Sage Speaks – 1/19/22 (Part Two)
CUMMING, GA – To the back half of the 4 individual games from last week, covered here in Part Two of Sage Speaks.
By Keith Agran
Centennial at River Ridge (11/13/22)
WHAT HAPPENED: River Ridge W 56-55 – In the battle of the Knights, it devolved into yet another defensive showdown involving Centennial as it took them some time to get going at their own end, but River Ridge continued its hot play (they’ve won 11 of their last 12 as of this posting), held on in a last-possession game, and got a monster game from senior forward Jared Russo.
RIVER RIDGE STANDOUTS: We have seen a lot more of what I call the “assertive” Russo so far this year, and it’s everything we thought he could be when many of us on the trail were blown away 2 years ago with his enormous potential. Much more seasoned and mature, he’s seeing the game as well as he ever has and then using his great frame and size at 6-9 took essentially what he wanted (25 points) and defended the rim like a boss. Until the visiting Knights fought back and got it down to that one possession later in the 4th, Russo and the home Knights had controlled much of the action.
CENTENNIAL STANDOUTS: Two good, veteran teams meant it was going to be rough and tumble and neither plays a track meet style, but that said junior PG Mansir Williamson can certainly turn up the pace any time he wants and plays a game that has both style and substance. He’s taken a logical step forward in his development from last year when he was a sophomore on the rise, now a year later you see some of the key reps he’s gotten over these last 2 successful Knights seasons figuring in his decision-making and ability to step up in a time of need. He remains one of my favorite players in the 2023 class and the trajectory upward in his development should be fun to watch by the time he gets to spring and summer ball.
KEEP AN EYE ON David Hansraj >> The junior SG has been a tad enigmatic to me this year in the multiple times I’ve seen RRHS. There are times when he turns on his obvious natural scoring talent, and others where it seems he’s deferring (and somewhat understandably) to the cadre of Knights seniors who are focused and determined in their last season. But, if they’re going to threaten for a trip to Macon in loaded 6A, Hansraj will need to identify and attack those opportunities more often when he can use his quick moves off the bounce and nice touch from 3 to add needed perimeter punch to the bigs combo of Russo and Braden Pierce.
North Oconee at Jefferson (11/14/22)
WHAT HAPPENED: Jefferson W 61-41 – Impressive home performance for the Dragons, as they got hot from 3 in the first half and put NOHS in a hole that was tough to get out of in an environment as good as Jefferson’s unique home gym.
JEFFERSON STANDOUTS: The backcourt of Dalen Gales and Riley Holliman draw a lot of eyes and is well-known through the Showcases and for their consistent performances, but it was wing JT Fulkrod who was unconscious early on, knocking down four 3’s in the opening quarter and finishing the game with 5 total and 18 points. It’ll seemingly be tough to stop all 3 of those guards nightly, yet the Dragons feature some athleticism outside of the explosive Gales which will serve them well in an underrated 4A grouping. To threaten Macon, they’ll need the likes of Kadin Bailey inside and good-looking 2024 guard Jaden Butts on the push to keep teams from cutting off the 3-point line.
NORTH OCONEE STANDOUTS: 6-3 senior Brodie Scott is both a classic effort guy and one with some skill in close, as he was effective on the catch near the basket and had some nice quickness facing up from the perimeter and cutting through traffic.
KEEP AN EYE ON Butts >> Gales is the star of the team and every scouting report needs to “keep an eye on” him for sure, but I like both the style of play from the 6-0 Butts and what he gives this team, a little wiggle, a little playground effectiveness and speed, the kind of play that changes momentum when you’re down or puts the pedal to the floor when you’re looking for the kill shot.
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.