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PREP BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Breaking down Southwest Georgia’s 2011-12 boys and girls high school hoops teams outside of Metro Albany

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

GHSA

Boys

Class A

Pelham

HEAD COACH: Laron Smith.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 14th season overall at Pelham, 2nd season back after coaching from 1997-2008, then leaving and returning in 2010.

LAST YEAR'S RECORD: 15-15, lost in GHSA Class A Sweet 16.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Jeray Randall.

RETURNING STARTERS: (1) — Steve Mango, Sr., 6-foot-4, PF/C.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Roderick Williams, Jr., 6-1, G; Travon White, So., 6-3, F; Jaquan Green, So., 5-10, PG; Shydarius Williams, Jr., 6-0, SG; Darius Spence, So., 6-2, F; Shaquille Crimley, So., 6-0, PG; Quendarian Hayward, So., 6-0, F; Clifford Stewart, Jr., 6-2, PF/C.

Former players playing in college: None.

Season opener: Today at Tift County.

Home opener: Dec. 2 vs. Stewart County.

They said it: “We’re balanced. This group we have, we have kids with decent size, decent quickness and we’re probably a lot more balanced than we have been in a long time.”

— Laron Smith, Pelham head coach


Mitchell County

HEAD COACH: Kenneth Harris.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 4th season as boys coach, overall 29th season (19 as girls coach).

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 16-9, lost in first of GHSA Class A playoffs .

ASSISTANT COACHES: Derex Woumnm.

RETURNING STARTERS: (1) — Jaquan Williams, Jr., 5-foot-7, PG.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Daron Hodges, Jr., 6-foot-3, F; Jermain Hartsfield, Jr., 6-5, F; Bruce Bryant, So., 6-1, F; Modzelle Atkins, Sr., 6-0, G; Grover Stewart, Sr., 6-3, C.

Former players playing in college: Kentavious Silas (Morehouse).

Season opener: Dec. 3 at Webster County.

Home opener: Dec. 6 vs. Stewart County.

They said it: “I tell you one thing I like, we’ve been playing hard, practicing and battling each other. We’re going to be young so we should be in good shape for the next couple of years. We’re also going to get some guys from our football team to help us out and add some size, but this will still be another tough year in Region 1-A.”

— Kenneth Harris, Mitchell County head coach


CALHOUN COUNTY

Coach: Marcus Shaw.

Seasons at current school/career experience: 3rd season at Calhoun, 3rd season overall.

Career record as head coach: 36-17.

Assistant Coaches: Kevrione Harris.

Returning Starters: (4) — Antonio Wright, Sr., 5-foot-6, PG; Raishun Anderson, Sr., 5-10, G; Vincent Powell, Sr., 6-1, G; Marquez Williams, Sr., 6-2, G.

Other key players: Robert Miller, Sr., 6-foot-3, F; Jalen Strawter, Sr., 6-2, F; Devorris Haynes, So., 6-7, C; Skylar Wallace, Sr., 6-5, F; Aaron Thorton, Sr., 5-10, G; Quenton Taylor, Fr., 5-10, G; Deante Scott, Fr., 5-9, G; Sherrod Williams, Fr., 5-11, G; Dajohn Williams, Fr., 6-3, F.

Former players playing in college: None.

Season opener: Today at Baker Invitational vs. Quitman County.

Home opener: Tuesday vs. Early County.

They said it: “We have a pretty good group of guys, hard-working guys who seem to be pretty dedicated this season. With some hard work, we should have a pretty good season.”

— Marcus Shaw, Calhoun County head coach


Class AA

Early County

HEAD COACH: Randy Isom.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 8th season overall as head coach, all at Early County.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 18-9, lost in first round of GHSA Class AA playoffs.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Anthony Lingo; James McCoy; Herman Lett.

Returning Starters: (4) — Dequante George, Sr., 5-foot-10, PG; Ladonis Yarbrough, Sr., 6-0, SG; Jacori Taylor, Jr., 6-2, PF; Tracy Holloman, Sr., 6-0, G; Darontay McCoy, Jr., 6-0, G.

Other key players: Randy Eafford, Sr., 5-foot-5, G; Devontay Spencer, Sr., 6-0, SF; Shaq Powers, Jr., 6-3, C; Patrick Curry Jr., So., 5-2, PG.

Former players playing in college: None.

Season opener: Today vs. TBD at Baker County Invitational.

Home opener: Dec.10 vs. Baker County.

They said it: “I think we’re going to be pretty good. We went and played (a good team in) Bainbridge and beat them in a scrimmage. We played pretty good defense, we had a focused mind frame — and that’s the focus this year, defense. Last year, we didn’t do that, and it caught up with us.”

— Randy Isom, Early County head coach


Class AAA

Americus-Sumter

HEAD COACH: Michael Coley.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 3rd season as a head coach overall, all at Americus-Sumter; 15-35 career record.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 8-18.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Jason Crawford; Mike Russell.

RETURNING STARTERS: (1) — Xavier Willis, Jr., 5-foot-9, PG.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Christian Laster, Jr., 5-foot-10, SF; Jarkoski Swanson, Sr., 6-2, PF; ShaKing Dean, Jr., 6-1, SF.

Former players PLAYING in college: Shaquille Harris (Mercer); Ralph Wilson (Alabama State).

Season opener: Nov. 29 at Dooly County.

Home opener: Dec. 2 vs. Dooly County.

They said it: “We’re continuing to try and build a program to be competitive in Region 1-AAA. As far as these juniors, they’ve been with us for two years and continue to play harder and play defensively, and learn how to score on the offensive end.”

— Michael Coley, Americus-Sumter head coach


Class AAAA

Bainbridge

HEAD COACH: Rickey McCullough.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 6th season, 114-37 career record at Bainbridge; 37th season as a head coach overall, spent 31 years coaching in Florida (3 years at Liberty County, 28 years at Chipley) and has an overall record of 750-288.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 27-3, lost in second round of GHSA Class AAAA playoffs .

ASSISTANT COACHES: Kelvin Cochran; Eric Williams; Brandon Ingram.

RETURNING STARTERS: (3) — Rodney Glenn, Sr., 6-foot-3, F; Trey Kelley, Sr., 6-5, F; Dontavius Marshall, Jr., 5-11,G.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Paul Chukes, Sr., 6-foot-2, F.

Former players playing in college: Antron Williford (Armstrong State); Chris Watson (FAMU); Jonathan Taylor (Florida Memorial); Marquis Williams (Auburn-Montgomery); Devon Baulkmon (Gulf Coast Community College.

Season opener: Nov. 25 in Thanksgiving Tournament at Leon (Fla.) High School vs. West Gadsen,

Home opener: Nov. 29 vs. Pelham.

THEY SAID IT: “I like my team. We’ve got good size, our guard play is going to be young. We’ve got eight playing football and gave them some time off, but once they get in the gym, we’ll go from there. I’m not sure how good we’ll be early, but I think we’ll be in there at the end.”

— Rickey McCullough, Bainbridge head coach


Lee County

HEAD COACH: Tim McPherson.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 4th year at Lee County, 4th year overall; 14-61 career record.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 4-21.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Cion Hamilton.

RETURNING STARTERS: (2) — Josh Cabrera, So., 6-foot-3, G/F; Stephen Collier, So., 6-3, F.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Vincent Jupiter, Sr., 6-foot-4, C; Tavian Reed, Sr., 6-0, PG; Jay Howell, Sr., 5-8, G; Aaron May, So., 6-1, G.

Former players playing in college: None.

Season opener: Monday at the 7th annual Charles Cooper in Lowndes vs. Lowndes County,

Home opener: Nov. 29 vs. Westover at Darton.

THEY SAID IT: “They’re coming together as a group. We played the other night against Hawkinsville in a scrimmage and were up by 10 at halftime and wound up winning 47-41. We had a little lull in the third quarter and let (Hawkinsville back in the game), but the good thing was we never panicked. I think that the three sophomores we have are pretty good ball players and will get better in due time, they just need more court experience. I think we’re going to be good. Anytime with three sophomores, you will take some bumps and bruises, but they’re the future of our program. We just need to be consistent. That will be huge if we can finally be consistent.”

— Tim McPherson, Lee County head coach


Girls

Class A

Pelham

HEAD COACH: Antonia Tookes.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: Second season at Pelham; assistant coach at Camden County before that.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 22-7, lost in first round GHSA Class A playoffs.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Derrick Harris; Misty Thomas.

RETURNING STARTERS: (3) — Octavia Kierce, Sr., 5-foot-9, PF; Tashaunessy Reece, Sr., 5-6, SG; Kayla Smith, Jr., 5-9, F.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Briunna Freeman, Fr., 5-9, G; Hillary Williams, So., 5-6, PG; Timbraanna Hudson, Fr., 5-11, F; Andreanna Atkins, Jr., 5-11, F.

Former players playing in college: 2010-11 Herald Player of the Year, D’Ambria Thomas (Fort Valley).

Season opener: Today at Tift County.

Home opener: Dec. 2 vs. Stewart County.

They said it: “Right now we’re trying to find our identity. Once we find that and find our chemistry, we’re going to be competitive. We just need to play hard, take it one game at a time and see what happens.”

— Antonia Tookes, Pelham head coach


Calhoun County

HEAD COACH: Cornelius Walker.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 3rd season overall as head coach, all at Calhoun County.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 15-14, lost in first round of GHSA Class A playoffs.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Tiowanna Neal.

RETURNING STARTERS: (4) — Brandi Buie, So., 5-foot-7, PG; Kayla Buie, Jr., 5-5, SG; Kelsey Anderson, Jr., 5-5, G; Keanna Wells, So., 5-7, F/C.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Dorian White, Fr., 5-foot-5, G.

Former players playing in college: Gabrielle Christopher (Albany Tech).

Season opener: Today vs. Early County today in Baker County Invitational.

Home opener: Tuesday vs. Early County.

They said it: “We (lost some key players) and we’re young but all the girls can play, and they’re all very talented.”

— Cornelius Walker, Calhoun County head coach


Mitchell County

HEAD COACH: Rosemary Sanders.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 3rd season as a head coach, all at Mitchell County.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 9-11.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Jasmyne Burns.

RETURNING STARTERS: (3) — A’Miracle Jones, So., 5-foot-7, F; Shonbreka Holton, So., 5-7, C/F; Ja’Shara Burns, Jr., 5-9, PF.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Deandra Hill, So., 5-foot-8, G; De’Erika Lyons, Sr., 5-7, G; Ke’Ondra Mango, Jr., 5-9, G.

FORMER PLAYERS PLAYING IN COLLEGE: Tiona Burley (UNC-Charlotte); Keydeema Cooper (Albany State).

Season opener: Dec. 3 at Webster County.

Home opener: Dec. 6 vs. Stewart County.

They said it: “The thing I like most about them is that they’re so young, so they’ll do what I need them to do because they’re willing to learn. We’re going to be a running team this year on offense and defensively we’ll be fine. Our goal each night is to hold teams under 55 points. Offensively, I’m a little worried because our new (running) offense hasn’t quite clicked like we should. Also, the few older girls we have, I need them to be leaders on and off the court.”

— Rosemary Sanders, Mitchell County head coach


Baker County

HEAD COACH: Lawana Lofton.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 4th season at Baker County, 4th overall as head coach.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 4-22.

ASSISTANT COACHES: None.

RETURNING STARTERS: (3) — Cierra Hawkins, Jr., 5-foot-7, G/F; Kieristin Rainey, Sr., 5-7, F; Rakeshia Smith, Jr., 5-8, F/C.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Brittney Ware, Fr., 5-foot-6, PG; Aneesiah Owens, Fr., 5-7, F; Danielle Hightower, So., 5-5, G.

Former players playing in college: None.

Season/home opener: Today vs. Quitman County in Baker County Invitational.

They said it: “We’re young, but I’ve seen growth in our program over the years and I feel like we’re going to be competitive. Our key — our motto — is great defense and to be good sports in our games whether we win or lose.”

— Lawana Lofton, Baker County head coach


SEMINOLE County

HEAD COACH: Jesse McLeod

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 31st season, all at Seminole; 574-234 career record.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 20-8, lost in the GHSA Class A Elite 8.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Mary Wright; Kenita Bennett.

RETURNING STARTERS: (3) — Alexus Watson, Jr., 5-foot-10, C; Patrice Barnes, Jr., 5-4, G; Katrice Brown, Jr., 5-7, G.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Marissa Mike, Jr., 5-foot-10, F; Candice Barber, Jr., 5-4, PG; Bridgette Glenn, Sr., 5-8 G; Zaquiva Johnson, Sr., 5-8, F.

FORMER PLAYERS PLAYING IN COLLEGE: Carrie Washington Columbus State; Georgette Benton (Darton).

Season opener: TBD (waiting to set schedule according to football team’s ongoing playoff season).

Home opener: TBD (waiting to set schedule according to football team’s ongoing playoff season).

They said it: “Hopefully we’ll be as good as last year. The girls have been working hard and I think they’re beginning to come together and mesh. Of course, we’re going to have some tough competition in our region like we do every year. Randolph-Clay will be good, Miller County will come on and be good, and I think Mitchell County will be real good.”

— Jesse McLeod, Seminole County head coach


Randolph-Clay

HEAD COACH: Jennifer Acree.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 5th season overall as a head coach at Randolph-Clay; 9th overall, coached four years as Screven County. 90-28 record at Randolph-Clay, and 180-55 career overall head coaching record.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 12-13.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Genetta Moore.

RETURNING STARTERS: (4) — Adrian Blackmon, Jr., 5-foot-8, G/F; Kaneika Washington, Jr., 5-7, G; Waenieka Washington, Jr., 5-7, G; Charmente Taylor, Sr., 5-9, G/F.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Briana Thornton, Fr., 6-foot, C.

FORMER PLAYERS PLAYING IN COLLEGE: Asha Alexander (Columbus State); Destiny Mitchell (East Tennessee); Precious Peak (Albany State).

Season opener: Today at Eufala, Ala.

Home opener: Jan. 3 vs. Baker County (Randolph-Clay starts first part of season having to play all its games on the road while its home gym is renovated. New gym will be ready for home opener, and will be dedicated to legendary Randolph-Clay coach Joe Williams on Jan. 13 vs. Calhoun County).

They said it: “We’re going to be a whole lot better than last year, that’s for sure. We’re still young — I have six freshmen, on my roster, and all will play. They’re good enough to play immediately, with that will come a lot of growing and mistakes. We’re probably going to be one of the fastest teams I’ve had here, and I’m definitely looking forward to that. We scrimmaged Worth County last Saturday and we won by 30 or 35 points. I was very impressed in the effort during that scrimmage. Our goal is every year to win the region and go to state playoffs. Last year, was just the second losing season in Randolph-Clay history, and I was not too happy about that. In the offseason, I had to re-tune myself and step up my game coaching and in turn make these girls step up their game.”

— Jennifer Acree, Randolph-Clay head coach


Class AAA

Americus-Sumter

HEAD COACH: Evelyn Wright.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 28th season overall as a head coach, all at Americus.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 18-8, lost in first round of GHSA Class AAA playoffs.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Oscar Ellis; Tiara Wallace.

RETURNING STARTERS: (4) — Kayla Barnes, Jr., 5-foot-7, G; Ashley Howard, Sr., 5-6, G; Adasjah Mercer, Jr., 5-8, F; Tanyetta Hill, Jr., 6-0, C.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Dominique Brown, Sr., 5-foot-7, F; Diamond Denmark, Jr., 6-0, PF; Kayla Fletcher, Jr., 5-8, G.

Former Players playing in college: Jayme Gilbert (Fort Valley State).

Season opener: Nov. 29 at Dooly Count

Home opener: vs. Dooly County on Dec. 2.

They said it: “Like I told them, this season could be as good as they want it to be. If we practice hard, and do the things we need to do, they can be very good. It will require a lot of hard work at time and girls — in general — are spastic at times, but as long as we work hard, we can overcome all that.”

— Evelyn Wright, Americus-Sumter head coach


GISA

Boys

Class AAA

Southland

Head Coach: Alan Johnson.

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: First at Southland, previous four seasons were all as assistant coach.

Last year’s record: 14-12, lost in first round of GISA Class AAA playoffs.

Assistant Coaches: Bobo Short, Nathan Greene.

Returning Starters: (2) — Jake Hood, Sr. 5-foot-11, PG; Chan Woller, Sr., 5-11, F.

Other key players: Colby Webb, Jr., 6-foot-5, C; Ford Roach, So., 6-4, F; Michael Miller, Sr., 5-8, SG.

Former Players playing in college: Jose Hernandez (South Georgia Tech).

Season opener: Nov. 29 at Fullington

Home opener: Dec. 1 vs. Mount de Sales.

THEY SAID IT: “There’s a lot of emphasis on working on fundamental basketball. We’re trying to do a lot of the little things right. I expect for us to get better every game, win or lose. By region tournament time, we should be playing our best ball of the season.”

— Alan Johnson, Southland head coach


Girls

Class AAA

Southland

Head Coach: Paula McDonald

SEASONS AT CURRENT SCHOOL/CAREER EXPERIENCE: 4th at Southland, 4th overall as head coach; 21-40 career record.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 5-22, lost in first round of GISA Class AAA playoffs.

Assistant Coaches: Brynne Callaway

Returning Starters: (4) — Alex Lindsey, Sr., 5-8, SG; Tifton Pace, Sr., 5-8, PF/C; Rylee Palmer, Sr., 5-7, F; Caylee Hammock, Sr., 5-11, C.

Other key players: Mary Melissa Rowland, So., 5-7, G; Dallas NeSmith, So., 5-5, PG; Ella Hawkins, Fr., 5-5, G.

Season opener: Monday at Stratford Tipoff Tournament

Home opener: Dec. 1 vs. Mt de Sales

THEY SAID IT: “Hopefully a year of maturity is going to help us out and our added speed will keep us in more games. We’re just hoping to surprise some people.”

— Paula McDonald, Southland head coach