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Ashley Brown: Six basketball players to watch this season

Posted: November 30, 2016 - 2:30am

Times have certainly changed in high school sports.

In the past, the top varsity contributors were all juniors and seniors. There would be the rare exceptions like Fredie Williams, at Evans, and Matt Scott, at Lakeside, who were key players on varsity from the minute they stepped on campus. But again, they were the exceptions.

Well these days we are in the midst of a youth movement of sorts. Each boys team in Columbia County starts, and counts heavily on, the performance of players who have yet to make it to the 11th grade. As a matter of fact, two early front runners for County Player of the Year are both sophomores.

The kids are playing so much during the summer with travel ball and various tournaments that, by the time they reach high school, they are basically seasoned veterans.

I have to admit I am jealous. Back when I played, you had the chance to go to team camp for a week, but besides that it was pick-up ball around town. Now, these kids are traveling all over playing against some of the top talent in the country. There is no doubt it is preparing them for the high school level quicker than ever before.

With that in mind, here is a look at my choices for the "Super 6" Players to Watch in Columbia County Boys Basketball:

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Deon Berrien (Sr., Lakeside): At 6-foot-4 with a long wing span and quick hops, Berrien is one of the CSRA's top post players. He joined the Panthers squad after the holiday break a year ago and immediately started turning heads with some big performances. He is also off to a quick start this season averaging 15.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per contest. He is a difference-maker inside. College coaches should be taking notice.

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Richard Crawford (Soph., Greenbrier): Crawford is a crafty guard who played a big role for the Pack last season as a freshman. He seems to have improved his jumper this season as well. Add that to his terrific ball handling, solid defense, and off-the-charts basketball IQ and Greenbrier coach Casey Heckathorn has a player he can give the ball to and know good things will happen.

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Nate Dunlop (Soph., Augusta Christian): Dunlop was an all-state performer last year as a freshman. Well, he has grown to 6-5 since last year and has first-year ACS coach Charles Welch smiling from ear to ear. Despite being 6-5 he has guard skills and is an exceptional shooter from long range. He has started the 2016-17 season off by averaging 37.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game through the Lions first two contests. After netting 32 in a win over Augusta Prep he torched Alleluia for 43 points and 12 boards. He is also shooting 51 percent from the field overall and 44 percent from three point range.

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Eric Graham (Jr., Grovetown): Graham is only 5-10, 145 pounds, but he has unlimited range and can score points in bunches. He opened this year's Thanksgiving tournament with 28 points and will be relied on heavily to provide points for the Warriors.

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Ryan Jolly (Jr., Augusta Prep): Like Dunlop, Jolly was an all-state selection last season. And like Dunlop, he is off to a hot start. He poured in 33 points in the Cavaliers' last contest and is primed for a big junior campaign. Jolly can handle the ball and, despite his thin build, he scores well in traffic. He may not get the attention some other players do, but it would be a mistake to not include Jolly in a discussion of the top guards in the area.

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Kalen Williams (Soph., Lakeside): Williams burst onto the scene last year with as good a freshman campaign as anyone in county history. Well, he definitely did not rest on the performance. He had a solid summer and is off to an even better start this season. He posted 29 points in a season-opening loss to Butler and had 15 points and 10 assists in a win over Laney. Through four games he is averaging 22.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and

3.5 assists per game. He is also shooting 63 percent on 2-point attempts, 50 percent from three-point range, and 80 percent from the line.

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Others to watch: Matt Barrs (Harlem), Jerrod Harris (Harlem), David Harris (Greenbrier), Cameron Cabbarus (Evans), Austin Canaday (Greenbrier), Kre'Sean Hall (Lakeside), Brad Hilley (Lakeside) and Serron Spann (Evans).

 

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