OTR Hoops – GHSA Preview Classes 1A-3A – 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
Sandy Creek enters the new year as the favorite to repeat in 3A. Micah Smith and Amari Brown will make for one of deadliest duos in the state, Smith so long and athletic yet skilled while Brown brings excellent ball-handling and three-level scoring ability. Jared White should see a major uptick in production as he’ll be a valuable piece of the puzzle too. Sandy Creek is the top dog in 3A right now, bringing back both talent and experience.
Cedar Grove is also extremely talented, but they’ll be heavily reliant on the sophomores and their best chance to go the distance may be next year or the year after. 2026s, Jayden Scott and Dontavius Stringfield, both transfer in to join the nationally ranked Manny Green. Scott gives Cedar Grove a very capable floor general while Stringfield and Green each provide size, versatility, and scoring. They’ll be a team to watch for years to come.
Douglas could also compete this year as the Mickell brothers, Josh and Jacob, become upperclassmen. Both big and athletic scoring guards, these brothers will be the driving force for Douglass. Noah Treadwell adds to the backcourt firepower and RJ Winegarner should prove to be a huge addition as well. This should be the best Douglass team we’ve seen in several years.
Last year, 2A provided one of the most entertaining playoff brackets and I think we could see the same this season. It’s hard to dot a true frontrunner but Columbia, Westside-Augusta, and Southwest-Macon are at the top of our list.
Columbia won’t have the size to dominate inside like they did last year but the abundance of perimeter talent makes them a real contender. We’ve seen the volume scoring from Trevian Callaway and he’ll be joined by incoming transfers, Quay Wallace and Tahmar Mann on the wings. Wallace is a do-it-all shooting guard that takes Columbia’s defense to another level while Mann is a 6’7 wing that can catch fire from beyond the arc. Jadan Baugh is committed to Arkansas for football but if he comes back too, Columbia could certainly bring home the hardware.
Westside-Augusta won it all last year but graduated a handful of key pieces. The addition of senior guard Lavonta Ivery definitely helps heal the wounds and he should be one of the best players in 2A. Demarco Middleton will be next to him in the backcourt and their scoring packages should complement each other well. While Ivery and Middleton are capable of generating a lot of the offense, they’ll count on a number of young guys to step up around them.
Southwest-Macon looks to take a major jump from 11 wins just a year ago, but they now have the roster talent to be a serious threat in 2A. Six-foot-eight forward Tobias Rice transfers in from Washington, providing both size and activity in the frontcourt. Brandon Ashley moved across town from Central-Macon and his three-level scoring ability will help carry the load at times. The Patriots also return one of middle Georgia’s best underclassmen, Chase Dupree, who should take a step forward as a sophomore. A turnaround this big is easier said than done but Southwest-Macon has reason to be hopeful.
Mt. Vernon looks like the clear favorite to win 1A-D1 as they return the terrific frontcourt pair, Dennis Scott III and Xavier Shegog. Few teams will be able to compete with Mt. Vernon’s size and strength inside. Centennial transfer, KJ Garris, enters the fold and he’ll take over a lot of the playmaking duties. Surrounding role players like Shayah Goba, Pace Bottoms, and Gabe Alterman proved themselves last year and return with valuable experience. Mt. Vernon looks poised to win it all for the first time since joining the GHSA.
St. Francis brings back the terrific backcourt duo, Reynolds Escher and Greg Howard, who were both instrumental as sophomores. The arrival of 6’8 center, Ethan Easterling, should help out inside and we’ve seen Javon Holt’s ability to provide a pop from his 3 and D role. They’ll have their fair share of battles with Mt. Vernon, likely two or three matchups late in the year.
Darlington could also be dangerous, highlighted by an excellent pair of seniors in D’marion Floyd and Grant Hutton. We’ve seen Floyd’s ability to dominate a game on both ends of the floor and the 6’6 Hutton is a double-double threat each time he takes the floor. They’re the kind of team that I wouldn’t want to see in February.
Savannah is another team worth mentioning as Maki Joyner is very capable of catching fire in the playoffs. He’s one of the best all-around scorers in the state. Alongside Joyner is 6’9 forward, Deshawn Davis, who can control the glass and protect the rim. They should win a lot of games over the next two years.
Greenforest came up short last season and lost some key seniors, but they’ll be near the top every year simply because of the size and talent that keeps coming through the door. Daniel Daramola should be in for a big year as he steps into the spotlight and his combination of skill and mobility at 6’8 makes for a handful. Returning seniors, Caleb Kawela and Elijah Lewis, provide both talent and leadership. Kawela is a skilled, strong forward that can score inside or out and the high motor of Lewis can singlehandedly change a game. Greenforest remains a contender as they usually are.
Portal will be extremely tough this year and as long as they bring back all of their football studs, they’re right there in the conversation with Greenforest. Elijah Coleman, Amir Jackson, and Joseph Thomas are all worthy of preseason all-state labels. They’ll be athletic, experienced, and great on both ends of the floor.
Christian Heritage also belongs in the discussion as they bring back reigning player of the year, Jax Abernathy. After recently committing to Trevecca-Nazarene, Abernathy will be focused solely on a state championship, and he’s got the ability to carry Christian Heritage deep. Abernathy has an excellent sidekick in Isaac Plavich who can also make plays for others and hit the open three. As long as Abernathy is on the floor, Christian Heritage is a contender.
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