Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Top girls, boys players to watch this season


The University of Connecticut has reached into Georgia and signed one of the state’s premier girls basketball players for the second consecutive season.

Last year, it was Mikayla Coombs, who was named the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s all-classification player of the year after leading Wesleyan to the Class A private-school championship. Coombs was the No. 13 player in the nation and the No. 2 player from Georgia (behind No. 11 Maya Dodson of St. Francis), according to ESPN.

Now the Huskies have added Winder-Barrow’s Olivia Nelson-Ododa, the nation’s No. 5-ranked player in the Class of 2018. Nelson-Ododa was the top-ranked junior nationally last year until a season-ending knee injury knocked her out of the postseason. She’s back this season and has the Bulldoggs at the No. 2 spot in the Score Atlanta Class AAAAAA rankings.

Here are some of the AAAAAA players to watch as the second half of the regular season draws near:

Girls

*Ashlee Austin (Northview): The 6-foot junior forward is averaging 19.2 points and 10.8 rebounds for a Northview team that was 8-2 and ranked No. 5 heading into this week’s Deep South Classic tournament. Austin, a three-star recruit according to ESPN, was a second-team all-state pick last season after averaging 14.3 points and 9.1 rebounds on a state semifinals team that finished 28-4.

*Genesis Bryant (Lovejoy): Bryant made first-team all-Region 4 and was an honorable mention all-state selection as a freshman last season after leading the Wildcats to the semifinals, their first trip beyond the second round in school history. This year, she averages 19.3 points per game for the sixth-ranked Wildcats, who were 10-1 heading into the Farm Bureau Insurance Classic on Thursday.

*Audrey Jordan (Harrison): The 5-foot-10 senior guard has been a key part of the most successful run in school history, including a state runner-up finish in 2017. She surpassed the career 1,000-point mark as a junior and was named first-team all-Region 6-AAAAAA and honorable mention all-state. Harrison is currently ranked No. 1. Jordan has signed with Alabama-Birmingham.

*Olivia Nelson-Ododa (Winder-Barrow): The 6-foot-4 center is a two-time first-team all-state player. She led the Bulldoggs to a state runner-up finish in 2016 but could only watch as her team was eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual champion Mays last season. She averaged 16 points and 8.8 rebounds in four games at the recent Crescom Bank Holiday Invitational in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

*Amari Robinson (Douglas County): The 6-foot forward was an honorable mention all-state selection as a sophomore last season after averaging 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds for a team that finished 26-4 and reached the quarterfinals. This year, she has averaged 23.8 points and 10.2 rebounds and had six double-doubles in the team’s 7-4 start. Robinson is a three-star recruit, according to ESPN.

Boys

*KJ Buffen (Gainesville): Buffen and teammate Bailey Minor (signed with North Georgia) were second-team all-state picks last season, when the Red Elephants finished 28-2 and lost to eventual champion Hughes 72-69 in the quarterfinals. This year, they are the leaders for a team that has started 4-6 against a difficult schedule. Buffen, a 6-foot-7 forward, has committed to Middle Tennessee.

*Jayce Moore (Coffee): The 6-foot-2 junior guard/small forward has been putting up big numbers despite the Trojans’ 4-5 start against a tough schedule. He is averaging 20.8 points, 15.8 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 3.7 assists and 1.2 blocked shots. His biggest game came in the opener, when he had 39 points and 29 rebounds in a 72-60 loss to second-ranked Brunswick.

*Landers Nolley (Hughes): The 6-foot-7 senior is the No. 4 player in Georgia, the No. 15 small forward nationally and the No. 64 player overall in the 247Sports ratings. He was a first-team all-state selection last season after leading the Panthers to their first state title. Nolley, a Virginia Tech signee, is averaging 32.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists for the No. 1-ranked team in AAAAAA.

*Jamari Smith (Jonesboro): The 6-foot-6 senior forward has averaged 23.1 points and 11.2 rebounds in the third-ranked Cardinals’ 8-2 start. He had 18 points and 12 rebounds and scored the winning points on a tip-in in overtime in a 45-43 victory over Miller Grove at the Tournament of Champions on Wednesday. Smith has signed with Division II Queens University of Charlotte.

*Brenden Tucker (Dacula): The 6-foot-3 junior guard transferred from Archer and has made an immediate impact for the Falcons, leading the team in scoring at 18.8 points per game during a 5-3 start. He is a part of Dacula’s triple scoring threat that includes Arusha Hunter (17.6 points per game) and Mekhail Bethea (17.3). Two of Dacula’s three losses came in overtime.


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