Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Norcross' Toppins adjusting to new role

Norcross senior strong forward JoJo Toppins, who last month signed with Georgia, has transitioned from the Blue Devils’ top bench player in last year’s run to the state finals to the team’s leader this season.

“He’s an exceptional athlete. Plays with a lot of leadership and passion. Just a fun kid to coach, said Norcross coach Jesse McMillan. “It takes a special kind of kid to know his time is coming and be patient for it.”

With the likes of Rayshaun Hammonds – now a freshman at Georgia – on last sesaon’s team, Toppin accepted a secondary role and still managed to score 9 points per game.

“Last year my role was to come off the bench, bring energy, fill in the gaps of our starters,” Toppin said. “I was watching Rayshaun, his role, I kind of felt I needed to be a leader of the team. It’s definitely been a change.”

SHINING IN FLORIDA, PART I: It wasn’t as if the McEachern boys hadn’t been challenged. Before arriving in Fort Myers, Florida, for the 44th year of the City of Palms Classic, the Indians had just one game that was an undisputed blowout.

But City of Palms, taking place this week on the southern Gulf Coast of Florida, attracts some really big names in high school basketball, including Memphis East, ranked No. 1 Nationally in the MaxPreps Excellent 25. Ninth-ranked McEachern, which won its first two games in the tournament, is one of six nationally ranked teams in the event’s Traditional Bracket. The Indians beat Ranney (N.J.) on Monday, and on Wednesday got a game for the ages from Sharife Cooper, who scored 42 points in an 83-81 overtime win over Hudson Catholic (N.J.). Next up is No. 18 University School from Fort Lauderdale in the semifinals.

SHINING IN FLORIDA, PART II: Meanwhile in the City of Palms Signature Series Bracket, defending Class AAAA boys champion Upson-Lee won its 43rd straight game Wednesday, beating Kaukana, Wisconsin, 79-67. Five players scored in double figures for Upson-Lee, including 19 points and six assists by Zyrice Scott. The Knights face Corbin (Ky.) in the Signature Series championship game Friday at 5:30 p.m.

SHINING IN FLORIDA PART III: The Dublin boys blitzed to three victories and won the No. 86 Bracket at the Kreul Classic in Coral Springs, Florida.

UNDEFEATED SQUARED: Both Villa Rica teams are unbeaten. The Wildcat boys are 9-0 with one game – Friday against Dawson Christian in the Lambert Holiday Classic – between them and a perfect pre-Christmas slate, while the Villa Rica girls are 7-0 and off until a Dec. 28 road game at Woodland –Cartersville.

MASTER DISTRIBUTOR: North Atlanta guard Messiah Thompson is just shy of averaging a double-double for the Warriors, who are 6-4 through their first 10 games. Thompson is scoring at 14.9 points per game and averaging a state-leading 9.9 assists, according to MaxPreps.

LIONS ROARING: The Lovett girls (10-1 overall), ranked No. 6 in Class AAA, beat Thomson in the Savannah River Christmas Shootout Wednesday, their ninth straight win since falling to Model in overtime on Nov. 17. Just one of the nine wins was closer than 10 points.

JAGS ON THE DEFENSIVE: Spalding, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA, are 10-0 and getting it done with defense. The Jaguars are holding opponents to 40.8 points per game and only one team – M.L. King in the season opener, has scored 50 points against the school from Griffin.

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