Gainesville coach Bruce Miller has enough talent on his team this week to win a state championship in any season.
Miller, the coach of the North squad in today’s GACA North/South All-Star Classic in Columbus, has some of the best talent from the northern half of the state on his sideline that were handpicked for this showcase event.
Miller knows it’s quite a gifted group of athletes in his corner.
“It’s so impressive to see the level of talent for this game,” Miller said. “It’s a great chance for these guys to come out and compete against each other and see how they may fit in at the next level.
“It’s a tremendous honor to get to be around these guys and see them play.”
Many of the players on the field in this game already have Division I scholarships locked up for next season. In a game such as this, the final score is fairly unimportant. Players are more eager to see how they stack up against the state’s other top prep talent, as well as trade stories of playing against one another.
“The kids get along great,” Miller said. “They all have tremendous respect for one another.”
As expected, there’s more than a fair share of area athletes that got an invitation to play in the game. Local players include Buford defensive back Eric Barr, Dawson County offensive lineman Zach Johnson, East Hall defensive end Chaz Cheeks, Flowery Branch kicker Will Monday, Gainesville defensive tackle Thomas Niles and White County running back/defensive back Ashely Lowery.
Cheeks already took the time to exchange pleasantries with a pair of players that he’ll team up with starting this summer at Georgia Tech.
“I really want to come out and represent East Hall and my family well and just have a good time,” Cheeks said. “I’m eager to see how I stack up against the other players that are going Division I level.”
Cheeks, also a basketball standout for the Vikings, had to make a choice with regards to which trip he wanted to make during Christmas vacation since both overlapped. He choose the All-Star game over a trip to Spartanburg, S.C. with the basketball program for three games in the Upward Classic tournament.
For Cheeks, the decision all came down to getting the chance to go toe-to-toe against guys he’ll be playing with and against on Saturdays in the fall.
Through the first couple of practices, Miller was particularly impressed with the way Monday, a Duke commit, was kicking the ball.
“He’s been so impressive kicking the ball,” Miller said. “I’m glad we didn’t have to play against him this season.”
Other marquee players for the North squad are Collins Hill quarterback Taylor Heinicke, a 4,200-yard passer this season and North Gwinnett athlete C.J. Uzomah, a first-team All-State selection in Class AAAAA.
Assistant coaches for the north squad include Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell, Lumpkin County coach Tommy Jones and Red Elephants assistant coach Jim Pavao.
The players had a chance to get acclimated to one another with five practices leading into the game at Columbus’ Memorial Stadium.