“Don’t Sleep On…..” – Teams Flying Low in 5A and 4A
ATLANTA, GA – I take just a little bit of pride in calling the Grovetown Warriors last year as the future 6A champions, that bold but not altogether ridiculous (at least to me) assertion that they were really good.
A full room of ATL scouts and media at the Hawks-Naismith Holiday Classic scoffed, siding more with traditional powers as their predictions, but Coach Darren Douglas and his supremely talented Warriors group took home the prize, and by the way, are nearly all back for another run again in 6A.
5A gains a stacked Kell program this year, but with defending champs Tri-Cities and finalist Eagle’s Landing still loaded for runs of their own, and talented rosters at Hiram, Tucker and Dutchtown as well, it should make for a deep and fun chase.
The race in 4A should be set by an uber-talented McDonough program, but with Pace Academy and Lovett coming up from 2A and perennially strong non-ATL programs Westover, Spencer and Westside-Macon lurking as well, things got a little tastier with the private school additions.
Here rather than wait for another face-to-face with my scouting compadres, I’m going to place some bold thoughts directly onto the internet, in the form of teams that it would be unwise to sleep on for potential deep runs.
By: Keith Agran
Lithonia (21-9 last year, lost to Tri-Cities in Sweet 16)
Tough and defensive-minded, the Bulldogs nearly knocked off eventual champions Tri-Cities last winter and return a really underrated 2023 guard trio in Caleb Taylor, Chase Lawrence and Josh Daniels. Adding transfer Deshaun Vassar to complete the Atlanta Select travel team brotherhood that know each so well is the catalyst, and with the way this team gets after it on defense, merely needs to get spirited activity from their myriad of athletic if undersized frontcourt players to contend for another run.
Centennial (20-6 last year, lost to Carrollton in 6A First Round)
Down to a more suitable 5A as far as enrollment is concerned, the Knights said goodbye to some major contributors from a tremendous 2-year run, but there are intriguing pieces still in the tank. The backcourt of senior PG Jonah Hibbert, junior wing Kennedy Warren, and 2025 riser KJ Garris can score and play defense, and is the kind of trio where a different guy will shine every night. Some wild cards to keep an eye on – athletic 6-4 junior forward Justin Vernon has some upside as he gains experience, while the Stroumpis brother tandem of 6-5 senior forward Nick (a D1-level tennis player playing basketball for the first time) and sophomore shooter Grayson eases some of the 2022 losses and gives them added 3-point shooting.
Holy Innocents’ (9-11 last year, did not qualify in A-Private)
Certainly going from what was a very competitive former A-Private classification to 4A is no cakewalk, but a move forward and potentially upward seems not all that bold a prediction, based mostly on the backs of stellar 2025 forward Caleb Wilson and 2024 guard Will Hopkins. Wilson is rapidly rising national rankings list as a future 5-star level talent, while Hopkins is coming off a travel season where he was among the steadiest backcourt performers across the width of the floor I saw in town. A real wild card addition to watch is rising 2026 Devin Hutcherson, who comes over from the Johns Creek school district and who as Wilson displayed a year ago could be the next in line to flash some big-time future star potential.
Druid Hills (25-5 last year, lost to McDonough in Elite 8)
Senior losses of the magnitude suffered down by Emory might cripple some programs, but the Red Devils have some momentum going under their superb coaching staff headed by Antoine Stroud. With seniors David Sledge and Nicholas Majors back to fortify the backcourt and junior risers Josiah Marsh and Juan Wharton looking really interesting this fall in their frontcourt, you’d be flat out silly to look past another deep run for this perennially competitive and high-energy program.
Keith Agran has lived in Georgia since 2011 and joined OTR as a National Evaluator in 2021. He previously scouted for Prep Hoops dating back to 2019 and has both a championship-coaching background on the HS-level and daily newspaper writing experience, both from New Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @BracketSage.
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