It’s not that we’re ready to move on from the gridiron, but nonetheless the hoops season is finally upon us as well. Here are our 2019-20 first Power Rankings for boys basketball, based solely on last year’s finish, returning/departing players, and preseason state rankings. Clarity will sure come in the coming weeks.
#1 DAWSON CO TIGERS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 27-5 (Region Champs; Final 4)
COACH: Eric Herrick
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jasper Gibson, Campbell Reed, Eli Burruss, Brody Howell, Tate Adkins
KEY LOSSES: Luke Chism, Ahmad Kamara, Trey Pruitt
The defending Region 7-AAA Champions and Final Four team is poised to make another big run, but with a big hit to the program with losing 2,000-point scorer Luke Chism and solid players like Ahmad Kamara and Trey Pruitt, not to mention the retirement of head coach Chad Pittman. BUT…who else is better suited to step up than Dawson, who returns Jasper Gibson (closing in on 2,000 himself), Eli Burruss, Campbell Reed, Brody Howell, Tate Adkins, and others. This team shouldn’t miss a beat for head coach Eric Herrick. The Tigers are already picked to do damage, and are state-ranked #4 coming in.
#2 BANKS CO LEOPARDS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 19-10 (Region Runner-Up; Rnd 1)
COACH: Mike Cleveland
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Carl Cleveland, Dakota Orr, Pierce Martin
KEY LOSSES: Wes Ledford, Noah Rylee
The Leopards have long been a team around the top, making state 5 straight seasons and looking to make it 6 this year. Last year’s Round 1 exit was not what they drew up, so look for senior Carl Cleveland to put it together for his latest and greatest season yet (reigning BLITZ Player of the Year). Dakota Orr has reportedly upped his game even more, and Pierce Martin’s effectiveness from outside makes this team very dangerous. There are some questions regarding who runs the point, but the #9-ranked Leopards will find a way to perhaps win a region title this season and perhaps get to the quarterfinals or deeper for the first time.
#3 JEFFERSON DRAGONS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 17-11 (Region Runner-Up; Rnd 1)
COACH: Kevin Morris
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jacob Radaker, Spencer Darby, Owen Parker, Damien Lester, Mason Ware, Daniel Parker, Kam Robinson, Malaki Starks
KEY LOSSES: Ryan Neese, Tryston Norman
Kevin Morris has the bulk of his team back from last year, in which the Dragons were upset in the opening round of state. This year promises to be better with the skill coming back. These dudes come in ranked #8 already in Class 3A in the state, and bring back guys like Jacob Radaker, Spencer Darby, Owen Parker, etc.
#4 UNION CO PANTHERS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 17-11 (Region 3rd; Rnd 1)
COACH: Corey Garrett
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sawyer Drake, Pierson Allison, Cayden Rich, Bryson Lariscy
KEY LOSSES: Coleson Daniel, Kanon Hemphill
The Panthers were on the verge of going deeper in the playoffs last season, maybe if they had gotten a better seeding. With athletes galore coming back in Sawyer Drake, Pierson Allison, and Cayden Rich (whenever the football season ends), these guys should under first-year coach Corey Garrett get back to the playoffs, and make a run in 8-AA as a region title underdog.
#5 STEPHENS CO INDIANS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 17-11 (Region Runner-Up; Sweet 16)
COACH: Jeremy Hughes
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Nigel Green, Chris Sinclair, Javian Hightower, Kenny Colwell, DJ Jones, Dominic Forbes, Kairion Morrison
KEY LOSSES: Ty Nails, Takaias Nails
The Indians, fresh off a third straight Sweet 16 run, are looking for more this season. This will be the second year in a row having to replace a leading, 1,000-point scorer (losing Ty Nails), but there is much talent and experience on this roster for first-year head coach Jeremy Hughes. It starts with Nigel Green, Chris Sinclair, Javian Hightower, Kenny Colwell, and many others. No shortage of talent to get the job done.
#6 LUMPKIN CO INDIANS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 8-21 (Region 4th; Rnd 1)
COACH: Jeff Steele
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Patrick Jackson, Jacob Cumbie, Peyton Polk, Gus Faulkner
KEY LOSSES: Jake Granger, Matt Seabolt, Chandler Wikle, Isaiah Green
When you have a coach like Jeff Steele, it truly doesn’t matter who’s on the roster or what the record is. Exhibit A – last year’s surprise playoff run, making it 5 times in the past 6 years this program has been in the bracket. He has to deal with graduating 6 players from last year’s group, but there are guys to build around like Patrick Jackson to name one who showed promise last year.
#7 TALLULAH FALLS INDIANS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 10-16 (Region 7th; No Playoffs)
COACH: Cody Coleman
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Matthew Weidner, Kale Corbett, Cody Reeves, Simeon Respress, Winston Davis
KEY LOSSES: Sebastian Herrera, Jake Carver, Clarke Bailey, Xing Fan
New head coach Cody Coleman will look to lead Tallulah Falls back to the playoffs after missing the mark a year ago. He’ll have Matthew Weidner back to run his offense around, as he was the go-to guy last season.
#8 WHITE CO WARRIORS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 8-18 (Region 6th; No Playoffs)
COACH: Wade Mawdesley
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Cooper Turner, Will Sampson, Silas Mulligan, Jimmy King, Reece Dockery, J Ben Haynes, Jaden Yeh
KEY LOSSES: Austin Harris, Jay Lepkoske, Daniel Rowland
Even with Austin Harris last year, a 1,000-point scorer, the Warriors struggled to find ground in the tough 7-AAAA. This year without Harris could be about the same, but there is a solid roster, and capable guys that could fill the shoes of the big two from last year of Harris and Jay Lepkoske.
#9 RABUN CO WILDCATS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 6-22 (Region 4th; Rnd 1)
COACH: David Adcock
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jon Sego, Sam Adams, Sutton Jones, Bear Old
KEY LOSSES: Kasin Old, Chase Buchanan, Cameron Lovell
The Wildcats have a lot of offense to replace with the loss of Kasin Old, Cameron Lovell, and Chase Buchanan. Those guys were heavy scorers. Who will be the next man up?
#10 TOWNS CO INDIANS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 12-15 (Region 4th; No Playoffs)
COACH: Rob Benson
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Kolby Moss, Aidan Berrong, Jacob Kinsey, Collin Crowder
KEY LOSSES: Will Travis, Trent Bradshaw, Allan Gillis, Brett Denton
The Indians have a big hill to climb to move up here. Guys like Kolby Moss and Aidan Berrong can help make that happen, but losing so much talent the last couple of seasons has made the ’16-17 Sweet 16 run look so tiny in the rearview mirror. Rob Benson’s group will look to build off a fourth straight double-digit win season though.
#11 HABERSHAM CENTRAL RAIDERS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 3-21 (Region 6th; No Playoffs)
COACH: Cody Anderson
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jeb Barnette, Micah Ward, Jace Reeder, Grant Tipton
KEY LOSSES: Don Bailey, Caleb Gaines
While not a great spot to be in to be on your third coach in as many seasons, this time it looks like the perfect fit with head coach Cody Anderson. Year one might take some time to develop some of these guys, so we will have to be patient. Still, we should see improvement from last year’s 3-21 record. Anderson should be the coach to get the Raiders back in the playoffs for the first time in over 12 years. Maybe not this season (although it’s possible), but sooner rather than later.
#12 COMMERCE TIGERS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 2-23 (Region 10th; No Playoffs)
COACH: Russ Gregg
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Creed Dunbar, Tyelon Brock, Nate Ray
KEY LOSSES: Jalen Dorsey, Darren Simpson, Chandler Martin
Commerce will rely heavily on up-and-comer Creed Dunbar, who had a solid season last year. Russ Gregg will surely be able to guide this group to better than last year’s 2 wins.