Monday, February 23, 2009

Georgia Hoops update - Five things I'm buying this week

Prep basketball blogger and long-time recruiting expert Justin Young of Georgia Hoops will be a contributing writer to our GPB blogs throughout the state basketball tournaments. He also maintains a national high school hoops blog, the National Hoops Report.

A great state tournament. While there are great teams in the field, every team is beatable. There are no clear cut favorites across the board in every classification. 

Take a look at how the top team in the coaches’ poll fared this week and what they have to do to get to the state title game. 

Centennial – Lost to Wheeler in the 6-AAAA region championship. A potential game against South Gwinnett in the second round will be a test. Other than that, the Knights have a favorable path to the Gwinnett Arena. 

Miller Grove – Had to fight to beat Marist for the 6-AAAA region championship. Fayette County could await the Wolverines in the third round. FC beat MG last year in the Final Four. That could be the only hiccup en route to the title game. 

South Atlanta – Won easily in it’s region tournament, claiming the title with a 104-45 victory over Spalding. And that was the closest game in the tournament for the Hornets. Columbia could be the team waiting for them at the Macon Centreplex on March 13. 

Dublin – Some trusted eyes at the college level think the Irish have the best team in the state. A major test awaits in the first round as Dublin plays host to NE Macon, a team that can pull off an upset. Then a potential game against Long County in the second round could be next. The kicker is a possible Final Four game against GAC. That’s a tough road to the title game. 

Turner County – See below. 

Reseeding the tournaments. Wrestling did it this year for the first time and by all accounts, that was a fantastic move. Why not do it for basketball? 

Here is how it would work:

- The region tournament winners get an automatic No. 1 seed as they always have. That doesn’t change. Neither does earning a state tournament bid by making it to the semi-finals of your region tournament. So if a 5-17 team runs the table in the region tournament and finish third in the tournament, then they are in. 

- From there, the rest of the deck is reshuffled. For example, Region 6-AAAAA teams Centennial, Milton and Walton should all be No. 2 teams in the tournament. However, the 5-17 team from above would likely be a No. 4 seed. 

- The brackets need balance. Look at the AAA bracket for example. South Atlanta and Columbia, the two clear cut top teams in the class, will likely play each other in the state semi-finals. They should be playing for all the marbles at the end of the day. The same can be said for AA with Dublin and GAC on the same side of the bracket. Or take the classic Norcross first round win over Wheeler two years ago. There is no reason why that game was a first-round game. 

- Making the state playoffs is a reward for the high school athlete. The current set-up takes a back seat to the region tournament. There is no sense of importance in the first two rounds. Alpharetta High School was 
the spot in Atlanta for sports on Saturday. Imagine if that game was played at Georgia State or Georgia Tech. The gym would have likely been close to capacity. That experience is something most high school athletes will never forget. Too bad they can’t have that memory in the first two rounds of the state tournament. 

- Each bracket would have a four game slate for the first round. Instead of the higher seed hosting the individual game of the first two rounds of the tournament (like the current step-up), there is a natural site. Gym space should not be a problem. There are plenty of gyms to use in Georgia. Games would be on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and alternate between girls games (Wednesday, Friday) and boys games (Thursday, Saturday). 

- Georgia is home to some of the best high school basketball in the country, why not promote it at a state level with an even playing field and on a big stage? 

Turner County. I had my first chance to see the top ranked class A team last week in the 2-A region tournament and suffice it to say, I was impressed. So impressed, in fact, that Turner County should be considered one of the top five teams in the state.

There is something refreshing about the Rebels. They are a tight-knit group that performs with purpose. Every minute of the team’s pre-game routine is choreographed. There is no wasted time before the tip and as the team enters the gym after the halftime break, they dive right into another exact warm-up ritual. 

The support for the team is outstanding and positive from the locals, something that is dying in the Atlanta area. Turner County has a roster stocked deep of talent. Seniors Ternell Davis and Tray Pearce are both seasoned starters while Chris Spears and Breon Dixon (pictured above) are both over 6-7. 

Davis is off to Chipola Junior College next year, says his coach Eric Holland, while Pearce is being recruited by a number of low-majors. Spears, a chiseled junior, will go down the same recruiting road as Pearce. Dixon, a long-armed 6-7 forward, has the tools of being one of the elite sophomores in the state. His national profile is on the cusp of blowing up. 

The road to Macon won’t be easy for the Rebels. If Turner County and Hancock Central both win on Saturday, last year’s championship game will be on the docket. Coming out of Region 2 will have the team prepared for the deep Class A state tournament. The goal for any team is to win it all. For Turner County, winning it all is the expectation. 

Great week of basketball

Win of the week: Turner County over Dooly County. Great game, coming from behind and closing out with a 29-9 run. 
Hi, my name is…Player of the Week: Westley Hinton, PF, Providence Christian, Senior 
Youngster of the week: Breon Dixon, PF, Turner County, Sophomore 
Gritty performance of the week: Tony Dukes of Morrow shooting with his off hand because of a wrist injury on his shooting hand in front of a number of college coaches when playing against Westlake. 
Player you never bet against: Russell Powell of Newnan. Don’t be surprised to see the two-sport star pilot his team to a trip to the Gwinnett Arena. Few compete better than he does. 

Sleep and chiropractor. After watching 16 games over a six day span, Georgia Hoops needs some rest. Thankfully this week can provide such a wish. My back, however, may be un-curable after a long week of bleachers and a long year of sitting in gyms. 


- The name Reed Buck keeps showing up on my phone in the form of a text message from college coaches. After hitting the game-winning shot against Norcross and putting nearly 30 points on one of the top defensive teams in the Southeast, Buck is a popular guy. The 6-5 senior is one of the late-blooming prospects in the state that coaches are frantically searching for more information. Throw Georgia Hoops into the mix, too. Collins Hill still sits on the must-see list for the year. He’s a mystery man from my perspective but the word is, he is certainly worth looking at. 

- The point guard class of 2010 is one of the hardest groups to figure out. However, three players have separated themselves this week in region play. Walton’s Ryan Harrow and Mays’s Aloys Cabell and Wheeler’s Phil Taylor had great weeks and proved themselves as players that are tops in their class. 

played through a sinus infection and delivered a gritty performance in a tough loss to Milton. He certainly proved himself in his first season in Georgia as one of the top high schoolers in his class within the Peach State borders.

Cabell put on a brilliant performance against Fayette County. He is one of the best midrange jump shooters in the state and one of the toughest competitors at his position. He’ll be a popular player this summer because of his grit. 

Taylor is a shot-maker. Plain and simple. He delivers the power punch for Wheeler but he is also playing better as a passer and distributor. His rebounding against Centennial was a major factor in the win, too. 

- I’d love to see a match-up between Milton’s Dai-Jon Parker and Wilcox County’s Nick Marshall someday. The two 6-2 guards are both good perimeter shooters. Both are good athletes. Both have wow potential. And both are two of the elite players in the sophomore class. 

- The more I watch Greenville sophomore Kentavious Caldwell, the more I love his game. He’s as versatile as they come and could enter the summer as one of the top 50 players nationally in 2011. 

- Terrific effort from Mays guard Desmond Williams against Fayette County. The 5-9 senior drilled seven of eight three-pointers in a heart-breaking and season-ending loss in the 5-AAAA region tournament. 

- Zach Lamb played a huge role in Norcross’s state championship run last year after being inserted into the starting lineup. The same could happen for Joey Jerome at Wheeler. He’s an important piece of the puzzle on Holt Road. 

SCORE Atlanta looks at the five best teams that didn't make the tournament.

- Nice ballot stuffing on the “Who is the best Junior in the state?” poll. 

- Carter’s Fried Chicken in Americus is a must-stop whenever you are in town. Just outside of the campus gates, the local hot spot was the best food stop of the week. However, Marietta Diner still sits atop the Georgia Hoops restaurant rankings.