Monday, November 30, 2015

The ABA's Georgia Kingz hit the ground running with two season opening wins

Robert Turner has scored 54 total points in the first two games.
The Georgia Kingz, a new ABA team consisting of many of the city's best college players from the past decade, won its second game 119-106 over the Atlanta Storm Sunday at Richmond Academy. The Kingz are 2-0 in their first season of play.

Sunday was my first chance to see the Kingz. Instead of my customary game report, I shared video clips (above) with players' names and former schools so you can get reacquainted with some of our area's most accomplished players.

Like Robert Turner and CJ Washington, who were teammates at Aquinas six years ago. After Turner graduated from Laney and Washington from Butler, the friends would excel at the major college level as Turner averaged 8 points per game as a senior at Texas Tech last season while Washington helped lead his UAB Blazers to the NCAA tournament, averaging 7 points per contest.
Turner led the Kingz Sunday with 24 points and Washington added 22. Turner bullied the Storm guards and showed he can put the ball in the basket in every way. And Washington established a potent inside attack alongside Harold Doby and Santoine Butler, who starred at Augusta University and USC Aiken, respectively.

PJ Meyers scored 49 points in the team's season opening win.
Turner is joined on the perimeter by a trio of guards who are difficult to contain. Former Glenn Hills state champ and Winthrop University 1000 point clubber Reggie Middleton made certain the Augusta team made the most of its edge inside with a steady diet of post feeds. 

PJ Meyers and Xavier Collier are two more weapons the Storm had to account for. Meyers was an NAIA All-American at Life University after graduating from Josey. And the Laney graduate Collier led Benedict into the NCAA tournament during his college years.

The Kingz are 2-0 and will next face the Atlanta Aliens Sunday at 6:00 at Richmond Academy.

November's Notes: Butler has barged its way to the top of my mind, along with Laney and Richmond

This is the "high school edition" of my November's Notes series:

Laney's December first visit to Richmond has been the topic of the high school basketball conversation for weeks. People will pack the stands of the two hundred plus year Academy to see the area's three division one signees (Laney's Christian Keeling and Zep Jasper, and Richmond's Madison Williams) play for a partial claim to bragging rights as the city's best team.

Full bragging rights are not yet on the line. Not necessarily because it will be the first game of December, but because the path to the top of the area hill will include a stop at Butler, among other places. The Bulldogs showed why Friday by soundly beating Richmond.

Coach Cervantes Boddy's group has quickly leaped to the top of my mind as I anticipate another Richmond-Butler matchup this Friday (which will hopefully include Williams, who sat out of last Friday's game), and eventually rematches of the city's best games of 2015, region showdowns between Butler and Laney.

Also on the horizon is a matchup I've circled between Butler and Josey on the opening night of region 3A action, December 15th. Josey was shorthanded in recent losses and will soon have its say in the area conversation.

Laney has gotten much attention and rightfully so. We haven't seen the Wildcats lose a game in this area for nearly two years! And Jasper and Keeling are currently impersonating Augusta University's Keshun Sherrill and Paine College's Denzel Dillingham by posting a combined 147 points in their first three games.

Richmond has been the talk of the town with the addition of Williams, the emergence of sophomore Donta Stephens, and a deep roster of capable players. The Musketeers have every chance to prove they belong at the top of the minds of area fans when they host Laney and Butler Tuesday and Friday.

But it is probably Butler that is playing the best basketball at the moment. The inside-outside, extremely athletic combination of Will Lambert and Deandre Barton have not been answered by any team so far. Another junior, Jerry Leverette, has lit up the scoreboard with 8 threes in the two games I've seen. And seniors Jzwa Collier and Kyler Haynes provide scoring and leadership for coach Boddy's red hot group.

Enough with the notes, I'll now look forward to the players deciding things in the gym!

November's Notes: Sherrill and Dillingham amazed me during season's opening weeks

This is the "college edition" of my November's Notes series:

Augusta's two best players, Augusta University's Keshun Sherrill and Paine's Denzel Dillingham have surpassed even my high expectations in the first three weeks of the season, averaging 27 and 28 points, respectively, and treating us fans to exceptional offensive performances on three separate days. I'm tempted to say it will be difficult for these two to maintain a one-offensive-masterpiece-per-week clip in the coming months. But I'm learning not to predict what these guys can't do and rather enjoy what they can do.

The two faced off November 21st at Christenberry Fieldhouse, and the "City Classic" instantly became an "AugBball classic" as Dillingham tallied 41 points, only to be topped by Sherrill's Jags 117-108 in overtime. Sherrill scored 30, including 7 in the extra session, after playing 44 minutes, many of those with the ball in his hands in the backcourt against Paine's frenetically trapping defense.

I was certain Dillingham's shooting statics against the Jaguars would win the prize for the season's most impressive. With this line, wouldn't you expect so?:

Dillingham versus Augusta University
13-20 field goals
5-8 three point field goals
10-10 free throws

Again, I've learned not to predict what these guys can't do. Because one week later Dillingham and Sherrill each posted similar, even better, shooting statistics. In a win over North Georgia, Dillingham made 13 of 17 field goal attempts, 6 of 7 threes, and all 4 of his free throws, scoring 40 points in 40 minutes!

The very next day Sherrill scored 32 points in the final 25 minutes, and 34 for the game, while making 12 of 18 of his field goal attempts.

During the following months, these two dynamos will play at least 24 more times in their home gyms. I plan to be at as many of those games as possible. If not, I may miss something spectacular that I never would have predicted.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mount Olive edges Augusta University; Jags fall to 2-2

Watch the archived broadcast (above) of Sunday's Augusta University-Mount Olive game. This season I am the "color commentator" during Jags games, joining play by-play man John Patrick. Check it out and tell me what you think about the Jags and our commentary, if you will.                    

Keshun Sherrill's 34 points and freshman Tyvez Monroe's hot hand were not enough to keep Mount Olive at bay as the same team that ended Augusta University's season in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament handed the Jags an 87-83 home loss Sunday.

To be in position to win in the final minute against Mount Olive's senior laden team that entered the season ranked as high as fourth nationally in the polls, Augusta had to be sharp offensively. Freshman Tyvez Monroe's production during the beginning of both halves was timely. The sharp shooting guard scored 13 points, making 5 of his 9 field goal attempts.

But it was Sherrill's shot making that kept the Jaguars close. The world beating point guard who was honored before the game for passing the 1000 career point barrier only three games into his junior season scored 32 points in the game's final 25 minutes. I don't know if you are tired yet of reading about my appreciation of his game. Nevertheless, I'll explain a very specific strength of Keshun's: his ability to make such a high percentage of catch-and-shoot jumpers when he is given space.

Sure he usually has a defender draped all over him. And sure knocking down an open three is not the most glamorous part of the game. But I found myself thinking every time Sherrill caught the ball in rhythm Sunday he would make the shot. And he essentially did, making 12 of 18 field goal attempts.

Alas, Sherrill's heroics weren't enough as Dominique Reid would score seven consecutive points with the game in the balance after Tommy Williams tied things with a two-handed dunk with 1:07 remaining.

Reid scored 23 points to lead Mount Olive. Williams joined Sherrill and Monroe in double figures, scoring 13 points.

The November game against a team that should be destined for post season play provided a chance for the Jags to learn how to win. Coach Dip Metress cited in the post game interview (end of the archived broadcast above) the many loose balls that went to the visitors as the main factor deciding Sunday's winner. If Dip mentioned this to me, he certainly stressed it to his team, which includes seven newcomers, six of whom are freshmen. Based on the way they played today in the team's fourth game, I think the 2015-16 Jaguars will be fast learners.

Laney and Richmond both coast to wins ahead of Tuesday's showdown

Laney coasted to a 102-71 win over Grovetown, and Richmond topped Branchville 71-36 in the final two games of the 100 Black Men Thanksgiving Tournament Saturday. The blowout wins mean both teams are riding high entering the much anticipated showdown between the two at Richmond Tuesday.
Richmond's Donta Stephens finishes
Saturday against Branchville

Zep Jasper and Christian Keeling led the way for the Wildcats, scoring 26 and 23 points, respectively. The duo has averaged a combined 49 points per outing during Laney's first three games, all wins. Sophomore Donald Henley added 13 points.

Richmond, still playing without senior Madison Williams, was paced by sophomore Donta Stephens's 15 points. Seniors Trey Brown and Chris Jones each added 10.

If Williams plays Tuesday, the game will feature the area's three division one signees. Richmond has been tested. The Musketeers were overwhelmed by Butler's defensive pressure and athleticism Friday. Laney's first test may come Tuesday. We'll find out soon.

I'll see you in the gym.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Paine's Dillingham was nearly perfect Saturday in Paine's win

Seven days after posting 41 points against cross town rival Augusta University, Paine's Denzel Dillingham scored another 40 in a 93-75 win over another Peach Belt opponent, North Georgia.

Paine's Denzel Dillingham scored 40 points in Saturday's win.
Two 40 point outings in a week is impressive enough. And Dillingham's shooting statistics against Augusta (13-20 FG, 5-8 3pt FG, 10-10 FT) were ridiculous. But I still haven't thought of an adjective to describe his hot hand last night. Dillingham made 15 of 17 shots, all but one of his 7 three point attempts, and all 4 of his free throws.

Dillingham has been a consistent 30+ points per game scorer this season. And the Lions played about 70 minutes of lights out basketball between the Augusta University game and a home loss to Lander Tuesday in overtime. So Tuesday's win, Paine's first of the season, is well deserved.

I expect the Lions to do very well in conference play. And I expect more explosions from Dillingham.

Augusta University tops Shaw; improves to 2-1

Augusta University shook off a slow start against Shaw and finished the first half on an 18-5 run to take an 8 point halftime lead before coasting to a 76-59 Saturday.

The Jags, who now stand 2-1 after victories on two consecutive Saturdays, were paced by the Peach Belt conference's preseason player of the year Keshun Sherrill's 25 points. The explosive point guard with a knack for making difficult shots appear routine eclipsed the 1000 point mark three games into his junior season. (That's fast!)
Sherrill scored 25 points to eclipse
1000 career points in Saturday's win.

The Jags' slow start led to a 19-14 Shaw lead with 5:05 remaining in the first half. Senior Tommy Williams and Sherrill were held to two combined points until Sherrill broke into the scoring column with a gutsy drive to the rim that sparked an 18-5 run to close the first half.

Williams and Sherrill scored 10 points in the spurt. In addition to the upperclassmen, coach Dip Metress had to be pleased with the play of freshmen Dean Williams, who scored 11 points, making 5 of 7 field goals, and another rookie, Tyvez Monroe, who scored 8 points and grabbed three offensive boards in a key two minute period during the second half that helped keep distance between the Jags and the Bears.

The Jaguars face Mount Olive Sunday at 4:00 P.M. at Christenberry Fieldhouse. Mount Olive won both games against Augusta last season, the second time knocking the Jags out of the NCAA tournament's first round.

My AugBball schedule: Saturday, Nov 28

My Saturday hoops viewing will include the following:

4PM at Christenberry Fieldhouse

Augusta University vs Shaw

Don't miss the best game in town. And if you can't be there, tune in to the live stream at I'll be doing "color commentary! Here is the game report from last Saturday's "instant AugBball classic" win over Paine College:

4:45 PM at Paine College (via tape delay)

Laney vs Grovetown

Laney's Christian Keeling and Zep Jasper have been very entertaining in the Wildcats' first two wins over Greenbrier and Orangeburg Wilkinson. And teammates Tahj Tanksley, Donald Henley, and Daniel Chisolm found some rhythm as well in Saturday's win. Here is that game report:

6PM at Paine College (via tape delay)

Richmond vs Branchville

The Musketeers got contributions from underclassmen Donta Stephens and Moses Williams in a loss to Butler last night. Richmond will likely be missing Illinois State bound Madison Williams again tonight. Here is the game report from last night's game:

8PM at Paine College

Paine College vs North Georgia

The Lions have lit up the scoreboard this season. But coach Chase Campbell's team is looking for its first win this evening. To see what Paine is capable of doing offensively, see the game report from the Augusta University game at the top of the post.

I'll do my best to get all this action on the site as soon as possible after the last buzzer sounds. In the meantime, I'll see you in the gym!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Laney coasts in win over Orangeburg-Wilkinson

            Laney's Christian Keeling led all scorers with 22 in Saturday's win.

Laney's Zep Jasper and Christian Keeling again poured in the points Saturday, combining for 39 in the Wildcats' 89-71 win over Orangeburg Wilkinson at Paine College in the 100 Black Men Thanksgiving Tournament.

The senior duo scored many of those points in an early flurry as Laney took a 25-9 lead after less than nine minutes of action. The Wildcats coasted from there as junior Tahj Tanksley scored 14 points, senior Daniel Chisolm added 13, and sophomore Donald Henley chipped in 10.

Jasper scored 17 in Saturday's win.
Jasper and Keeling have taken more of Laney's scoring load this season, logging just under 100 combined points in the first two games, both wins. But the increased scoring has its purpose: winning.

Jasper showed in an early sequence he is a winner first and foremost when he soared to the rim for a dunk only to have it rim out. The senior quickly recovered the ball, scored, and was fouled on the put back.

There is an old rule coaches should all have: dunk all you want, but get us two points. Our team needs two. It's the winner's way to play. Zep did it one better Saturday, getting his team three points after his miss. One of the many reasons I like watching him play so much!

Butler hands Richmond its first loss

Don't miss the action from "bantam all-stars" in the
beginning of the Butler-Richmond game report above.
After a highly entertaining "bantam all-star game (see video)," Butler handed Richmond a 69-63 loss Saturday in the 100 Black Men Thanksgiving Tournament at Paine College. Butler was paced by Jerry Leverette, who scored 15 points, including 4 three pointers, and Jzwa Collier, who added 14.

Leverette made 2 of his three first half threes during a 9-0 Butler run to start the second quarter. But Richmond stormed back with its own 9-0 streak to tie the game as Trey Brown scored back-to-back transition baskets, and Moses Williams and Donta Stephens also made key buckets.
Butler's Will Lambert had his way inside Saturday.

The Bulldogs took a 29-26 halftime lead before blowing the game open with a 25 point fourth quarter that gave Butler its biggest lead, 54-41, entering the fourth. Collier, Deandre Barton, and junior Will Lambert were instrumental in a quarter that eight Bulldogs scored in.

Richmond wouldn't go away, cutting the lead to four in the final minute after Brown's three pointer made it 62-58.

Barton scored 11 points as the Bulldogs had three players score in double figures. Brown and Williams each scored 14 to lead Richmond. Stephens added 12 points.

Butler improves to 3-0 for the season, and Richmond falls to 2-1.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Richmond is deep and talented, even if Williams has to watch

Entering the season, much of the talk from me and others about Richmond Academy has been about Madison Williams, the senior transfer who recently signed with Illinois State. A recent foot injury will likely keep the high flying guard out of Friday's much anticipated matchup with Butler at Paine College in the 100 Black Men Thanksgiving Tournament.

But even without Williams, Richmond remains one of the area's most talented teams. Nick Roberts (6'7"); Rashaud Green (6'6"); Kylend Smith (6'5") and Moses Williams (6'5") man the area's biggest frontline.

And the Musketeers get contributions from a pack of experienced perimeter players. Senior Rashad Calloway was the most impressive player in the Musketeers' preseason scrimmage win over North Augusta. Chris Jones, another senior, made the game winning shot against the Yellow Jackets, finishing a four second, full court sprint to the hoop just before the final buzzer. And yet another senior, Trey Brown, scored 7 consecutive points Saturday to help his team open a 24-5 lead over Jefferson County in the tip-off tournament at Evans.

Also on the perimeter are Donta Stephens, a sophomore, and Jason Weaver, a junior. In the few moments I've watched him play, I've been impressed with Stephens. I can imagine him filling in nicely for Williams. And Weaver has been Richmond's best scorer at times early this season.

I certainly hope Madison's foot heals quickly. In the meantime, there is no reason for his teammates to wait to continue the momentum they established with blowout wins last weekend over Glenn Hills and Jefferson County. Friday's game against Butler still has the potential to be the most interesting game to date in this very young season.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grovetown defeats Glenn Hills in tip-off tournament action

Grovetown used a 10-0 spurt, spanning from the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth, to coast to a 64-55 win over Glenn Hills in Saturday's tip-off tournament at Evans. The Warriors improved to 2-0 for the young season. Glenn Hills is winless after two games.

The Spartans led 24-17 in the second quarter due to 3 early three pointers and solid play from sophomore center Timmy Sellers. But Grovetown came out of its zone and used a full court trap to force turnovers and get easy scores. Shamar Barrett finished with his left hand after a steal near the end of the second quarter to give Grovetown a 30-27 lead, and the Warriors would take a 33-30 advantage into halftime.

With Grovetown leading by 1 late in the third quarter, sophomore Eric Graham made a pair of plays: first a score on a baseline inbound pass, and next an assist on a Trent Bowdre three. Rudy Valentine then followed with a runner just before the third quarter buzzer to put the Warriors ahead 47-39.

Graham led all scorers with 17 points, and Barrett added 15.

I'll see Grovetown play Laney Saturday at Paine College in the 100 Black Men Thanksgiving Tournament.

I plan to post two or three more game reports from last weekend's tip-off tournaments before the weekend. And of course I'll be at Paine for the high school games Friday and Saturday. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Westminster downs Daniel behind Watson-Gayle's game high 24 points

Westminster sprinted to a 40-24 lead and withstood a furious Daniel High comeback to earn a 50-49 win in its season opener at the Evans tip-off tournament. Junior Jelani Watson-Gayle scored a game high 24 points in the victory.

Watson-Gayle was as impressive Saturday as he was in last weekend's scrimmage game against Blythewood. He scored and set up teammates in the Wildcats' dominant run through the first two-and-a-half quarters Saturday. His efforts were aided by the addition of sophomore Michael Dukes, who didn't play last weekend but drained 3 first half threes against Daniel.

Jelani Watson-Gayle scored a game high 24 Saturday in Westminster's win.

Daniel's AJ Oliver was as good as advertised. The long wing tallied 19 points and scored on back-to-back isolation plays to punctuate a 13-1 Daniel run that narrowed the Wildcats' lead to 41-37 in the fourth quarter.

But Watson-Gayle had answers for each Oliver surge. He split two defenders and avoided a third to make a left-handed layup, and scored again with his left to to give Westminster breathing room down the stretch. After a Daniel three pointer cut the Wildcats' lead to 2 points, he made a runner to give his team a 48-44 lead.

Senior Nygel Eaddy then calmly made two free throws to give the Wildcats a four point lead that would not be eclipsed.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Butler crushes Savannah; starts season 2-0

Butler followed a season opening 102-96 overtime win over Effingham Friday with a 58-40 win over Savannah Saturday at the tip-off tournament at Evans to start the season 2-0.

Coach Boddy's Bulldogs got key contributions from Jzwa Collier, Deandre Barton, and Stephon Washington, all returning players from last season's highly successful, senior laden team. Collier scored 27 points, while Barton added 21 and Washington 16 in Friday's thriller.

Ozwa Collier scored 27 points in Friday's overtime win over Effingham.

Junior Will Lambert missed much of last season with an injury. But in Saturday's game, he looked like he may become the area's most effective inside player. He scored 10 points, adding to Jerry Leverette's team high 16 (including 4 three pointers).

Jerry Leverette buries of his game high 16 points against Savannah. 

Despite losing every starter from last season's team that stood above all area competition except region rival Laney, Butler looks as likely as any team to win this season's bragging rights as Augusta's best. They will get a great chance to build on their early success this Friday when they face Richmond, another local favorite, at Paine college in the 100 Black Men Thanksgiving Tournament. And the two teams will do it again the following Friday in another non-region meeting.

Evans starts fast behind great team chemistry

Evans may feature two transfers on the perimeter, but coach Kevin Kenny's team wasted no time finding chemistry in its first week of action as the Knights improved to 3-0 with a 60-52 win at home in Saturday's tip-off tournament.

Sophomore Serron Spann made all the right plays Saturday, including this
three that put the Knights ahead 58-52 with less than 2 minutes remaining.

Pure shooters like Chris Stone, the senior transfer who led Evans with 16 points, including 5 three pointers, need the ball in rhythm. Sophomore Serron Spann, who earned valuable playing time as a freshman, found Stone with an on time and on target pass as he spotted up on the left wing for a three that extended Evans's lead to 44-34.

Chris Stone has made 5 threes in two of Evans's first three game.
The seniortransfer led the Knights with 16 points in Saturday's win.

After Hephzibah answered with a 10-0 run that tied the game, Evans would nail 3 more threes on penetrate-and-kick plays. Austin Snead buried the first from the left corner to put the Knights ahead 47-44. Stone made another to give his team a 52-47 advantage. And Spann delivered the final blow on the left wing to make it 58-52.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jags down Paine 117-108 in instant classic

Keshun Sherrill scored 30 points, including 7 in overtime, to lead Augusta University to a 117-108 home win over crosstown rival Paine Saturday. After Richmond Academy graduate Tommy Williams scored twice to give the Jaguars a 103-101 advantage, Sherrill’s three pointer with 2:35 remaining in overtime gave the Jaguars its biggest lead since halftime, when Augusta held a 54-47 advantage.

Freshman Jashawn Brooks scored 24 points off the bench. The Laney graduate made 6 of 8 field goal attempts, including 4 of 5 from deep, and made 8 of 10 free throws. Williams added 19. Josey grad Keith Crump chipped in 18, and Aquinas grad Tamyrik Fields contributed 10. Talk about a “City Classic.” That’s the name this game was called during my childhood.

The game featured the most impressive offensive display I have seen in a long time. Paine’s Denzel Dillingham scored 41 points and posted these incredible shooting stats: 13-20 FG, 5-8 3pt FG, 10-10 FT. The SIAC preseason player of the year played amazingly. Teammate Arnis Libasz was spectacular as well, scoring 22 points while making 8 of 12 field goals and 4 of 7 from deep. And Richmond Academy graduate Don Quarles scored 12 points, snatched 11 rebounds, and made the free throw that forced overtime.

The game, which was broadcast on WJBF, even had some unique “AugBball moments." At least that is what came to my mind when former Richmond Academy teammates Williams (Augusta) and Quarles (Paine) gave each other a big hug after the final buzzer. These two took Richmond deeper into the state playoffs than any Musketeer team in recent memory. They also played together for Augusta University graduate and former player, former Laney coach, and current Baldwin head coach Buck Harris’s AAU team in 2010.

And Brooks made a beeline to childhood friend Don Coleman when he came out of the locker room. Don came home from college to see his buddy play. And Jashawn didn’t disappoint him!

Brooks a "first ballot" All AugBball Teamer

Jashawn's monster game provides me the perfect opportunity to introduce him as the fifth of eight
Brooks scored 24 points in Augusta's
win over Paine Saturday.
"first ballot" All AugBball Team members. The All AugBball team is my way of recognizing the area players who have impressed me most the past five years.

Although I don't name players to the team only for their basketball talent, I will say that every All AugBball Team member is an extremely talented player. But to be on this team, you also have to be a special person.

Jashawn has always shown himself to be a special man. Rather than write a biography, I'll relay my recent observations of the sharp shooting freshman. Brooks watched from the bench for almost the entire game at Claflin Wednesday in his first college basketball outing. He cheered and stayed engaged rather than pouting and visibly wondering when his turn would come. When his time came Saturday, he was ready. Ready to shoot his Jaguars back into the game. Ready to drill the go ahead three on a feed from Sherrill with less than a minute to go in regulation. Ready to win.

"Acting the right way" during difficult moments is a skill coaches demand of players. Usually players respond to a challenging coach the "right way" most of the time if the coach is lucky. Jashawn always responds to difficult challenges the right way. It is only one of the many impressive traits Jashawn possesses.

After getting to know him the past seven years, I couldn't have been any happier to see him thrive as absolutely and as publicly as he did Saturday.

Thanksgiving week schedule for AugBball game reports

Here is the schedule for the game reports from the weekend's action to be released at during Thanksgiving week:

Sunday Evening - Augusta University vs Paine College

High School
Monday morning - Augusta University vs Paine College
Monday evening - Evans vs Hephzibah
Tuesday morning - Butler vs Savannah
Tuesday evening - Westminster vs Myrtle Beach Christian
Wednesday morning - Richmond vs Jefferson County and North Augusta
Wednesday evening - Glenn Hills vs Grovetown
Thursday morning - Cross Creek vs Josey
*This schedule may change without notice

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Initial thoughts from Augusta University's win over Paine and a schedule for coming posts

I will post an Augusta University versus Paine College game report Monday morning. See the bottom of this post for the schedule for more game reports from the weekend.

But for now, here is a short recap of the most entertaining college game I think I’ve ever seen...

Keshun Sherrill scored 30 points, including 7 in overtime, to lead Augusta University to a 117-108 home win over crosstown rival Paine Saturday. After Richmond Academy graduate Tommy Williams scored twice to give the Jaguars a 103-101 advantage, Sherrill’s three pointer with 2:35 remaining in overtime gave the Jaguars its biggest lead since halftime, when Augusta held a 54-47 advantage.

Freshman Jashawn Brooks scored 24 points off the bench. The Laney graduate made 6 of 8 field goal attempts, including 4 of 5 from deep, and sank 8 of 10 free throws. Williams added 19. Josey grad Keith Crump chipped in 18, and Aquinas grad Tamyrik Fields contributed 10. Talk about a “City Classic." That’s the name this game was called during my childhood.

The game featured the most impressive offensive display I have seen in a long time. Paine’s Denzel Dillingham scored 41 points and posted these shooting stats: 13-20 FG, 5-8 3pt FG, 10-10 FT. The SIAC preseason player of the year played amazingly. Teammate Arnis Libasz was spectacular as well, scoring 22 points while making 8 of 12 field goals and 4 of 7 from deep. And Richmond Academy graduate Don Quarles scored 12 points, snatched 11 rebounds, and made the free throw that forced overtime.

The game even had some unique “AugBball” moments. At least that is what came to my mind when former Richmond Academy teammates Williams (Augusta) and Quarles (Paine) gave each other a big hug after the final buzzer. These two took Richmond deeper into the state playoffs than any Musketeer team in recent memory. They also played together for Augusta University graduate and player, former Laney coach, and current Baldwin head coach Buck Harris’s AAU basketball team in 2010.

And Brooks made a beeline to childhood friend Don Coleman when he came out of the locker room. Don came home from college to see his buddy play. And Jashawn didn’t disappoint him!

I can’t wait to make the game report! I will post it Sunday night. Here are my current plans for more game reports from the weekend:

Monday morning - Augusta University vs Paine

Monday evening -  Evans vs Hephzibah

Tuesday morning - Butler vs Savannah

Tuesday evening - Westminster vs Myrtle Beach Christian

Wednesday morning - Richmond vs Jefferson County and North Augusta

Wednesday evening - Glenn Hills vs Grovetown

Thursday Morning - Cross Creek vs Josey

*This schedule may change without notice

Friday, November 20, 2015

Keeling and Jasper light up the scoreboard in season opening win at Greenbrier

Laney's Christian Keeling and Zep Jasper combined to score 59 points in a season opening 74-62 win on the road against Greenbrier in the final game of the first day of the Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge.

Christian Keeling scored 34 points in Friday's win.
After withstanding a second quarter scoring barrage by Greenbrier's Justen Hartfield and Jakob Nelson, the seniors from Laney who will play division one basketball next season seemed to get comfortable with the roles they will likely play this season. To continue to have the type of success Laney has had (six consecutive trips to the final four of the state playoffs), the pair will need to score in volume, unlike years past when several different Wildcats seemed to take turns having big nights on offense.

If Friday is any indication, Keeling and Jasper will do just fine as "go-to guys." See for yourself in the video above.

Lady Wildcats in mid season form in opening night win

          Video includes a short preview of Laney's Saturday opponent Veterans.

Coach Otis Smart's defending state champion Laney Lady Wildcats showed in Friday's season opener why they are almost always the favorite, leaping to a 24-8 first quarter lead and clearing the bench in the third quarter on the way to a 77-45 win over Effingham in Friday's Wolfpack Tip-Off Challenge.

The expectations are high for this group as Laney returns everyone from last year's championship team except Aliyah Collier, now a Clemson Lady Tiger. Sure, Aliyah was a key piece. The key piece. But sophomore De'sha Benjamin, whom we've seen shine in the biggest moments (see last year's state quarterfinal game report), looks prepared to fill Collier's void.

Sophomore De'sha Benjamin scored 22 points in Friday's win.
Benjamin played nearly flawless basketball Friday, leading the break, hitting teammates in stride for easy baskets, and knocking down all three of her three pointers on the way to an impressive stat line: 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

Junior Aubriana Bonner scored 18 points (8-11 from the field). Senior Gemyia Bowman added 16, and sophomore Jhessyka Williams chipped in 10. The Lady Wildcats play Veterans Saturday at 4:30 in day two of the Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Columbia Middle topples Grovetown; Chambers pours in 33

After Grovetown toppled Columbia on opening day and both teams sailed through the next six games without a blemish, I can imagine the good feelings Columbia's Christian Chambers must have after he scored 33 points to lead his Raiders to a 57-46 win over the Patriots in Thursday's highly anticipated rematch.

Two of the area's best eighth graders: Chambers scored 33
Thursday to eve the score after Williams'sopening day game winner.
He has many reasons to be happy. His Raiders avenged their only loss, one that must have stung, especially after he played so well, scoring 20 of Columbia's 33 points that game. He and his teammates got their revenge in front of a packed gym. The support from students, faculty, and parents, most wearing special "White Out" shirts made for the big game, had to be a unique experience for Chambers. As good as he is, I doubt he's played in front of a crowd like that before Thursday.

Then there is the simple math of Chambers's scoring explosion. 33 points in 24 minutes. Wow! I believe I've seen a good sampling of the best middle school teams in our area, and I can't think of another player in town who could put up those numbers in that time period in a game with this much attention.

Like I said, Chambers must be feeling very good right now. He should be.

I don't mean to imply Chambers was the only player who turned in an impressive performance Thursday. A game like this is highly anticipated because it includes good players.

Most of Columbia's students, faculty, and parents
wore special "White Out" T-shirts at Thursday's game.

Grovetown's Chris Williams scored 14 points and seemed unstoppable when his teammates found him. And his seventh grade teammate Rickey McGhee scored 21, mostly attacking the basket in the open court. This duo has led the Patriots all season, and they and their teammates have no reason to hang their heads.

When a guy scores 33 points in 24 minutes, he has earned his win. And all the good feelings that come with it.

Augusta Prep edges Alleluia in home opener

The private school basketball scene is thriving. I've been a little slow to catch on to the depth of teams in the area. Not only can Westminster and Alleluia compete with any area team. Augusta Prep and Augusta Christian help to make a group of at least four exciting and impressive teams playing in the independent leagues. Wednesday's game between Augusta Prep and Alleluia was a great chance to see a fun brand of basketball, as Ryan Jolly continued his lights out play from the preseason with 28 points in a 65-62 home win to start the Cavaliers' season.

Jolly figured prominently in a fast paced first half in which the teams combined to make 10 three pointers. During a 9-2 Prep run to begin the game, Jolly assisted on a three and made another himself. And after the game was tied at 16 in the second quarter, Jolly scored 16 consecutive points before assisting on a Will Dorn three that sent Augusta Prep to the locker room with a 35-30 advantage.

Augusta Prep's Ryan Jolly has scored 54 points in last two contests.
The third quarter featured an 18-6 Alleluia run that gave the Angels a brief 43-41 lead, but Prep ended the quarter with two baskets and a 45-43 advantage.

Much of the fourth quarter belonged to Augusta Prep as Jolly again found his offensive rhythm and the Cavs built a 57-48 lead with 3:27 remaining.

Mac McBride led Alleluia with 24, and Ben Dresser added 15 in the loss.

Jags drop opener at Claflin

Correction: Adolph Caldwell scored the go-ahead basket for Claflin Wednesday.                    
I mistakenly tabbed Patrell Rogers in the video above.                 

Good teams aren't assembled. They grow by failing, by confronting adversity. Augusta University, which included ten freshmen and sophomores on its roster for Wednesday's opener at Claflin, had its first meeting with adversity when the Panthers handed the Jaguars a 66-62 loss behind a fast start and a bruising inside attack.

The Jaguars fell behind 26-17 after Claflin ran past and jumped over Augusta, throwing down three dunks in the game's first ten minutes. Back-to-back jumpers by Junior Keshun Sherrill narrowed the deficit to 5 at 28-23, but that is as close as the Jags would get before the Panthers took a 35-27 lead into halftime.

The second half provided the first signs that this relatively inexperienced group was up to the task ahead. Senior transfer Tommy Williams bullied his way to 11 second half points in the paint, making all five of his attempts. And freshmen Tyvez Monroe, Deane Williams, and Aaron Byrd all contributed by grabbing offensive rebounds, knocking down free throws, and making timely baskets.

Junior Keshun Sherrill shouts to freshman Deane Williams during a
defensivesequence in Wednesday's opener at Claflin.

It was Sherrill who on two occasions cut Claflin's lead to 1 in the second half. Augusta's leader provided most of the key baskets down the stretch and led all scorers with 18 points.

After a Williams dunk and two free throws by Byrd, the game was tied at 60 with 41 seconds remaining. But Adolph Caldwell made the go ahead basket and Augusta's response was cut short by a questionable illegal screen foul called when the Jags tried to free up Sherrill on the final Augusta possession.

Claflin's Patrell Rogers led the Panthers with 16 points. Caldwell added 15. Tommy Williams chipped in 16 points to add to Sherrill's 18 in the loss.

Augusta now turns its attention to Saturday's home game against another SIAC opponent, city rival Paine College. Area fans will be well served not to miss this meeting between our town's two best basketball teams.

Today's AugBball plans...

Here is what I am aiming for...

Noon Thursday
Augusta Univeristy vs Claflin game report

8PM Thursday
Augusta Prep vs Alleluia game report 

7AM Friday
Grovetown Middle vs Columbia game report

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Columbia whips Evans to set up showdown with Grovetown

          Click here to see my game report of the first Columbia-Grovetown game.

Julius Brown exploded for 12 third quarter points Tuesday.
Julius Brown's 12 point third quarter turned a comfortable Columbia Middle lead over Evans into a 53-25 blitz that positions the Raiders alone in second place in the Columbia County middle school standings ahead of Thursday's much anticipated rematch with undefeated Grovetown. Brown led all scorers with 14. Christian Chambers chipped in 12 as Columbia poured in the points with an unselfish attack that put eight Raiders into the scoring column.

Thursday's showdown at Columbia marks the first game of the second half of the season. Columbia (5-1) and Grovetown (7-0) have distinguished themselves at the top of the standings. Grovetown beat Harlem 62-21 Tuesday. Evans (5-2) and Greenbrier (4-2) are within striking distance. Greenbrier topped Riverside behind Drew Hollenback's game high 12 points.

Of the teams in the bottom half of the standings, Stallings Island may be due for a win against a top four team after scaring Evans (the Knights eventually prevailed 33-32) Friday and beating Lakeside 42-35 Tuesday. Lakeside's Darius Rayne led all scorers with 20 in the loss, while SIMS was paced by Andrew May (13) and Jayden Taylor (11).

Thanks to the Georgia Fusion AAU organization for the news from around the county.

Colin Young hits the ground running at Miller Grove; I-20 Connection intro

SUVtv's Marques Burnett and I are connecting Augusta with Atlanta and all the great, 
hoops crazy spots in between in the I-20 Connection podcasts and shows.
Here is a link to episode 1.

Check out episode 2 (above) of the I-20 Connection podcast. SUVtv's Marques Burnett and I bring hoops action and commentary, focusing on the basketball played along the hoops crazy corridor between Augusta and Atlanta.

As you'll see in the game report video below
Laney transfer Colin Young looks to be
at home at Georgia power Miller Grove.
Basketball season is tipping off and we are wasting no time in bringing you some great action. Two of the state's best teams, 6A Miller Grove and 3A East Jackson squared off in a scrimmage last Wednesday. It was broadcast live on SUVtv. Two of Georgia's best players, UConn commit Alterique Gilbert (Miller Grove) and sophomore dynamo Drue Drinnon (East Jackson) headlined the preseason test.

Miller Grove is the winner of six of the last seven 6A state titles. East Jackson has the firepower to be as good as any team in any class the next few years. If the teams and players weren't enough of a draw, the game, in true "I-20 Connection" form, included Laney transfer Colin Young (Miller Grove). And Gilbert is a prized signee at UConn, where Augusta basketball legend Ricky Moore is an assistant coach.

Young's baskets last season were of the highest quality. He made the most of every opportunity, scoring 11 points per game and earning all region honors. His scoring sprees against Saint Francis, Pebblebrook, Norcross, and Washington County, among others, made a huge contribution to Laney's historic season.

But enough with the background information. On with the game report!

It's easy to get wrapped up in the hype of game previews. "Miller Grove's Alterique Gilbert versus East Jackson's Drue Drinnon" or "a battle between two of the state's best backcourts" may have led you to believe Wednesday's (globally streamed) scrimmage was likely to be close. But Brandon Clay, speaking on SUVtv's broadcast, nailed it, saying Miller Grove is probably Georgia's best team and a top 25 team nationally. And coach Sharman White's Wolverines proved it with a 94-68 win on the road against what has to be one of Georgia's most talented teams.

East Jackson's challenge was made clear early as Miller Grove pounded the offensive glass on one end and smothered Drinnon with pressure and plenty of help on the other, establishing an 18-9 first quarter advantage.

Clay nailed it again, saying Drinnon must have been seeing his two years older self (the more polished senior Gilbert) in the mirror. I'll extend that to East Jackson's entire young team. Drinnon, Travis Anderson, Lamont Smith, and others are highly capable. It will be scary if as they age they emulate Miller Grove's no nonsense, north-south attacking, ball moving, and ball hawking habits.

Flashes came during a second quarter as Drinnon started attacking the paint. Trailing 18-9, the gifted guard blew past Gilbert and fed Kamron Walters for a point blank dunk that he missed only to spark a five point East Jackson possession as an offensive rebound led to an Anderson 3. A simultaneous foul off the ball gave East Jackson another possession, and Walters tapped in a miss to cut the Wolverines lead to 18-14 in the first period.

Gilbert answered with a three in front of the student section, the same place where he had drained one to answer an earlier Anderson basket.

But Drinnon stayed aggressive. After getting and missing a high percentage 14 footer, the highly skilled sophomore worked his way deep into the paint and scored after a jump stop, a pump fake, and a soft finish. After seeing the ball go in, he followed with a couple bombs. After trailing by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, East Jackson entered halftime trailing 44-37 with solid momentum.

The momentum extended to the second half's first possession as a Travis Anderson brought East Jackson to within four, the closest the Eagles would get the rest of the night. George Wilson did his best Gilbert impersonation and answered Anderson's trey with his own. From there it was all Miller Grove as the Wolverines scored 54 second half points and took a 94-68 decision.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Langford tops Spirit Creek in front of a capacity crowd

The much anticipated matchup between the defending Richmond County champ, Langford, and Spirit Creek started so fast I could barely focus my camera in time to capture Langford's first half explosion. The Lions overwhelmed Spirit Creek in the second quarter with a 16-4 run before cinching a 52-44 win behind a balanced attack in which three Lions scored in double figures.

Dajuan Collins sank 6-7 second half free throws
to cut Langford's 20 point lead to 3
in the fourth quarter Monday.
Makhi Climons leaped, sprinted, and bullied his way to 12 first half points and set the tone for the kind of fast and physical game that would unfold. Tyshun Briscoe made a move in transition that made the gym roar and the Lions took a 19-9 second quarter lead. But the crowd was loudest after Luther Reid finished in transition to send the Lions to the locker room leading 27-11.

After being pounded inside much of the third, Spirit Creek regained its footing in the fourth quarter as Travis Sturgis and Dajuan Collins found an offensive rhythm. Collins led all scorers with 18 points, including a string of important free throws, that briefly narrowed Langford's lead to 44-41 as coach Remwick Lee dealt with the loss of Climons, who fouled out pursuing a rebound.

Ultimately it was Briscoe and Reid who put the final distance between the teams as the pair made 4 of 5 free throws and each made a driving basket in the final two minutes.

Climons led Langford with 16 points. Reid added 14 and Briscoe 11. Sturgis scored 12 points in the loss.

Siler and Sherrill shine in the Legends Game

This video contains bonus footage at the end. So stick around for it!                        

My Saturday couldn't have been better! Of the seven games in town that I wanted to see, I saw four. And thanks to some friends, I'll bring you news from three more!

After watching them in a scrimmage at Evans, I decided Augusta Prep will join Westminster and favorite Gatewood as contenders in what should be a red hot GISA region 3A race. I saw my alma mater, Westminster, play (impressively at that) for the first time in years.
Keshun Sherrill scored 30 points on 12-17
shooting in the Legends Game Saturday.

And my day was capped with the neatest basketball experience I've had in a long time, coaching the Augusta University Legends against the current Jaguars in the first Legends Game. The Legends are just that to us Jags alumni. The very best players from Dip Metress's unparalleled run (three consecutive NCAA elite eight finishes included) as Augusta University's coach assembled to give this year's Jaguars a model to emulate. And the Legends prevailed 92-82.

I did far more watching than coaching. My front row seat was the perfect view of Garret Siler's dominance in the paint. By making 6 of 7 shots and leading the Legends with 14 points, the center who played for Metress in two final fours reminded us all of his career field goal percentage (78%), which still stands as an NCAA record.

As good as the former Jags were (and they were great), the Legends and I couldn't stop talking about junior Augusta star Keshun Sherrill. The phenom followed his 29 point burst against the All Army team with 30 points on 17 shots against the Legends despite being the sole focus of our defense the entire game.

The game was a celebration of the accomplishments and memories Metress's Jags have created. And a reminder of those yet to come.

Coach Darren Douglas's report on two scrimmages at Evans

But there was even more area basketball of interest to me Saturday. Thanks to friend and coach Darren Douglass, I'm able to bring you information about the action I didn't see in Saturday's scrimmages at Evans.

Below are Darren's game reports from the scrimmages between Evans and North Augusta and Laney and Grovetown. Thanks to Darren, I was able to follow not only my former high school team (Westminster) and coach my former college team (Augusta University), but all of the area's action in the final day of the preseason!

Evans 59 vs North Augusta 36 

North Augusta Defeats Evans behind huge 3rd Quarter.

The game started as a back and forth affair throughout the first half. After a brief feeling out period between the two teams resulted in a 23-21 lead for North Augusta going into halftime, the Yellow Jackets turned up the tempo and defensive intensity coming out of the locker room after halftime. The intensity adjustment fueled a 23-8 run in the third quarter and North Augusta never looked back.

Player of the game:
Jock Smith, (North Augusta) 21 points.
Against Evans, Smith scored in bunches and distributed the basketball when the defense collapsed. He scored 10 of his 21 during the game changing 23-8 run during the 3rd quarter.

Laney 49 vs Grovetown 53

Grovetown defeats Keeling/Jasper-less Laney.

Grovetown gave a great effort from the opening buzzer against area power Laney Saturday night. Laney's Christian Keeling and Zep Jasper did not suit up on this night and it seemed to give Grovetown a boost in intensity that they rode to a 13-12 lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter, super sophomore Donald Henley (who scored 15 points) willed the Wildcats back to take control of the game by penetrating Grovetown's 2-3 zone for baskets for himself or great shots for his teammates. Going in to halftime, the Wildcats seemed to find their footing and led 29-21. Grovetown traded blows with Laney in the third quarter and started the fourth quarter down 37-31. Grovetown started the fourth quarter with a spark of intensity keyed by tough defense by Eric Graham and Trent Bowdre and cut Laney's lead to 4. Shemar Barrett then took the game over with a personal 9-0 run to put Grovetown ahead for good. This was a tough, competitive game and a great confidence booster for Grovetown early in the season.

Player of the game:
Shemar Barrett, 15 points.
Barrett took some questionable shots early. But his confidence is apparent and it paid off in this game. His personal 9-0 run took the air out of the Wildcats and ultimately cost them the game.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Jolly, Watson-Gayle, Smith light up the scoreboard in preseason play

After seeing Augusta Prep and its nifty sophomore guard Ryan Jolly, I got even more excited about the local private school scene. I followed Alleluia and Augusta Christian last season. Now I'm adding Westminster and Augusta Prep, arch rivals and region foes.

I had seen Westminster's players this fall, and I ranked them #6, right behind Alleluia in my preseason top 11. If I'd known better, I would have had made Augusta Prep the third private school team on my list.

But better late than never say I. Actually, I'm not late because Saturday was the last day of the pre-season. So there's time to show you what to expect from the Cavaliers, who compete in class 3A of the GISA.
Ryan Jolly (Augusta Prep) scored 26 points Saturday
in a scrimmage against Northwood Academy.

Sophomore point guard Ryan Jolly leads the way with a silky smooth handle, a soft shooting touch, and good agility and explosiveness. I'm surprised I only recently heard his name. He looked great Saturday against a very talented Northwood Academy.

Jolly does a great job of creating in coach Mike Guthrie's offensive system. The Cavaliers ran that scheme impressively, especially for a preseason scrimmage. The ball moves, and the players cut and attack the basket.

After seeing Augusta Prep live, I've circled these dates on my calendar:
See Jolly, Westminster's Watson-Gayle, and North Augusta's
Jaquez Smith in the video above.

January 26 - Augusta Prep at Westminster
February 9 - Westminster at Augusta Prep

These schools have long been rivals. Nothing extra is needed for games between them to be exciting. But this year's version certainly adds something special: the play of Jolly and Westminster's leader, transfer Jelani Watson-Gayle, who has instantly become one of our city's best.

His bundle of shooting, ball handling, competitiveness and basketball intelligence is impressive. Deep into the second half of Saturday's scrimmage against Blythewood, the transfer from London had scored 19 of Westmister's 29 points. He made threes and finished a variety of shots off the dribble before the Wildcats fell 48-43.
Jolly constantly challenged Northwood's defense
Saturday and lived at the free throw line. 

Westminster impressed me Saturday while playing shorthanded. Senior Nygel Eaddy impacted the game with his defensive pressure and explosiveness attacking the basket. When sophomore Michael Dukes returns to the lineup and senior Steven Lambert finds an offensive rhythm, coach Mark Tebbs's team can be a force in the GISA.

The rivalry with Prep and games against region favorite and 2015 state runner up Gatewood should be more exciting than ever. Months ago I would not have said many of our area's best players play in the private school leagues. But after seeing these teams play back-to-back at Evans Saturday, and Alleluia last week, I now believe that is the truth.

Saturday's scrimmages at Evans reintroduced old friends to my AugBball coverage. The North Augusta Yellow Jackets are always a tough bunch. I followed them through their 2013 state playoff quarterfinal run and reported on heated match-ups between the Yellow Jackets and rival Aiken.

Current North Augusta coach Tony Harrell, whom I last followed as the coach of that 2013 Aiken team, always gets the most out of his players. So it doesn't surprise me that his scrappy bunch came 4 seconds away from overcoming a 14 point halftime deficit and forcing overtime Saturday against Richmond, one of our area's most talented teams.

The furious Yellow Jacket comeback was led by Jaquez Smith, who scored 31 points and made two free throws to tie the game at 61 with 4.3 seconds remaining before Chris Jones scored a layup at the buzzer after a full court dash through traffic.

I've chosen Richmond as our area's third best team in my preseason top 11 teams series. But noticeably absent was any school from South Carolina. I planned to restrict my coverage to the Georgia side of the area. I have to draw a line somewhere.

But days like Saturday make me take an eraser to such lines. I can't watch players like Smith, Jolly, and Watson-Gayle without going back to my calendar and making the right AugBball coverage schedule work. And the right schedule includes North Augusta, defending state champ Midland Valley, and the rest of the nearby "SC Bball" that is too good to miss.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Grovetown topples Greenbrier after second half surge

Grovetown Middle used an 18-0 second half run to beat Greenbrier 46-31 and improve to 6-0 on the season. The Patriots' twin towers, Chris Williams and Kentrell Tyree combined to score 22 points in the second and third quarters, setting up the second half blitz that broke a once close game wide open.

Williams is as good as any middle school player I've seen in the area this season. Playing without Tyree and guard Rickey McGhee throughout the first quarter, Williams did it all, rebounding, leading the break , attacking the defense off the dribble, and nailing his soft floaters and turn around jumpers. Grovetown led 10-5 after one quarter.

Grovetown's Chris Williams led all scorers with 14 points.
Greenbrier got good inside play in the first half from Tristan Moore and seventh grader Jacob Matthews. Matthews led the Wolfpack with 11 points after getting to the line 9 times. A timely second quarter three by Jackson Fulmer sparked a 9 point Greenbrier run, as the Wolfpack established a 19-15.

Several lead changes and another Fulmer three later, Greenbrier led 26-25 only to have its run thwarted by Grovetown's dynamic inside duo of Williams and Tyree. The two worked extremely well together against Greenbrier's zone, passing up good shots to get each other great ones.

After watching these two play four games, I've decided coach Dan Sneeringer probably feels lucky they are on his side. They have both been so consistent in their effort and unselfishness. Their combination of skill and will may be tough for opponents to overcome.

But those things will be decided on the court, especially during the following match ups:

Tuesday, Nov 17
Evans (5-1) vs Columbia (4-1)

Evans beat Stallings Island 33-32 tonight. Mackenzie Norman led all scorers with 20 points. Stalling Island's Jayden Taylor scored 15.

Columbia beat Lakeside 60-35 Friday.

Thursday, Nov 19
Grovetown (6-0) at Columbia (4-1)

Monday, Nov 30
Greenbrier (3-2) at Columbia (5-1)

These games will go a long way toward deciding whether Grovetown will be caught before the 14 game season ends.

I'll see you in the gym.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Freshmen lead Wolfpack sweep of Harlem

Greenbrier freshman, Abbey Steele
Some high school coaches don't play freshmen. I believe in playing the best players. Greenbrier's girls and boys coaches apparently agree.

Freshman Abbey Steele scored 14 points, draining 4 three pointers, to help lead the Lady Wolfpack to an opening game 58-36 win at Harlem. Steel and sophomore Natalie Wilson, who led the Wolfpack with 15 points, helped coach Stefanie Basinger's team begin its rebuilding process after losing three key seniors.

Greenbrier freshman Richard Crawford
In the second game, another Greenbrier freshman, Richard Crawford, scored 5 points on back-to-back fourth quarter possessions to help give coach Casey Heckathorn's Wolfpack its first win of the new season. Crawford's spurt silenced a furious Harlem run that cut a 17 point Greenbrier lead all the way to 2 late in the fourth quarter.

Seniors Jerrod Farrell and AJ Hawes led Greenbrier with 15 and 11 points, respectively. Harlem's Kanez Dunn led all scorers with 24 points.

I'll see both Wolfpack teams next Friday at the Wolfpack Tip-Off Challenge.

Another league has tipped off. Welcome, basketball season!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Zep Jasper - Player Profile

   Zep Jasper is the fourth of seven "first ballot" members of the All AugBball Team. 

Statistics like points per game don't always tell the story. I watched and reported on countless games last season, and I would bet more times than not I left out the leading scorer details. But I always include video footage supporting my analysis about the factors deciding the ultimate statistic: wins.

Laney's Zep Jasper signs his national letter of intent Thursday,
November 11, at Tubman at 1:30 P.M.
When I first learned Zep Jasper's per game scoring average, last season was almost over. It was February. All season, I had been writing and posting videos about Zep's "double duty," my way of describing the defensive job he did against our state's best scorers combined with his running of Laney's team and doing whatever was needed to win against the state's very best teams.

He made threes, made sure his teammates got the ball in the right places, and scored when needed all season long. And if there were a statistic for managing your team's possessions late in the fourth quarter, handling the ball while your team is leading, using the clock, and scoring when the defense lapses, his rating would be off the chart.

Here is a tweet and video clip from an early overtime home win over then defending state champion Morgan County. Like he did all season, Jasper scored when needed, this time with Laney nursing a lead and holding off a Morgan County run.

Until someone comes up with a better measurement for offensive responsibility, I'll trust my eyes when it comes to Zep. They tell me he is the best point guard I know for getting his team the highest number in the only category that matters: the number of wins.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Christian Keeling - Player Profile

Christian Keeling joins Augusta University's Keshun Sherrill and Clemson's Aliyah
Collier as the first three of seven "first ballot" members of the All AugBball Team.

As soon as I first saw Christian Keeling playing summer league ball with Laney right before his freshman year, I believed he was a player. At the time he was not a long range shooter, and he certainly was not the explosive attacker of the rim he has become. But his spirit, competitiveness, and willingness to put himself in a position where he may fail are what made me an early believer. After seeing him sparingly the following couple years in an MLK Day game here, and a summer league game there, I continued to believe in him. But like I described in a post last winter regarding then senior Butler dynamo Don Coleman, I have come to realize I underestimated Christian.
Christian Keeling signs his national letter
of intent Thursday at 1:30 P.M. at the
Tubman Auditorium

Last January, I began to realize just how good he is. After a solid November and December, Keeling, then a junior, reached another gear. He was a key factor in wins against the eventual state champion, Jenkins, and against region 3A foes Washington County and Butler.

In a post following Laney's January 9 win over Butler, I nicknamed Keeling "Mr. January." But it was in the Wildcats' January 17 home win over arch rival Josey where Christian earned the name. In fact, after he uncorked two dunks, the first through a defender and the second over one, I'll say he owned the name.

Since that day, I've seen a new Christian Keeling. Or maybe I've just come to know him better. During the remainder of the high school season and through the Spring and Summer AAU circuit, I watched him grow more confident and focused. And like he told me when he decided to stay at Laney for his senior year, he is determined to bring a state title home during this final season.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Langford tops Hornsby on opening night

Weeks ago Will Avery told me Langford plays like a junior varsity team. With that information, I knew where to go Monday on the opening night of the Richmond County middle school season. Langford, the defending county champs, hosted Hornsby, the only team able to defeat the Lions in the past twelve months. In fact that lone loss came against Hornsby exactly one year ago on opening night.

Langford took advantage of its second chance at revenge (the Lions beat the Jaguars in the semifinals of the county championship tournament last January), earning a 42-31 win behind 20 points from Tyshun Briscoe and 17 by Makhi Taylor. Langford is a well rounded team that plays unselfishly and has weapons at all positions.

Langford's Tyshun Briscoe scored 20 points in Langford's home win Monday.

Monday's matchup was the fifth middle school game on the AugBball calendar. They've all been highly entertaining. The gyms are smaller than at the high schools. The bleachers fill up fast and the crowds are loud. And in Richmond County Monday night, the middle school gym was also the place to be for the area's best high school players. Laney's Zep Jasper, Christian Keeling, and Donald Henley had their seats pulled up before halftime of the girls game.

Richmond County has a rich tradition of competitive and entertaining basketball, no matter the age of the players. Keeling and Jasper won a county championship together at Langford 5 years ago. I'm glad both counties have tipped off. And I hope the rest of the season is as good as this early stretch.