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Boys Athlete of the Week: Johnson's Montrell McKenzie
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Honor roll
Austin Venable, Banks County: Scored a game-high 21 points in a loss to East Hall on Tuesday.

Gatlin Boswell, Banks County: Finished with 17 points against East Hall.

A.J. Davis, Buford: Scored 23 points in a win against North Hall on Tuesday.

Keelan Passmore, Chestatee: Had 18 points in a win against Madison County on Tuesday. Scored 12 points in a loss to Eastside on Saturday.

Jordan Degraff, Chestatee: Finished with 15 points for the War Eagles against Madison County.

Tyler Dominy, Dawson County: Scored 17 points in a win against Rabun County on Saturday.

Brian Edwards, East Hall: Had 17 points in a win against Banks County on Tuesday.

Jamaad Stephens, Flowery Branch: Scored 16 points in a loss to Loganville on Tuesday.

Cody Dewing, Flowery Branch: Had 19 points in a loss to Winder-Barrow on Friday.

Luke Moore, Gainesville: Scored 22 points in a win against Apalachee on Friday.

Shaquan Cantrell, Gainesville: Scored 25 points with seven rebounds in a loss to Christ School (N.C.) on Saturday.

Chase England, Gainesville: Had 14 points and six rebounds against Christ School (N.C.).

Taylor Pace, Heritage Academy: Scored 17 in a loss to Young Americans Christian on Tuesday.

Ty Cockfield, Johnson: Had 11 points and seven boards against Lumpkin County. Scored 18 points with 10 rebounds against Lanier.

Drew Dunham, Johnson: Had 15 points with five assists against Lanier.

Austin Montgomery, Lakeview Academy: Scored a team-high 19 points in a win against Hebron Christian on Tuesday. Had 15 points in a win against Prince Avenue on Friday. Finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots in a win against Riverside Military on Saturday.

Ebo Smith, North Hall: Had a game-high 22 points in a win against Banks County on Friday. Scored 19 in a win against Oconee County on Saturday.

Griffin Olson, North Hall: Finished with 19 against Banks County.

Caleb Eppling, North Georgia Christian: Scored 25 points in a win against Praise Academy on Tuesday.

Tristan Diepenbrock, North Georgia Christian: Finished with 21 points against Praise Academy.

Jake Weiner, Riverside Military: Scored 15 points in a loss to Lakeview Academy on Saturday.

Hunter Atkinson, West Hall: Scored 20 points with eight rebounds in a win against White County on Friday.

Rand Rowland, White County: Tallied 19 points in a region win against Fannin County on Tuesday.

Compiled by Bill Murphy

Johnson boys basketball coach Jeff Steele likes the controlled aggression that his senior center Montrell McKenzie brings to the floor. McKenzie blocks shots with his 6-foot-7 frame and long arms. He also deflects the ball and grabs rebounds with his big body inside for the Knights (16-4, 4-0 Region 8-AAAA).

“His scoring is just the icing on the cake,” Steele said.

In both games last week, McKenzie was consistent in all phases. In a win against Lumpkin County, he put up 21 points with 24 rebounds. Three nights later, it was a 20-point, 15-rebound night for McKenzie in a win against Lanier.

For his efforts, McKenzie is The Times Boys Athlete of the Week.

McKenzie currently leads the team with 16 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks a night. He’s also deflected 26 shots on the season.

“He’s been active and aggressive for us,” Steele said.

McKenzie also puts an emphasis on his production grabbing boards and changing the direction of shots for Johnson, which faces Eastside (12-5, 4-0) for first place in 8-AAAA on Friday in Oakwood.

“The points come with our offense,” McKenzie said.

The Knights’ coach says McKenzie played a big role in their finish down the stretch against Lanier. Once McKenzie got his third foul in the first half, Steele opted to go to a zone defense for the third quarter.

After McKenzie went the entire quarter without drawing another foul, he went back to the Knights’ typical man-to-man. McKenzie was instrumental in helping the Knights close the game on a 14-0 scoring run.

“Montrell is the key to our team,” Steele said. “But we have five starters that all have to be guarded.”

Another aspect about McKenzie’s game that pleases his coach is that his big man inside is playing with a sense of urgency as his senior season starts to wind down. McKenzie says he wants to max out the team’s potential to make a deep playoff run.

Steele says that on Monday, he saw McKenzie really step out as the team ran sprints up and down the court in practice. Johnson’s coach says that McKenzie won out of everyone on the team “two or three times.”

“I can tell Montrell wants to get the most of his senior season,” Steele added.

Steele says the two things that McKenzie still needs to work on are hitting the mid-range jump shots and free throws more consistently.

Due to some academic setbacks, McKenzie plans to play in junior college after graduation. He’s received interest from some of the better two-year schools in the country for men’s basketball, including Barton College, in Kansas, and Florida Gulf Coast College in Panama City, Fla. McKenzie says that starting at the junior college level could prove helpful as he looks to eventually make the jump to a Division-I university.

“I think the sky’s the limit for Montrell,” Steele said.

The Knights are in a prime position to make it an interesting postseason. At 4-0 in region play, Johnson has only four games left on the region schedule to determine region tournament positioning, along with Saturday’s rivalry game at home against West Hall in a nonregion meeting.

Steele says his entire program has bought into its motto, “Stay hungry, stay humble” all season, avoiding any talk or hype that leaks in from outside the program.

Johnson will host the Region 8-AAAA tournament starting Feb. 12 in Oakwood.

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