ALBANY -- It's here already.
High school basketball season has arrived in Southwest Georgia, and even though there are state playoff football games being played -- including four local GISA teams in the state semifinals -- there's a big opener tonight at Albany High, where the Indians will open against what appears to be the best boys team in this part of the state.
Monroe might have lost Robert Arnold, The Herald's Player of the Year and the heart of last year's golden run by the Tornadoes, but Marquis Davis has enough left at Monroe to give this season a lot of promise.
Albany coach Archie Chatmon knows that better than anyone.
"We don't get any love,'' joked Chatmon, who opens against Monroe. "I think the two best teams we will play all year will be Thomasville and Monroe. They're both big, fast and have a lot of depth.''
Thomasville, which will be the favorite to win the Class AA state title, was scheduled to play at Westover tonight, but that game has been moved to Jan.7, because Thomasville is in the football playoffs.
Albany opens at Monroe tonight then makes a run through the city teams, playing Dougherty on Saturday night and facing Westover on Tuesday night.
"We do that every year,'' Chatmon said. "I've had some real good teams that have started the year 0-3 because of it. We're like Rodney Dangerfield. We don't get any respect.''
Monroe is expected to be led by junior Rantavious Gilbert, a 6-7 monster on defense who averaged more than five blocks a game last year while coming off the bench.
Theodore Hosley was a valuable guard who came off the bench and started several games last year, and Carlos Brown, a returning starter at forward, has the ability to get big rebounds and also hit the 3.
Albany was so young a year ago that even though most of Chatmon's players return, he still has only one senior on this year's team. He will be counting on junior guards Tim Pierce (12 points a game) and Larry Sanders (nine points a game) to lead the way.
The girls game promises to be interesting, despite being the opener. Albany is expected to be led by Chastity Mullins, a 5-6 junior guard who ran the floor and led the Squaws in rebounds last year.
The girls game starts at 6 p.m. and by 6:01 Monroe will be running. The Lady Tornadoes run and create turnovers as well as any team in Southwest Georgia, and made it all the way to the Sweet 16 in the state playoffs last year, upsetting seventh-ranked Rutland in the opening round.
The Lady Tornadoes lost only one player from that team -- Lakeisha Jackson, a three-time state hurdles champion who earned a track scholarship to FAMU.
Everyone else is back, including Shaniqua Young, a 3-point artist, Ashley Johnson, Jessica Burks and Davone Anduze, who all started.