In last Sunday's News-Times, Columbia County's high school basketball coaches gave grades for their teams at the season's midpoint.
Well, I've decided to give my own progress report.
Boys Basketball Rankings
Greenbrier - The Wolfpack obviously got a huge boost from transfer Eric Marshall (20 points per game), but players like freshman Eric Taylor and sophomore Dupaul Scott have also helped coming off the bench.
The Pack does need more consistency from Tommy McKinney and Brandon Dotson. McKinney at times looks like the best athlete in the county, but at other times he disappears. Last weekend was a great example. On Friday night McKinney didn't score until late in the third quarter against Butler, but poured in a team-high 20 in Saturday's win over Lakeside.
Grade: B+ - shaky start but a decent showing so far, considering that only two contributors returned from last season. I credit coach Danny Black for a lot of the success.
Evans - The Knights play incredible defense, and that means they can beat anyone on a given night. The point guard play of John Harris has been solid. He has made an impressive jump from private school to Region 4-AAAAA.
The Knights play in a very tough region, but they have been able to shutdown county teams in recent wins over Harlem and Lakeside.
Grade: B+ - I give coach Kevin Kenny a huge thumbs-up. The Knights lost all five starters and virtually every key player from a year ago but the team has still had some success. Having Harris transfer in didn't hurt, either.
Harlem - Coach Kim Chambers' squad is unbeaten in region play, including an impressive victory last week over Laney. The Bulldogs are the most athletic team in the county, but they do have losses in the county that gets them at number three.
But with the addition of Corey Ealy and Darien Jordan to the already effective group, Harlem could be better as the season goes on.
Grade: B - Hopefully this grade will give them extra incentive to make a run at a region title. There is no reason why the Dogs couldn't be the best team in the county when the season is said and done.
Lakeside - My pre-season pick as the county's top team has been a slight disappointment. The Panthers' lack of height really hurts them, but no team in the county has a lot of height.
For the second straight season, forward Matt Josephson has gotten off to a slow start. If he heats up and either Aris Verrett or Steven Rogers can step up at point, Lakeside could pull some surprises in region play.
Grade: C - First-year coach Richie Carnes doesn't have any inside play, which puts him at a huge disadvantage. On the plus side, sophomore Matt Scott has been pretty solid all year.
Georgia Independent School Association
Augusta Christian - With a 14-0 record, it's hard to argue with AC's start, especially when you consider that the Lions lost last season's starting point guard (John Harris), who transferred to Evans, and the most successful coach in school history (Mike Gold) resigned.
All the Lions do is win. Interim head coach Andrew Bryan seems to have stepped in nicely, replacing Gold. Scott Bodden and Mark Herrmann have complimented top players Lee Jones and Jordan Belcher.
Grade: A+ - The GISA may be a little down, but all you can do is play the teams on your schedule. The Lions do that and are beating all of them.
Augusta Prep - First-year coach Al West doesn't have the big guns to compete with Augusta Christian, but his kids do play hard. And from what I've seen I like his style.
Grade: B - The fact that his kids play hard for him, gets West some extra-credit points. Hopefully some of his young kids can develop.
Top Ten Players
Eric Marshall (Greenbrier) - with a strong finish, could be county's top player. He has good size and athleticism. He is a good, but not great, shooter from the outside, but is very good all around.
Matt Scott (Lakeside) - Pure shooter, but Scott still is underrated as an athlete. He is getting better at creating shots against man-to-man defenses, and his eyes get the size of beach balls when he sees a zone.
Domonique Brown (Harlem) - More of an athlete than true basketball player, but does everything asked of him. This kid has the heart of a champion. No player has ever won County Player of the Year in football and basketball. Will Brown be the first?
Lee Jones (Augusta Christian) - Doesn't get the notoriety he deserves. He is the top player for a 14-0 team...enough said.
Jordan Belcher (Augusta Christian) - Excellent shooter. Along with Scott, Harris, and Marshall, he forms a great group of underclassmen guards.
Chris Williams (Harlem) - Another fine shooter, he has been a key reason why Harlem has had some early success.
Tommy McKinney (Greenbrier) - Ultra quick with an array of moves in the lane. Not a great outside shooter, but still a very good scorer.
Teddy Ingram (Evans) - Hit some big clutch shots early in the season. A good scorer on defensive-minded team.
John Harris (Evans) - Probably the county's top point guard (at least I got one preseason pick right). Harris is holding his own in a very good region.
Kendrick Davis (Evans) - Best defender in the county. Physical, strong and a good leaper. On the other hand, he will have his hands full when Evans takes on some bigger teams in Region 4-AAAAA.
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