Westover senior Mike Green had a 3-point play in the final moments of the Patriots' Final 4 game against Columbia High School to tie the game, which Columbia ended up winning on a buzzer beater. Green was huge in clutch moments all season for Westover, which relied on Green to be its leader during its postseason run. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
It was a speech Mike Green needed to hear.
As Westover High School’s point guard, Green was responsible for bringing the ball up the court, setting up the offense and putting the Patriots in position to score.
He was also a senior and a veteran.
Former Westover player Robbie Givens told Green during the middle of the season that he was a leader and he needed to play like it.
“He told me I should lead more,” Green recalled. “He told me I needed to tell the older guys to step up, and that I needed to help the younger guys.”
Green took the advice.
He helped lead the Patriots on a 10-game winning streak and a berth in the Class AAAA state semifinals before a heart-breaking, buzzer-beater loss against Columbia High School at West Georgia.
Green wasn’t always the player to light up the scoreboard. But when he spoke, he had a way of picking up the team.
His efforts helped the three-sport standout earn The Herald’s Willie Boston Boys Player of the Year award.
Green averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game to help Westover to a 23-6 record — not bad for an athlete who considers basketball his third favorite sport.
He was a starting receiver on the football field where he played an integral part in helping the Patriots to the Region 1-AAAA title. But his favorite sport is baseball, where the shortstop and three-year standout is trying to help Westover back to the state playoffs.
He began playing football when one of his close friends — quarterback Ta’Keevian Harris — needed someone to catch his throws. Green had soft hands and good speed and encouraged his friend to join the football team.
Green wasn’t overly excited about basketball. He played because he enjoyed hanging out with friends.
“I wanted to stay close and not get into trouble,” he said. “But I also wanted to excel in the sport as well.”
He played some last year, but it wasn’t until last summer before he got any meaningful playing time. He spent countless hours during summer games, trying to improve. It was then that his work-ethic caught the eye of Westover boys coach Dallis Smith.
“I worked pretty hard over the summer to try and get better,” Smith said. “I liked to think I helped the team in some sort of way. Coach Smith noticed it.”
Smith knew he had some talented seniors. But he was looking for more than just a good group of players.
“I was looking for one person to lead,” Smith said. “Mike is a laid-back kid that doesn’t say a whole lot. But once he got comfortable, he took off. If it wasn’t for Mike Green this year, we wouldn’t have been in the situations we were in.”
Green said it was a midseason loss to Americus-Sumter that got his and his teammates’ attention.
“I think everyone finally bought in after that,” he said. “It was like we weren’t supposed to lose. I thought that maybe it was time to start thinking about what Coach Smith was saying.”
The Patriots had volunteer practices on the weekends to work on fundamentals such as better ball-handling and shooting free throws. Green always went, and by midseason, just about the entire team was showing up on Sunday afternoons after church.
He helped guide the Patriots on a 10-game winning streak and into the state semifinals where they met perennial powerhouse Columbia High.
The senior became Westover’s go-to guy, and he had a chance to showcase his skills in the final minute against Columbia. Trailing by three, Green sank a layup, then was fouled on the play. He calmly sank the free throw to tie the game, then watched as Columbia sank a buzzer beater to advance to the state championship game.
“Mike drove the lane, hit the shot and got fouled,” Smith said. “He gave us a chance to win. That is all I could ask of him.”
Green hasn’t forgotten the crushing setback, and he often wonders what he could have done differently.
“I don’t think I would have changed anything,” he said. “Those losses helped make us better and brought us closer. I loved the season, I loved the players and I loved Westover.”
For a player who wasn’t a clear starter when the season began, Green used hard work to garner a handful of postseason honors. In addition to the player of the year honors, he was also named to the Class AAAA all-state team by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association.
It’s flattering for the laid-back player who would rather avoid the spotlight and let someone else score.
“It’s great to be acknowledged,” he said. “I thank God for the season I had because without him, none of this would have happened. Our coaches worked hard with me. I’m surprised. I never thought at the end of my senior season, all of this would be happening to me.”
Especially not after his speech from Givens.
2013-14 Albany Herald All-Area Boys Basketball Team
Tyree Crump, Bainbridge, Sophomore
• WHY HE’S HERE: You will only hear more from Crump as his career progresses. One of the top guards in the state averaged 22.4 points per game to help Bainbridge to the Class AAAAA quarterfinals this season. He can score from inside or outside.
Jordan Harris, Seminole County, Sophomore
• WHY HE’S HERE: When Harris was on the floor, he made everyone around him better. The sophomore averaged 20.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.6 steals for the Indians. He scored 20 points or more in 11 of the team’s 24 games.
Gary McCrae, Randolph-Clay, Senior
• WHY HE’S HERE: McCrae was the sparkplug for the Red Devils. When he didn’t have a good game, the team didn’t either. He averaged 18 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals to help the Red Devils into the second round of the state tournament.
Anfernee McLemore, Worth County, Sophomore
• WHY HE’S HERE: One of the more dominating inside players this season. McLemore is only going to get better. He averaged 14.7 points, nine rebounds and five blocks per game to help the Rams to one of its better seasons in recent memory.
Quenten Taylor, Calhoun County, Junior
• WHY HE’S HERE: Taylor played a major role in helping the Cougars to the Class A public school semifinals. The guard averaged 19 points and six assists per game. He played his best in the postseason where he averaged more than 25 points in three games.
Javoris Cooks, Crisp County, Senior
• WHY HE’S HERE: Cooks could take over a game if he needed to. The senior averaged 17.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game to help the Cougars to a second-round appearance in the state tournament this season.
Jaquan Green, Pelham, Senior
• WHY HE’S HERE: Green played a vital role in helping the Hornets to the Region 1-AA title and the Class AA state quarterfinals. The region player of the year did a little of everything. He was a major catalyst on offense. When he was on, so was the rest of the team.
Aaron May, Lee County, Senior
• WHY HE’S HERE: A solid all-around player who helped Lee County into the Class AAAAA state tournament this season. May averaged 22.5 points and 9.4 rebounds for the Trojans. He also averaged three assists per game.
Jamarcus Nunnally, Monroe, Senior
• WHY HE’S HERE: Nunnally was one of the more dangerous perimeter shooters in the area. He was a key ingredient of Monroe’s season. Nunnally averaged double figures but was lethal from 3-point range.
Dunavon Robinson, Westover, Senior
• WHY HE’S HERE: Robinson was a force inside. The 6-foot-3 forward helped the Patriots win the Region 1-AAAA title and make a run to the state semifinals. He averaged double figures in scoring and was a solid rebounder.
• HONORABLE MENTION: Albany: Malik Dungee-Ali, Tyler Cheese, Jordan Young; Crisp County: Davion Harvey; Deerfield-Windsor: Dee Barber; Dougherty: David Quimbly, Charles Porter; Early County: Qubilah Hall; Lee County: JJ Rivers, Jalen Wimberly, Jalen Bush; Mitchell County: Bruce Bryant, Dis’Arrius Robinson; Monroe: Napoleon Harris, Deontae Young; Pelham: Shaquille Crimley, Duntrez Moore, Darrius Spence; Southland Academy: Michael Volley; Westover: CJ Davis; Westwood: Collier Baggett; Worth County: Brandon Moore, Dontate Cooper, Ken’Darrius Collier, Nick Burley, Jamon Moore