By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
High school basketball: Boys Previews
Placeholder Image

High school basketball: Girls Previews

HS basketball preview: Area teams prepare for loaded 7-AAA


The Starting Five

Ebo Smith


School: North Hall

Height: 6-2

2012 stats: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists per game

Brian Edwards


School: East Hall

Height: 6-3

2012 stats: 17 points, 8 rebounds per game

A.J. Davis


School: Buford

Height: 6-8

2012 stats: 12.7 points, 5.9 rebounds per game

Shaquan Cantrell


School: Gainesville

Height: 6-4

2012 stats: 18 points, 7 rebounds per game

Montrell McKenzie


School: Johnson

Height: 6-6

2012 stats: 12 points, 13.5 rebounds, 5.6 blocks per game


Team Previews

Banks County

Coach: Mike Cleveland

Region: 7-AAA

2011-2012 record: 11-15

Returning Starters: PG Greg Canon (Sr.)

Key Contributors: P Zac Orr (Fr.); W Will Ledford (So.); P Austin Venable (So.)

Key Losses: G Adam Hiten, G Jacob Blalock, F Brenton Ruark, Clayton Martin, Jonah Thomas, Tucker Gardner, Taylor Foster.

Notable: The only player on the team with varsity experience is Canon. …The Leopards plan to start one freshman and two sophomores. …The young team will look to Canon for leadership after losing a majority of the 10-man rotation after last season.


Coach: Allen Whitehart

Region: 7-AAA

2011-12 record: 22-8, Region 6-AA runner-up, second round state playoffs

Returning starters: G/F A.J. Davis (6-8, Sr.; 12.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg); PG Isaiah Williams (6-1, Sr.; 14 ppg, 4 apg, 2 spg)
Key contributors: G/F Justice Bartley (6-5, Jr.); F/C Kyle Doyle (6-7, Sr.); F Brad Mapes (6-5, Sr.); G/F Colby Durden (6-5, Sr.); PG Austin Pickett (6-1, Sr.)

Key losses: F/C T.J. Shipes (15 ppg, 11 rpg, 2 bpg); G Kyle Kellam

Notable: A year after falling to Dawson County in the second round of the state playoffs, the Wolves are reloaded and figure to be in the mix with the Tigers, North Hall and East Hall in a highly competitive Region 7-AAA. ... Davis, the son of former NBA player Antonio Davis and brother of Buford girls standout Kaela Davis, is committed to Tennessee. ... The addition of Doyle, who transferred from Westside-Augusta, will help soften the loss of Shipes, the Region 6-AA Player of the Year last season.


Coach: Gary Barnes

Region: 8-AAAA

2011-12 record: 5-20

Returning starters: G Keelan Passmore (6-1, Sr.; 15 ppg, 5 apg); G Jordan Degraff (6-1, Sr.; 12 ppg, 4 apg); G Kelley Arthur (6-0, Sr.; 4 ppg, 6 rpg)

Key contributors: G Justin Jones (6-1, Jr.); G Jordan Pulliam (6-1, So.); F Aaron Manders (6-2, Jr.)
Key losses: G Cole Morgan (15 ppg)

Notable: Chestatee will be in its second year playing a high-pace, pressing style, and returns many players comfortable with the system. ... The War Eagles have talented young players, who played on the 12-4 junior varsity team and the 9-1 freshman team last season, to add depth. ... Barnes said the team has focused on team building, getting more athletic, and fundamentals throughout the summer and offseason, and will look to be in the mix for a playoff spot.


Coach: Rob Brown

Region: 8A-A

2011-2012 record: 15-13

Returning Starters: G Thomas McMillan (6-3, Sr.; 15.4 ppg); G Jonathan Book (5-11, Sr.; 11.8 ppg); F Robert Hayes (6-4, Sr.; 8.3 ppg); G Keenan Lord (5-8, Jr.)

Key Contributors: F Tony Patman (6-3, Jr.); G Tyre Treadwell (5-8, Sr.)

Key Losses: G Chase Klugh

Notable: This is Brown’s first season as the varsity head coach after serving as assistant and junior varsity coach for the Tigers for the past six seasons. …The Commerce roster is experienced and has many players that have seen significant playing time over the past few seasons.

Dawson County

Coach: Thad Burgess

Region: 7-AAA

2011-12 record: 25-8; Region 8-AA champion, state quarterfinalist

Returning starters: G/F Tyler Dominy (6-5, Sr.; 15 ppg, 8 rpg); G/F Will Anglin (5-10, Sr.; 9 ppg, 3 spg); G/F Gunnar Armstrong (5-10, Sr.; 8 ppg, 85 percent FTs); C Bruce Clark (6-5, Sr.; leading rebounder); PG Jonathan Sanderson (6-0, Jr.)

Key contributors: C Camron Chester (6-4, Sr.); G/F Lucas Pain (6-5, Jr.); G/F Jackson Putnam (6-0, Jr.)

Notable: The top eight scorers and rebounders return from the most successful team in Dawson County history, and they’ll be needed as the Tigers transition into what is expected to be a very competitive region. ... Dominy was an All-Region and All-State honorable mention selection last year; he’s one of many Tigers currently playing football. ... The Tigers made their run last season leaning on a matchup zone defense and efficient offense; having so many players back who understand the system is a boon for Burgess.

East Hall

Coach: Joe Dix

Region: 7-AAA

2011-12 record: 22-8; Lost in second round of state tournament

Returning starters: G/F Brian Edwards (6-3, Sr.; 17 ppg, 8 rpg); G Hayden Chapman (6-1, Sr.; 15 ppg, 43 percent 3-pointers)

Key contributors: C Daniel McCravy (6-3, Sr.); F Braden Jarrard (6-3, Sr.)

Key losses: G J.C. Hampton (27.6 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.7 spg), C Chris Orr (9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.2 bpg)

Notable: The Vikings will miss Hampton’s instant offense and will have less size than last year, but four players with starting experience are back. ... Edwards and Chapman should do most of the scoring, but McCravy could also play a big role after missing last season with an ACL injury. ... East Hall got a boost when Dix decided to stay with the team last spring after briefly resigning to take the head coaching job at South Gwinnett.

Flowery Branch

Coach: Duke Mullis

Region: 8-AAAAA

2011-12 record: 12-14, 6-6

Returning starters: PG Jaleel Bailey (5-10, Sr.; 7 ppg); G Nick Wayne (6-0, Sr.; 7 ppg); F Jamaad Stephens (6-2, Sr.; 12 ppg, 8 rpg)

Key contributors: C Cody Dewing (6-5, Jr.); PG Jemon Randolph (5-6, Jr.); G Grant Shirley (6-2, Sr.); G Eric Little (6-0, Sr.)

Key losses: G Tyler McBroom (6 ppg)

Notable: The experienced Falcons, who return their top three scorers off last year’s team, look to rely on a tough man-to-man defense along with a motion offense this season, according to Mullis. ... Offensively, Flowery Branch boasts a good mix of 3-point shooters and post players who can score inside. ... The Falcons step directly into region play Nov. 27 against Salem in Flowery Branch for the season opener.


Coach: Todd Cottrell

Region: 8-AAAAA

2011-12 record: 16-10, 8-2

Returning starters: F Shaquan Cantrell (6-4, Sr.; 18 ppg, 7 rpg); G Deshaun Watson (6-3, Jr.; 11 ppg, 4 rpg); F Chase England (6-3, Sr.; 7 ppg, 7 rpg); F Caleb Hayman (6-3, Sr.; 7 ppg, 8 rpg)

Key contributors: PG Jikeese Ruff (6-3, Sr.); G Luke Moore (6-0, Sr.); G Reed Tipton (6-1, Sr.); F Mckay Aiken (Jr., 6-5); C Ithello Cross (6-5, Jr.)

Key losses: PG Lance White (11 ppg, 4 apg); G Javez Warren (5 ppg, 1.5 apg)

Notable: With four starters returning from a team that was upset one game short of a state tournament berth, the Red Elephants should be very competitive this season, with a little better size and skill than last year, according to Cottrell, who added that the team could still develop more skills with which to match up with 8-AAAAA opponents. ... With Ruff in as the new point guard, Cottrell said the offense and defense will be a little different than last year’s team. ... The Red Elephants jump right into region play when they take on Clarke Central on Nov. 27 in Athens for the season opener.

Habersham Central

Coach: Don Ledbetter

Region: 7-AAAAAA

2011-2012 record: 18-7

Returning starters: PG Connor McCullough (Jr.); C Justin Banks (6-4); Slater McCullough (6-2)

Key losses: G/F Pat Burns; G/F Kevin Ellison (15 ppg, 6 rpg, 6 apg, 4 spg)

Notable: The Raiders fell one game short of a state tournament berth last season but will have a hard time making the leap this season with the move up in classification and the loss of Ellison, a football and basketball star now at Georgia Southern. ... Habersham Central is now playing in one of the tougher regions in the state with traditional powerhouse Norcross and 2011-2012 state quarterfinalist North Gwinnett.

Jackson County

Coach: Britt Beaver

Region: 8-AAA

2011-2012 record: 6-17

Returning starters: G Xavier Harper (6-1, Jr.; 8 ppg, 3 spg); F/C Kevin Lineberger (Sr.; 8 ppg, 6 rpg)
Key contributors: PG Mo Wade (Sr.)

Key losses: PF Jared Scott; SG Kolin Zimmer

Notable: The Panthers have three solid returning starters, starting with Harper. ... Wade steps in to the starting point guard spot after scoring 12 points per game last season in junior varsity play. ... Lineberger returns in the post and also has a good touch on his shots. ... With a relatively young squad, Beaver plans to rely on a disciplined half-court offense, while switching between man and zone on defense.


Coach: Bolling Dubose

Region: 8-AA

2011-2012 record: 20-10, 11-1; second round of state playoffs

Returning starters: SF Satchel Turpin (6-3, Jr., 8.5 ppg)

Key contributors: C Tyler Patrick (6-4, Sr.); PF Jeshua Kidd (6-1, Sr.); PG Lance Pass (5-9, Sr.); PF Tanner Williams (6-4, Sr.); SG Jake Franklin (6-1, So.); PG Kendrick Robinson (5-9, So.).

Key losses: PG Andre Daniel; SG Austin Thompson (17 ppg); PF Andrew Bartek; C Will Puckett.

Notable: Dubose feels a deep roster will help overcome a lack of experience. ... Jefferson graduated three of its top four post players from last season. ... Patrick was also moved to center for his smooth style of play over the summer. ... Kidd is the lone returning post player and is noted by his coach as a solid shooter. ... Dubose plans to play nine or 10 players every game to help the team get through the varsity learning curve.


Coach: Jeff Steele

Region: 8-AAAA

2011-12 record: 13-14, 5-9

Returning starters: C/F Montrell McKenzie (6-6, Sr.; 12 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 5.6 bpg); PG Drew Dunham (5-10, Jr.; led team in assists)

Key contributors: G/F Roderick English (6-3, So.); F/G Carter Cagle (6-4, Jr.)

Key losses: G Matt Hollis (21 ppg); F AJ Benefield (7 ppg, 6 rpg); F Ty Odem (10 ppg, 8 rpg)

Notable: Johnson will look to be an inside-out team this season with McKenzie, a first team All-Region selection, as the focal point of the offense from his spot in the paint, freeing up open looks for a number of shooters on the perimeter. ... Defensively, the Knights look to take advantage of their athleticism and length by playing a pressure defense geared toward creating turnovers.


Coach: Seth Vining

Region: 8-A

2011-12 record: 23-6; first round of state tournament, region runner-up

Returning starters: C Austin Montgomery (6-8, Sr.; 17 ppg, 8 rpg); PG Rick Valentine (5-10, Sr.; 3.2 apg)
Key contributors: PG Ted Reynolds (6-1, Sr.); F Joel Larsen (6-3, Sr.); F Trevor Price (5-10, Sr.)

Key losses: G Austin Pearson (16.8 ppg, 2.2 spg, 88 3-pointers), G Matt Askounis (6.6 ppg, 2.7 apg, 2.1 spg)

Notable: Though only two starters return, the Lions should have loads of experience, with 10 lettermen coming back and 10 seniors on this year’s roster. ... Vining, who has guided the Lions to 138 wins and just 85 losses in his eight seasons at helm, expects 10-12 players to contribute every night. ... Montgomery should be a force inside; he was a first-team All-Region selection and was selected to the All-Lanierland team and GACA Junior All-Star team last season.

Lumpkin County

Coach: Chris Guthrie

Region: 8-AAAA

2011-2012 record: 3-24

Returning starters: G/F Jacob Haskell (6-4, Sr.); G Daniel McCrary (6-2, Jr.); G Johnathan Gilreath (6-2, Jr.).
Key contributors: SG Malik Anderson (Jr. 46 percent 3-pointers); F/C Austin Hollman (6-5, Jr.); F/C Evan Gaddis (Sr.); F Evan Bafile (Jr.).

Key losses: PG Devonte Anderson, C Hunter Polk

Notable: The Indians lost an All-Region point guard in Anderson but have a strong core returning. … Lumpkin County will look for leadership from new players this season, but McCrary and Gilreath are experienced players who can lead the team. …Guthrie believes Haskell will be an explosive player who will be a tough matchup for opponents.

North Hall

Coach: Benjie Wood

Region: 7-AAA

2011-12 record: 24-6, 9-1 Region 8-AAA; lost in second round of state playoffs

Returning starters: G Ebo Smith (6-2, Sr.; 19 ppg, 4 rpg); G Griffin Olson (6-1, Sr.; 8 ppg); F Adam Kelly (6-3, Sr.; 9 ppg 8 rpg); G Zach Tibbs (5-8, Sr.); F Avery Cagle (6-3, So.; 8 ppg).

Key contributors: P Thomas Marchman (6-2, Jr.); F Marcus Hulsey (5-9, Sr.); G T.J. Tate (5-9, Sr.).

Key losses: P Imani Cross; P Payton Cagle; G Preston Smith.

Notable: Wood feels pretty comfortable with the starting five he has back. ... Depth is his main concern at this point. ... Smith had a dominant junior season but the Trojans coach warns his standout guard will be the center of attention every game now. ... North Hall returns the bulk of its scoring from 2011-12 with about 50 points per game. ... Marchman and Hulsey are back after missing all of last season and adding depth. ... Tate is a football player also expected to play when the current season is finished.

Riverside Military

Coach: Lazarus Chennault

Region: 8B-AA

2011-2012 record: 5-13, 3-5

Returning starters: PG Adrian Humphrey (5-8, Sr.; 13 ppg, 3 apg); SG Jake Weiner (6-0, Jr.; 6.5 ppg in six games)
Key contributors: F Gabe Fraser (6-0 Sr.); G/F Justin Sweeting (6-3, So.); F LaVelle Campbell (6-2 Jr.); G JJ McCalston (5-11, So.)

Key losses: PG D’Yves Martin (6 ppg, 6 apg)

Notable: Chennault steps into the head coaching position after four seasons as a varsity assistant and junior varsity coach at Riverside Military. ... He feels that hard practices and defensive intensity will set the tone for the program. ... Riverside Military has adequate depth back this season with McCalston as the top newcomer and Campbell able to play both forward spots. ... Chennault was an assistant during the Eagles’ last playoff appearance in 2010. ... He coached his first four seasons as an assistant at Washington-Wilkes High.
Towns County

Coach: Ken Hamilton

Region: 8-A

2011-12 record: 5-21

Returning starters: Ryan Talent (Sr.); Dallas Manus (So.)

Notable: Towns County returns two starters and a young roster with only two seniors. ... Hamilton expects improvement based on an enhanced knowledge of the game as seven returning players earned ample experience last season.

Union County

Coach: David Tucker

Region: 8B-AA

2011-2012 record: 13-14

Returning starters: PG Zach Odom (5-6, Sr.; 14 ppg); F James Rowe (6-0, Sr.; 12 ppg); PG Rhett McCombs (Sr.; 18 ppg)

Key contributors: G Eliyah Riles (Jr.)

Notable: Union County returns a pair of veteran players, McCombs and Rowe, and they can provide leadership and a strong nucleus of seniors for this year’s team. … Rowe led the Panthers in rebounds last season. … Tucker expects Riles to be a big contributor in his junior year.

White County

Coach: Sam Borg

Region: 7-AAA

2011-12 record: 6-20

Returning starters: G Eddie Hurst (6-1, Sr.; 8 ppg, 1.7 spg); PF Rand Rowland (6-6, Sr.; 8 ppg, 5 rpg); G Spencer Adams (6-4, Jr.; 7 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G Juwan Dorsey (5-4, So.)

Key contributors: G/F Will Brock (6-2, Sr.); F/C Dalton Whitfield (6-3, Jr.); G Maurice Sutton (5-11, So.); G Joe Dockery (5-11, Jr.); G Trey Thomas (5-10, Jr.)

Key losses: G Andrew London (9 ppg)

Notable: The Warriors return 10 varsity players from last year’s team. ... Borg said Rowland gives the team a good inside presence, and a group of shooters and ball-handlers should be able to capitalize on that. ... Hurst is a skilled, tough, versatile guard who will help lead the offense. ... Borg said team will need good chemistry and have to work hard to compete in what looks to be one of the state’s better regions.

West Hall

Coach: Warren Sellers

Region: 7-AAA

2011-2012 record: 11-14

Returning starters: SG Tyswon Cantrell (6-3, Sr.; 13 ppg, 6 rpg); C Hunter Atkinson (6-6, Jr.; 14 ppg, 8 rpg)
Key contributors: SF Cameran Jacques (5-11, Sr.); Deandre Peoples (5-10, Jr.); SG Grayson Tyler (5-8, Sr.); PG Jesse Van Parys (5-8, Sr.)

Key losses: SF Leetavous Pittman; PF Rico Jones; SG A.J. Stephens; SG Corey Burnett

Notable: Despite losing some talented players, Sellers believes this year’s Spartans squad will prove deeper than last season. ... West Hall’s coach is also encouraged by the ability of some to drop back and hit a 3-pointer. ... “This year’s team plays well together and is unselfish,” Sellers said.

Friends to Follow social media