Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Countdown to the Main Event

I’ll admit it. I’m like a kid waiting for Christmas right now. Thursday’s games at Georgia Tech is as good as you are going to get in the state this year. Three of the top teams in the Peach State will be on national television and the nation’s most talked about basketball school is coming to town. Honestly, does it get any better than this?

Here are a couple of storylines that I’m incredibly interested in:

Columbia’s Jeremy Price vs. Wheeler’s J.J. Hickson

Hickson is the top player in the state in our senior rankings but he saw the 5A title slip out of his team’s hands last year to Beach. Price, a Georgia signee, helped Columbia win a 4A title. Both are big time big men. Both are giant in size and both are very solid players in the paint.

Price continues to get better and for whatever reason, he doesn’t have the same kind of respect that other big men in the state get. I am a big fan of his game and look forward to seeing him grind it out with Hickson.

Hickson, on the other hand, has been chomping at the bit to hit the hardwood. This is his first game of the season and with the goal of being a McDonald’s All-American, expect him to come out looking for a big game on national television.

Both big men should be double-double players in this one.

Oak Hill’s Howard Thompkins vs. Norcross’s Al-Farouq Aminu

Honestly, who doesn’t want to see this? The two have known each other since middle school and former Wesleyan teammates are looking forward to the match-up.

Before Thompkins left for Oak Hill this summer, I had Aminu as the top player in the state for a number of reasons. For starters, he looked outstanding against on the national circuit until July came around. Potentially, he could be downright scary. In their one-time meeting on the circuit, Aminu got the best of Thompkins at the Wallace Prather Classic.

Thompkins finished the summer strong and is in the best shape he has been in (maybe even before his appendectomy surgery last season). He’s a double-double machine at Oak Hill and is the team’s most versatile big man. I had him penciled in as the state’s second best player in his class prior to his move to Virginia.

In all likelihood, the two will play each other again for the majority of the game. Expect nothing less than a great back and forth battle amongst friends.

Both are amongst the top 12 players in the country in the 2008 class if that gives you any indication of how much of a regard I have for their game, skill set and pure potential.

FYI, here is a good read from the Gwinnett Daily Post on the match-up. Click link to read it.

Oak Hill’s guards

If Dunwoody’s guards had their way with Norcross, then can you imagine with Brandon Jennings (the top point guard in the nation in the 2008 class), Nolan Smith (a Duke signee and son of the late Derrick Smith) and Alex Legion (a Michigan signee) will do against the Blue Devils? Tony Neysmith can only defend so much.

Oak Hill’s guards will be the difference maker. It could get ugly if Norcross can’t match with their strength – size, speed and athleticism inside.


What a treat to have three of the best coaches in the state on the same floor on the same night. Each one brings a different facet to the game. Columbia’s Phil McCrary will slow the game down and pound it inside. Wheeler’s Doug Lipscomb will pressure you on defense from end to end and push the ball up the floor. Norcross’s Eddie Martin has done a lot with little and doing even more with a lot. This year is the best team he’s ever had. For the youngsters that are in the crowd or watching from home, take note of how the players respond to their coaches. You won’t see any selfish knuckleheads on these teams. Same goes for Steve Smith of Oak Hill. He’s coached at least two dozen pros.

Hi, my name is…

If you haven’t seen Columbia’s Travis Leslie or Wheeler’s Ari Stewart, you are in for a treat. Leslie could potentially crack into SportsCenter’s top 10 plays for the today on Thursday. The kid is a ridiculous athlete. He showed that at the Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase. Stewart, a 6-7 sophomore wing, is a budding star. He’ll pick and choose his moments. When those moments come, he’ll look like one of the top players in the state. Both are waiting to break out on the big stage.

Coming to the ACC shortly

There are six future ACC players in the field.

Gani Lawal (Norcross), Lance Storrs (Norcross) – Georgia Tech
Jordan DeMercy (Norcross), Julian Vaughn (Oak Hill) – Florida State
J.J. Hickson – NC State
Nolan Smith – Duke

The envelope please

Finally, here are my picks for the games on Thursday. Wheeler shakes off the first half dust and comes away with a hard fought win. Oak Hill’s guards prove to be the difference maker. The Warriors win by double digits.