The high school season officially tips off this week in Georgia. If that doesn’t get you excited then, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Here are my reasons why I love the Peach State from A to Z.
All-BAN-ee. That’s how you pronounce the South Georgia city that is spelled Albany. Just so you know. The city also produces great high school hoopers. Every year there is a player that emerges from The Good Life City. Can’t wait to find out who he is.
Bainbridge. I love a good Georgia road trip. Some of the best games I’ve ever seen came when I filled up the tank and jumped on the state highways. This year, I’m going to travel south to the furthest big city from my front porch – Bainbridge. I’m a believer in the Bearcats and sophomore guard Tyree Crump.
Crowds. Call me a pessimist but I didn’t see the normal exuberant crowds I’m used to seeing in Georgia hoops last year. Will that change this year? I hope so.
Doral Moore. It has been a while since we’ve had a legitimate, game-changing near 7-foot big man in Georgia. The junior at Luella emerged from a project to a prospect in less than a year. He’s unique and that’s a good things. Make sure you get a chance to see him as a prep player this season.
Food. If you know me, well, need I explain myself here? Part of the fun of a high school season is getting out on the road and having some of Georgia’s best food. My favorite stops? Marietta Pizza Company, Carter’s Chicken (in Americus), Nu-Way Wieners (in Macon), anything in Savannah, any Jamaican meat pie shop in Dekalb County… I’m open for suggestions for places to stop this year. Hit me up on Twitter and let me know.
GAC’s gym. There isn’t a better one in the Peach State. Sorry. That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact.
History. We have a chance to see it this year with Miller Grove. No one has ever won six straight state championships in a row. The potential streak has the national high school basketball world watching.
Interaction. We live in a transparent world. That’s a great thing when you have a sport like basketball. The game generates so many opinions. I’d encourage you to use Twitter this season and talk to our HoopSeen.com. We’re totally transparent. Ask questions, share well thought out opinions and talk about what you see. If you do, and I really hope you do, use #MarchToMacon.
Jaylen Brown. Wheeler’s junior is the best prospect in the state, in my opinion, and the best elite player we’ve had since the crazy run of NBA players between 2004 and 2008. Watch as much as you can for $5 a night. He’s a great one. (No pressure, kid.)
Kobi Simmons. The state’s top sophomore has taken his game to another level during the off-season and has a dog in his game much like Brown does. There are big expectations for St. Francis this year. Kobi is one of the reasons why.
Lainerland. I’d argue that few tournaments in Georgia have as much “bragging rights” than that of the Hall County tournament that runs every December. When you are in your 54th year of existence, you’re doing something right. And the Hall County folks absolutely do it right. The tourney is a hoops junkie bucket list item.
Moms. Most days I have my headphones in during a game and I’m listening to music. But, sometimes I’ll pull them out to enjoy a mother shouting the joys of life to her son or to the crowd. Or ref. Or coach. Or the entire opposing team’s student section. Moms – I love ya. Keep being motherly.
Next. The discovery process for players is a fun one to watch play out. In recruiting, development and life in general, you just never know when all of the stars align. There are players out there that college coaches don’t know about. There are players out there that high school coaches have no idea what to expect. There are players out there that aren’t even on a recruiting list for a guy like me. That’s why we play the game. You never know who is watching, where they are watching or what they are watching for. Every game matters.
Opportunity. Alfonso and I will be at a number of games this season all over the great state of Georgia. We will have invitations to The Elite Preview in-hand, too. What is it? Glad you asked. The invite-only camp is March 15, 2014 at Norcross High School. Our team will be working with high school coaches from every corner of the state to build the place to be in the spring for juniors (2015), sophomores (2016) and freshmen (2017). Invites will be earned. Reputations don’t matter. Your game does. We’ll be watching.
Private schools. This year’s group of small schools is as good as I can remember it in the Peach State. Class A private is loaded with state championship caliber teams. Greater Atlanta Christian, Greenforest, St. Francis, Whitefield, North Cobb Christian, Aquinas, Athens Christian, Mt. Pisgah, Excel Christian…the list goes on and on for top level teams in the private school sector. Each of those teams have a Division I prospect and a chance to compete deep into the post-season.
Quotable. The state has some amazing coaches that can knock your socks off with a great quote. The gap between first and second place, to me, is as wide as Interstate 75’s eight lanes of traffic. Tucker’s James Hartry is the best at the quotes. He’s good enough to work the TNT table.
Reading. I hope you read the quotes this season on HoopSeen.com. We have a lot planned for the season. On average during the preseason we’ve had four stories a day on the site. No one can
Showcases. There are a number of great events in the state this year that showcase the best of the best in Georgia. The Jared Cook Classic is loaded. So is the Nike Explosion. Sam Allen’s Blue Collar Showcase at GAC will be great. The Georgia Hall of Fame Classic tips off the season with good match-ups. Hard in the Paint features the best big man battle of the year with Noah Dickerson (North Atlanta) going against Doral Moore (Luella). Hoops in Overdrive is always a must-stop. All of the MLK Day events present match-ups worth watching. The list goes on and on. Teams are staying in-state and playing a playoff type of schedule. We all win because of that.
Tournaments. The best part for this high school season is knowing what comes behind it. The grassroots season should be alive and well at Suwanee Sports Academy. I hope you join us in March (Georgia Cup events), April (Georgia Cup, Norman Parker Showcase), May (Prather, Nike Memorial Day), June (The Preview) and July (details coming soon).
Unmatched. Try this stat on: Since 2001, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties have accounted for 42 of the last 67 state championships on the hardwood. That’s an amazing number.
Value. Every year there is a player (or two) that signs late that can provide some serious value for a college team. Last year it was Frank Booker, the sharpshooter from Augusta. He signed with Oklahoma late and should be just as good from three for the Sooner as he was for Westside. Who will it be this year? There are still a number of talented seniors that are not even on the mindset of coaches. Looking forward to seeing who plays their way into the conversation.
Wolverines. We are in rare time in Georgia high school basketball history. Miller Grove has won five straight state championships and the team is chasing number six this year. The Wolverines start the season as the favorite in AAAAA. Pull up a chair and enjoy the show this year. This kind of run has never happened before. Enjoy it.
X. I hope I see more of these on my shot chart in the midrange. Georgia is filled with guys that can collect the makes at the rim. Can a group of players emerge as 12 to 15 foot shooters?
Youth. The future looks strong in Georgia. The class of 2016 is rich with talented wing guards like Kobi Simmons (St. Francis), Tyree Crump (Bainbridge), Jordan Harris (Seminole Co.), Alterique Gilbert (Miller Grove), Kevon Tucker (Dacula), the list goes on and on. I could scribble out 25 names here. And we haven’t even mentioned the 2017 class.
Zaquavian Smith. If you’ve read the site lately or listened to the Fonz & Doc Show, you know I’m high on the Statesboro guard. He’s as athletic of a guard that we have in Georgia.
Justin Young is the Managing Editor of HoopSeen.com. He has over 15 years of experience in sports media, including time as the national basketball recruiting editor of Rivals.com and the publisher of the Georgia Hoops recruiting report.