Sage Speaks – 1/10/22
CUMMING, GA – This week’s Sage Speaks tackles my visit last Friday to Buford Arena, as well as a look ahead at another exciting week of basketball in the ATL-Metro.
By: Keith Agran
Habersham Central at Buford (1/7/22)
WHAT HAPPENED: Buford W 72-70 – A bit of potential late controversy as Habersham’s Malachi Dooley was unable to draw the foul call trying to get off a game-winning 3 attempt as the ball came loose and he retrieved it between defenders with the clock running out. Still, it was a really high-level basketball game between a pair of teams sure to have a lot to say not just in the Region but potentially in the 6A bracket as well.
BUFORD STANDOUTS: Senior SG Alahn Sumler lead the Wolves with 19 and continues to be one of the real bright spots from outside the normal headline-makers at the guard spot in the 2022 class. He can really shoot it from the outer two levels and has that clutch gene that shows in big moments as he dropped a few big buckets, he’ll feature prominently in any deep playoff run with his poise and veteran-savvy. The other crucial senior performer for Coach Benjie Wood is 6-7 wing Jaylon Taylor, whose athleticism is well-known, but there’s more consistency from the arc and a more overall dynamic package that makes for really tough defensive matchups on the other side.
HABERSHAM CENTRAL STANDOUTS: Senior wing Mekhi Mawdesley dropped 16 of his 18 in the 2nd half as the Raiders made several runs to stay close with Buford. Few shooters in the metro can match Mawdesley as pure shooting “runs” go, we saw it over the summer with BCB and we saw it Friday as he has a pair of early 4th qtr threes that were big and knocked down all 3 FT’s later after getting fouled on another. Dooley and Masdesley capture a lot of attention rightfully so, but I really like what 2023 hybrid G/F Bryce Pittman does out there at around 6-3. Playing mostly below the rim, he’s crafty as a driver and finisher and can give you ballhandling and defensive versatility with a good frame.
KEEP AN EYE ON Osmar Garcia Araujo >> Just eligible a day or so before tip, the former Riviera Prep (FL) and TSF 2023 star debuted in jersey #50 for the visiting Raiders and did not disappoint, showing off a multitude of mixed skills ranging from time as a point-forward to others at 6-6 where he was both nimble and physical catching it on the block. A very good passer, he appears most comfortable facing the basket with the ball in his control, but he also adds a key size element to the Raiders that changes their look significantly, even if he is far from a true center. He certainly factored in the near victory, getting 15 points and being a presence on the glass at both ends, and it will be interesting to see how he (he’s joined in Mt Airy by fellow former Riviera Prep player Landon Suarez) does alongside established stars Dooley and Mawdesley over the next 5 weeks in the brutally competitive 6A-Region 8.
A LOOK AHEAD THIS WEEK
More all-day basketball for those of us who can’t get enough, as Atl Xpress and Sports for Champions put on their 2nd event of this ’21-22 season, the Georgia Hardwood Classic at Mays HS, following up the excellent UA Hard in the Paint Classic at Maynard Jackson back on the Friday/Saturday after Thanksgiving.
There’s a 3-game Friday night schedule as well, but the Newton-Pebblebrook 8:30 tip finishing off Saturday should fill the gym and matches the two top teams in the state so far by most accounts.
A 3-day weekend for we hoop-heads ends up with a bevy of choices on Martin Luther King Day, as the city of Atlanta’s athletic community continues the tremendous tradition of honoring Dr. King’s legacy through the sport of basketball.
A particularly good slate among several choices around town featuring really good teams looks to be the J4 Sports MLK Holiday Classic, which historically has been held out in the Douglas County-area, and this year goes down at Chapel Hill HS.
For girls fans, you can see the 10 games over two gyms Saturday below, but with the boys there are some fun crossover matchups between regions around the Metro, but it’s the late tip again between a pair of hot Douglas County neighbors separated by less than 7 miles that makes for must-see viewing. Both the host Panthers and the Cougars of Alexander are playing some really high-level hoop through the opening 8 weeks (a combined record of 21-3), and those not familiar with the talent on these two clubs might want to make the drive if uncommitted to another location’s slate.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BracketSage.