Gwinnett County has long boasted about being the place where champions live.
Last year two of the boys high school basketball programs lived up to that reputation with Norcross winning the AAAAAA state championship and Greater Atlanta Christian securing the AA title. As the basketball season gets started again, here are some of the Gwinnett County teams and players to keep an eye on during the 2013-2014 season.
Norcross is the defending AAAAAAA state champions. The Blue Devils return eight players from that championship team and know what it will take to get back to Macon. In true Norcross fashion, it has a schedule loaded with talented teams who will be looking to knock them off the top spot. Devils’ head coach Jesse McMillian is modest about where his team is headed but likes the makeup of his program.
Last season, GAC throttled its opponents by an average of 27 points a game in its victory. The Spartans went on to win the AA state championship and many have them selected to win again. However, the burning question is whether the Spartans could beat Norcross to end the conversation on who is the better high school program.
Well, that would be hard since Spartans head coach Eddie Martin taught at Norcross for years and had current Blue Devils coach as an assistant. We are sure, while neither coach is afraid of playing anyone, it would be hard for these two friends to match wits on the sideline.
The burning question for many basketball fans is: Which is the next program to make its mark as the next power program in Gwinnett county?
Well, North Gwinnett, Peachtree Ridge and Duluth look like they want to take a shot at dethroning Norcross in Region 7 AAAAAA.
North Gwinnett is a junior-laden program looking to avenge its early exit from the region tournament. The Bulldogs have been focused on getting beyond that upset as it focuses on the little details of the game. Look for head coach Zach Smith to have his players in contention for the region and state title.
The Peachtree Ridge Lions have been atop of the region before and are several plays away from winning the title again. Unfortunately, mishaps and a tough opponent have kept them from claiming the title. Head coach Keith Arrington has some experience returning from a 17-11 state qualifying team. The Ridge has the tools to make a deeper run this season.
Duluth wants to fly under the radar this season, but it will be hard. The Wildcats have added some pieces to their program that will provide athleticism, defensive presence, poise and scoring. Third-year head coach Eddie Hood now has to put all these pieces together as the team looks to find an identity. Getting to the top will not be easy but the Wildcats will scratch their way there.
DON’T HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON ON THESE PROGRAMS
High school coaches love the element of surprise, especially if it is their team surprising everyone. These programs are capable of disrupting the standings this season.
Dacula High coach Russ Triaga is known for developing guards and doing well with them in the past. This season the Falcons are guard heavy and will be tough to matchup against.
Size, depth and camaraderie will be the key for Berkmar High this season. The Patriots play hard on both ends of the floor all the time. Be prepared to play 32 minutes of physical basketball with them.
Brookwood High quietly patrolled the hardwood last season to a successful mark. This season the Broncos could buck some trends and get into the state playoffs as head coach Daniel Bowles continues to build a strong program.
You may read this here first; Grayson High coach Geoffrey Pierce could have the biggest turnaround of any team in the county. The Rams are building a winning attitude and could help shake up some programs that may not take them seriously.
by Robert Alfonso Jr., Of hoopseen
Special for Sports Gwinnett Magazine
from the November issue of Sports Gwinnett, prepared before this past weekend.
HoopSeen, founded by Suwanee Sports Academy. is your trusted source for grassroots basketball news and events. HoopSeen’s team covers high school basketball, travel basketball tournaments, leagues and training. Check them out at HoopSeen.com.