (Columbia) to lose, on the girls side we got some work to do. Coach Hollaway returned a good nucleus back from a state championship team but its essential that we keep our bigs in tact, two of the three are rumored to be leaving. (All 3 are over 6 ft.) Guard play should be consistent again this year even though we lost all state Miah Spencer (NC State) , senior Yaktavia “Suge” Hickson is more than capable of picking up where she left off. On the boys side, despite losing point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen (Auburn) strong wing and post play combined with a tenacious defense should give our opponents fits. Senior post Maurice Rivers and junior guard Bryce Brown are the players to watch with a few newcomers to keep an eye on as well.

DonnieB

November 13th, 2013
1:37 pm

Glad no one mentioned SW Dekalb Girls, we stay under the wire and just win 4 year after year, with one of the best young forwards in the state. Hope you miss us.

Decatur 4 Life

November 13th, 2013
1:44 pm

DonnieB

Nobody said anything about SWD because they’re AAAAA not AAAA

Decatur 4 Life

November 13th, 2013
1:49 pm

Stan

Don’t get it twisted, Marist brings them in as well. And actually it’s a lot easier because you don’t have to go through the hoops that a public school has to. Do your research they’ve been doing it for years even when I was coming up in the metro area, they’ll take care of the tuition and whatever else they can to get you to their school. Just sayin tho!

Stan

November 13th, 2013
2:07 pm

Actually not. have a family member in admisssions. My own 6′8 nephew couldnt qaulify due to low ssat score (the case with most kids) and a baller and we can fully afford the tuition. Theres been 1 basketball transfer there in 10 years… check your information. and that kid atually reapplied after being denied as a freshman. Name the transfers and lets bet on it. Not easier at all. i can name the past and current players that were denied and you would totally change your mind. Also name whose tuition they have covered for sports…. hear say. They are always solid but not cheating to do so. Last years team had 9 of 12 players there since 7th grade. 2 more came in 9th. 1 of which every on basketball cercuit said was terrible… (good college player now though). home grown and developed. thats why they are down this year and will be good again in 2 years… they will take there lumps and grow. Marist is good every 2-3 years with in school jr’s and seniors.
The tuition thing is way off my friend..just being straight. They dont want to come off that money!

wareaglenation

November 13th, 2013
2:52 pm

Thank you Stan. About time someone like you had the facts right.

Thou doth protest too much

November 13th, 2013
9:18 pm

Guess you talking about the GT player that was at Lakeside. I guess one year at Lakeside made his scores really jump to get in the next year. What about the kid who came up through the Pius feeder did he have to pay the full boat at Marist ? Better deal than Pius was going to give him? Pius is cheaper per year isn’t it?
Don’t get all holy on the blog here. Who cares don’t be thinned skinned the kids got great educations and are in college now family goal achieved. Public schools doing it too and they are not even shy about it. Why spend the time trying to defend yourselves when GHSA gets a case that will really be news because they really seem not to care as long as the money is coming in.

Knight Knation

November 13th, 2013
9:46 pm

Nick Masterson 2014 River Ridge HS 6′5″ SG is hands down the best unsigned Senior in GA. Entered his Junior year With 20+ D1 programs in pursuit but missed most of the year and travel ball due to injury. Was called the best shooter in the SE by more than one recruiting service. Now back and on fire, playing better than before. Will likely sign with KSU. Look out for River Ridge. They took South Atlanta to the wire in the State Tournament last year with out Masterson and return all the key players.

KLSouthside

November 14th, 2013
10:00 am

What’s up Decatur! I see you guys over in Columbia have reloaded. Bryce Brown will be fun to watch this year! On the recruiting debate guys and girls(?)…All schools recruit to a certain degree. That would naive to think otherwise. It is almost like Kentucky and Princeton for example. Academics will play a part in it at some point but the question is how much? I am sure Kentucky doesn’t have the same SAT score requirements as a Princeton but they both recruit basketball players with success. Same situation with Columbia, South Atlanta and Marist. They are all good schools but have different requirements regarding athletics. At the end of the day, this is a game and the kids are getting an education.

Decatur 4 Life

November 14th, 2013
10:49 am

Stan

I hear you but it happens all the time in football, I find it hard to believe Chadwick does it and basketball doesn’t. Maybe there’s a difference between the two, I doubt it but since you have a family member in admissions now maybe so. I grew up attending one of the metro area private schools and know some about the process as we took annual field trips to Marist and Pius, the fact of the matter is they can get who they want whether the test scores are sufficient or not. Whether they have tuition or not, I know these things regardless if your family member discloses that information or not. It might just be that your 6′8 nephew’s talent didn’t warrant that special treatment they can give but just don’t say it can’t happen because your mistaken.

KL

What it do? Yeah we should be ok, Bryce is a monster but the biggest thing he’s going to have to deal with is recognizing when to rely on the 3 point shot and when to create for himself and others by attacking the rim. The kid is in range when he steps in the gym but as a junior can he make good decisions when his shot’s not falling is the key. I know S. Atlanta will be loaded and ready again this season, Marist too despite what everyone is saying. Lithonia, Chamblee and Grady will be much improved this season as well no mights off in 6-AAAA this year. Looking forward to a good season

Decatur 4 Life

November 14th, 2013
11:05 am

Stan

My bad but almost forgot, we had a kid at our middle school (Columbia) that the football coaches from Marist were salivating over years ago. That particular kid didn’t have much and it was highly unlikely that he could pay anyone’s tuition but the opportunity was still given to him. It sounds good on the blog but Marist cares a little bit more about winning then you think my friend. They did it in the past they’ll do it now

“They are always solid but not cheating to do so”

Are you saying everyone else is cheating by accepting a child transferring schools for a better opportunity. Actively persuading a kid to come to your school is recruitng, kid shows up at your school with the proper documentation without your prior knowledge it’s not. It’s easy to holla foul when you lose but if Marist had beat us 3 times last season that wouldn’t even be an argument from them

Da Coach

November 15th, 2013
12:36 pm

I think Marist will surprise some people–they have two good guards in Perez and Wiley (Perez had great games against Columbia last year, Wiley was hurt). That said, they’ll need some forwards to step up. I think South Atlanta will be the team to beat in Region 6 this year.

M. Singleton

November 15th, 2013
6:24 pm

Columbia is tough. You need to check with coach on Tuesday’s stats!

M. Singleton

November 15th, 2013
6:30 pm

Don’t sleep on Maurice Rivers (6′7″) and Nick Singleton(6′6″).