Top-tier four-game basketball schedule to open inaugural Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Basketball Classic

Photo Courtesy of Chad Price

The Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic has been innovative in the world of high school football for 32 years and now the forethinking nature of the event will turn its focus to the hardwood to present four top-tier basketball games on the Peachtree Sports Network on Saturday, December 2.

Welcome to ‘The Classic’.

Click here to watch the games and click here to purchase tickets. A single ticket gets you in to all four games!

Brookwood vs. River Ridge girls – 11 a.m.

The Classic will open its four-game lineup with a battle of reigning girls state champs with the Brookwood Broncos and River Ridge Knights after Class 7A Brookwood and Class 6A River Ridge both captured their first-ever state titles in 2022.

Brookwood finished its season with a 24-game win-streak and 31-1 overall record and that one loss came to River Ridge (70-59) on Dec. 2 to spoil a perfect season. Brookwood graduated Ohio State-signee Diana Collins—who broke the Broncos’ all-time career scoring record as a four-year starter and averaged 21 points per game throughout her career. The Broncos lost 6-foot-1 junior power forward Danielle Osho to Hebron Christian, but return seniors Zayjah Knight, Samirah Walters and Kate Phelan. Sophomore Justyce McCoy will also have an increased role this season at the guard position.

“Zayjah Knight has shown amazing growth since her high school career began,” head coach Courtney Mincy told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “She’s stepping up into a leadership role. She’s a strong lefty and very aggressive with the ball. Samirah (Walters) is another strong driver, but she also adds a lot with her shooting, and then Justyce (McCoy) is one of our best returning defenders. She sets the tone on defense every practice and game.”

River Ridge capped its title run with a 16-game win-streak and 27-5 overall record and did not lose a single game within the state of Georgia. River Ridge has First Team All-State Class of 2025 prospect Sophia Pearl back to lead the Knights’ title defense this season along with forward Kayla Cleaveland—who netted 16 points in last year’s win over Brookwood.

“Our team is very motivated,” said head coach Jason Taylor. “They want to win another one. We are not as deep as we were last year, but I think we have the best starting five in the state.”

River Ridge will have 6-foot-2 freshman Finley Parker stepping into the fray this season and she made a strong debut with seven blocks, seven rebounds and 10 points in last week’s scrimmage against Hughes. Defensively, Makayla Roberson is back and was tasked with guarding the opponents’ top offensive player last season as a freshman and will be able to contribute offensively as well with her knack to drive to the basket and make teams pay at the foul line.

West Forsyth vs. Lanier boys – 12:45 p.m.

After the battle of champions between the Brookwood and River Ridge girls, the Class 7A West Forsyth Wolverines will take on Class 6A Lanier in the boys opener. Last year, West Forsyth clinched the No. 3 seed out of Region 6 and fell to state finalist Cherokee 59-45 in the first round. The Wolverines return the bulk of their big-men this season with 6-foot-5 wings Sam Maynard and Will Moore, 6-foot-6 prospect Chase Damerell, and 6-foot-7 center Quinn Elson and Banks Willoughby.

Lanier earned the No. 1 seed out of Region 8 last season and saw its 26-5 season close with a heartbreaking 49-48 loss to Lee County in the semifinals.

“We want to pick up where we left off,” Mayweather told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “We had a really good season but obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, so that’s been our fuel for the offseason — to get back to the level we were at and then surpass it.”

The Longhorns are back to challenge for the Class 6A crown this season with a roster that was bolstered by 6-4 transfer DeAndrew Cowan from Notre Dame Academy.

“I love the chemistry we have, and it starts with Tahai Morgan and Cameron Thornton,” said Mayweather. “They’ve been starting on varsity for four years so they’re going to set the tone for how we’re going to be each day. And because of that everybody else falls in line.”

Additionally, senior guard Tahai Morgan is a Second-Team All-State preseason selection that opened the season with a team-high 20 points, seven rebounds. Lanier was also led by 6-5 junior Amari Morgan’s 19 points and 11 rebounds and a 10-point performance by 6-7 junior Brandon Lanier.

Lanier is deep at the guard position and is experienced and has a squad that has multiple seasons of playing with each other as a guiding strength. Coach Mayweather is still finding ways to re-invent the wheel this season and is preaching to his team to be more explosive and aggressive on both sides of the ball. Dialing up the intensity will help Lanier make up for the few areas that they did see changes from last season. This includes graduating all-state selection Osmar Garcia and 6-foot-8 Jayce Nathaniel, who transferred to Compass Prep for his senior season.

Baldwin vs. Norcross girls – 2:30 p.m.

Norcross faces off against Baldwin in one of the better matchups you will see regardless of classification after both teams made it to the state championship in 2022. Norcross (7A) lost a nip-and-tuck game to Brookwood while Baldwin (4A) played against their region rival Griffin in a game they led for the entirety but came up short in the end.

Coming into the matchup, Baldwin is a team that is strong in the interior especially with junior forward Janaye Walker. Walker was the leading scorer (12.9 points per game) for the Braves in 2022 and drew a lot of double and triple teams. She is an exceptional passer and is great at finding the open player.

“I am very impressed. She has trimmed down. It has allowed her to move more. She already could shoot and is getting more comfortable with her shot and driving to the basket,” said head coach Kizzi Walker. “I think she is doing very well in that aspect, and she is strong. If you are going to double and triple team her, she is going to find someone who is open. She has good hands, and she knows how to finish around the basket.”

Norcross will have some new starters on their roster in 2023 after graduating some seniors, especially at the guard position.

“We have a little bit of size coming in. Our returners are very solid for us. We lost two kids that played significant minutes at the guard position. We have younger guards that have been in the program for three years,” said coach Ashley Clanton. “Between Cate Sidey who played varsity as a freshman and Cadence Peterson who has played varsity since she was a freshman. Those kids are juniors now. We are looking for them to step up and into those roles. For the new kids, it is going to be how quickly you can get caught up to speed. Now you must compete to beat somebody out. It is a nice mix. Practices are good because we have talented kids 1-12 that can fight and compete every day.”

One of the big returning starters for the Norcross program is Jania Atkins (Mercer-commit). Atkins is one of the best players to play at the Norcross program. She is a 1,000-career point scorer and she set the school record for the most three pointers made in a season (89). In 2022, she averaged 18.3 points per game, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. In her career with the Blue Devils, she has never lost a region game posting an impressive 37-0 record in a three-year span.

“Jania has been our leading scorer since she was a freshman. She can put the ball in the basket. She has also been a leader for us, and I think she is really going to show a lot of growth in that area,” said head coach Ashley Clanton. “I think she is ready to do that. She handles the ball, and she creates for us. Defensively, since her freshman year she has been a different player from when she came in. She is very good and does a lot of stuff for us.”

Norcross and Baldwin are both strong defensive teams that are tough to score against. For Norcross in 2022-2023, the Blue Devils held teams to under 50 points in 27 of the 30 games played. Baldwin held opponents in their run to the state championship under 55 points in 21 consecutive games. The Lady Braves are anchored by Madison Ruff who is one of their defensive stalwarts.

“Madison Ruff gives 100% on defense and offense. It doesn’t matter which position she plays on the floor. She is going to give it her all,” said Walker. “By her playing hard and doing the things she needs to do it makes all the other players come up to her level and play basketball. She is a go-getter. She takes charges and is great at rebounding. She steals the ball and defends at a high level. She does everything you need her to do and makes the team better with her defense.”

“It’s really being detail oriented and not letting people get away with anything. We have five new kids this season. I think the other day they were overwhelmed because there is constant stoppage and correction,” said Clanton. “It is a game of inches. It is being super disciplined and understanding that those things are required to be on the floor if not you will not play.”

Both programs have played big games and know what it takes to get back to where they want to be. In this matchup, you can expect a lot of good defense, great guard play, and a strong interior presence. Baldwin returns its entire roster laden with championship level experience. Norcross lost some starters but will have more size in the interior. The Lady Blue Devils still have their outstanding two-way guard Jania Atkins that is a problem on offense and a pest on defense. Both are ready to shine bright on the Peachtree Sports Network come December 2nd.

“It is so awesome. I was telling the kids we get to play on TV. That is something that I wanted to do. We were trying to go to Washington D.C. for the “She Got Game” but it just fell through,” said Walker. “When you all reached out, I was like great, this is something even better. It will be lovely for them to be seen. Hopefully college coaches will be able to see them as well, so we can get some of them looking at these girls. I have a lot of talent on the team.”

Douglass-Atlanta vs. Norcross boys – 4:15 p.m.

Norcross and Douglass-Atlanta face off in the final boys matchup of the Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Basketball Classic and both teams are building off last year’s successes.

Douglass-Atlanta made it to the Class 3A semifinals last season before losing to Cedar Grove 61-45. Norcross also made it to the semifinals in Class 7A before losing in an overtime thriller to Cherokee 63-60.

“That was our first year going to the final four against Cedar Grove. It was something this program hadn’t seen in the last 25 years,” said head coach Darron Rogers.

“We revitalized the program. It gave the Astro nation a vote of confidence that we are moving in the right direction, and we are doing things the right way. It also gave us the perspective that it doesn’t matter what your record is. We started playing our best basketball in the middle of January. Going against Cedar Grove and Sandy Creek in those region games helped prepare us. We were able to take those experiences and help propel us to the final four.”

Norcross is a storied program and a perennial powerhouse that competes and battles for region and state championships. The Blue Devils last won a state championship in 2022. They also gave us an unforgettable matchup last season in the quarterfinals against Newton that came down to the buzzer. Norcross hit the game-winning shot to propel them to the semifinals. This year will look a bit different as they replace five seniors from last year’s final four team and will have players stepping up in key roles this season. Norcross has a lot of size and athleticism and could be one of the most intriguing aspects to watch this season.

“It’s difficult at times but it is also exciting. It’s challenging in a good way. We graduated five players who all played significant roles within the team. Several of them had played those same roles for several years,” said head coach Jesse McMillan. “On paper, we graduated the majority of our scoring and rebounding and other stats, but I am excited about this team. We have a lot of size and athleticism at certain positions, and we have a lot of talent at certain positions. We just don’t have a lot of true experience at positions that are challenging and exciting, trying to find ways to help them be the best versions of themselves.”

The Astros bring back their two leading scorers and twins Josh Mickell and Jacob Mickell. Josh averaged 14.9 points per game and Jacob averaged 11.5 points per game. Leadership has been important as the Astros graduated six players last year.

“I love guys that love the gym and those guys love the gym. They love to win. They are very competitive,” said Rogers. “Those are the kind of guys you love to play with because when it comes to those crucial moments when you need plays made, or people to take charge and go get you a bucket, or to go make the right play those are the guys you need. Being only sophomores last year, they were learning on the fly as far as their leadership and they just got better every game. Having those guys back who know what it takes to get to the final four I think is invaluable. Those guys being brothers and having that special connection has been big for us. Leading the summer workouts and playing good ball in the fall league has been very valuable.

Douglass-Atlanta has a lot of new talent coming in that will take some time to mesh but looks to be promising. Similar to Norcross they graduated a lot of their seniors and will be looking for new talent to contribute quickly. In their first game, the new additions performed at a high level. RJ Winegarner scored 15 points and seven rebounds and Noah Treadwell was the team leading scorer with 21 points and six rebounds.

“We have RJ Winegarner coming from Fulton Leadership Academy. He was first team all-state and just transferred in. He averaged 17 points a game last year and is a 6’6 wing. He’s a Swiss army knife that can shoot the three well and can drive it,” said Rogers. “He can slash and rebound and is going to be a big player for us.”

“Noah Treadwell is 6-3 and a pure shooter. He’s one of the purest shooters I ever coached. We also have Xavier January, a transfer from Peachtree Ridge. He’s 6-5 and does the dirty work. He likes to rebound and has pretty good bounce,” said Rogers. “He can dunk the ball and plays very physically. He doesn’t take a play or rep off. We also have Javonte who is our 6-8 sophomore big. He is going to be very good. He is raw now, but he’s changed his shot and he dunks everything. He plays with tenacity and grit. We are going to be counting on all of those guys to come in and pick up the slack from the seniors that graduated.”

Norcross has one of the best defensive teams heading into the season and are extremely long and athletic. They can disrupt opposing team ball handlers and make it tough to get into a rhythm offensively. They have multiple defenders that can switch and be disruptive. One player to watch at that end is Toby Ojukwu who is the lone returning from last year’s team. Ojukwu has gotten bigger and is a tenacious on-ball defender. He is a quintessential point guard who knows how to run the show and will be heavily relied on this season.

“Tobi is the lone returning starter for us this year. He is a very high-level traditional point guard. We will ask him to score the basketball a little bit more than he was asked to last year. He does a fantastic job of running the show and being an extension of the coaching staff on the floor,” said McMillan. “He communicates very well. Defensively, he is very solid. When you check the boxes of what you need in a high-level point guard, he’s able to check a lot of those boxes with his leadership, skill, toughness and all those types of things. I feel very good about being able to put some new faces on the floor and around a very veteran kid like Tobi.

“I do feel very good about our current level and potential on the defensive end. We have long, rangy guys in a lot of different positions. They have great defensive instincts, and they move laterally well. They get a lot of deflections naturally,” said McMillan. “Even without a lot of practice time, we will make a lot of fundamental mistakes defensively. Their natural instincts will be able to cover up a lot of those mistakes until we get them in a better situation fundamentally.”

The other is Jaron Saulsberry who is a 6-6 wing that will be a vital component of the Norcross team. Saulsberry played limited time as a freshman but is expected to take a big leap forward with increased minutes and a larger role as a sophomore.

“We expect Jaron to take a huge leap. In a different situation, he probably would have been on the floor last year more as a freshman. He was behind some really high-level guys, and that allowed him to progress a little bit slower last year and learn some things,” said McMillian. “We expect him to make a huge jump this year as a sophomore. He’s a super-talented kid, and I think a lot of people realize that. He has the ability to score at all three levels. He’s an elite-level athlete. I think he has the potential to be one of the best defenders that I’ve ever coached, and I am excited about how he will fit into everything we do overall.”

With new pieces and different players starring in new roles, it will take some time for the Blue Devils to adjust. Make no mistake, Norcross still aspires to compete and contend for region and state championships no matter what and with the legacy they have built with the success of winning and players that have reached the NBA, that will never change. Although these teams rarely meet because of classification, it will be exciting to see a storied program face off against an up-and-coming program that has its sights on not only being the best team in its classification but also in Georgia.

“It’s no secret that we have been very successful for the last two decades. We had a lot of consistent success in the state and region. There is an outside expectation for our program. One thing that the kids have to realize. From the beginning, there have been a lot of teams that have come through the locker room and this current team is judged on the success of previous teams. It is up to them to understand those expectations and try to meet them. We are never going to go into a season expecting to do poorly. We are coming off back-to-back seasons of winning a championship and going to the final four in the highest classification. I am excited to take the journey with this team.”

“I just want to thank Corky Kell for the opportunity. It is big for our program and the last time I played Norcross was in the Sweet 16 when they had Rashaun Hammonds, Lance Thomas and Kyle Sturdivant. I really respect Coach McMillan. He is a hall-of-fame coach and one of the best in the state,” said Rogers. “Playing an elite school with a tradition and a name means everything for our program. I have the utmost respect for Corky Kell and everything they do with football. Now being a part of the first annual basketball event really means a lot to me and our program. Playing Norcross, a perennial powerhouse nationally and state-wide is also big for us to let us know where we are. Those kinds of games help get you ready for state. Not many teams in 3A are going to be on Norcross’ level. To play them and compete will help us know where we stand in the echelon of Georgia teams. We know that we don’t want to just be top two or top three in 3A, but we want to be top two or top three in the entire state. It will be a big measuring stick to see where our program is.”


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