What To Expect From Kennesaw State Basketball

Well the simple answer to what to expect from Kennesaw State basketball this year is: I don’t know.

The men and women’s programs have made waves since the end of last season and mostly for the wrong reasons, but that is a can of worms that has been opened and hopefully shut by now. The bright side of things has to lie with the men’s team landing former National Coach of the Year, Al Skinner, to lead to downtrodden program.

Yonel Brown is expected to carry the load

Yonel Brown

Kennesaw State’s roster – coaching staff as well — has been a revolving door since Tony Ingle left the school. This year will be no different with a new staff in place and five newcomers joining just six players from last year’s team. Official practice began last Friday and back is senior point guard Yonel Brown who exploded onto the scene after two pedestrian years. Brown finished third in the A-Sun and led the Owls in scoring with 15.2 points per game. Six-foot-seven forward Nigel Pruitt also blossomed into a reliable player and returns for his senior year as well after scoring 12.2 points a night, good for second-best on the team.

Nigel Pruitt

Nigel Pruitt

New Faces

Metro Atlanta hasn’t exactly been pounded for recruiting yet, but Skinner did land a potential gem in Tracy Hector. The 6-foot-4, 212-pound swingman won back-to-back state championships at Jonesboro High School. As a senior, Hector averaged over 12 points and six rebounds a game, but he made a name for himself with his tenacious defense.

Tracy Hector

Tracy Hector

He is a strong athlete that can lock down ball handlers with his ‘in-your-face’ defense while offensively; he attacks the bucket and goes after every loose ball.

Kyle Clarke is another new addition to the backcourt, standing 6-foot-5 as a combo guard. Clarke hails from Florida and has shown a knack for getting into the lane on offense.

Skinner went overseas to land Josh Burnett, another guard that can play forward, from Hawaii. Kosta Jankovic and Aubrey Williams round out the new faces on the roster while Quinnipiac transfer Kendrick Ray is finally eligible to play after having to sit out a season.

Better Times On The Horizon?

So with a new coaching staff and turned over roster, can we expect KSU to take the next step in becoming a respectable program and not just another cupcake on everyone’s schedule? We will know right away. After a home tilt with Middle Georgia, Kennesaw hits the road to play Alabama, LSU and Arizona State. West Virginia, Louisville and Indiana all loom on the schedule as well. The Owls will definitely take some lumps, but coach Skinner needs to see what kind of mettle his team has when facing adversity to be able to find out if his group improves from game to game or if they take beatings and not learn anything from them like they haven’t in the past.

The one positive for KSU is that the A-Sun continues to get weaker and weaker each season with the top programs getting plucked by bigger conferences seemingly every year. This time it is Northern Kentucky, who has only been a D-1 program for three seasons going on four now, that was added to the Horizon League. Meanwhile, Kennesaw State has sat and stewed in the A-Sun since 2005-06 and has yet to make it out of the annual cellar.

NJIT joins the conference, coming off its best record in school history since joining D-1 the same year as KSU, winning 21 games in 2014.

Under coach Skinner, Kennesaw should at least be a competitive team. Losses to conference foes by 36 points should be a thing of the past by now. When watching the Owls play these power conference teams early in the season, losses to annual juggernauts Indiana and Louisville are acceptable. But if KSU lays an egg against an average power conference team like Alabama like they did against Syracuse (89-42), Cal (93-59) and Illinois (93-45) last year, then there is reason to be concerned.

Is there reason to be optimistic this year? Yes there is, but if the team can’t stay competitive with the big schools early on (L by < 30), don’t expect much come conference play.

The Great Debate: Georgia vs. Alabama

Tyler Andrews (@TylerAndrews92)
Kyle Sandy (@KyleSandy355)


UGA Run vs. Bama D

A: I think we can both agree that the game will be won and lost in the trenches with the front sevens of each team trying to stop the opposing team’s running game. Nick Chubb is great and all, but has he faced a defense like Alabama’s? The answer is no. Sorry, but the Tide is a little better than Vanderbilt, who is the best team the Dawgs have played all season…seriously.

Alabama might not have the vaunted defense it once had, but it is still pretty darn good. Through four games this year the Crimson Tide has allowed just 56.8 yards per game on the ground – that’s a miniscule 2.0 yards per carry! Alabama hasn’t given up over 120 yards per game on the ground over a season since Nick Saban’s first year in 2007.

The best defense UGA faced last year was that of the lowly Florida Gators. As a team the Bulldogs rushed for 141 yards on 32 carries; that’s not going to cut it against Alabama. And do I need to remind Georgia fans of how that game turned out? Florida won 38-20 and gashed the pups’ defense for 418 yards with two slightly above average running backs. What is Derrick Henry and a healthy Kenyan Drake going to do?

G: When you think of SEC football you think of ground and pound offenses and hard-nosed defenses. This matchup displays power against power. Georgia has Nick Chubb who has managed to run for 100 yards in 12 straight games. He can beat you in physicality, speed, and even as a receiver. And don’t forget about the change of pace back in Sony Michel who may be Georgia’s most dangerous player on offense. Together they have combined for 822 rushing yards, 185 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in four games. The physicality of Georgia’s offensive line coupled with their two-headed monster in the backfield is something that cannot be stopped. A defense can only hope it can be maintained, especially when this isn’t one of Saban’s of old. And never forget about Keith Marshall.

 

Bama Run vs. UGA D

A: That “devastating” Bulldog defense people in Athens are trying to sell you on doesn’t even measure up to Bama. The Tide have played two ranked teams in current No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 3 Ole Miss. In those games the Badgers rushed for 40 yards on 21 carries while the Rebels gained 92 on 32 totes.

Georgia allowed 174 yards on 39 carries to South Carolina and even Vandy eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Henry rushed for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. In his last healthy season in 2013, Drake gained 694 yards on 7.5 yards per carry. So far this season the duo has combined for 637 yards and nine scores. Last year UGA allowed 166.8 yards per game on the ground and heading into Saturday they have given up twice as much as Alabama has with 107.3. Good luck wrapping up the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Henry. By the way, last time these two teams met, in the 2012 SEC Championship, the Tide rolled for 350 yards rushing.

G: The days of Georgia having an underperforming defense are no longer thanks to the leadership of second-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Last year the team showed glimpses of greatness and this year has been all about sustaining that greatness. The Dawgs have given up only three rushing touchdowns all season and runners are averaging only 3.1 yards/attempt against a team that has had the opportunity to play a ton of second and third-string players in their blowout wins. On the opposing side, Alabama’s Derrick Henry is a great back. Henry is averaging 6.3 yards/carry and has eight rushing touchdowns. But, when Alabama faces a good defense like Georgia and they are in a third-and-long situation with a below-average quarterback, their running game cannot bail them out. I look for Georgia’s defense to set the tone early against the run and force Alabama to beat them through the air, which is something I don’t believe the Tide can do. I also expect a breakout game from middle linebacker Jake Ganus.

 

QB Comparison

A: With Alabama loading the box on defense, Greyson Lambert will be forced to beat the Tide. The bullets haven’t started flying against Lambert yet and he has never seen a defense quite like Alabama. He started 0-for-7 against Vanderbilt and was yanked for Brice Ramsey. The South Carolina game was an aberration, an outlier, a fluke. I have a sneaky suspicious the real Greyson Lambert who was a turnover machine at Virginia will rear his ugly head in this big game. Jake Coker has proven he can be competent against good competition, going 15-of-21 against Wisconsin for 213 yards and a touchdown. He threw for three touchdowns and ran in a score against Ole Miss, but was marred by two interceptions. The rumor on campus however was that Coker was running a 102 degree fever all day.

G: Both UGA and Alabama entered the season with quarterback questions. Since Week 2, the schools have gone in completely different directions. Alabama switched starting quarterbacks before their game against Ole Miss and it turned out to haunt them. Georgia questioned whether Greyson Lambert could lead them after two below-average performances. His 24-of-25, 330-yard performance against South Carolina erased that doubt. Not only would I give the edge to the quarterback that is hot right now in Lambert, but I also give the edge to the team that has their guy and not a circus with two cowboys.

 

History

A: They say history repeats itself. If that’s true, it’s not a good sign for Georgia. We all remember the SEC Championship and of course, how can we forget the “Blackout” gimmick UGA used in 2008? That one really worked well between the bushes. The Dawgs entered the half down 31-0 and limped to a 41-30 loss. Overall, Bama has taken the series 37-24-3. Since 1960, the Crimson Tide has gone 14-7 against UGA. Oh and by the way, Alabama has 15 National Championships to Georgia’s one.

G: Since 2008, the last time these two played in the regular season, their stories have been vastly different. Alabama has won three national titles and three SEC titles. Georgia has lost twice in the SEC title game and had a 6-7 season. The last time these two played in the 2012 SEC title game, Georgia came within four yards of winning and going to the National Championship. When they were blown out at home in 2008 in the blackout game it was much of the same misery felt by all Dawgs fans. But, that’s why I am confident in their task this weekend. Georgia is due for a big win. Georgia is due for a good performance against Alabama. A good team like Georgia who always recruits well and is always hovering in the top ten is due to finally breakthrough and play up to their potential against a big-time opponent.

 

Coaching Comparison

A: When it comes to the sidelines, I’ll take Nick Saban, his four national championships, Lane Kiffin and Kirby Smart over Mark Richt’s goose egg in the cabinet, Brian Schottenheimer and Jeremy Pruitt. Just look at Richt’s debacle against Georgia Tech. He inexplicably pooch kicked with 18 seconds left up three. Then he left fans aghast with his decision to call a timeout with 4 seconds left and the play clock at 3 seconds when Georgia Tech was lining up for the tying kick. Instead of a 58-yarder, Harrison Butker attempted a 53-yarder and the rest is history.

G: It’s hard to say a coach that has won four titles is not as good as one that has yet to win one or even play for one as a head coach, but I am going to say that anyway. In his 15th season, Richt has already compiled 140 wins, a .745 winning percentage and nine 10-win seasons. He won a national title as offensive coordinator at Florida State. But, most importantly he is the ultimate players coach. His good deeds, devotion to faith, and loyalty to his players has to pay off some day. I see him as a Bowden or an Osborne who just takes longer to win that first title. Richt has proven that he is great and nobody can take that away from him.

Home Field Advantage?

 A: In terms of hitting the road against UGA, there isn’t much to worry about. Since ’07, Bama has nine wins on the road against ranked teams. Included in that is wins at Death Valley (LSU) three times, Sanford Stadium (UGA), Ole Miss, Arkansas, Beaver Stadium (Penn State), The Swamp (Florida) and Kyle Field (Texas A&M).

G: The wounds of 2008 are still fresh in the minds and hearts of UGA. Nobody in recent memory has done what Alabama did to the Dawgs on their home field. Not only is redemption on the minds of the UGA faithful, but their 35-year title drought is too. UGA is 74-15 at home under Richt and I would bet on that even facing a team like Alabama.

Prediction

A: 31-21
G: 38-28

*UPDATE*

Alabama won 38-10.
UGA QB’s combined to go 11-of-31 for 106 yards and 3 INTs.
Jake Coker: 11-of-16, 190 yards and 1 TD.
Derrick Henry: 26 carries 148 yards 1 TD (Long of 30).
Nick Chubb: 20 carries 146 yards 1 TD (Long of 83).

Behind Trio Of Aces, North Gwinnett Seeks First State Title

Enjoying their finest season as a program, the North Gwinnett softball team enters the final weeks of the regular season ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAAA and 24-1 overall, with an unblemished 9-0 record in Region 7.

At the helm of the Lady Bulldogs is veteran head coach Randy Black, who enters his 25th year at North Gwinnett and 21st as head coach. Over the years Black has seen numerous talented teams come through the Suwanee area, but to this day the Lady Bulldogs still seek their first state championship. As the postseason looms, North Gwinnett will be pegged as a heavy favorite thanks to timely hitting, solid fundamental defense and a nearly untouchable pitching staff.

Photo By John Bohn/Gwinnett Daily Post

Photo By John Bohn/Gwinnett Daily Post

Last year North Gwinnett finished the season 18-13-1 but fielded a young roster. Going into the 2015 season, Black new the team had a chance to be special. “I knew we’d be a little bit better than we were last year because we had everybody coming back. We were very, very young last year,” explained the head coach.

The Lady Bulldogs’ calling card this season has been its pitching, headlined by a trio of legitimate aces. Seniors Rachel Smith (GCSU) and Kylee Smith have been steady, but freshman Chandler Dennis, younger sister of senior first baseman Emily Dennis, has been the “pleasant surprise” to round out the rotation and give them a young dominating talent that is hard to find.

Chandler Dennis | Photo By Bridget Wilbur

Chandler Dennis | Photo By Bridget Wilbur

“We knew she would be good, but we didn’t realize how good,” said Black when speaking about the freshman who has gone 8-0 with a 0.41 ERA.

Aside from Dennis, the veterans of the staff have gotten the job done as well. “Rachel is just a fierce competitor, she probably throws harder than any of the other pitchers and she just has a will about her to win and she is going to do whatever it takes.”

The other Smith, Kylee (not related), relies on a different approach on the mound. “Kylee, she still throws pretty hard but she has incredible movement and [her] poise on the mound is incredible. You have no idea if you are winning or losing by looking at her.” Smith is currently unsigned, but is being recruited by eight schools and has been visiting a few of her suitors.

Winning 24 out of 25 potential games is a nice start, but Black knows that the end goal is raising a trophy in late October.

“Out of the 20 kids we have on the varsity, probably 14 or 15 of them are straight-A students and they are very focused and realize even though the success as far as [it] got us some wins, the big prize is the end and these kids have bought into one pitch, one inning, one game at a time.”

A Burning Drive…

The focus and hunger the girls have been able to maintain comes from the disappointment of falling short last year in the first round of the playoffs against Archer. North Gwinnett beat the Tigers 10-5 in Game 1, but mental mistakes cost them in Game 2 and allowed Archer to steal a 4-3 win in extra innings. In the series deciding tiebreaker game, Archer scored two early runs and held onto a Game 3, 2-0 victory to end North Gwinnett’s season early.

Rachel Smith | Photo By Bridget Wilbur

Rachel Smith | Photo By Bridget Wilbur

Letting the series slip away has loomed in the players’ minds and the coaching staff has harped on not letting it happen again. “The coaching staff stays on them all the time about playing every pitch and every inning. And they knew that if they would have done that, they possibly would have went to Columbus last year with a very, very young team.”

This season, the Lady Bulldogs are very young again starting just two seniors and have received contributions from everywhere, not just on the mound. Junior Haley Griffith and sophomore Erin Wilbur have led the charge offensively. A rallying point for the team has revolved around the loss of shortstop Makenna Dowell, a junior who has started since she was a freshman and who was hitting over .500 before sustaining an injury against Mill Creek on Sept. 8.

“It’s kind of like getting a traded player later on. They realize they are going to get her back and she will definitely bolster the offense and the defense.” said Black.

Kylee Smith | Photo By Bridget Wilbur

Kylee Smith | Photo By Bridget Wilbur

Black and the rest of the Lady Bulldogs are eager to get Dowell back for their playoff run. In the past, North Gwinnett has run into eventual state champions who have ended their season like Archer in 2012 in the second round.

This edition of the Lady Bulldogs is ready to go all the way and is one of the best groups Black has ever coached in his 21 years at North Gwinnett. “Talent-wise, it’s one of the top five probably. Character, definitely one of the top ones. The success the rest of the season will determine where they fall in and how good this team really is.”

The SEC: More Of The Same

Two weeks ago the NCAA College Football AP Poll had an unprecedented 10 SEC schools in the Top 25. Fast forward two weeks later and only six remain. That was short lived.

That is how today’s society is with sports and topics beyond it. Everything is a knee jerk reaction put together to draw attention and gain ratings. I will stop you right here with this disclaimer: If you are an SEC fan, you probably won’t like this piece.

While everyone else will hold a party and blow smoke up each other trying to proclaim the SEC as the dominant conference it once was, once again, it is a level playing field in 2015. The once powerful conference has continued to regress towards the mean. The pollsters tried to throw 10 teams at the nation and hope it would stick to the wall like a spitball, but of course, it hasn’t stuck.

Auburn entered the season ranked No. 6 in the nation with a quarterback deemed the next Cam Newton – a Heisman Trophy winner, National Champion and No. 1 overall pick – in Jeremy Johnson, after he threw just 37 passes last season. Makes sense right? Anoint an unproven guy as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation because he plays at a major school. So how has the hype lived up? Try 473 yards passing on 59.7 percent completion to go along with a sparkling 5:6 touchdown to interception ratio while being sacked five times.

This is not your daddy’s SEC. The once formidable defenses have turned into mush. The steady quarterback play has deteriorated into arguably one of the worst out of the Power 5 conferences. Think about it. If anyone one of Ohio State’s trio of quarterbacks transferred to an SEC school, they would automatically become the best QB in the conference by head and shoulders above the rest. The wimpy little Big Ten that everyone picked on the past decade now has the reigning national champs and three quarterbacks better than anyone the SEC can put out. What a brave new world we are living in.

Defense? Anyone?

Speaking of the transfer quarterbacks how about Greyson Lambert? An unmitigated failure at Virginia who couldn’t beat out Matt Johns for the starting job, decides to transfer to Georgia to hand the ball off 40 times a game. This ACC reject, not good enough to play at lowly Virginia, comes in and sets an NCAA completion percentage record against South Carolina, going 24-of-25 for 330 yards and three scores.

So obviously the Ol’ Ball Coach must have been focused on stopping the run right? Make Lambert beat them through the air. UGA managed to run for 246 yards as well. So what’s this tell you? Is Lambert a Heisman Trophy hopeful now? In my opinion, it is just another damning instance of how far the SEC has fallen. Lambert couldn’t handle ACC defenses last year, but joining the weak SEC is the remedy that cures all. This is the same quarterback who produced a 20-for-40, 261-yard, two touchdowns and two interceptions stinker against a North Carolina team that gave up 39 points per game last year and ranked 119th out of 128 teams in defense. And please don’t get me started about last year’s UCLA game and how many times he threw interceptions in the red zone. Once the bullets start flying and the Dawgs play a competent defense, I think his stat line will look a little different.

Let’s look at No. 25 Missouri now. The Tigers beat Arkansas State 27-20, then UConn 9-6, but somehow they are still ranked and have only dropped one spot since the preseason polls came out. What about Arkansas and the trash talking Hogs led by Bret Bielema? He criticized Ohio State for not playing anybody. Maybe he should try worrying about his own team first? Losses to Toledo and Texas Tech have dropped the preseason No. 18 out of the rankings.

On Saturday Alabama got thumped by Ole Miss (who tried to give the game away) and dropped from No. 2 to 12. Seems harsh, but okay. Then Ole Miss jumps from No. 15 to No. 3 and has gotten 11 votes to be No. 1. Talk about a knee jerk reaction. Leaping to No. 5-7 would be warranted but hopping over Baylor and TCU? It’s a little much.

At the end of the day, ESPN and the “experts” out there have once again tried to sell you a bill of goods and a check they can’t cash. I encourage you all to not live by groupthink, but to come to conclusions on your own and realize, this is a whole new ball game.

The one SEC school that I do buy, is No. 8 LSU. If they can find consistent quarterback play, they could be the one team out of the SEC to make the Playoffs. Other than the Tigers, I think it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors surrounding the conference and that opposing teams, coaches, fans and analysts should start looking at the names on the back of the jerseys and not on the front.

(Photo by Brett Duke, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

What To Do About The Atlanta Braves?

It is a rebuilding year. We knew going into the season that Atlanta would take its lumps under new leadership and their sights fixated toward 2017, but did we really think it would get this bad? A once proud franchise that has recently been mired in mediocrity has officially hit rock bottom, losing 12 straight games and an unfathomable 19 out of 20 games. Atlanta holds just a one-game lead over Philadelphia for the worst record in the entire Major League.

It has gone from bad to worse. A pathetic effort on the field, now fans falling to their death in the stands. Just brutal.

The Braves are void of talent, but it is nearly impossible to play as bad as they have. Where is the heart? Where is the effort? Most importantly, where is the pride? This team does not compete at all. They take the field, take their whooping – and their pay check – and go home. Journeymen and young players liter the field, given a golden opportunity to seize the moment and jump start – or revitalize – their careers. Nah. Instead this group of taxi-squad players just disappoint aside from the few professionals that have busted their butts all season.

Nick Markakis has been zapped of all his power after offseason surgeries and rehab, but he has still managed to hit a team-high .295. A.J. Pierzynski has been a leader in the clubhouse and has hit .294, but hasn’t been dealt to a contender yet to help add to the farm system. The 38-year-old is on his last wheels and this will likely be the last productive season of his long career as he won’t be able to help the club much moving forward.

Cameron Maybin was off to his best season ever, but has tapered off. Freddie is still Freddie and Nick Swisher has played well and hopefully has gained some value on the trade market even with his inflated contract.

The rest of the offense hasn’t done much of anything. Atlanta has hit an MLB-low 83 homers, 18 less than the second-to-last place Marlins and also have the fewest runs scored. Only Freddie Freeman and Maybin have cracked double-digit long balls.

Jace Peterson ran into a hot streak and looked like the second baseman of the future, but after a .174 month of July and .238 August, he is hitting just .236 on the year.

Not Your 90’s Braves…

The pitching, like the hitting, has been just as bad. Atlanta’s 4.58 team ERA ranks 27th out of 30 teams. Shelby Miller is 5-13, but sports a 2.81 ERA and hasn’t won a game since May 17th when he almost threw a no-hitter and advanced to 5-1. Alex Wood was shipped away in a 13-man deal that netted Atlanta Hector Olivera, a 30-year-old Cuban rookie that hit .178 in the Braves farm system. Olivera has subsequently hit .133 so far with the big league club. Swing-and-a-miss.

Another big miss has been Julio Teheran. Former General Manger Frank Wren inked the 24-year-old to a long term deal. Teheran has been the gift that keeps giving as he has rewarded the since fired Wren and current GM John Hart with a 4.51 ERA.

The bullpen was steady early on, but Jason Grilli tore his achilles and Jim Johnson was sent away for prospects which was the correct move. Atlanta has run out slop that even I have never heard of, with ERAs so astronomical, you would think it is a misprint.

In Atlanta’s inspiring 15-1 loss to Washington last week in which they collected two hits, here are the ERAs of the Braves pitchers that appeared: 5.97, 6.05, 6.23, 7.00, 7.07, 6.00, 5.06 and 5.82.

A ghastly sight for any pitching coach

Important rookie pitchers and hitters that were expected to help the team out in the long run have flamed out spectacularly so far. Top infield prospect Jose Peraza was given up on and shipped to Los Angeles. Matt Wisler was supposed to be the gem in the Craig Kimbrel trade, but has a 5.81 ERA in 15 games. Williams Perez? 5.65. Flamethrower Mike Foltynewicz? 5.71 ERA. Manny Banuelos’ stock is still down with a 5.13 ERA.

Patience is paramount with a rebuilding team, but it has gotten out of hand and new blood might be needed to lead the Braves next season.

GHSA Basketball Transfer Recap and Overview

As there is every year, there was some major offseason movement among some of the best basketball programs in the state of Georgia. Unlike football, there is an AAU circuit that plays nearly year round with the best players in the area joining forces to make a run at Nationals. Playing with players from other schools gives players a chance to bond with one another and learn each other’s game. The success on this summer circuit sometimes prompts players to decide to transfer to be able keep playing together. Where it hurts the schools where they transfer from, it helps build powerhouse programs elsewhere. It truly has turned into the Wild Wild West during the offseason, with the entire outlook of programs changing with the loss or the import of one or more transfer(s).

Here is a rundown of some transfers I have heard through the grapevine and a summary of what the addition means. If you know of anymore or any that are incorrect, please shoot me a tweet @KyleSandy355 or leave a comment or an email at Ksandy@Scoreatl.com. Thanks!

Class AAAAAA

SO Chris Parks – 6’6” 210 lbs – (5A Lanier to Collins Hill)

SR Romello White – 6’8” 215 lbs – (IMG Academy, FL to Wheeler)

SR Darnell Rogers – 5’2”135 lbs – (Indian Land, SC to Shiloh)

JR Collin Sexton – 6’2” 160 lbs – (Hillgrove to Pebblebrook)

JR Chuma Okeke – 6’7” 210 lbs – (Langston Hughes to Westlake)

SR A.J. Cheeseman – 6’6” 210 lbs – (Duluth to Collins Hill)

JR Kendrick Summerour – 5’9” 155 lbs – (5A Kell to Milton)

JR Greg James – 6’4” 162 lbs – (Alpharetta to Shiloh)

SO Reikan Donaldson – 6’2” 160 lbs – (1A Calvary Day to Wheeler)

JR Zach Cooks – 5’8” 140 lbs – (Norcross to Berkmar)

SO Justin Brown – 6’0” 165 lbs – (Northview to Milton)

SR Kyrin Galloway – 6’8” 200 lbs – (4A Buford to Milton)

JR Jay Estime – 6’5” 180 lbs – (Peachtree Ridge to Berkmar)

SR Al-Wajid Aminu – 6’6″ 185 lbs – (Coral Gables, FL to Wheeler)

SR Ronald Bell – 6’5″ 175 lbs – (5A North Atlanta to Westlake)

SR Teshaun Hightower – 6’5″ 180 lbs (3A Towers to Collins Hill)

SR Reece Anderson – 6’2” 185 lbs – (5A Chapel Hill to Douglas County)

JR David Swillum – 6’0″ 175 lbs – (Milton to Alpharetta)

SR Keishon Kershaw – 6’2″ 175 lbs – (Milton to Alpharetta)

SR Khalil Richard – 5’11” 165 – (St. Frances, MD to Shiloh)

SR Robert Hill – 6’9″ 240 lbs – (Duluth to Berkmar)

JR Elafayette Stone – 6’8″ 245 lbs – (Copperas Cove, TX to East Coweta)

JR JJ Smith – 6’4″ 195 lbs – (E.E. Smith, NC to Pebblebrook)

JR Thurman Massenburg – 6’7″ 210 lbs – (Home School Augusta to Shiloh)

SO Trevin Wade – 5’11” 155 lbs – (Hillgrove to South Cobb)

SO Landers Nolley – 6’4″ 175 lbs – (Lovejoy to Curie, IL)

JR Brandon Blair – 5’10” 155 lbs – (Shiloh to Duluth)

Class AAAAA

SR Aaron Augustin – 5’11” 170 lbs – (6A Peachtree Ridge to Miller Grove)

JR Tae Hardy – 6’3″ 150 lbs – (Southwest DeKalb to Miller Grove)

SR Cameron Cox – 6’3″ 170 lbs – (Creekview to Sequoyah)

SR Isaac Kellum – 6’4″ 170 lbs – (Fayette County to McIntosh)

SR Tyler Scott – 6’10” 215 lbs – (Gainesville to Greenville, SC)

SR Colin Young – 6’3” 185 lbs – (3A Laney to Miller Grove)

SR Marquis Traylor – 6’5″ 180 lbs – (Knob Noster, MO to Houston County)

JR D.J. Young – 6’1″ 180 lbs – (6A Milton to Discovery)

SR Madison Williams – 6’3″ 170 lbs – (SCISA Augusta Christian to Academy of Richmond County)

SR Chris Stone – 6’0″ 155 lbs – (GISA Augusta Prep Day to Evans)

SR Jo’el Grant – 6’0″ 165 lbs – (SCISA Augusta Christian to Evans)

SR Khamron Gordon – 6’2″ 195 lbs – (1A Aquinas to Cross Creek)

SR Theo Benn Jr. – 6’0″ 180 lbs (6A Berkmar to Discovery)

Class AAAA

SR Jacara Cross – 6’6” 220 lbs – (3A Cedar Grove to Lithonia)

SO Alex Jones – 5’9” 155 lbs – (6A Alpharetta to Buford)

SO D.J. Brittian – 6’0″ 160 lbs – (5A Miller Grove to Grady)

SO Kris Gardner – 6’1″ 170 lbs -(6A Lee County to Westover)

SR SanAntonio Brinson – 6’7” 200 lbs – (1A Aquinas to Thomson)

SO Corderius Hastings – 6’0″ 165 lbs – (Griffin to The Potter House, FL)

JR Kovi Tate – 6’4″ – 218 lbs – (5A Woodland-Stockbridge to Henry County)

Class AAA

SO Lamont Smith – 6’1” 185 lbs – (4A Buford to East Jackson)

JR Zion Williams – 5’8” 155 lbs – (Savannah to Jenkins)

SR Dylan Curry – 6’4″ 165 lbs – (Oak Hill Academy, VA to West Hall)

SO Gabe Bryant – 6’8″ 225 lbs – (Dorman, SC to Dawson County)

SR Ric’Quail Smoot – 6’8″ 230 lbs – (Butler to The Potter House, FL)

SR Jalen Holbrook – 6’2″ 170 lbs (1A Aquinas to Butler)

SO Travis Anderson – 5’10” 165 lbs – (2A Holy Innocents to East Jackson)

JR Nick Hargrove Jr. – 6’0″ 170 lbs – (GCAA Bible Baptist Christian to Southwest)

Class AA

SO Isaiah Kelly – 6’8” 195 lbs – (SCISA Augusta Christian to Pace Academy)

SR Alex Perry – 6’6″ 190 lbs – (Maclay, FL to Thomasville)

Class A

SR Anthony Showell – 6’2” 165 lbs – (6A Duluth to St. Francis)

SO Cameron Gardner – 6’3″ 180 lbs – (3A Hephzibah to Aquinas)

SO Gerald Merriweather – 5’7″ 140 lbs – (3A Hephzibah to Aquinas)

Class AAAAAA Impact Transfers:

One player might shift the balance of power in 6A and especially in Region 3. Chuma Okeke and his 22.8 points and 8.3 rebounds shift from Langston Hughes to Westlake. Hughes was primed for a big season chock full of juniors. An astronomical 12 sophomores suited up last year for coach Rory Welsh and it was Okeke along with guard Khalil Cuffee (18.2 ppg) that ran the show as super sophomores. Now Cuffee will have to shoulder the complete load with Okeke gone. The highly sought after forward joins an already talented roster that stumbled to a 13-15 record in 2014. Big man Michael Durr, shooting guard Raquan Wilkins and point guards Danny and Jamie Lewis along with Okeke make the Lions one of the most intriguing teams for a huge rebound season. Westlake has also added North Atlanta stand-out Ronald Bell. Bell can play both forward positions and has a high motor which he uses to go after loose balls and rebounds.

The Tigers added a strong combo guard in Reece Anderson, who will join an already potent backcourt. Anderson was a key contributor last season for the Chapel Hill Panthers and now will slide in to play with highly sought after swingman Brandon Robinson. Anderson is a big physical guard who has improved his handle and jumpshot throughout his high school career. Anderson will be relied upon to produce in the ultra-competitive Region 3-AAAAAA, which is home to state runner up Pebblebrook, the reloaded Westlake Lions and the talented young Langston Hughes Panthers. Anderson was an honorable mention selection in Region 4-AAA as a sophomore in 2014 and has the upside to garner similar honors or better his senior season.

Collins Hill picked up some great size inside to help add to a team that could use some toughness in the low post. Chris Parks and AJ Cheeseman will bring just that. Parks averaged 8.0 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman with Lanier. Cheeseman knows Collins Hill well, as his Duluth Wildcats split a pair with the Eagles during the Region 7 regular season. Cheeseman averaged 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds as a junior.

The Eagles also nabbed Teshaun Hightower from AAA Towers High School. The combo guard has great athleticism and can become a big time scorer in the right system. Last season as a junior he averaged over 12 points per game and has yet to reach his ceiling. He has nice lift on his jumper and should start to rack up the scholarship offers with a productive senior season. Hightower broke out with a big summer circuit and was originally set to join Grayson High School before settling on Collins Hill.

Shiloh added some dynamic players to its backcourt in Darnell Rogers and Greg James. Rogers averaged over 28 points per game in South Carolina and became a YouTube sensation for his acrobatic and jaw dropping play as the smallest player on the floor. He played with new teammate Josh Okogie on the AAU circuit on Team CP3 and decided to follow him to Georgia to play their senior season together. James is strong outside shooter with nice size and is receiving looks from low to mid-major programs.

The Generals added another dynamic guard with Division-One talent in Khalil Richard. A strong guard who banged home 45% of his three-point attempts last season, Richard announced on Sept. 15 that he committed to Siena. At St. Frances Academy as a junior he averaged 12.9 points per game and 3.0 assists. He joins Darnell Rogers and Greg James at Shiloh, a team that lost just one game in-state as they finished 28-4.

Hillgrove took a major blow in losing Collin Sexton. The rising junior was a major piece to Hillgrove’s 23-win season and was a big-game performer when the Hawks needed him the most. He will join last season’s state runner up Pebblebrook, who needs to reload after losing Ty Hudson (Clemson), Derek Ogbeide (UGA), Trhae Mitchell and glue guy Kevin Murph. Sexton will team up with Auburn-bound point guard Jared Harper and will form one of the best back courts in the state.

The Pebblebrook Falcons swooped in late in the transfer scene and landed a potential game changer in the already deep Region 3-AAAAAA picture. Jatrious “JJ” Smith has transferred from E.E. Smith, NC. The four-star guard who is a Top 50 national recruit, was originally slated to play at Word of God Christian Academy in North Carolina according to the Fayetteville Observer , but today (10/7) Shun Williams of OnTheRadarHoops broke the news that the ultra-talented scorer is coming to Georgia. Last season as a sophomore he averaged 19.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. ACC and SEC schools have been hot after the guard, who gets to the line at will, averaging almost six freethrow attempts a game last year. Smith played with the Southern Stampede of the EYBL which sported the likes of Al Durham (Berkmar) and Jay Estime and Zach Cooks who transferred to Berkmar to play with Durham this year. The addition of Smith makes Pebblebrook the owner of arguably the most talented backcourt in a a state that has seen the balance of power shift with each move. Smith, Jared Harper (Auburn) and Hillgrove transfer Collin Sexton are a lethal trio for coach George Washington.

The big winner of all this moving-and-shaking has to be Milton, who vaults itself back into state prominence if all the pieces come together. Kendrick Summerour brings his slick And-1 type handles to the Eagles after averaging 14.1 points and 4.1 assists as a sophomore at Kell. Justin Brown averaged 15.1 points a night as a freshman at Northview, while Kyrin Galloway brings size inside. This new trio will team-up with Harvard bound big man Chris Lewis and the rapidly improving Alex O’Connell.

Although Milton added a plethora of talent this offseason, they also lost some key pieces that saw a lot of time on the court last year. Senior Keishon Kershaw and junior David Swillum will bring their abilities to Alpharetta. Kershaw started half the season for the Eagles and provides energy on the perimeter. Swillum led the JV team in scoring and has been groomed to make a contribution right away in his first season playing full-time on varsity. Fellow junior DJ Young has left for first-year school Discovery and should be thrust into a role which will see him as a primary option on offense. When he gets the opportunity to set his feet, Young can be lethal from outside with his three-point stroke.

Wheeler has added the younger brother of NBA’er and former Norcross star Al-Farouq Aminu. Al-Wajid is a 6-foot-6 forward with long arms which well help Wheeler’s defense right away in both the passing lanes and on the interior. Now a senior, as a sophomore Aminu averaged 9.4 points, 9.0 and 1.8 blocks per game at Coral Gables, FL.

The Wildcats also picked up four-star forward Romello White, late into the transfer scene. Initially, it was being reported by sources that White, who started his high school career at Peachtree Ridge, would be back with the Lions, but he indeed has landed with Wheeler. @CoryintheSource looked like the first to break it, and had his tweet retweeted by White himself. On Sept. 14, Shun Williams of OnTheRadarHoops tweeted that Iowa State was at Wheeler to see both Darius Perry and White work out. White committed to Tennessee on Jan. 5, but later de-committed on April 14 after the coaching change.

Berkmar could be in line for a resurgence this season behind junior guard Al Durham and three important transfers. Guards Zach Cooks (Norcross) and Jay Estime (Peachtree Ridge) should revamp the Patriots backcourt. Both are juniors and can knock down the three-ball. Cooks is a quick little point guard who can push tempo and find the open man. Estime averaged over 10 points per game and led the Lions in three-pointers made last year. The perimeter should be a strength for the Patriots, but the interior got a major boost as well adding big man Robert Hill Jr., who comes over from Duluth. Hill stands 6-foot-9 and has started to blossom into a reliable low post presence. Two years ago Hill, who is also training to become a pilot, moved in halfway through the season and had to sit out. With Obinna Ofodile and A.J. Cheeseman getting the majority of the minutes inside in 2014 at Duluth, Hill’s move to Berkmar should see him take on a major role as a top option in the low post for coach Greg Phillips.

East Coweta suffered through an abysmal 1-25 season last year, but new head coach Royal Maxwell will have a nice addition to work with in the powerful Region 3. Elafayette Stone, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Copperas Cove, TX, will be asked to be the focal point for the Indian offense this upcoming season. Stone is a true back-to-the-basket post player and uses his 245-pound frame to carve out space down low. Stone has soft hands and is an efficient rebounder with the potential to become a double-double machine.

The Rest of the State Impact Transfers:

Aaron Augustin averaged 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Peachtree Ridge a year ago, but now teams up with UConn-commit Alterique Gilbert at Class AAAAA power Miller Grove to form yet another great Peach State backcourt.

Tae Hardy will join Gilbert and Augustin in a now crowded, but loaded backcourt. He comes from Southwest DeKalb where he averaged 16.5 points per game last year as a sophomore.

A third guard has landed at Miller Grove in Colin Young. Young was a part of the break out Laney Wildcats who won 29 games and put together the most impressive resume in all of the state with wins over the likes of Morgan County, Pebblebrook, Norcross and eventual state champ Jenkins last year. The 6-foot-3 guard was named Region 3-AAA Second Team after pitching in 11 points per game. Young is a knockdown shooter who led the Wildcats with 49 threes, connecting at a 46% clip. He will get plenty of opportunities to spot up with Gilbert and Augustin running the show up top.

McIntosh, who has blossomed into a Class AAAAA power after a 29-1 record last year, returns 10 players including the Chiefs’ top four scorers. 2015-16 will be the season the Chiefs make a deep run into the playoffs after adding Isaac Kellum. The senior averaged 13.8 points per game at neighboring Fayette County High School and will slide into the starting three spot. He brings great athleticism and may be the missing piece needed for the Chiefs to capture their first ever state championship.

Houston County continues to trend upwards after adding Marquis Traylor from Knob Noster High School in Missouri. The Bears finished the regular season 0-7 in Region 2-AAAAA, but stunned cross-region foe Grovetown (17-7, 9-1) in the region tournament and sent the Warriors home early without a state playoff berth. The Bears featured just four seniors last year and Traylor should help with his athleticism. As a junior he averaged 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds while showing off his hops, blocking 1.3 shots per game.

After a 13-13 regular season in Class AAAAA, Academy of Richmond County (ARC) returns some good pieces, but the best might have come via transfer in Madison Williams. At 6-foot-3, Williams is an athletic combo guard that joins the program after starring at Augusta Christian. An ability to get to the rim and nice range on his jumper makes Williams a high-scoring guard with a lot of mid-major interest. He will be expected to take the reigns of the Musketeers offense and lead them into the state playoffs after missing out a year ago.

Jacara Cross’ move from Cedar Grove to Lithonia makes the Bulldogs one of the top dogs in AAAA.  Couple him with Tyleen Patterson, Rodney Chatman and Tyheem Freeman and you have a dynamic team that already is coming off a 27-win season.

Alex Jones graded out as one of the best freshmen in the state last year and was named AAAAAA Freshman of the Year by HoopSeen. He helped lead Alpharetta to a 25-6 record and 18-0 Region 6 record. The floor general averaged a double-double in points and assists and was a lock down defender on the perimeter. Jones will fill in for Tre Hansbrough, who signed to play at Tennessee Tech after averaging 23 points per game his senior season at Buford.

Kris Gardner will bring stability to the Westover backcourt this season after transferring from 6A Lee County. In his freshman season Gardner was named All-Region 1AAAAAA First Team. Now at the AAAA level, Gardner brings strong ball handling and decision making to a Westover team that was bounced in the first round of the state playoffs last year.

Griffin (20-8 in 2014) has suffered a big loss in its hope to reach the AAAA playoffs for the second straight season. The Potter’s House, FL has struck again and plucked another fine young talent out of the state of Georgia in rising sophomore Corderius Hastings. The talented guard averaged 15.1 points per game along with 4.8 assists and 3.9 steals. The shifty guard can bang home the three and get to the rack on offense while supplying sticky defense to ball handlers. He joins Ric’Quail Smoot, a 6-foot-8 Butler transfer, in Florida. Smoot is a bruiser inside that finishes well around the rim. He averaged nearly a double-double last season and has improved his jump shot, showing a feathery touch around the baseline. The Potter’s House was 13-10 last year while playing a national schedule as a part of the Sunshine Independent league.

A pair of guards should improve backcourts in AAA. Lamont Smith joins super sophomore Drue Drinnon for East Jackson while Zion Williams replaces Jenkins graduate Eric Johnson, who hit the game winner to lift the Warriors to a state championship last season with just seconds left. Williams averaged 10.3 points and 6.8 assists as a sophomore.

In a turn of events, Travis Anderson has landed at East Jackson after originally going to Grayson after a successful season at Holy Innocents’ which led to the playmaking guard being named by HoopSeen as the Class AA Freshman of the Year. Anderson proved he could score and pass at a high-rate and was tabbed to make Grayson a contender in Region 8-AAAAAA with Austin Dukes and Alphonso Willis. Instead, after playing with Grayson this year in the HoopSeen Fall League, today (10/5/15) Shun Williams of OnTheRadarHoops broke the news that the talented guard will be teaming up with Drue Drinnon and Buford transfer Lamont Smith in the Eagles’ backcourt. The addition automatically makes East Jackson a player to make a deep run in state if the front court can be productive as well.

Dawson County landed a huge player with big time upside in Gabe Bryant. The 6-foot-8 big man comes from South Carolina and will make an immediate impact with the Tigers, who won just 7 games last season (7-19). Bryant protects the paint with ease and can rebound outside of his zone. His offense has continued to improve and he will enter Dawsonville as the Tigers’ go-to guy on day one.

The dynamic Nick Hargrove Jr. will be given the keys to the car to try and drive Southwest High School to its first winning record since 2009-10. While at Bible Baptist Christian in Hampton, Georgia, Hargrove Jr. did everything. The 6-foot junior averaged 30.6 points per game, 9.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 6.1 steals. Hargrove cracked 40 points three times and will now bring his free-scoring mentality to the GHSA ranks. He definitely is a player to keep an eye on and may quickly become a fan favorite in Middle Georgia.

Isaiah Kelly provides Pace head coach Demetrius Smith with an embarrassment of riches inside. Kelly will join top nationally ranked big man Wendell Carter Jr. and will likely give the Knights a say when it comes to the state championship. As a freshman, he averaged 16.2 points and 10.5 rebounds.

Class AA Thomasville landed a key piece to add with Jordan Willis and the 22-9 Bulldogs who fell to eventual state runner-up Crawford County 80-65 in the quarterfinals after being tied 47-47 heading into the final frame. Alex Perry is a long, versatile forward who can stretch the floor and score inside. Perry averaged over 17 points and 10 rebounds last season as a junior at Maclay High School in Tallahassee, FL. He joins Willis, a strong point guard that averaged more than 14 points per game last year.

Dual sport star Anthony Showell averaged 16.6 points per game for Duluth last season and suits up alongside 5-star guard Kobi Simmons.

Aquinas suffered a major loss with the transfer of SanAntonio Brinson. The long senior has the ability to play 1-4 and has a unique skill set that can blend into any system. At first there were rumblings he would head to Thomson, but instead he landed at 22ft Academy in South Carolina. Now, as of 9-21-2015, SanAntonio went to Twitter to announce that he is indeed heading to Thomson for good after spending time with the 22ft program this offseason. Brinson is an interesting prospect who should see a major bump in his recruitment now that he is playing on a bigger stage with more exposure. He has improved his range and handle and is coming off an All-State Honorable Mention campaign in 2014. Thomson is coming off an 8-21 record and will turn the keys over to Brinson to get the Bulldogs back into the postseason. In 2013-14, Thomson lost in the second round of the state playoffs and finished 19-5.

What Football Means To Kennesaw State

The weather is starting to cool down, the air is beginning to get a little crisp. That can mean only one thing: College Football is here and more importantly, a new tradition will begin in Kennesaw, Ga.

Just eight days from now, Kennesaw State University will kick off its first ever football game. What a ride it has been to get here. Founded in October of 1963, the long arduous journey to blossom into something special and gain the respect of neighboring schools and nationally is finally starting to come to fruition.

Kennesaw State is no longer a joke. The ribs and jabs of calling it “High School 2.0” or “13th Grade” is over and has always been a fabricated over exaggeration. Students in the area complain about it being a small school, they whine that it is too close to home, they laugh about the athletics program not having a football team and they scoff at the idea of Kennesaw having a night life.

Sorry, but the worm has turned. Kennesaw State is not some nobody school in the middle of nowhere. It is less than an hour away from the internationally known metropolis of Atlanta. If the city is your thing, you are right there within arm’s reach. Heart of the city not your style? Don’t worry, you still have that hour cushion and don’t have to mess with driving through downtown.

“The school is too small.” KSU is closing in on 33,000 students. That’s right. I didn’t add an extra 3. Kennesaw is knocking on the door of becoming the LARGEST school in the state of Georgia and with football coming, possibly a revitalized basketball program with a former NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR and an expanding campus, the sky is the limit for the unknown gem of the south which features a beautiful campus.

And yes, I might have mentioned, Kennesaw State will be fielding a football team. The memories that will be made here will be countless and the students and alumni will be visiting Fifth Third Bank Stadium in droves. Myself, a May 2015 graduate, will just have missed out on all the fun. Will I be able to attend some games? Who knows. A busy work schedule which often leaks into the weekend will most likely prevent me from going to games and also the growing distance between myself and friends in the area will play a factor.

But for those who live in the area or go to school still, this is a golden era of Kennesaw State. Every time I drive past campus, there are new buildings being constructed and new projects in the works. New exits are being built to bring you directly into the heart of Kennesaw. Who would have thought that 20 years ago?

The growth of KSU is constant

The growth of KSU is constant

Football brings a feeling of hope and optimism in the air. Major sports can do that. Sports are not just players lining up playing a game. They are student-athletes doing something they have strived to do for years and realizing the achievement of playing college ball, a goal they have had since they were three and four years old, is something they can never have taken away from them.

Sports bring people, cultures and communities together. It is a rallying point. In war torn countries, groups visit and bring soccer balls or footballs or anything with them to get the youth and even adults involved. It is an escape from the real world which sometimes can be scary. All this competition and involvement helps keep kids off the streets and gives them something to look forward to. Sports can heal and sports can advance.

As Kennesaw State ushers in this new era, think about the big picture. Don’t count wins and losses the first year. This is a program under strong and passionate leadership of Brian Bohannon. He understands what this is. This is not just football and recording wins and stats, this is a process of building men and building everyone involved with the program.

It is a chance to connect with the community and raise morale. The baseball team did this two years ago, but it was too late in the season and the fan base wasn’t aware of the chance to jump onto the bandwagon. It was short-lived, making it to the College World Series, but again, it is sports bringing the community together to rally behind something.

With football on the horizon, the area will continue to grow. Tailgating on Saturday mornings and a sense of pride will run rampant in Kennesaw. No longer will students have to wear garb of other schools. No more wasted trips to Athens, no more bandwagon hopping of whoever the No. 1 team in the nation is. This area will now have a team they can call their own, through thick and thin. The football program has people excited and ready to buy into what this school can now sell.

For those still in college, cherish the moments that are soon forgotten and overlooked. That random Saturday day game vs. Point University may not seem significant at the time, but the excitement, preparation, trials and tribulations of getting ready to go to a game in Kennesaw’s inaugural season is something you can tell your kids forever. The importance of living in the moment is something we lose as a society. Heads buried in phones, noses stuck in social media in a rat race to get the most likes; sometimes it really is better to stop and smell the roses and take life day-by-day and try not to take for granted all the little things in life.

A beautiful campus, a top ranked cafeteria in the Commons, a continually growing Greek Life system, an athletics program that finally looks to be on the right track, this looks like the perfect time to buy stock in Kennesaw State and see what happens. These next five years will be crucial for the development of Kennesaw, but the sky is the limit for this once over looked University.