Wednesday, October 26, 2016

AugBball News: The NBA tips off; preseason honors awarded to college hoopers of local interest; and the middle school seasons tips off in one week

For the first time I can recall, the buzz about the first official games of the new basketball season has been electric during the past 24 hours. But I think everybody is up to speed with Tuesday's dominant performances by the Cavs and the Spurs. So I'll save what I have to add to what I've already posted until last and start with news about local college players earning preseason honors, and also with a preview of the first game I'll feature (in exactly one week) in our area.

Keshun Sherrill named to preseason first team All Peach Belt Conference team

The list of honors compiled by Augusta University senior Keshun Sherrill is impossible to list at one time. But this graphic from does as good of a job as possible:

Add to it that with a season left to play, the best Jaguar to ever suit up (in my opinion) is already 9th on the all time Peach Belt Conference scoring list with 1609 points, and you can understand why it's my goal not to miss any of Keshun's games in this his final season.

My first opportunity to see Sherrill and the Jags is Saturday, November 5th, when they visit national powerhouse Wichita State. I previewed that matchup, and I shared this playlist of videos from some of my favorite Keshun Sherrill moments from the past two seasons in part one of my AugBball college hoops preview.

Gilbert, Georgia's 2016 POY, earns AAC preseason ROY honors

Alterique Gilbert, who earned 3 state titles and was named Georgia's best high school player during his 4 seasons at Miller Grove, has brought with him to UConn the highest of expectations. So it is no surprise that he was voted the American Athletic Conference preseason rookie of the year. UConn coach Kevin Ollie, who has a national championship on his resume already after only four seasons at the helm, said in an interview that having a leader like Gilbert helps him "sleep better at night."

I described why I'm so interested in Gilbert and UConn in part one of my AugBball College Hoops Preview. He reminds me of his assistant coach, former UConn national champion and Westside High School legend (and good friend) Ricky Moore. But even if it weren't for his local ties, I think an image like this, taken during UConn's "First Night" event to present the new team to its fans, would have me captivated nonetheless!

*Special note: Gilbert's third state title went through Richmond Academy by way of a difficult win in the sweet sixteen round of last season's 5A state playoffs. I've been told this SUVtv documentary, Reclaiming the Crown, about Miller Grove's 2015-16 season, gives a lot of attention and credit to our Musketeers. Also, a key member of Miller Grove's team was Laney transfer Colin Young, who I expect is featured too. So check it out!

Columbia Middle and Grovetown to battle for bragging rights 

Every season, the area's first games come from the abnormally early starting Columbia County middle schools. But no matter when the games start, I am convinced that a higher than usual portion of our area's best young players are coming from this section of our area. And one of the first pieces of evidence was last season's barn burner of an opener between Grovetown Middle and Columbia Middle.

AugBball Flashback: Grovetown vs Columbia Middle (2015)

Grovetown Middle's 31-30 win last October was decided when Chris Williams, now a freshman at Grovetown High, made the game winner seconds before time ran out.

And weeks later Columbia's Christian Chambers returned the favor, scoring 33 points in a 57-46 win that locked the teams, which each finished with 13-1 records, for good in a tie at the top of the County's standings.

Grovetown vs Columbia Middle, Part 3

Williams and Chambers are two of the area's best five freshmen. And I place at least three former classmates of theirs, Grovetown's Ricky McGhee and Columbia's Josh Graham and Julius Brown, in the same place on this season's list of the area's best middle schoolers. McGhee is a 6'3" guard who is highly skilled and very experienced despite being only 13 years old. He played a major role in both showdowns with Columbia last season. And I watched Graham light it up from deep on at least two occasions this summer while playing with Team Power's 8th grade AAU team, which includes most of the area's best middle schoolers. Finally, Brown was instrumental in Columbia's payback win over Grovetown last season, as you can see at the second link directly below.

Link to AugBball's game report of Grovetown vs Columbia, Part 1

Link to AugBball's game report of Grovetown vs Columbia, Part 2

Stay tuned to AugBball's coverage of the town's first official game of the new season:
Grovetown vs Columbia, Part 3 - Wednesday, November 2

Breonna O'Conner named to first team all PBC team

Senior Breonna O'Conner earned preseason first team All Peach Belt Conference honors after consistently proving herself one of the league's top performers as a junior last season, her first at Augusta University. She scored in double figures in 29 of 32 games, finished fifth in the league in points per game (15), and scored 32 points in a win over Anderson University to lead the Lady Jaguars to the second NCAA tournament sweet sixteen round appearance in school history.

Augusta finished last season ranked #25 in the nation. I will feature the Lady Jaguars at AugBball for the first time when they open their season November 22 at home against Fort Valley State.

O'Conner also finished second in the PBC with 78 steals last season

Two "super teams" tally season opening blowout wins

I've never been as fascinated by the beginning of the NBA season as I am now. So my fretting about whether Kevin Durant's move to Golden State will "hurt the league" was surely nonsense. And if there were any doubts about that when the first jump ball of the new season was tossed in Cleveland Tuesday, first Lebron James and Kyrie Irving, and later Kawhi Leonard and (out of nowhere) Jonathan Simmons proved there is so much more to be excited about than only the league's new supposed super team.

I summarized the story of the NBA's first evening a post this morning. It included my favorite five plays as "vined" by my favorite internet basketball guy. But I forgot one, Simmons's Lebron-esque run down block on back-to-back MVP Steph Curry's layup.

Even more interesting than that block, not to mention Simmons's game ending flush and his nearly perfect season opening stat line, is the story of how he came to be an NBA player. After graduating from a Houston high school in 2008, Simmons played seven seasons of basketball for various junior college, college, and semi-pro teams (only one of which, the University of Houston, I've ever heard of!) before earning a roster spot in San Antonio. I bet Spurs fans are happy this former member of the Sugar Land Legends and the Austin Toros didn't give up on his NBA dream before it came true!

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