October 13 was Gwinnett County Media Day for the upcoming basketball season which starts in less than a month. Norcross High School held the event in its Media Center and coaches, players and of course members of the media filed in. It’s rare to have as much great talent – coaches and players – in the same location at once, making the event one that couldn’t be missed.
To wrap up the event, three-star forward and rising prospect, Shiloh’s Josh Okogie, took the stage to announce that he is committing to Georgia Tech.
At the event, four schools were seated at different tables across the room, ready to give access to the media that would approach them. The event started around 3:15 p.m. and lasted till after 6:30.
Getting The Scoop
I had a chance to talk with a handful of coaches to figure out what each team’s outlook is heading into the 2015 season. With such a big county and schools as to close to each other as they are, one of the major storylines heading into Media Day was the movement of transfers in the area.
At least 13 transfers are expected to make impacts right away. One program that was hit hard by the moving van was Duluth, the Wildcats coming off a 20-9 season with two seniors graduating and key juniors Anthony Showell (St. Francis) and AJ Cheeseman (Collins Hill) transferring away for their final season.
Coach Eddie Hood kept a positive outlook for the upcoming season and even said there might be some “addition by subtraction” regarding the shakeup of the roster. Back is senior shot blocker Obinna Ofodile and highly-touted incoming freshman, 6-foot-10 Alex Powell, is expected to make a major impact right away. Hood described Powell as a high-major prospect that already has an advanced skill set.
Some younger players are going to be thrust into big roles this season along with Powell. Hood has worked diligently with the feeder program and has capable guys ready to log minutes. The Wildcats will have last year’s JV MVP Will Huzzie and Shiloh transfer and JV standout Brandon Blair, who both have an opportunity to make waves this year.
Over at Meadowcreek, new head coach Willie Reese comes over after leading Sandy Creek to a state playoff appearance two consecutive season. Reese didn’t get a lot of time with the program over the summer, but he already envisions the type of team he wants, stating that he “loves” big guards, something that coach Paul Hewitt was known for while at Georgia Tech. Reese said ideally if he could build a roster it would consist of all players ranging from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-5 which could use their length defensively and pose matchup problems on offense.
At Greater Atlanta Christian, the Spartans welcome home alumni and former two-time region champion from back in his playing days in 1998-2000, coach David Eaton. The early 30’s coach is excited to be back in his stomping grounds but added that he isn’t worried about filling the shoes of the great Eddie Martin. Eaton said that he doesn’t really try to compare himself to Martin or anyone because, “whenever you try and measure yourself up to someone, you usually fall short,” in terms of each coach being different and having their own style.
Junior guard Brian Coffey is expected to have a big season and has spent his time training with specific and situational drills to get better, working on his strength and explosion. Three schools have offered the guard: North Florida, Presbyterian College and UNC-Asheville.
Collins Hill has added three new pieces in AJ Cheeseman, Chris Parks (Lanier) and TeShaun Hightower (Towers), but in attendance were junior guards Max Clark and JD Ozoh. Devin Watson led the team in scoring from his guard position last year, but has now graduated. Ozoh said he doesn’t feel any pressure to pick up his slack and said that it will be a team effort this year to get the job done.
Berkmar added two new starters to the backcourt in Zach Cooks (Norcross) and Jay Estime (Peachtree Ridge). Coach Greg Phillips says he has about seven guards who are all starter material and now gives the Patriots great depth. Big man Robert Hill, a Duluth transfer, is working to become eligible for the season.
Phillips said that he wants his team to run-and-gun with his great guard play, but it will all come down to defending and getting stops to enable a fast pace style. Senior guard Lane Foster will be tabbed as the team’s go-to defensive stopper on the perimeter, while Al Durham, a division one prospect, will be the team’s primary offensive playmaker. Leroy Jones IV, who was in attendance with Durham and Foster, is a true two-way player who can get buckets on offense and still give fits to opposing offensive players.
New program Discovery under Cory Cason, feels like they can be competitive starting year one. Cason, a former Norcross assistant, is excited about the chance to build a program and is constantly reminding the kids that “they represent the school” when trying to leave a legacy.
Jaden Stanley is a 6-foot-5 forward from Montana that has transferred in and could be an integral part to the Titans’ opening season. Kids from Meadowcreek, Central Gwinnett and Berkmar primarily make up the Titans roster, but DJ Young from Milton is a guard who could play a big role this year. Theo Benn is a Berkmar transfer and also could find himself in the starting rotation. Coach Cason foresees his guard play as being a strength in 2015.
Also, here is a little Periscope interview I did. Hopefully it lasts longer than 24 hours: https://t.co/esmBdE94g5