ALBANY -- Herman Porter's been coming to nearly every rivalry game in Albany for the last several years, leaving him amazed by the crowds that high school basketball in the area draws and the level of play.
So Southwest Georgia was a no-brainer when he had to pick a spot to hold the first Deep South All-Star Classic, which now enters its fourth year tonight at Darton as the area's most established all-star event known to draw hoards of college scouts.
"I know for a fact that there will be at least 12 colleges with coaches on hand to watch the kids (tonight)," said Porter, a Columbus resident and former AAU coach who also puts on Deep South All-Star Classics in Wikinson County, Tifton and assists with the long-standing Herb Green event each year in Columbus. "But even outside (of the college scouts coming), this event is the last chance (all the basketball fans in Southwest Georgia) will have a chance to see these all-stars play. This game is it."
The games -- which begin with the girls showdown at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 8 p.m., with a 3-point shootout during halftime of the girls, and a 3-point and dunk contest at halftime of the boys -- will feature the North All-Stars (Albany area players) against the South All-Stars (players from all surrounding counties in Southwest Georgia).
They're still talking about former Westover star Onochie Ochie's elbow in the rim Vince Carter-like dunk that won last year's dunking contest, and anyone who was around a year ago can tell you how Dougherty's Mighty Mouse point guard Arabian Williams stole the show with a double-double (14 points, 10 assists) while leading the North boys all-star team to a 87-66 win against the South, while picking up the MVP award on the way. The North teams won both games last year.
And the stars will align again tonight, this time with a whole new cast of senior talent. And if you have never seen Pelham's D'Ambria Thomas play, here's your chance. "Bria" can do it all, and she was a big reason Pelham had such a exciting season. And if you like players who can run and gun, Americus-Sumter's Jayme Gilbert, the 3-point wizard, is one of the best in the state.
The boys game will have a long list of big-time players, including Terrell County's inspirational point guard Terel Hall, who runs the floor and handles the ball as well as anyone in Georgia and burned teams all year with lightning passes.
Porter, who once coached Hall during his time with the AAU Georgia Blazers but hasn't seen him play this season, says he can't wait to see what Hall will do tonight.
"I'm looking forward to seeing Terel Hall and the kid from Webster County, Dominique Pollard," Porter said. "Those two are exciting."
Hall's teammate Charles Brown, who helped the Greenwave reach the GHSA Class A state title game, will also be on the court tonight. They will be on the same team with Westover sharpshooter Malcolm Sapp and Dougherty's McArthur Gaines, who is worth the price of admission himself. Then there's Bainbridge's Devon Baulkmon, who is so talented and so versatile his own coach can't tell you what position Baulkmon plays.
"He's a 2-3-1,'' said Bainbridge coach Rickey McCullough of Baulkmon earlier this year. "He shoots like a 2, he drives like a 3 and he handles the ball like a 1.''
Porter's all-star game has traditionally drawn big crowds -- and he likes holding the game at Darton -- but he says after watching the re-emergence of prep basketball at the Albany Civic Center this past season, he wouldn't be against moving the game to a bigger venue if need be.
"I see all these rivalry games in Albany getting sold out and the kinds of crowds they draw -- well, this game has all those stars and more, so it's going to keep getting bigger," said Porter, whose game is sponsored by WJIZ 96.3 FM and will have a live DJ calling the action and playing music during the event. "I like the close feel of Darton's gym, but if it keeps getting bigger, I would definitely look at moving the game to the Civic Center."
The boys South All-Stars will be coached by Early County's Randy Isom, while the North All-Stars will be coached by Dougherty's Donald Poole. The girls South All-Stars team will be coached by Pelham's Antonia Tookes, while the North will be coached by Monroe's Cheryl Cheeks.
4TH ANNUAL DEEP SOUTH ALL-STAR CLASSIC: Boys, girls rosters
Rashaun Brackins, Early County
Dominique Brown, Pelham
Derrick Hardwick, Mitchell County
Devon Baulkman, Bainbridge
Ronald Crawford, Bainbridge
Kerry Chrispen, Seminole County
Andras Carr, Calhoun County
Justin Forbes, Thomasville
Tramell Anderson, Thomas County Central
Tim Stringer-Davis, Randolph Clay
Parker Adams, Southwest GA Academy
Dominique Polland, Webster County
Lekelvis Johnson, Webster County
Coach: Randy Isom, Early County
McArthur Gaines, Dougherty
Tim Washington, Dougherty
Carlos Brown, Monroe
Theodore Hosely, Monroe
Malcom Sapp, Westover
Joseph Harrell, Westover
Terel Hall, Terrell County
Charles Brown, Terrell County
Trey White, Colquitt County
Lakista McCuller, Americus-Sumter
Dee Nether, Worth County
Tanner Stone, Lee County
Gary Holloway, Sherwood Christian
Coach: Donald Poole, Dougherty
D'Ambria Thomas, Pelham
Salina Diamond, Miller County
Bria Harris, Bainbridge
April Thomas, Bainbridge
Georgette Benton, Seminole County
Shay Williams, Early County
Santana Ingram, Calhoun County
Kierra Miley, Webster County
Maya Taylor, Thomasville
Audreka Davis, Thomasville
Miracle Edmonds, Thomasville
Kyania Morris, Thomasville
Coach: Antonia Tookes, Pelham
Ashley Johnson, Monroe
Jessica Burks, Monroe
Vanshayla Johnson, Monroe
Kiandra Guilford, Dougherty
Jasmine Lavant, Dougherty
Latisha Williams, Westover
Kaylee Dixon, Sherwood Christian
Deandrea Mitchell, Terrell County
Bria Wallace, Colquitt County
Jayme Gilbert, Americus-Sumter
Jessica Clinton, Lee County
Carle Ely, Lee County
Coach: Cheryl Cheeks, Monroe