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February 26, 2006

Prospects shine in GA state playoffs

Rivals.com hit the highway over the weekend and took in a number of games in the Georgia High School Association state playoffs.

Kicking off the action

The first stop took us to the Macon Coliseum. A pair of teams from Savannah picked up a pair of wins while a handful of players showed off their skills.

Ladaris Green makes a good first impression. The 6-foot-9 junior recorded a triple double (10 points, 14 rebounds and 12 blocks) in a 61-43 win over Tri-Cities.

The skinny post player was the defensive stopper all night for the Bulldogs, swatting away everything that came into the lane. While he tallied up a dozen blocks, he also altered at least eight shots by our count.

Still in need of some serious pounds, Green ran the floor well, showed enough bounce and defensive ability to put him on the watch list for the high-majors. The best opportunity to see him against the best of the best is in the 5A semi-finals on March 2 at 5:30 when he and his Beach teammates take on Wheeler High School, featuring five-star big man J.J. Hickson.

Beach head coach Frank Williams runs a deep rotation and amongst the prospects is sophomore guard James Fields.

The 6-foot-1 floor general is confident beyond his years and has the tools to being one of the top point guards in the Southeast in the class of 2008. He mixes scoring with court vision, defensive intensity and good speed.

Savannah High big man Rashad Armstrong (6-9, 260) was a force for the Blue Jackets on Thursday night. The senior ripped down 15 rebounds to go along with his eight points.

Armstrong has been a popular prospect for a number of schools. He recently tripped to Tennessee State and has Stetson, Wofford, Jacksonville, Bowling Green and Eastern Kentucky in-tow.

Unsigned senior guard Casey Mitchell is a target for a number of high-major schools, including Alabama who was in the house to see him play, but the possibility of him going to a prep school next year is looking more like a reality, he said. The possibilities include Hargrave, Mt. Zion and Redemption Christian.

Mitchell didn't have the kind of game he is capable of in the first half of play but rebounded well, literally, in the second half. The 6-foot-4 power guard snatched up 10 boards and shot 70 percent in the second half. He finished with a team high 21 points in the 64-55 victory against Houston County.

Savannah High sophomore Kevin Williams had a hot hand in the postseason, putting in as many as 32 points in one contest. For a kid that goes by the nickname of "Boxer", he plays as you'd expect; tough, confident and ready for anything. He, along with so many other young players from Savannah, is one to watch this AAU season.

A handful of coaches were on hand on Thursday night. Alabama, Jacksonville and Kennesaw State as well has a handful of Division II schools and junior colleges were amongst the recruiters in the stands.

Beach knocked off Savannah in a 67-65 overtime thriller on Saturday. Fields led the way with 18 points.

Still perfect

One of the top unsigned guards in the Peach State shined when it mattered. Westlake senior Antoine Johnson poured in 22 points in a 76-56 win over Oconee County to help the Lions remain undefeated.

Westlake (31-0) head coach Darron Rogers said Johnson's performance was par for the course in what continues to be a huge year for the three-star guard.

"A.J. has a lot to prove," Rogers said. "I really feel like he is the top guard in the state and he plays like he has been slighted a little. He wants teams to give him the respect that he has earned."

That respect was earned even more. Johnson came out swinging the first quarter, knocking down three three-pointers, a part of his game that is much improved this season.

Rogers and Johnson said Central Florida, Delaware, Georgia State, Rhode Island, Savannah State and Southern Miss are all recruiting him.

Future Maryland post Jerome Burney, Jr. added 12 points in the victory. In a bit of hoops irony, Burney was oftentimes paired against Ty Anderson, a 6-foot-4 senior from Oconee County. Anderson is the grandson of former Maryland head coach Lefty Drisell. Anderson finished with 15 points.

Rogers said he wanted his seniors, Johnson, Burney, and others, to go out on top in their last game in the Atlanta area.

"We knew that this was the kind of thing they were capable of and we wanted them to put on a final show in this area," Rogers said. "They took advantage of their opportunity."

Westlake's next opportunity is on Friday at the Macon Coliseum at 5:30 where they play Columbus Spencer.

Dunwoody marches to Macon

The Dunwoody Wildcats have a March home in Macon. For the third straight year, the team has advanced to the Final Four. This year, the team is trying to defend the title.

In the quarterfinal game against Gainesville, the Wildcats rode the stellar play of two of its senior leaders - An'juan Wilderness and Kierre Jordan.

Wilderness scored 27 points and snatched 17 rebounds. The future UNC Charlotte forward did a little bit of everything thing. Jordan added 18 points, slicing through Gainesville's defense all night long.

Delwan Graham, a powerfully built sophomore, took a page out of Wilderness's book by collecting 16 rebounds and 12 hard fought points inside. The athletic 6-foot-7 forward has steadily been a force for the Wildcats in the postseason.

"We didn't do a great job on the glass on Friday night so we told the guys that we had to really focus on that (on Saturday)," Dunwoody head coach Scott Bracco said. "(Wilderness and Graham) were key for us. They set the tone for us because as soon as they got the rebound, they got the ball up the floor and got us into our game."

"We are a family, we play together," Kierre Jordan said. "We know that it takes a team to win. That is what we have to keep on doing."

Dunwoody plays Liberty Co. on Friday at 8:30 in Macon.

Other news & notes

For the first time in a long time, the 5,000-seat Morehouse College gym was filled to capacity. The state's top two 5A teams - Wheeler and South Cobb - paired up in an afternoon tilt while Norcross and Meadowcreek closed out the day.

Wheeler, the No. 1 team in the state and in numerous top ten rankings in national polls, was challenged from South Cobb early but held on to claim the 77-66.

Future UAB guard J.T. Tiller turned up the heat for Wheeler. The senior scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half.

Unsigned senior guard James Florence added 20 points while J.J. Hickson was able to fight through a tight zone defense for 18 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.

South Cobb's Wesley Matthews led the way for his squad with 17 points and 14 rebounds.

Norcross put away Meadowcreek 74-62 and got 24 points and 10 rebounds from future Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks and 19 points and 13 rebounds from future Georgia Tech big man Gani Lawal. Meadowcreek guard Chris Allen scored 25 points.

The game paired Meeks and Allen, the top two shooting guards in the Atlanta area. By all accounts, the match-up was a draw.

Rivals.com will be on the road again this weekend for the Final Four games in the Peach State.


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