Sunday, March 15, 2009

Notes from the Notepad: March 15

Five things I’m buying this week:

1. Wheeler - The state’s most talented team didn’t rely so much on it’s array of offensive weapons to win the class AAAAA championship. It was all defense.

During the first half of the season, Wheeler allowed opponents to score an average of 72 points per game in games played in 2008 of the year. In 2009, the average was 59. The Wildcats were 18-2 in that stretch. In 2008, Wheeler was 7-5.

Richard Howell and Ari Stewart were fantastic in the post-season and both made a strong case for class AAAAA Player of the Year. Junior guard Phil Taylor did a fine job of keeping everyone on the same page as well as providing the team with a legitimate threat from the perimeter.

Mix in glue guys, key glue guys, like Joab Jerome and Karl Cochran and the Wildcats made it absolutely impossible for teams to get close when it mattered.

Outstanding effort by the Wildcats and boy did this team step up when it mattered.

2. Miller Grove - The Wolverines held Tucker to two of 29 from the floor in the first half of the state championship game. That might be the most remarkable sentence written this season in Georgia High School basketball. That is six percent shooting from the floor folks. That’s mind-boggling.

Mfon Udofia is the best competitor in the state and absolutely shined this season and made a strong case for the Georgia Hoops Player of the Year. He is the best clutch player in the state and shined when it mattered.

Miller Grove isn’t all about Udofia either. Stephen Hill, one of the top athletes in the Southeast, shined in the state playoffs on both ends of the floor. Seniors Joe Caldwell, Malcolm Frank, Xavier McGahee and others all came up the ranks at the Lithonia school and accepted their roles in order to earn a title.

The future is bright for Miller Grove still. Tony Parker, the state’s top freshman, Dante Williams, one of the elite juniors in the state, Henry Brooks, a fine sophomore big man, and Adarius Fulton, a quality junior point guard, are all back next season. That alone should keep the Wolverines at the top spot in AAAA.

What an effort by first year coach Eddie Johnson, too. He was thrust into the head coaching position right before the season started due to the ridiculous suspension of Sharman White. Johnson quickly earned the trust from his team and never looked back.
Classy move by the team when the final buzzer sounded against Tucker. They sprinted to White, who was sitting in the first row behind the bench, and immediately mobbed him.

3. South Atlanta - Derrick Favors knows how to go out with a bang. The state’s top player helped his Hornets grab the AAA state title by scoring 38 points and grabbing 21 points against Westover in an 81-62 win.

Favors finally took home the hardware and will enter Georgia Tech as a state champion. He’s the best player the Peach State has seen since Dwight Howard’s remarkable run in 2004. Favors is humble and respectful and a kid that you want to root for.

After Favors’ sophomore season, the rumor mill began to churn and rumors had him at Oak Hill Academy. On a June morning in Cleveland, Georgia, I knew that the rumor had zero legs. Walking into the Truett-McConnell gym with his teammates for a full day of team camp in the North Georgia mountains was Favors, big grin and all. That’s when I learned about the big man’s loyalty. The Naismith Trophy award winner is a kid true to his word and true to those that are true to him.

“Of all the accolades, this is the best one,” Favors told the Macon Telegraph on Saturday night after winning the state championship. “It was because I did it with my team. I’ve been playing with these guys since the ninth grade, and this is the best feeling.”

The Hornets enjoyed a tremendous ride this year and the team will have a memorable year to look back on the rest of their lives.

4. Dublin - Guard play will always win big games. That was the case for the Irish.

Chris Smith and Sherrard Brantley both shot the lights out in the class AA championship game against Blessed Trinity. That shooting touch helped Dublin make the march to Macon. Smith had a terrific game and Brantley came alive in the second half to hold off the surging Blessed Trinity attack.

Senior Rashard Smith did a fine job of gluing all of the talent together, too. Tawaski King, the monster in the middle, played an important role, too. His physical presences on Arris Brundidge was an important factor in the victory.

Dublin did a great job on the defensive end of the floor and fought through a very tough road to the championship game. Earning the class AA title was a tough task and the Irish did a terrific job in the process.

5. Whitefield Academy - I’m never afraid to admit when I made a mistake or when I looked past someone or a team. I looked past Whitefield Academy. The Wolfpack won what I believed to be the deepest tournament in all five classifications.

Two things that I shouldn’t have overlooked: 1. This team is led by a pair of great seniors in Brandon Reed and Cameron Baskerville. 2. This team will flat out defend you.

Not surprisingly, Reed has great success inside the Macon Centreplex. He played well there as a freshman. He’s been to the big stage before and understands the complexity of the moment.

Reed should also be commended on his decision to play at a school where he can make a difference for all four years. The lefty guard will make an instant impact at Arkansas State and should play in the NCAA tournament at some point in his career at the Sun Belt school.

Baskerville played well down the stretch and did what he does best – rebound in and out of his area, score the easy shots down low and occasionally pick and pop for a midrange jumper.

Sophomore Kennard Backman stepped up in the moment and played great in the title game against a big Turner County team.

Overall, great game, great effort and great win to claim the class A title.


- Each of the championship games were blowouts. A re-seeding of the tournament would have been nice. Maybe I’ll roll out my fantasy bracket later in the week.

- I’d love to see a Tournament of Champions in Georgia, where the state champions play for the overall state championship. With only five teams eligible for that setting, I’d re-seed the tournament to 32 total teams.

- Food for thought…J.J. Hickson’s N.C. State team was last in the ACC last year before he went pro. Gani Lawal’s Georgia Tech team was last in the ACC this year. He could be making an unwise choice and going pro this year.

- More food for thought…there wasn’t a Division I school from Georgia in the NCAA tournament. There were four Division II schools in the NCAA tournament: Armstrong Atlantic, Augusta State, Georgia College & State University and Valdosta State.

- Let’s hear your picks for Player of the Year in each class. Post your selections in the message section. I’ll be rolling out the post-season accolades in the very near future.

- AAU coaches, email me at so I can get you a profile form. I’m putting together team reports for the college coaches. They are asking who is playing for who and where teams are going.

- Again, another apology for canceling the 2009 Unsigned Senior Showcase. There were some unforeseen circumstances that forced me to cancel the event. It was a last resort situation.