Prep Hoops Content
Georgia High School Championship Contender Preview – Class 1A
For our last GHSA championship season preview, we take a look at Georgia’s lowest classification, the class A division. Since the 2012-13 season the state of Georgia has divided this classification between public and private schools which was triggered by a revolt from 33 schools, most of them from Class A, who threatened to leave and form the Georgia Public Schools Association. This was because of what was perceived to be an unfair advantage that private schools have when it comes to athletics. Since that inaugural year, the state of Georgia has added an additional class (AAAAAAA or 7A) which means there are currently eight champions in all sports including basketball. We take a look at 3 teams in each of the public and private school classifications with state championship aspirations in their respective division of 1A basketball.
- Wilkinson County – The Warriors out of Irwinton, Georgia come into the 2017-18 campaign as defending champions and a well-known powerhouse
throughout south Georgia and class 1A; winning the past two state championships at this level. Their run through the state playoffs a year ago was one that didn’t leave any reasonable doubt as the closest game from a final score standpoint came in the title game, where they handled Calhoun county by a 13 point margin. This season the Warriors will have to rely on two impact players that make up a strong front line in senior forwards Clarence Jackson and Tylan Grable. Both prospects stand at a formidable 6’6” and 6’8” respectively, and will cause plenty of havoc for smaller teams in this classification. Jackson, who is also a pre-season first team all state selection, is a double machine with the tenacity on the defensive end as well the boards allowing this Wilkinson to remain in any game regardless of the offensive output. Grable is a two sport athlete who uses his athleticism in much of the same role Jackson, manning down the interior and making his presence known on the interior. Together, along with good guard play, Wilkinson should find themselves in thick of a 3 peat this upcoming March.
- Calhoun County – Calhoun will be looking to strike back against Wilkinson county and the rest of the public side of 1A after a disappointing end to a spectacular season under head coach Marcus Shaw. The Cougars ended the season going 28-2, including a perfect 17-0 region mark, only to lose in the final game against Wilkinson 66-53. The only other loss during last year’s campaign came in a
72-69 battle on the road at Early county. The Cougars then used a 19 game winning streak to propel them into the state finals. This year’s roster will be a familiar one as every man on their roster will be returning for at least one more year. The Cougars are led by senior forward and recent USF commit Rashun Williams, who at 6’7” presents a problem with his size, athleticism, and elite perimeter shooting ability. Add in the productivity of big men like Kavarrius Freeman and Jamal Price as well as veteran perimeter play from senior guard Kadarrius Holmes and Calhoun should be a favorite to hoist the state championship trophy by season’s end.
- Macon County – Macon county, even though having never won a state title, should be in good position to capture its first crown during the 2017-18 year. The Bulldogs have a strong nucleus returning this season including their two double digit scorers, seniors Clayton Jenkins and Trey Brown. Jenkins, who like Jackson is a first team all-state selection, was one of the premiere scorers in all of Georgia averaging 22.3ppg a season ago. He is a tough, three point shooting specialist that can use that shot to open up lanes to the basket for additional offense. Brown is a another prolific scorer and great second option (14.5 ppg last year) doing more of the “dirty work” down low for this Bulldog team. Macon county was rewarded the number 8 overall seed, based off power rankings, going into the state tournament and will look for better positioning once the state tournament commences this season.
- St. Francis – St. Francis comes into the 2017-18 year with the number 1 preseason ranking and a lot of pedigree on the class A private school level. They are one of two schools, the other being Greenforest Academy, that have claimed the state crown in the past five seasons; with the Knights taking the trophy in 2015 and 2016. Notable alumni include NBA prospects Malik Beasley (c/o 2015) and Kobi Simmons (c/o 2016) and although it remains to be seen if anyone from this roster can obtain the same NBA status, those two stars have laid the foundation to what is expected to be another successful season for head coach Drew Catlett. Last year’s squad ended going 25-6 overall, including a 13-1 region mark and a loss in the final four to Greenforest. Impact players returning for the Knights include super sophomore and leading scorer Dwon Odom, sophomore Chase Ellis, and junior CJ Riley. All three underclassmen averaged double figures throughout the season and will look to continue that offensive output for the Knights again this year. Stops at Georgia’s annual Holiday Hoopsgiving, Hawks-Naismith Holiday Classic, and Lake City Classic should have the Knights ready for a formidable playoff run to possibly continue the streak of state championships between them and Greenforest.
- ELCA – The Chargers out of McDonough, Georgia have the talent on paper to contend with anybody in their classification, the question of will they contend remains to be seen. Stars such as Malachi Rhodes, Jared Denk, and Kamari Smith give writers around the state every reason to believe that they will be there in the end of the state championship road if everything goes accordingly. They ended in the season in the sweet 16 round, losing to state runner-up Southwest Atlanta Christian but went 20-7 during their run there. Rhodes and Denk, two fundamentally sound big men, provide a nice front court while Smith anchors the back court, getting to any spot he wants on the floor to create scoring opportunities. The Chargers are also the beneficiaries of a few in-state transfers in KJ Jones and Cam Reddish, two prospects who are sure to add depth and additional scoring to an already dangerous roster. Derrick Mason’s squad may have been under the radar last season but many eyes will be locked in on the Chargers as they look to dethrone the heavyweights of their class this season.
- Aquinas – The final team in our championship preview series comes out of Augusta, Georgia in the Aquinas Fighting Irish. This is a program that has been successful over the past decade regardless of the public and private split in 2012. They come into the year fresh off a 26-2 record, that only saw them lose one game in the state of Georgia, which unfortunately came in the elite 8 round to St. Francis at home. The roster will be a familiar one as they return every player with the exception of big man Dylan Jordan. Great guard play will be the strength of this team with names like Tre Gomillion, Jelani Shakir, and, Gerald Merriweather leading the troops. Gomillion, who was a all-state second team player a season go, is an athletic wing that can get to the rim and finish with the best in the state,. He will look be the primary option with those other players looking to follow. This team will have a lot of experience and that should come to fruition with a good seeding and run in the state playoffs for head man Ralph Godbee.