I was talking with former Westside High School and Duke University basketball star William Avery earlier this week, and we were trading stories on some of the top young basketball talent in the Augusta area. I mentioned to him that I had highlighted some of the young talent in Columbia County in a recent column.
I told Avery how good I thought our area’s group of sophomores were, while he was even more impressed with the freshman class. For a while, I have been saying that the area was going to be extremely good on the hardwood when the class of 2014 become seniors, but after listening to Avery I am convinced that both 2014 and 2015 should be huge for the area in terms of basketball prospects.
Avery knows what he is talking about. After helping lead Westside to a state title in 1995, he was a standout at Duke. He left the Blue Devils and was a first-round draft pick by the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. Avery played three seasons in the NBA, and has played eight more professionally overseas. Now Avery runs basketball camps and coaches a travel basketball team in the area.
With our discussion in mind, I decided to expand on my recent look at the impressive youth movement on the hardwood in Columbia County. Here are 10 players from the classes of 2014 and 2015 that you should keep an eye on.
Class of 2014
Sam Powell (Lakeside)
Powell is the Panthers’ second-leading scorer, averaging 7.6 points per game. He had a career-high 20 points in the Panthers’ 61-46 win over South Effingham. He also hauls in 5.7 rebounds per contest.
Shalom Alvarez (Grovetown)
The Warriors are struggling this season, but coach Bill Madigan’s squad is very young, and Alvarez has been a bright spot. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound forward is third on the team in scoring at nine points per game, and he also pulls down six rebounds per game.
Tevon Horton (Grovetown)
Horton might not have the numbers of some of the other players on this list, but he does average six points and has a nice upside.
Damian Foreman (Evans)
Foreman is getting better with every game. While I have been high on Foreman since he was an eighth-grader, he is putting up even bigger numbers than I thought he would this season. His 12.5 points and five assists per game are impressive for any high school guard, much less a sophomore.
Nick Fortenberry (Augusta Christian)
Fortenberry is among the area’s premier shooters. He has used his terrific shooting touch to put himself among the area’s top scorers, averaging 15 points per game (including 20 points in ACS’s 76-47 win over Alleluia).
Tyquan Burns (Augusta Christian)
Burns is coming on of late for the Lions. He posted back-to-back double-digit efforts last week, scoring 11 points in a loss to Curtis Baptist and topping that with 14 points in a 76-47 victory against Alleluia.
Ashton Grant (Augusta Christian)
Grant is averaging eight points and two steals per game for ACS. He should team with Burns and Fortenberry to make the Lions formidable for the next two seasons. That means teams in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association should beat Augusta Christian now.
Class of 2015
Reggie Reid (Harlem)
This one is a no-brainer. Reid poured in 30 points last weekend in Harlem’s 57-46 win over Grovetown, his third 30-point effort of the season. He leads the county in scoring at 21 points per game.
Luke Harmon (Lakeside)
He might not be the can’t-miss star like Reid, but this kid can play. Harmon has been a steady contributor for the Panthers this season, averaging six points, two rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. He also is shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
B.J. Raymond (Lakeside)
Raymond recently started getting more minutes for John Kucela’s squad and the decision has paid off for the Panthers. He posted career highs on recent back-to-back nights, with eight and 13 points respectively.