Daily Dive: On the Radar Classic Features Best Teams In The State

Norcross will host the On The Radar Hoops Tip-Off Classic this Saturday starting at 11 am and some of the best talent in the state will be there including Gicarri Harris (Grayson), Jacob Wilkins (Grayson), Kyle Green (Pace Academy), Micah Smith (Sandy Creek), and Zac Foster (Woodward Academy). There are a lot of good matchups in the tourney and will be a great way to spend your Saturday.

The Matchups 

Lanier vs Parkview (11:00 am)

Lanier made the Final Four last season in 6A finishing with a 26-5 record, one of their best finishes in program history. They return the majority of their starters including standout point guard Tahai Morgan, Cameron Thornton, and Amari Morgan. Lanier added DeAndre Cowan from Notre Dame Academy who was a preseason all-state selection. Cowan is a combo guard who can create off-balance and stretch the floor with his silky-smooth jumper. He will be a big contributor in the upcoming season. The Longhorns come into the matchup at 0-1 after their season-opening loss to Walnut Grove 76-62.

Parkview came up just short of the Elite Eight last season in 7A, a goal they have fallen short of twice in three years and look to get over the hump this season. The Panthers bring back a ton of experience in with seniors Chasz Holmes, Jonathan Larose, and Anthony McFarlane. Their guard play will be a big part of their success this season. Holmes and Tim Johnson were pivotal in their first win of the season against Meadowcreek both scoring 15 points apiece. They look to pick up a big early season win against a good team in Lanier.

Pebblebrook vs Walnut Grove (12:30 PM)

Pebblebrook has never won a state championship but is one of the most storied programs in the state. The Falcons have a plethora of players who have gone on to make the NBA and have been successful in college and on the professional level (Collin Sexton and Elias Harden). Players to watch in this game are Max McNeill and Caleb Thomas, two guards who are very talented. Pebblebrook comes in at 0-2 but has already played a tough schedule to start the season against Shadow Creek (Texas) and Duncanville (Texas). The Falcons will look to get their first win of the season at home against undefeated Hillgrove before playing Walnut Grove on Saturday.

Walnut Grove made it to the second round of the 4A playoffs last season before losing to eventual state champion Pace Academy. The Warriors have dominant guard play and are adept at attacking you and getting to the rim. Walnut Grove is also a high-tempo team looking to push the ball at any chance they can and create opportunities in transition. A player to watch is junior point guard Marcus Smith II. Smith was the second leading scorer in the Warriors season-opening win against Lanier with 21 points. Smith also added four steals and five deflections. Smith, Tyler Jewell, and Chase Roux were the three main scorers in their first win of the season.

Mount Vernon vs Sandy Creek (2:00 PM)

Mount Vernon made the Class A Division I state championship last season before losing to King’s Ridge 68-58. The Mustangs have a talented deep roster and are one of the best in Class A Division I. In their season-opening win against Hope Christian, the team displayed its depth with 10 plays contributing points. The main scorers were Kiwane Garris who poured in 31 points and eight rebounds and Shayah Goba who added 25 points. Mount Vernon also has one of the most highly coveted forwards in the state of Georgia in Dennis Scott III, who is an elite floor stretcher and currently has offers from Georgia Tech, Indiana, and Harvard. He is the son of famed Georgia Tech small forward Dennis Scott. The Mustangs also have their leading scorer back from last season Xavier Shegog, who averaged 14.6 points per game and 10 rebounds.

Sandy Creek is fresh off a 3A state championship, their first in program history after a 66-37 win against Region 5 rival Cedar Grove. Head coach Jon-Michael Nickerson captured his first title as a head coach and was able to lead the Patriots after years of getting so close. Coming into this season, Sandy Creek has one of the best players regardless of classification in Micah Smith (James Madison commit). Smith is a versatile 6-foot-8 forward who can defend at a high level and can guard the opposing team’s best player. He can also stretch the floor with his outside jumper and finish around the rim. The Patriots also return senior Amari Brown who will be a key factor in the backcourt with his ability to distribute and create opportunities for others.

Pace Academy vs Hughes (4:30 PM)

Pace Academy is coming off a state championship with legendary head coach Sharman White and now has five in program history. The Knights are a team that is led by one of the best backcourts in the state in Kyle Green (UCF commit) and Eric Chatfield. Both can create their own shots and penetrate the defense to get to their spots or set up the open man. This will be the first game of the season for Pace Academy, but they looked dominant against a resurgent and talented Douglass-Atlanta basketball team that made the final four in 2022.

Langston Hughes had a successful season last year posting their second consecutive 19-win season and fell one game short of winning a region championship to defending state champion Alexander. The Panthers lost in the first round to River Ridge 52-50. The Panthers lost a lot of their experience and production from their 2022 team and will depend heavily on senior guard Brentis Schaeffer and Cameron Catholic to lead the offense and be high-level scorers. Jaron LeMelle is one to watch in this matchup also. He has a 6-6 athletic frame that can finish around the basket and protect the rim on the defensive end.

Central Gwinnett vs Berkmar (6:00 PM)

Central Gwinnett lost a nail-biter to Meadowcreek 59-57 in their season opener on November 10th. They rebounded on Tuesday with a double-digit victory against Clarkston. Parker Donaldson led them in scoring with 12 points and was a pest on the defensive end with five steals. Coming into this matchup, sophomore Malik Rideout is one to watch. The sophomore looks poised to have a breakout season and an increased role on the Knights this season. The Knights are led by their powerful trio of guards including Rideout, Tim Smith, Donte Golden, and Caden Goins. All three pose matchup problems for opposing defenders and will be key in this game.

Berkmar is two years removed from a state championship berth in 2021-2022 where they went 26-5 and won a region championship. Last year was a trying season, as the Patriots finished sub .500 for the first time since 2014-2015 but were able to secure the fourth seed in the playoffs upsetting Buford and losing in the second round to Cherokee. A key player to watch is senior point guard Jeronimo Ondo who sets the tone and is a pivotal leader on the team. The Patriots have a lot of size in the interior and worked on getting stronger and more physical heading into 2023. Another returning starter will be junior center Mekhi Ragland, who is 6-10 and is a problem in the paint. The center holds offers from Georgia State, Kennesaw State, and East Carolina. Ragland is looking to have a big junior season for the Patriots and could be an impact player in this matchup.

Grayson vs Woodward Academy (7:30 PM)

Grayson may have one of the best rosters in the state of Georgia and proved it in their season-opening 79-62 win against a talented McEachern team. 4-star Gicarri Harris finished with 20 points, six assists and four rebounds. Anthony Alston poured in 17 points and Amir Taylor added 16. The Rams are ranked as high as #19 in the country according to Sportscenter Next (ESPN) and look like a team on a collision course with making a state championship. Head coach Geoffrey Pierce has yet to have a losing season in his tenure with Grayson. The Rams also have one of the best forwards in the country Jacob Wilkins (Georgia commit) who can do a little bit of everything. They will be back on the court against a talented Woodward Academy squad on Saturday.

Woodward Academy lost a 59-58 thriller to Riverwood in the first round of the playoffs last season and coming into the season, Woodward has one of the best backcourts in Class 6A with Zac Foster and Brandon Peters. They bring a vast amount of experience and complement each other well. The War Eagles lost their season opener 71-68 in a tough battle against Douglass-Atlanta. In addition to Foster and Peters, another great scoring option is Deke Cooper. Copper finished with 20 points and eight rebounds in their game against the Astros. Grayson will be a tough matchup, but Woodward is challenging themselves early in the season in hopes of making a deep playoff run this year.

Norcross vs Shiloh (9:00 PM)

Norcross is off to a 0-2 start after losing their first two games by a combined nine points. The Blue Devils have a standard of excellence within their program and gave us some unforgettable games last season in the playoffs against Cherokee and Newton. They graduated five seniors and their lone returning starter is point guard Toby Ojukwu who will look to carry more of the scoring load this season. A player to watch in this game is sophomore guard Jaron Saulsberry who already holds offers from Florida State and Georgia Tech. Saulsberry will play a bigger role this season for the Blue Devils and head coach Jesse McMillan has already raved about his potential defensively. The Blue Devils are young but talented and will take some time for the team to mesh. Norcross has suffered two close losses and will look to get back on track against Shiloh on Saturday.

Shiloh comes into this matchup at 1-0. The Generals picked up a 69-61 win against Winder Barrow. Senior Julien Cole and junior Tylis Jordan combined for 38 points. Cole has an uncanny ability to get to where he wants on the floor and is efficient from three-point range. He also is a great on-ball defender with his ability to cause deflections and steals leading to easy baskets on the other end. Jordan is a four-star prospect with offers from Mississippi State, Cincinnati, LSU, Texas A&M and more. He is great at finishing around the rim and is an elite rim protector. He can defend at a high level by altering shots and making it difficult to score in the paint. Jordan is a great all-around player and will be one to watch this weekend.

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