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Posted: Monday, November 19th 2012 at 4:19pm

2012-13 Area boys basketball previews (Video)

By Morgan Lee Editor
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Dawson County's Gunnar Armstrong returns to help lead the Tigers this season.
The air has already turned crisp, and the leaves have almost all fallen, which means it's time to start turning our attention indoors -- and the return of the high school basketball season.

The 2012-13 season will get fully underway this week and is chock full of questions and intrigue for the area's hoop programs.

Teams like Dawson County, North Hall, Buford, Lakeview and East Hall will look to maintain or exceed last year's campaigns, while others look to rebound or forge ahead.

For a look at what the area's programs have on tap for 2012-13, simply scroll down the page...



2012-13 Area Boys Basketball Previews

BANKS COUNTY
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-15
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. PG Greg Canon
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After graduating seven seniors and returning just one player with experience, the Leopards know wins won’t come easy in coach Mike Cleveland’s second campaign in charge. Banks County will enter the season with extreme inexperience, and the Leopards hope to gain a crash course on varsity play before taking on a very tough Region 7-AAA schedule. The Leopards do have senior leadership at the point guard position, a key for any team, and Banks County hopes to use that to its advantage.

BUFORD
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 22-8, Region 6-AA runner-up, reached Class AA second round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. SF AJ Davis (6-foot-8, University of Tennessee commit), Sr. PG Isaiah Williams, Sr. SF Coby Durden, Sr. SF Brad Mapes (Embry-Riddle University commit), Sr. SG Chris Pass, Sr. PF Kyle Doyle, Sr. SG Austin Pickett (Cedarville University commit), Jr. PF Justice Bartley
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After last year's disappointing finish that saw them bounced from the state playoffs in the second round, the Wolves are are reloaded and ready to impress again. Featuring a number of seniors, including a number of college commits and explosive players such as Davis, Buford will look to overwhelm most opponents -- with defense. The Wolves will base everything on an aggressive defense that will look to force turnovers and score in transition. Coach Allen Whitehart says his team must work together and focus on the team concept to experience the kind of success that Buford is targeting. The Wolves will certainly look the part, towering over most opposition.

CHESTATEE
-- REGION: 8B-AAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 5-20
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 7 different players who started at least one game return
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Keelan Passmore, Sr. G Jordan DeGraff, Sr. G Justin Jones, So. G Jordan Pulliam
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The War Eagles are growing more accustomed to their new style of playing fast and they hope to make that pay off this season. It was clear that Chestatee was improving at the end of last season, going 5-4 over its final nine games after opening the season 0-17. The War Eagles return the bulk of that team, including a number of guards that will look to get up and down the floor and force the tempo on offense and defense. Chestatee also features a strong group of sophomores that made up the bulk of a successful junior varsity program last season. The War Eagles don't know much about their competition -- outside of Johnson, Lumpkin County and Stephens County -- in Region 8-AAAA but hope to make the most of their move up in classification.

COMMERCE
-- REGION: 8A-A
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 15-13, reached Class A preliminary round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Thomas McMillan (15.4 ppg), Sr. G Jonathan Book (11.8 ppg), Sr. F Robert Hayes (8.3 ppg), Sr. G Tyre Treadwell, Jr. G Keenan Lord, Jr. F Tony Patman
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After having been to the state playoffs for four straight seasons, the Tigers are looking to continue that streak under new head coach Rob Brown. Promoted after serving as junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant, Brown will maintain much of the same styles of offense and defense the Tigers employed under Chad Bridges -- now boys coach at Stephens County. Commerce returns plenty of production in McMillan, Book and Hayes and will look to improve on last year's No. 4 seed in Region 8-A. Commerce knows that won't be easy in a region that includes Athens Christian, Lakeview Academy and George Walton.

DAWSON COUNTY
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 25-7, Region 8-AA champion, reached Class AA quarterfinals -- best season in Tigers history
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. W Tyler Dominy (All-Region, Honorable Mention All-State, 15 ppg, 8 rpg), Sr. G Will Anglin (9 ppg, 3 spg), Sr. W Gunnar Armstrong (8 ppg, 85% free throws), Jr. PG Jonathan Sanderson, Sr. C Bruce Clark (leading rebounder)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: When you’re coming off your best season in school history and return your top eight scorers and rebounders, expectations will be, understandably, high. The Tigers came within seconds of reaching the Class AA semifinals and a berth in Macon last season and will hope to take an extra step this season with the return of a talented and gritty group of players. Senior center Camron Chester and junior wings Lucas Pain and Jackson Putnam are only expected to add to a group that put together a thrilling postseason run in 2011-12, which includes plenty of standouts – though Dominy is a handful for every defense. The move into Region 7-AAA should prove difficult, however, as the Tigers will face perennial power East Hall, a tenacious North Hall and an ultra-talented Buford -- on top of traditionally strong programs such as West Hall and an improving White County. The Tigers hope their blend of chemistry, talent and understanding can carry them to the top again.

EAST HALL
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 22-8, reached Class AA second round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Hayden Chapman, Sr. G/F Daniel McCravy, Sr. G Brian Edwards
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Coach Joe Dix is back to lead the Vikings after opting leave the program -- before changing his mind just three days later -- and he is excited about charging into a loaded schedule in 2012-13. East Hall returns six seniors, four of which have played since they were freshmen, and they will form the backbone of a unit that features plenty of versatility. The Vikings won’t be as athletic as in seasons past, but they still have plenty of players that can handle and shoot the ball and may be even more dangerous after the graduation of leading scorer J.C. Hampton, as any number of players have the ability to step up and score points in bunches. And, as always, East Hall will play aggressive team defense, looking to force turnovers with trapping and pressing. The Vikings know they will be challenged against the likes of Buford, Dawson County, North Hall and West Hall and know they will have to be at their best to get back to state. But, as one of the most storied and consistent programs in all of the state, everyone else around 7-AAA will certainly expect East Hall to be among the front-runners -- again -- in 2012-13.

FLOWERY BRANCH
-- REGION: 8A-AAAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-14
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. F Jamaad Stephens (12 ppg, 8 rpg), Sr. G Jaleel Bailey, Sr. SG Nick Wayne
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After missing out on the state tournament for the past three seasons, the Falcons hope that a bedrock of three returning starters, five seniors and the improvement of 6-foot-5 junior Cody Dewing will hold the key to getting back into the postseason. Flowery Branch will look to be balanced on offense, with guards and post players all able to provide scoring. Stephens is a playmaker on offense, and entire team will focus on defense. The Falcons like the underdog role and will hope to make the most of that in a talented Region 8-AAAAA that features a strong Clarke Central and Apalachee, as well as the arrival of rival Gainesville, up from Class AAA.

GAINESVILLE
-- REGION: 8A-AAAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 16-10
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr PF Shaquan Cantrell, Sr. SG Jikeese Ruff, Sr. SF Caleb Hayman, Sr. PG Tray Harrison, Sr. PF Chase England, Jr. G Deshaun Watson
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Things started brightly for Gainesville last season, as the Red Elephants claimed their first Lanierland Tournament crown since 2001. But the campaign finished on a sour note, as Gainesville fell short of the state tournament in a shock defeat to Franklin County. After moving up two classifications, the Red Elephants hope to put those memories behind them in Region 8-AAAAA. Gainesville features an experienced team, including seven seniors that have made summer and preseason practice highly competitive. The Red Elephants say they will focus harder on playing defense this season and will hope to shoot better from the perimeter this campaign after being a streaky shooting team last year. Cantrell is one of the most explosive players in the area and a number of other players are capable of putting up points in bunches.

HABERSHAM CENTRAL
-- REGION: 7A-AAAAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 18-7, 8A-AAAA subregion champions
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 0
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. PG Conner McCullough, Jr. G Sydnee Mulligan, P Alex Maxwell
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Habersham knows it faces a challenge with the jump up into the state’s biggest classification, and the loss of of all five starters will not make things any easier for the Raiders. Yet Habersham does have championship. Habersham will look to play a little more deliberately on offense. Defensively, the Raiders will rely on their zone set-up. Despite the move into Region 7-AAAAAA, Habersham is looking forward to testing itself. The Raiders have not reached the state playoffs sine 2003.

JACKSON COUNTY
-- REGION: 8-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 6-17
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. P Kevin Lineberger (8 ppg, 6 rpg), Sr. PG Mo Wade, Jr. SG Xavier Harper (8 ppg, 3 spg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: With just three seniors on the roster, the Panthers will look to develop some younger players quickly. Lineberger and Harper are each experienced players and leaders, while Wade stood out on junior varsity last campaign. Jackson County will continue to play a disciplined half court game on the offensive side and switch up defenses between man and zone on the defensive side. The team will look to shoot the ball well from the perimeter.

JEFFERSON
-- REGION: 8B-AA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 20-10, Region 8-AA runner-up, reached Class AA second round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. F Satchel Turpin (8 ppg), Sr. F Jeshua Kidd (7 ppg), Sr. C Tyler Patrick, Sr. C Tanner Williams, Jr. C Carter Cofer, Sr. PG Lance Pass
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Dragons are inexperienced despite a junior and senior-laden roster but have some size with eight players standing 6-foot-1 or taller. Pass will be the point guard but has never started a varsity game. There are just three returnees with significant playing time from last year, including Turpin, who is the leading returning scorer, and Patrick, who saw a lot of action last year, is versatile and can play three positions. Coach Bolling DuBose said they will still play an up-tempo game but have the ability to play a half-court, inside game. “The first 10 games will tell us a lot because we have to find out who can fill the spots from last year,” he said. “We do have a lot of height but I don’t know if we will go to a big lineup that much. But we’ll see how things turn out.” Dubose also expects to challenge for a region title and a state playoff berth.

JOHNSON
-- REGION: 8B-AAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 13-14
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. C/F Montrell McKenzie (All-Region, 12 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 5.6 bpg), Jr PG Drew Dunham (led team in assists), So. G/F Roderick English, Jr. F/G Carter Cagle
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Knights are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2011-12 campaign and will look for leadership on and off the floor from its only senior in McKenzie. The 6-foot-6 force inside set school records in rebounds in one game (32), blocks in a game (14), and total number of blocks in a season (148) last year. He, along with Dunham -- who took over as starting point guard mid-season -- will lead a relatively young team that has high expectations. Cagle returns after missing the majority of last season with a leg injury, providing a shooting threat that should stretch defenses. English also provides athleticism on the perimeter. Juniors Sean Wiese and Jamison Owen will be key contributors and add depth. The Knights know little about their Region 8-AAAA schedule but has worked hard in the offseason to put last year's results behind them. The big key for Johnson will lie in how quickly they can gel and mature as a unit.

LAKEVIEW ACADEMY
-- REGION: 8A-A
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 23-6, Region runner-up, reached first round of state tournament
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. C Austin Montgomery (17 ppg, 8 rpg), Sr. PG Rick Valentine (93 assists), Sr. PG Ted Reynolds (87 assists), Sr. F Trevor Price (6 ppg), Sr. F Joel Larsen (6 ppg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Despite just two returning starters, the Lions are loaded with depth and experience, as coach Seth Vining continuously rotates his players. And this year’s team features a whopping 10 seniors – the most the legendary coach says he’s ever had on one team. The Lions did lose a deadly outside shooter and leading scorer in Austin Pearson, but Lakeview still has plenty of guards who can put up shots, and an inside game – led by the 6-foot-8 Montgomery – that should thrive. The Lions know they face a tough region schedule that includes last year’s nemesis in Athens Christian, while Providence Christian, George Walton and Commerce should also be strong, but Lakeview also has high hopes for this experienced and versatile squad.

LUMPKIN COUNTY
-- REGION: 8B-AAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 3-24
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr G/F Jacob Haskell (7 ppg, 4 rpg), Jr. G Daniel McCrary (5 ppg), Jr. G Johnathan Gilreath (4 ppg), Jr. SG Malik Anderson (46% 3-point shooter), Jr. P/F Austin Hollman
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Indians return a strong nucleus from last season, including a strong backcourt and a heady player in Hollman in the front court. Senior post Evan Gaddis, and junior Forward Evan Bafile are also expected to contribute heavily. While Lumpkin County did lose All-Region point guard Devonte Anderson and center Hunter Polk, the Indians like what they have returning and believe the group is ready to make a leap forward. Lumpkin expects to face a very tough slate in Region 8-AAAA but finished last season playing well, pushing eventual Region 8-AAA runner-up North Hall for four quarters in a state qualification game. Lumpkin hopes to pick up where it finished.

NORTH FORSYTH
-- REGION: 6B-AAAAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 3-23
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Wade Allen (6 ppg), Sr. F Brandon Rapson (9 ppg), Sr. G Caleb Knost (7 ppg), Sr. C Rick Adle, Fr. PG Chad Bureau, Sr. G Rob Oldham
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: In their second season under coach coach Brian Moon, the Raiders will employ a half-court offense to take advantage of a good defensive unit, led by Rapson. North Forsyth should be better this season after a rough first year for Moon, who says early success is a key and that improved offensive efficiency is a must. Turnovers and poor shooting plagued the Raiders last year. The schedule should be a little easier with Milton moving out of the region and a subregion schedule consisting of all Forsyth teams, creating natural rivalries.

NORTH HALL
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 24-6, Region 8-AAA runner-up, reached second round of Class AAA playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5 different players who started at one point return
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Ebo Smith, Sr. G Griffin Olson, Sr. PF Adam Kelly, Jr. PG Zach Tibbs, So. SF Avery Cagle
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Trojans stormed back into state last season and return plenty of firepower from that team, including Smith -- who is one of the most prolific scorers in northeast Georgia. Coach Benjie Wood says Smith, and the team in general, must work hard to continue their ascent, but the pieces are in place to continue the Trojans’ impressive record of three state playoff appearances in four seasons. Wood demands his team focus on defense, and North Hall will continue to lean on its pressing and trapping to create turnovers. Wood will also put a number of players on the court in order to build depth, though the seniors may have to carry the load early. The Trojans expect a tough battle every night in Region 7-AAA, facing the likes of East Hall, Buford, Dawson County, West Hall and more, but the Trojans have built high expectations for themselves.

RABUN COUNTY
-- REGION: 8B-AA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 20-9, reached Class AA first round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. F Clint Scott (6 ppg), Jr. F Jordon Oliver (4 ppg), Jr. G Tate Coin, Jr. G Jonathan Poole, Sr. F Josh McDaniel, Jr. F Tyler Stockton, Jr. G Chase Groom, So. G Austin Dinofrio, Fr. G Matthew Addis
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Wildcats will be very young this season with only two returning seniors in a tough region. With just five returning lettermen, and only one with significant playing time, coach Jeff Page says everyone is taking on new roles this season, that said, Page feels Rabun can compete for another playoff spot. The Wildcats will continue to run an up-tempo style. Oliver, at 6-foot-4, can play inside and outside and can hit from 3-point range and Dinofrio could also be a key outside threat for Rabun County

RIVERSIDE MILITARY
-- REGION: 8B-AA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 7-12
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. PG Adrian Humphrey, Jr. SG Jake Weiner
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: New head coach Lazarus Chennault takes over a program that brings back plenty of experience, including the entire bench, from a team that just missed out on several more victories last season. In fact the Eagles dropped two overtime games last year and hope to learn from those setbacks. Chennault, who was an assistant in the program for the past three seasons, says his teams will focus on defense and try to push the tempo on both ends of the court. With five seniors on the squad, Chennault expects leadership to be a strength gong forward.

STEPHENS COUNTY
-- REGION: 8B-AAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 15-11
-- RETURNING STARTERS: N/A
-- KEY PLAYERS: N/A
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Indians will feature a new head coach in Chad Bridges, as the former Commerce head man takes the helm in Toccoa. Bridges had plenty of success with the Tigers, leading the Commerce boys to the state tournament four straight years 2009-2012, including the Class A quarterfinals in 2010.

TOWNS COUNTY
-- REGION: 8A-A
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 5-18
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. SG Ryan Tallent, So. PG Dallas Manus
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Seven players return from last season’s team but just two seniors. Three juniors -- Garrett Bradshaw, Aaron Dodson, Stetson Hedden – and three sophomores -- Cruz Shook, Boone Moss, Trace Moss -- will all feature heavily in the rotation. The Indians will hope to improve on last season’s showing, though they know it won’t come easy in a very competitive Region 8-A.

UNION COUNTY
-- REGION: 8B-AA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 13-14
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Rhett McCombs (18 ppg, second team All-Region), Sr. G Zach Odom (14 ppg, second team All-Region), Sr. F James Rowe (10 ppg), Jr. F Dylan Coyne, Sr.F CJ Byers
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Thanks to returning to the entirety of its starting line-up, the Panthers will have high hopes heading into 2012-13. Union County will feature a young but deep bench, led by sophomore Tyler Odom and junior Eliyah Ryals. McCombs and Zach Odom have the ability to take over games, and the Panthers feature outstanding guard play all around, but Union knows it needs an improved post presence. Region play should be interesting with a number of new teams. Gone are East Hall and Dawson County, but rival Rabun County remains, along with Jefferson. Newcomers Greene County and Washington-Wilkes should also present a challenge.

WEST HALL
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 11-14
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. SG Tyswon Cantrell, Jr. C Hunter Atkinson, Sr. SG Grayson Tyler
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After reaching the Class AAA second round in each of the previous three campaigns, West Hall missed out on state last season. The Spartans will look to get another streak going this year but do so with several new faces. Cantrell and Atkinson will act as the go-to scorers -- both averaged double digits last season -- with Cantrell leading from the perimeter and Atkinson holding down the inside. West Hall will be a smaller team this season overall but will look to make up for that by pushing the ball on offense and shooting well from outside. The Spartans know the schedule will be tough from start to finish in Region 7-AAA but are ready to take on the challenge.

WHITE COUNTY
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 6-20
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. SG Eddie Hurst (8 ppg, 1.7 spg), Sr. PF Rand Rowland (8 ppg, 5 rpg), Jr. SG Spencer Adams (7 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Sr. SG Will Brock
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Warriors are a year older and more experienced under second year head coach Sam Borg. White County returns 10 players that saw varsity experience last season and features some strong guard play, along with a solid inside presence in Rowland. Hurst will help lead things from the perimeter, and Borg feels he has enough shooters and ball handlers to create scoring. The Warriors know they are in for a tough slog in Region 7-AAA, which may be the toughest Class AAA region in the state, but White County is ready to accept the challenge in 2012-13.


-- KEY: C, center; F, forward; PF, power forward; SF, small forward; G, guard; PG point guard; SG, shooting guard; W, wing; P, post; ppg, points per game; rpg, rebounds per game; apg, assists per game; spg, steals per game; bpg, blocks per game.
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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