With Westover still waiting on several key players to join the team once the football playoffs end, the Patriots will be relying on guys like C.J. Davis, right, to get them off to a fast start to the season, which begins tonight against Albany High. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Want To Go?
WHO: Albany, Dougherty, Monroe and Westover boys and girls basketball teams.
WHAT: 2012 Albany Tip-Off Classic.
WHEN: Games begin at 4 p.m. today with Monroe girls vs. Dougherty, followed by Westover girls vs. Albany, Monroe boys vs. Dougherty and Westover boys vs. Albany.
WHERE: Albany Civic Center.
ADMISSION: $10 for adults and high school students; $8 8th grade and under
ALBANY — Hoops season is here.
It came flying at every team in town like a fastbreak and soars with a slam dunk today in the Civic Center, where all four city rivals will play in a back-to-back-to-back-to-back quadrupleheader in the Albany Tip-Off Classic to start the season.
Monroe’s and Dougherty’s girls and boys meet at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively, and Albany High and Westover’s girls and boys teams meet at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. It’s not only the season opener for every public school team in the Good Life City, but it’s also the Region 1-AAAA opener.
“We really don’t know what we’ve got just yet. We will have to find out,’’ Westover boys coach Dallis Smith said of the earlier-than-normal start to the season.
He could be speaking for everyone.
Smith has two starters back, but they were both in the football playoffs Friday night. They won’t play today, but Smith is optimistic about his younger kids who are moving into bigger roles this season.
“I’m very excited about players like C.J. Davis, and we have some kids who improved this summer who will help us this year like Khalih Carson and Andre Kennedy. They can help us inside on the block. We’re guard-heavy and those guys will help us (inside). I think we’re going to get better inside play this year. It’s their coming out year.’’
Davis and Carson are both 6-foot-4 juniors, and Kennedy is a 6-3 sophomore, and they could redefine the team at Westover. Smith likes his younger kids, but he also knows it will take some time.
Guard T.J. Cromer and Kell Miller, who played the 2, 3 or 4 guard spot, both started last year, but both are on Westover’s football team. Josh Black, a savvy point guard who saw lots of time last season, is also back, and Kyle Baker saw a lot of playing time a year ago.
“I really do like the mix we have this year,’’ Smith said. “We have a better mindset this year and a better mix inside-out. We’re looking at this season as one where we can come together.’’
Monroe’s boys lost four starters and the first two players off the bench, but the Tornadoes return Super 6er Jabari McGhee, who is arguably the best player in Southwest Georgia.
McGhee, a 6-7 senior, averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds a game last year, and everyone knows what he can do. The question at Monroe is how will the new players fit into a program that is used to winning.
“When you lose four senior starters and two seniors off the bench, you lose a lot of points and a lot of rebounds,’’ Monroe coach Marquis Davis said this week after practice. “We’re going to have to have a lot of role players, and we’re going to have to win as a team.’’
Davis is also waiting on four players who are in the football playoffs — Hakeem Porter, Cortez Banks, Devonntavis Campbell and Deonte Young — and he is hoping some of his backups from a year ago can step up into starting roles this season.
Davis said Tim White, a 6-6 junior forward, Keith Bowen, a 5-11 senior guard, and Darryl Anderson, a 6-1 senior guard, are all expected to play bigger roles on this year’s team.
But Davis is like everyone else.
“It’s going to take some time,’’ he said after practice Thursday. “We’ve only been practicing for 10 days.’’
That’s the theme — it’s going to take some time, and it’s no different at Albany High.
The Indians, who went to the Class AA Elite 8 last year and finished the season at 25-3, lost all five starters, including Willie Boston Herald Player of the Year Tim Pierce.
They do, however, have some clout coming back. Emanuel Byrd came off the bench last year and gave the Indians big minutes and big rebounds. He averaged six rebounds and three blocks a game down the stretch and will be counted on to do even more this season.
“He’s going to have to expand his scoring. We need him to have a chance at a double-double every night,’’ Albany High boys coach Archie Chatmon said.
Byrd, who is a Herald Dynamite Dozen quarterback, is joined inside by Dynamite Dozen linebacker Juwon Young. Both are around 6-3 and physical rebounders. Young also came off the bench last year and saw valuable minutes.
“Those two guys are going to have to anchor the inside for us,’’ said Chatmon, who lost his big man Tyrone Culbreth when he moved to Florida. Culbreth would have been a Herald Super 6er.
The Indians’ deep run in the state playoffs last year allowed a number of bench players to see pressure playing time, including Desmond Newberry, a 6-3 junior who averaged about five points a game. He will be counted on to put up double digits.
“We need him to score 14 to 15 a game,’’ Chatmon said.
Jamarcus Nunnally, a 5-8 junior, was a 3-point threat off the bench last year and also will be expected to do more as the Indians look for a new identity. Javier Coley, a 5-10 junior, Joshua Anderson, a 6-0 junior, and Tyler Cheese, a 6-0 sophomore, are also in the mix for significant playing time.
“My expectations are very modest,’’ Chatmon said. “We’re going to take our lumps, but I hope we get better and are there at the end of the season. We’ll be taking it very slow.’’
Dougherty boys coach Donald Poole just wants his team to play hard — as always. He lost all five starters, but Poole played everyone last year so there’s experience to work with this year.
“They all played,’’ Poole said. “All of them are going to have to step up this year.’’
Telvin Smith, a 6-6 senior will be the Trojans’ big man inside, and Dougherty brings back several guards and wings who saw the court as well.
Michael Nelson (5-11 Sr.), Michael Miller (5-10, Sr.), Montavious Jones (5-8, Jr.), Marcus McWhorter (5-10, Jr.), Cardirious Pickett (5-9 Sr.), and Alfred Brown (5-8 Sr.) are some of the names Poole mentioned when talking about players who will have to contribute this season.
“We’ve just got to play hard-nose basketball and play fundamental basketball,’’ Poole said. “We have to play hard, and play smart.’’
The Dougherty girls bring back Quinnesha Gatling, a senior guard. Amber Ward, a senior guard, and Ra’Keta Shelton, a junior forward who can score, rebound and once again be a power.
Monroe’s girls are coming off an unforgettable season after reaching the Elite 8 in the state tournament. One of the big reasons for the Lady Tornadoes’ success was Key-Key Price, a 5-5 freshman who came on strong as the year progressed. She’s back as a sophomore to lead the way along with Davone Anduze, a 5-9 senior who has started for three seasons and has one of the best vertical jumps in the area.
Monroe lost a lot, including Super 6er Sheniqua Young and Chelsea Cox, who did a little of everything for Monroe.
“We lost eight players, and five of them played a lot,’’ Monroe coach Cheryl Cheeks said. “We will really miss Chelsea because of her leadership on and off the floor.’’
Albany High’s girls lost Super 6er Chasity Mullins, who led the team in scoring and rebounding, but head coach Telly Turner brings back several kids who played last year, including starters Briana Washington, a 5-8 senior who was a major player last year, Briana Williams, a 5-5 senior, and Ladaisha Green, a 5-9 junior who all saw a lot of playing time last year. Na’Keidra Gervin, a 5-5 senior, and Elisa Hollinger, came off the bench a year ago and are also back.
At Westover, the question is what will life be like without two-time Super 6er and Herald Player of the Year DyTiesha Dunson. The Lady Patriots also lost fellow Super 6er Ieisha Young from a team that went 23-0 before losing a game last season.
But Lady Patriots head coach Lewis Smith platooned a ton of young players this offseason who all have experience, and now it’s their team — not DyTiesha’s.
My’kesa Smith (5-5, Jr.) and Shanteria Williams (5-11, Jr.) have started for two years, and Ashanti Layfield (5-2, Jr.), Denae Chetham (5-9, Jr.) and Au’Breana Moore (5-9, So.) all saw a lot of playing time last year.