Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Mailbag: Jan. 15

Welcome to the Georgia Hoops mailbag. The first look inside the inbox was outstanding. The questions were thoughtful, good and interesting. Here is a look at this week’s edition of The Mailbag. I’ll answer questions every Thursday.

To submit your question, feel free to email me at or post your question on the comment section of the blog.

The Fayette County Tigers traveled to the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers and the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach over the holidays before playing a road game at McEachern--all prior to entering the meat of their 5-AAAA region schedule. The Tigers also went to Illinois for a national level tourney over the Thanksgiving holiday.
But, everywhere they went, Coach Andre Flynn's Tigers were humbled.

Will playing (and losing to) such stiff competition help or hinder last year's AAAA runners-up in the long run? What effect does this incredibly tough schedule have on Fayette's trio of promising sophomore starters? (Adam Smith, Malcolm Brogdon and Maurice Williams). And finally, will this scheduling help USC-signee Noel Johnson earn McDonald's All-American status?

Good, loaded question here! Thanks for sending it in.

I think playing in national events are important for teams that are state championship contenders. Going on the road and playing teams that you really can’t truly prepare for gets you ready for the task of the state tournament. You have to learn to react quickly. You have to lean on your strengths. You have to lean on your team. It is an “us-against-the-world” mentality.

I remember when Norcross went to Houston for the Academy National in the 2006-2007 season. I was there with them. They only knew each other there. They were the outsiders. Going into that event, they lost to Oak Hill at Georgia Tech and beat Rice (N.Y.) in overtime, lost to St. Benedict’s (N.J.) and then beat a very good Kingwood team. The Blue Devils played four more out of state teams after that. They won all four. Later in the state playoffs, they had to play Wheeler in the first round of the state tournament. Norcross won by a point in what was the greatest game I’ve ever seen at any level. Norcross eventually beat Centennial by a point to win the title.

I mention their experience because that loss in Houston brought that team together and it helped them understand what it takes to win big games on the road and against big time competition. I’m all for teams finding that out about themselves. Losing to an out of state team isn’t very fun but it also won’t ruin a season.

Sometimes getting humbled is just what a team needs. Fayette County did get to the state title game last year with 10 losses.

By the way, no one had the Arizona Cardinals this far in the NFL playoffs. Know what I mean?

As far as Noel Johnson’s case for the McDonald’s game…I don’t think it is going to happen. The politics of getting into that game are crazy beyond belief. Most of the unofficial decisions are made in the summer. And I’m not sure if he did enough to get into the game.

Who are the Sleeper teams out there? In each Class. Teams that are doing pretty well that folks aren't talking about...

AAAAA sleepers:
Lassiter – Nothing flashy, just good team defense, good shooters, a good post player in Alex Gilmore. They’ll surprise.

Redan – They have size with Kenny Hall and Raymond Gregory. Guard play will be the difference maker for the Raiders.

Groves – Best team in Savannah and no one outside of my favorite city in the state is talking about them. They have good size, good scorers, good depth. They will surprise the ATL crowd in a month’s time.

Newnan – Russell Powell is having a big time season. And I’m not talking about football. He’s lost only one sporting event his entire senior season in two sports.

South Gwinnett – Quietly, the Comets are having their best year since the Williams and Mercer show. They are big, athletic and have depth. Scary team right now.

AAAA sleepers:

Hillgrove – Clearly, this team isn’t a surprise. What’s surprising is how no one is talking about this club as one of the elite teams in the state. They are this close to that class of teams right now. Darius Baugh is one of the best unsigned seniors in the state.

Chamblee – There is something about this team that I really like. They are athletic. They have good size. They scrap. Don’t be surprise to see this team make some noise in the post-season.

Lithia Springs – This isn’t the best team Jason Slate has coached at Lithia Springs but they still play with an attention to detail on defense. This group will play anyone, anywhere. Junior guard Trey Bussey is one of the top sleepers in the Atlanta area.

McIntosh – After losing big man Rob Chubb to a private school in Florida, the Peachtree City squad is having a great year so far thanks in large part to the play of Jeremy Lampkin.

AAA sleepers:

Westover – Very tough team, according to several area coaches that I’ve talked to. Looks like this is Albany’s team to beat this year.

Crisp County – Athletic, strong, experienced program.

Shaw – Hard to call them a sleeper but no one outside of Columbus is taking notice. It’s time to do so.

AA sleepers:

Thomasville – Some of the better freshmen in the state play there and this group does a good job of crashing the boards.

Northeast Macon – Sure, they are in the top 10 state poll but from talking to several coaches that have watched them, this group might be the most talented of any team in AA.

Long County – Struggling at the start of the season but this team is state playoff tested, talented and led by all-state player Jimmy Bacon.

A sleeper:

North Cobb Christian – Finally now in GHSA, NCC is proving it’s worth. Good team. Good understanding of how to play the game.

Do you think Columbus has a deep talent pool this year and can Shaw make a run for state title?

This isn’t as deep of a year in hoops in Columbus as it has been in the past couple of years. I think Shaw is clearly a team that can make a run in the tournament because they are experienced, have depth and have good guard play. If Brookstone (class A) can take care of business in region play, I think that’s another team from Columbus that can advance in the state tournament.

Are Torin Walker and James Vincent worth the twin towers nickname they do not dominate and can’t win games?

I think the nickname is sufficient but neither player has ever really been a dominant type of player to begin with. Both Walker and Vincent are Division I talents but I don’t anticipate either one to be go-to guys in college. Remember, big men take a little longer to develop. It’s hard to be a dominant force where you don’t have quality help in the backcourt and I think that is what they are lacking. Now to why Northside isn’t winning games. Three of the five losses are close ones. Both losses to Shaw came by a bucket. A loss to Coffee, a pretty good team, was a three-point loss. I wouldn’t rule them out.

Do you think 2009 class is deeper than 2008 class?

Great question. At the end of the day, it might be a draw from a numbers standpoint however I like 2009’s long-standing depth a little better but 2008 has some great star power in it.

At the end of the day, I think the 2009 class will have roughly 60 Division I signees. Last year, there were 61 Division I signees. That’s very impressive!

Who you think makes it to the McDonald’s All-American game?

Derrick Favors, for sure. No brainer there.

I’m all for Lorenzo Brown making it to the game. I think he’s playing as well as anyone in the state and nationally.

Mfon Udofia is on the bubble. There are a lot of point guards in 2009 that will be in the game. He’d be right there for me.