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High school basketball: Lakeview Academy lands Benjie Wood as its new boys coach
Benjie Wood
Benjie Wood coaches from the sideline for the Gainesville boys during the 2018 Class 6A state championship against Langston Hughes. - photo by Scott Rogers

Lakeview Academy's search for a new boys basketball coach was short and it landed one of the biggest names in the high school coaching ranks in Northeast Georgia. 

On Tuesday, the Gainesville private school announced that Benjie Wood has accepted the position, after spending the past three seasons as boys coach at Buford High. 

It will be the fifth different school in Hall County that he has coached at throughout a coaching career that started as an assistant at Madison County in 1994, where he also got his head coaching career started five years later.

And the opportunity to return to Hall County, where he still lives, is part of what drew him to leave his alma mater, as well as the unique opportunity that Lakeview Academy presents.

“I’m very excited about this new opportunity,” Wood said Tuesday. “No. 1, I like the mutual vision that (Lakeview athletics director Deuce) Roark and (Lakeview head of school) John Simpson and I talked about and shared about the Lakeview program and community.

“You know, I (also) live in Hall County. My family’s from here and it’s exciting to think that this gives me an opportunity to be more available and present in my family’s life. That’s really exciting to me.”

Prior to coaching at Buford, Wood, who has an overall career record of 493-197, spent the majority of his career in Hall County and has won everywhere he’s coached. 

At Gainesville, he guided its program to the state finals in 2018, before leaving to start the program at Cherokee Bluff. 

During his five seasons with the Red Elephants, he guided the program to a 114-33 overall mark.

Most recently, he guided Buford to the Class 6A state finals in 2022 and to the Region 8-7A title this winter before being upset by Berkmar in the first round of the state tournament. 

Prior to coaching at Gainesville, Wood made multiple state quarterfinal runs as coach of the North Hall boys, as well as a trip to the state semifinals in 2005 with the Johnson girls. 

He takes over a Lions team that loses only one senior to graduation and returns several key players like sophomores Brock Graham, Tayden Ware, Justyce Sadler and Jack Collins.

“We’re excited about it, and we’re going to come in and work really hard and be very intentional with our work and get to know the kids,” Wood said. “We’ll have several very high goals, but the purpose will always be to change kids’ lives.

“So we’re going to do what we’ve done everywhere else, and it’s generally worked out pretty well. We’ll see where the chips fall.”

Also on Tuesday, Lakeview Academy promoted Ken Huffman to girls head coach. He was an assistant coach to interim coach Karen Towles in 2023, following the retirement of previous coach John Carrick. 

As part of Towles’ staff this season, he helped guide the Lady Lions (17-13) to the GIAA District 4-4A/3A championships, as well as a spot in the GIAA Class 3A state semifinals.

Like the boys team, the Lakeview girls will also return all but one senior from this year’s squad, including key players like junior Kivana Bogne and sophomores Talia Gaither and Dynesty Putman.

And Roark is confident that he and Simpson have found the right fits for both the Lions and Lady Lions programs.

"I'm excited about the future of the program(s) and excited about the future of Lakeview," Roark said. "Having a coach like (Wood) is good for our kids and good for our program. It came together kind of quickly, ... quicker than I thought it could come together.

"There are two parts to (Huffman's promotion in the girls program). One, he's a great coach. And two, his familiarity with the program and with the girls, and knowing what makes them play well. He's got a good group returning, as well, so we felt like stability there was a really good choice for us."

– David Friedlander contributed to this report

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