Columbia County has been spoiled over the past couple of seasons as we have had two of the state's premier basketball players in Greenbrier's Eric Marshall and Lakeside's Matt Scott.
Marshall and Scott are now battling in the Southern Conference, but their absence leaves some huge shoes to fill in the county.
We may not have a player with their level of talent, but we may have a team or two that can make a playoff run, something that has not happened to a county public school in some time.
Greenbrier's girls should be a worthy adversary for anyone in the area. Also, Augusta Prep's girls will be one of the teams to beat in the Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA.
As far as the individual talent goes, there are a few players to keep an eye on this winter.
Pre-Season All-County Basketball Team
Guard - Earl McCromman 5-8 Sr. (Lakeside)
McCromman is a real sleeper in the area. He came on strong midway through last season and is the county's top point guard. This year, his ability to drive and dish will be a key for the Panthers. He will also be counted on to score more with Scott's graduation.
Guard - Glenn Miller 6-2 Jr. (Evans)
Miller is a big-time shooter who could develop into a great high school scorer. He is making the jump from GISA to public school. He will need to adjust to the quicker pace of play, but I think he will be fine. He has played pick-up ball against older players for years, and that will pay off.
Guard - Reggie Rice 6-0 Jr. (Greenbrier)
Rice will not blow you away with his statistics, but he does a little bit of everything for the 'Pack. He can play four different positions if called on to do so. He did get some valuable ball handling work a year ago while playing point guard. He will play several positions this year, and that versatility makes him a big asset for Greenbrier.
Guard - Sonjay Boyd 5-10 Sr. (Harlem)
He will be Harlem's go-to guy offensively. The Bulldogs should have a fairly balanced team, but Boyd will be the player they go to when they need a jumper. He has good quickness and has worked hard on his game during the off-season.
Forward - Hank McCladdie 6-4 Sr. (Evans)
McCladdie has had a solid, but not spectacular, career for the Knights. Last year, he averaged 14.5 points and 6.4 rebounds. He is the county's leading returning scorer, and he should be able to increase those numbers this winter. He is the odds on favorite for county Player of the Year, but he needs to go hard all the time. With Glenn Miller at Evans, the middle should be a little more open for McCladdie this season.
Guard - Eugene Rogers 6-0 Sr. (Greenbrier) Terrific athlete, could end up being a first teamer.
Forward - Chris Drayton 6-1 Jr. (Lakeside) Too good an athlete not to at least be second team.
Forward - Chris Bowman 6-2 Sr. (Harlem) Does the dirty work for the Bulldogs.
Forward - Gavin Globensky 6-3 Sr. (Greenbrier) Hurt last season. When healthy, he, too, could challenge for first team status.
Forward - Matt Hebbard 6-2 Sr. (Evans) Could be a real key to the Knights' success this season. Must help on boards.
Evans - G K.J. Kenny Guard 5-9 Sr.
Greenbrier - G Chris Johnson 5-10 Jr.
Lakeside - G Peyton Marsh 5-9 Sr., G Philip Shackelford 5-8 Sr.
Harlem - G Demarcus Morris 5-11 Soph., G Sean Hackshaw 6-0 Jr.
Augusta Christian - F Chris Curl 6-5 Sr.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Hank McCladdie 6-4 Sr. Evans
He has the ability to dominate at times. Seemed to disappear for portions of the game at times last season. I still think he is the county's top player. He is an excellent baseball prospect, but a big senior season could get him a few looks in hoops, too.
5. Augusta Christian
6. Augusta Prep
Guard - Michelle Swiec Soph. 5-6 Greenbrier
This was a no-brainer. She made me look good (not to mention Garret Black) with a huge freshman season. Swiec averaged 12 points and 3.5 assists. She is easily the county's top point guard and could be the best in the area by the time she is a senior. She seems to be a gym rat, and if she stays dedicated she has a very bright future.
Guard - April Woodard Jr. 5-8 Guard Harlem
Woodard is the county's top athlete. She has terrific quickness, which makes her a solid college prospect. There is no doubt she has talent, but she must work hard in the classroom as well. If she does, look out.
Guard - Abby Alexander 5-7 Sr. Guard
Alexander is a great overall player. She may not be fancy, but she does everything well. She has been a four-year varsity starter and should have a big senior season. Runs the point and gives coach McCormack another coach on the floor.
Forward - Melissa Lewis 5-8 Jr. Greenbrier
Lewis was the co-Player of the Year last season along with Swiec. She lead the county in scoring and rebounds as a sophomore (17 ppg/10 rebounds). She should have no trouble equaling that this winter. Swiec got a lot of attention last season, but Lewis was just as important to the team's success.
Forward - Lauren Middleton 5-10 Soph. Evans
Middleton was solid last season for the Lady Knights, averaging nearly eight rebounds per game. She has good fundamentals and gets better with every practice. She has the potential to be a college player down the road.
Guard - Aubern Marshall Fr. 5-6 Guard Lakeside
Guard - Bekah Gibbs 5-2 Guard Evans
G-F Tiffany Blackburn 5-8 Soph. Greenbrier
Guard - Catherine Hull 5-7 Sr. Augusta Prep
Guard - Beyra Ortega 5-7 Jr. Harlem
Greenbrier- F Brittany Leverett Jr. 5-6, G Brooke Jackson Soph. 5-6
Lakeside - F Alex Cassagnol Fr. 5-9, F Chelsea Crawford 5-8 Jr.
Harlem - F Shontale Willis 6-0 Jr., G Jessica Gray 5-4 Jr., G Victoria Thomas 5-4 Soph.
Augusta Prep - F Mary Hannah Lynn Sr. 5-9, F Katlyn Gibbs Sr. 5-7
Augusta Christian - C Sarah Beth McKinney Jr. 5-9, G Jordan Little Jr. 5-6
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tie - Melissa Lewis and Michelle Swiec (Greenbrier)
Swiec is a true point guard. Her court awareness is amazing for her age. She has the potential to be a solid college point guard one day. If she improves her jumper, the sky is the limit. This floor general makes the Lady Pack the team to beat in the county.
Lewis is a great scorer. She is a lefty, and her shot is extremely tough to block. Lewis just goes about her business. Do not be shocked if she has a few 30-point games this season.
4. Augusta Prep
6. Augusta Christian
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