Boys Basketball Power Rankings – Preseason

It’s about that time to tip off the 2020-21 season. Here are our initial Power Rankings with all relevant information to know about each team going into the season!

#1 JEFFERSON

COACH: Kevin Morris
REGION: 8-AAAA
LAST SEASON: 22-8; Region Champions; 3A State Runner-Up; #2 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Jacob Radaker (18 PPG, 9 RPG), Owen Parker (11 PPG), Daniel Parker (10 PPG)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Spencer Darby (12 PPG), Malaki Starks (11 PPG, 7 RPG), Kam Robinson (11 PPG)
TEAM STRENGTHS: Numbers, Athleticism, Championship Pedigree
EXPECTATIONS: To play for a region title and make a deep playoff run. The expectations are to hang in there and get young guys experience until the 9 football players come back around the first of 2021. That’s when they will hopefully be peaking at the right time and make another state title run.


#2 TOWNS COUNTY

COACH: Rob Benson
REGION: 8-A
LAST SEASON: 18-9; Region Runner-Up; 1A State Round 1
KEY DEPARTURES: Jake Kinsey, Ali Momin
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Kolby Moss (leading scorer, 23.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG), Aidan Berrong, Collin Crowder (13.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG), Kyle Oakes, Colton Day; transfers Kabe Ellis, Jake McTaggert, Hayden McClure
TEAM STRENGTHS: Depth & Defense
EXPECTATIONS: “We expect to compete for the region championship and make a legitimate run in the state tournament based on our returning players and the success we can build off of from last year,” says coach Rob Benson. “Also, our additions make us a good contender.”


#3 BANKS COUNTY

COACH: Ryan Griffin
REGION: 8-AA
LAST SEASON: 25-5; Region Champions; 2A State Elite 8; #2 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Carl Cleveland (Back-to-Back BLITZ Player of the Year; 24.7 PPG, 12.9 RPG), Sawyer Pace
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Pierce Martin (9.2 PPG), Dakota Orr (7.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG), Clay Gosnell, Garrett Presley
TEAM STRENGTHS: “We share the ball well, we’re unselfish and we work hard,” says coach Ryan Griffin. “We have multiple guys that can play on the perimeter and make good decisions.”
EXPECTATIONS: “I believe we can be a good team if we buy in, work hard and play together,” says Griffin. “I think we can compete with anyone in our region.”


#4 DAWSON COUNTY

COACH: Todd Cottrell
REGION: 7-AAA
LAST SEASON: 25-3; Region Champions; 3A State Round 1; #2 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Jasper Gibson (18 PPG, 6 APG), Campbell Reed (15 PPG), Eli Burruss, Mason Barnes (transferred to Lambert)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Tyler Lane (transfer), Jake Craft (transfer), Jokeam Celestin (transfer), Ty Whitmire, Jaden Gibson, Max Tierney
TEAM STRENGTHS: Toughness, Winning Tradition
EXPECTATIONS: As always, the tale of the Tigers will be their grittiness. This program opens with a third coach in as many seasons under Todd Cottrell. Stars Jasper Gibson, Campbell Reed, and Eli Burruss are gone, as is Mason Barnes who left for Lambert. That’s a big blow, although Tyler Lane transfers in to help bring some size. Jake Craft and Jokeam Celestin come in from Forsyth Central, while Lane comes from West Forsyth.


#5 COMMERCE

COACH: Russ Gregg
REGION: 8-A
LAST SEASON: 12-15
KEY DEPARTURES: None
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Ian McConnell (leading scorer [14.1] & rebounder [9.3], 50% FG), Shawn Cunningham (9.7 PPG), Creed Dunbar (9.5 PPG) , Dominic Ricci (9.3 PPG), Jackson Morris (67 AST), Matthew Simpson, Cayden Lord
TEAM STRENGTHS: Speed & Quickness. “With McConnell and Dunbar as the only players 6’3 or taller, we will have to play an up-tempo pressing style of defense,” says coach Russ Gregg.
EXPECTATIONS: “Our biggest expectation is to qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2012 and be playing our best basketball in February,” adds Gregg. “We won’t get Dunbar and Cunningham back until football is complete. Commerce is coming off a 10-win improvement from the year before and are returning all five starters from last year’s 12-15 season.”


#6 WHITE COUNTY

COACH: Robbie Bailey
REGION: 7-AAA
LAST SEASON: 12-14
KEY DEPARTURES: None
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Silas Mulligan (13.2 PPG), Cooper Turner (10.6 PPG), Jadon Yeh (11.9 PPG)
TEAM STRENGTHS: Athleticism, Speed
EXPECTATIONS: Like Jefferson, White County will have to manage until a number of their standout players return from football. Expect White County to make a run in 7-AAA this season, and should be a top four team that makes the playoffs.


#7 RABUN COUNTY

COACH: David Adcock
REGION: 8-AA
LAST SEASON: 9-16
KEY DEPARTURES: Sam Adams
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Connor McKay (15 PPG, 5 RPG), Gus Hood (10 PPG, 5 APG), Grayson Carver (10 PPG), Clayton Dixon (10 PPG)
TEAM STRENGTHS: Depth and Scorers. “Usually on a team with NO seniors you would be worried about leadership and lack of varsity playing time, but this year’s team returns 4 starters from last year who are very vocal and lead by example,” says coach David Adcock. “The Junior, Sophomore, and Freshman classes are loaded with talent and depth, and there are a number of Sophomores and Freshmen that can step in and earn varsity minutes very quickly. Our strengths will be our depth, offensive balance, and defensive intensity. We have two players who are very good at breaking down the defense and getting to the rim (Gus Hood and Connor McKay), they are surrounded by shooters (Grayson Carver, Jayton Henry, Evans Palmer, Andrew Truelove, and Cooper Welch), and post players (Clayton Dixon and Bo Anderson) who are able to finish around the rim. While last year’s team was very dependent on Gus to handle the ball this year we have 5 guys that want the ball in their hands. There is an excitement about this season and we expect to get back to where this program was 6 years ago.”
EXPECTATIONS: The Cats return pretty much the entirety of their 2019-20 roster, so on paper that’s a good thing. A lot will ride on Connor McKay and Gus Hood, who combined for about 25 points per game last year. A few guys are playing football into December, so the team won’t be complete until probably early- to mid-January.

“Biggest question marks will be interior defense and rebounding against teams with size,” adds Adcock. “While we are not as undersized as we were last year we still will have to focus on defending the paint and rebounding as a unit. We have focused on our explosiveness in the off season and feel like we are getting closer to where we need to be to control the defensive side of the floor.”


#8 HABERSHAM CENTRAL

COACH: Cody Anderson
REGION: 8-AAAAAA
LAST SEASON: 7-19
KEY DEPARTURES: Grayson Adams, Micah Ward, Joshua Pickett (enrolling early at Duke for football)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Malachi Dooley (15.4 PPG, 5.3 APG, 2.2 SPG, 3.4 RPG), Grant Tipton (8.6 PPG, 39.6% 3PT), Bryce Pittman
TEAM STRENGTHS: “This team is a lot more skilled than we have had in recent years and has good depth at the guard position,” says coach Cody Anderson. “I expect us to be a very good shooting team (shot 42.4% 3FG in our Fall League) and we will use that to hopefully space teams out offensively. This should also open up the lane for Malachi. Defensively, I think we will be a good half-court team defensive team and will attempt to take transition away and force teams to score on contested attempts in the half-court.”
EXPECTATIONS: “We do not have any varsity experience returning outside of JR Dooley and SR Tipton,” says Anderson. “However, our increased skill level and depth should allow us to take the next step as a program as we work to be competitive in region 8-AAAAAA. Our kids did a good job last year of beginning to build our identity as a program on and off the floor. This year’s group has taken that and built upon it. I expect big seasons out of Dooley, Tipton, and 6’3″ FR Wing, Bryce Pittman. Dooley and Pittman have been getting DII & Low DI interest. We will have our moments where our lack of experience rears its ugly head, but I believe we have the potential to surprise some people this season as long as we continue working and can stay healthy. I am excited about this basketball team.”


#9 LUMPKIN COUNTY

COACH: Michael Parker
REGION: 7-AAA
LAST SEASON: 8-17
KEY DEPARTURES: Pat Jackson (17 PPG, 7 RPG), Peyton Polk (13 PPG, 7 RPG), Jacob Cumbie (13 PPG, 6 RPG)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Gus Faulkner, Brian Cunane, Chandler Pulley, Jones Harris (transfer from Lakeview)
TEAM STRENGTHS: “Our 3 biggest strengths will be our PG play, our chemsitry/work ethic, and our balance,” says coach Michael Parker. “We are anchored by senior point guard Gus Faulkner. Gus has played varsity since his freshman year and is battle-tested. He leads by example on and off the court, and will provide our inexperienced squad with some stability. Collectively, the work ethic and chemistry of our guys is outstanding. They have bought into what we are trying to do here, and are willing to do whatever it takes to move our program forward. Lastly, we will be balanced offensively. Cunane brings much-needed physical toughness around the rim, Pulley provides us with a shooter to stretch the floor, and Harris gives us a slasher that can get to the rim. Those 3, along with Faulkner, give us 4 guys that I am expecting big things from this season. Behind them we have quite a few guys busting their tails to get into the rotation and make plays for us.”
EXPECTATIONS: “It’s 2020… who knows what to expect?,” states Parker. “There is so much uncertainty this season with COVID, so we are taking everything one day at a time. I know that sounds cliché, but we genuinely are thankful for each day we get to practice and play. My expectations for this group of guys is that we play hard, respect the game, play for each other, and compete every night. When we are doing these things, the results will follow suit.”


#10 TALLULAH FALLS

COACH: Cody Coleman
REGION: 8-A
LAST SEASON: 10-14; 1A State Round 1
KEY DEPARTURES: Matthew Weidner (all-time leading scorer, 18.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG), Hayden Johnson (14 PPG)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Sammy Davis
TEAM STRENGTHS: Speed and Athleticism
EXPECTATIONS: This is a tough team to nail down until some games get in. The Indians are out their top two scorers from last year, but should now be more free to run the court coast to coast. Someone needs to step up as a deep threat to spread the floor a bit. The team has a few options for slashers who can get to the rim, and the speed and athleticism will be more important this year without a big guy inside.


#11 UNION COUNTY

COACH: Corey Garrett
REGION: 8-AA
LAST SEASON: 15-12; 2A State Round 1
KEY DEPARTURES: Sawyer Drake (13 PPG, 5 RPG), Pierson Allison (17 PPG), Kyle Morlock (10 PPT, 5 RPG)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Kaston Hemphill
TEAM STRENGTHS: Size. Many guys on the roster are 6’3″ or taller.
EXPECTATIONS: The Panthers will be competitive, but it’s unfair to really say much else after losing a star trio like Pierson Allison, Sawyer Drake, and Kyle Morlock. Those guys combined for 40 points per contest on their own. We need to give it time to determine where this team fits.


#12 STEPHENS COUNTY

COACH: Jeremy Hughes
REGION: 8-AAA
LAST SEASON: 7-19
KEY DEPARTURES: Chris Sinclair, DJ Jones
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Kenny Colwell (13.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG), Javian Hightower, Dominic Forbes, Tyrece Mackie
TEAM STRENGTHS: Shooting, quickness, team play
EXPECTATIONS: “We want to improve as men on and off the court,” says coach Jeremy Hughes. “Continue to develop our skills and build on what we started last season.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s