OTR Hoops – GHSA Preview 4A-7A – November 5, 2023
We’re days away from kicking off the 2023-2024 season in Georgia and the state is ripe with talent this year. Nationally ranked prospects like Ace Bailey, Caleb Wilson, and Akai Fleming will make for must-see hoops week on a weekly basis and the calendar is packed with marquee matchups between some of the state’s best. Big name transfers have shaken the landscape, guys like Jacob Wilkins and Jaye Nash strengthening state contenders while teams such as Gainesville and Cedar Grove build for bright futures. We’ve broken it down class-by-class to tell you who can bring home the hardware this year.
By: Cam Rickers
McEachern and Grayson look to be 1A and 1B on most boards entering the season. McEachern will be led by Ace Bailey, the best player in the state and maybe even the country. He’ll be surrounded by a talented support crew that includes Jaye Nash, John McQueen, and JD Palm. Grayson, on the other hand, brings back several key seniors in Gicarri Harris, Anthony Alston, and CJ Hyland. Georgia commit Jacob Wilkins joins Amir Taylor in the frontcourt, giving the Rams one of the best frontcourts in the state. We’ll see them square off early at the Tip-Off Classic on November 11th and that should tell us who’s got the leg up.
Having said all of that, you can never count out the Wheeler Wildcats. Wheeler is talented but young and their sophomore duo, Kota Suttle and Lamarrion Lewis, will have to grow up quick. Josh Hill is going to protect the rim and grab a lot of boards, also a threat to step out and hit the three. Kennesaw State commit Ricky McKenzie and Campbell transfer David Clark should provide a lot of the scoring. After that, they’ve got 4-5 more talented guys on the bench that can play. Don’t sleep on Wheeler this year as they could absolutely keep the trophy in Marietta.
Norcross and Berkmar could each be dark horse contenders as well. Norcross will be one of the better defensive teams in the state, extremely rangy and athletic. Toby Ojukwu returns for his second year at Norcross and I could see him taking a major leap. Berkmar will be loaded with talent, especially after the late addition of Mike White, but they’ll need to make a huge jump after winning only 14 games last year.
Alexander returns as the frontrunner to win 6A but they’ll look a bit different this year. They have 6’7 forward Braedan Lue coming back, the centerpiece of last year’s title team. His ability to score, rebound, and defend will be a nightmare for most teams on the schedule. Greg Dunston takes over the point as a sophomore but he’s proven to be ready. Incoming transfers, Allen Stoddard and Jermaine Freeman, will each make a tremendous impact right away. Stoddard is a versatile, 6’6 wing that loves to play above the rim while Freeman provides another strong ball-handler that can contribute in the scoring column.=
Riverwood and Woodward each have enough to challenge Alexander if they’re clicking at the right time. Both teams have exceptional backcourts but Riverwood’s may be the best in the state. Karris Bilal and JR Leonard are both elite scorers with deep bags. Slowing down one of them is hard enough, to contain both of them is a nearly impossible. Woodward’s backcourt can also pack a punch, Zac Foster and Brandon Peters both high-level ball-handlers. Alongside Foster and Peters, there are some talented pieces like 6’6 forward Deke Cooper and 6’4 guard Payton Waites.
5A seems to be up for grabs this year with five teams that I’d consider legitimate contenders: Kell, Dutchtown, Eagle’s Landing, Hiram, and Maynard Jackson. However, Kell enters the season with a slight edge. Kell certainly has the experience after taking the trophy last year and while the loss of Peyton Marshall hurts, they’ll still have one of the best guards in the state leading the way, CJ Brown. He’ll provide a lot of the playmaking while three-point snipers, Jaylen Colon and Connor Staphylaris, set up on the perimeter. Cannon Richards will be key inside, but he’s come on strong over the past year and really stepped up when he needed to as a junior. It’s championship or bust for the Longhorns as they attempt to repeat.
Dutchtown is high on a lot of lists this year and for good reason. The frontcourt features 6’8 Joah Chappelle and 6’9 Matthew Hinton, both high-motor guys that can defend and rebound with the best. Chappelle’s offensive game has really rounded out and I think a lot of the offense will come through him. Austin Mosby Weems will run the point and he could certainly be in for a breakout year. Surrounding that trio are a number of skilled role players that can defend and hit shots. They’ll be tested early against Wheeler and McEachern, both games in November.
Eagle’s Landing will have a much different look this year but they remain in the picture. They return a terrific floor general in Clark Mastin and add some size inside with the addition of 6’6 forward Dwight Brown. Senior guards, Tylon Redmond and Chris Morris will need to step up while sophomores, Bobby Buggs and Maddox Melancon will be heavily relied on too. It’s hard to say just how high the ceiling is for this team but the depth and variety of options are dangerous.
Hiram has emerged as a real player the past few years under Keyon Boyd and they’ve got a good chance to go the distance this season. Because he’s such a star on the football field, people often forget that Chase Tyler is one of the best basketball players in the state. Walter Matthews also comes back, a powerful interior presence. Ryan Williams transfers in from North Paulding where he’s put up serious numbers the past two years and he’ll now have the opportunity to prove it on a bigger stage. The addition of Jaiden Mann also provides more size, athleticism, and offensive firepower. Needless to say, the expectations are high for the Hornets.
Maynard Jackson could be dangerous this year as they bring back Mekhi Turner, Cassius Watkins, and Yusef Bowyer. Turner has expanded his offensive game tremendously over the past year which should open up a slew of opportunities considering Watkins’ ability to create off the dribble and Bowyer’s deadly three-point shot. 6’7 stretch forward, Cam Dover, should be a helpful addition too as he comes over from Woodward. On a good night, Maynard Jackson could be very tough to beat.
There seems to be a clear frontrunner in 4A as Pace returns a good portion of last year’s state championship squad. KJ Greene is one of the best guards in the state, so big and athletic yet so smooth with the rock. Eric Chatfield returns as Greene’s backcourt accomplice, making for a healthy dose of playmaking and three-point shooting. Chandler Bing, LJ Moore, and MJ Madison all bring different skillsets to the frontcourt. Coach Sharman White knows the winning formula and he’s got the guys to do it. Pace should repeat.
Holy Innocents belongs in the conversation solely based on roster talent. Caleb Wilson showed us just how dominant he can be this summer and he should carry them to plenty of wins when healthy. Devin Hutcherson and Will Hopkins will be a handful in the backcourt, both big and physical guards that can pressure the rim. If they want to compete with Pace, they’ll need the other role players to overachieve.
McDonough should be one of the top teams in 4A again despite graduating some key pieces. Senior Keenan Gray brings valuable experience to the table and he should be a focal point of McDonough’s attack. Nigel Thomas also returns after playing big minutes as a sophomore. At 6’7, Thomas pairs tough shot making ability with tremendous length and versatility on the defensive end. Zaiden Greene also brings some crafty playmaking and shooting to the backcourt. McDonough’s strong 2025 class should win a lot of games together over the next two years but it’s hard to see them taking down Pace.
Cam Rickers has lived in Georgia his whole life and joined OTR as scout/evaluator this spring. He spent the year prior scouting for PrepHoops, working hard to make a name for himself within the grassroots scene. In addition to his work for OTR and PrepHoops, he is also the Recruiting & Scouting Director for Wood Elite. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @CamRickersHoops
November 14, 2023
November 14, 2023
November 5, 2023