Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Butler grabs the 7th spot; and I recap picks 7-11

My picks for the top 6 area teams can be found here:

1) Laney
2) Josey
3) Richmond
4) Thomson
5) Alleluia
6) Westminster

#7 Butler

My preseason top 10 has been set for some time. I wrote rough drafts for posts and got the video clips ready to be edited weeks ago. One of the last conversations I had before settling the order was with Butler coach Cervantes Boddy. Like any good coach, he convinced me the expectations should be low after his Bulldogs lost all starters to graduation and transfer. I agreed and left Butler outside the top ten.

But after seeing the Bulldogs in fall league action and reflecting on a couple dominant performances I witnessed in June during the summer league, I have to insert them as my #7 area team. This group should once again challenge the very best teams in region 3-AAA, the area's most competitive grouping.

Sure the school's all time scoring leader (Don Coleman) has graduated. And the only starter who didn't graduate (Ricquail Smooot) is now at a "basketball academy." But Smoot's inside presence can be replaced by an impressive tandem of Will Lambert (6'5" junior) and Kyler Haynes (6'5" senior). 

And the perimeter is stocked with guards accustomed to making big contributions during big games. Jzwa Collier returns from last year's 21-7 team. And his finest moments came last season during the instantly classic pair of games versus area power Laney. He is joined by fellow returnee Deandre Barton and Aquinas transfer Jalen Holbrook, who is no stranger to state playoff basketball. Throw in promising underclassman Drez McBride and you have a team that may skip the rebuilding process and continue its run near the top of area play.

By suddenly inserting Butler into the top ten, I have now changed it to a "top 11." And I still may have the Bulldogs too far down. I'm sure glad these guys will settle such things on the court sooner than we realize!

Kyler Haynes adds size and athleticism to Butler's frontline.

#8 Glenn Hills

The Spartans have earned the benefit of the doubt. One of the area's two schools (on the Georgia side) with a recent state championship, and arguably the area's top team just two seasons ago, the Spartans never lack talent. After losing Aubrey Mcrae two seasons ago, and a trio of senior leaders last season, coach Travis Mcrae's group is probably in the rebuilding stage. But I've seen enough of this young group to predict they will be a factor in what should be a red hot region race again.

#9 Westside

Westside returns virtually everybody from a team that showed promise but rarely converted it to
success last season. The Patriots lost the first five region games before logging good wins over Glenn Hills and Washington County during the second half of the schedule.

Senior Demontrez Hawes is a four year varsity starter who is a capable scorer and leader.  Add juniors Christian Robinson and Elijah Brown and coach Marvin Fields has the ingredients to turn the corner this season.

Senior Trez Hawes is a proven scorer.

#10 Evans

Add Evans to the list of local Class 5A teams who should be much improved this season. Coach
Transfer Chris Stone brings
shooting to the Knights
Kevin Kenny's Knights return the inside-outside combo of Michael Steflik (6'6" senior) and Serron Spann (5'10" sophomore). And adding Augusta Christian and Augusta Prep transfers Joel Grant and Chris Stone, respectively, will make a huge impact, putting the Knights in position to compete for a spot at the top of the sub region and a state playoff bid, something Kenny had grown familiar with before last year's rare break from that tourney.

I recently saw this group beat Butler in a Fall League game. Stone knocked down three straight bombs to start the game. And Grant got to the paint consistently off the dribble. Spann does a good job of attacking the basket and finding open shooters, a skill that should blend well with Stone's perimeter shooting. Almost all the local Class 5A teams are stocked with good guards. Add Evans to that list. And with Steflick in the post, coach Kenny will have the balance to make a run in a wide open sub region.

#11 Cross Creek

I watched two Cross Creek games last season, and senior guard Moses Jones was in street clothes
both times. After seeing him throughout the spring and summer AAU circuit, I wished I'd gone to the Razorback games when Jones was healthy! The senior is one of the very best scoring guards in town, and his maturity and commitment should provide new coach Brian Anderson with a strong leader in a wide open sub region race.

Joining Jones is Artis Chapman, a very capable wing who shoots well and scores going to the basket, and senior Aquinas transfer Kham Gordon. The Razorbacks have the potential to field an improved team that can reach the state playoffs. But so do many other teams. The trick will be in the doing.

Cross Creek's Moses Jones leads the Razorbacks

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