Why would the list of top boys teams in Class AAAAA start with anyone other than Buford?
The Wolves blew threw the playoffs a year ago with little trouble – the exception being that stunning last-second win over New Hampstead in the second round of the tournament -- and bring back essentially the same team.
The Wolves have an outstanding inside-outside combination in junior Marcus Watson and senior Alex Jones. They are two of the four starters – and seven key players – back from last year’s championship club. Watson and Jones were all-state selections last year.
Watson led the Wolves in scoring (18.6) and rebounding (9.1) last year and has already received more than 20 offers. Jones averaged 6.6 assists and does a stellar job running the offense and is equally gifted at driving or pulling up and firing the 3.
Buford returns senior David Viti (an honorable mention all-state choice) and junior Donell Nixon and added two transfers – Brandon Green from Meadow View and Sebastian Mallory from South Forsyth.
Buford is playing a difficult schedule and have suffered two early losses to defending Class AAA champion Morgan County and Class AAAAAAA power Wheeler. The Wolves will know more after they return from the Kingdom of the Sun tournament in Ocala, Fla., an event loaded with some of the nation’s best teams.
Here are five other teams to watch:
Warner Robins: The Demons went 26-4 and didn’t lose a game last year after Jan. 1 until they ran into the Buford Buzzsaw in the third round. All-state guard Nelson Phillips, a 6-5 senior, and guard Jacolbey Owens, a 5-11 senior who was an honorable mention all-state choice, return to lead coach Jamaal Garman’s team.
Miller Grove: The Wolverines were awfully young last year under first-year coach Rasul Chester and they still went 21-9 against a very difficult schedule and reached the Final Four, where they were eliminated by Cedar Shoals. Miller Grove has good size, led by 6-7 senior Kevin Paige, who averaged 12.3 points and 11.5 rebounds last year, and Jermon Clark, a 6-6 power forward who averaged 5.8 rebounds. The guards are led by Maurice Harvey (10.8 points), Lorenzo Anderson and T.J. Stargell, a senior who transferred from Shiloh.
Columbia: Coach Phil McCrary’s team returns all-state guard Terrence Boykin, a 6-7 senior who can play point guard or power forward. Senior Lorenzo McGhee and Keondre Kennedy, a transfer from North Clayton, both have scoring ability. The Eagles beat Miller Grove by two points last week in the first of many expected showdowns. More will be known about Columbia after they compete in the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn.
Southwest DeKalb: The Panthers are very young, but very talented, and it would not be a surprise to see them make a deep run in the playoffs. Sophomore point guard Kendarius Johnson does a lot of things for the Panthers. He averaged 18.4 points, 4.4 rebounds 3.9 assists and 3.3 steals through the first ten games. Sophomore Eugene Brown III averages 10.9 points and 6.0 rebounds and 6-6 junior James Glisson averages 13.3 points and 8.0 rebounds. SWD will hardly notice the loss of honorable mention all-state selection Mandarius Dickerson, who transferred to Collins Hill.
Lithonia: The fourth member of the Region 5 quartet can’t be overlooked. The Bulldogs had only two seniors on last year’s team and still reached the second round of the state playoffs. Ziven Alexander, a 6-4 senior, is a threat on the interior, and the Bulldogs have several 3-point marksmen on the roster, including Tasim Sams and Eric Gaines.