Kevin Kenny knew the early season schedule would force his team to take some lumps.
Evans High School basketball stars Glenn Miller (left) and Hank McCladdie are in the Athlete Spotlight.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The Evans basketball coach also knew that the schedule would allow his team to gel against some of the area's best teams, while the Knights wouldn't take a hit in the region standings.
The Knights came out of the five-game stretch 1-4, dropping close games to Burke County and Hephzibah and playing No. 4 Butler tight.
But the payoff came Friday when Evans knocked off rival Greenbrier 57-53.
"We are starting to click," Kenny said. "I would put our first five games up against anybody. It is only going to make us stronger."
Kenny gets the strength of the team from Hank McCladdie and Glenn Miller.
McCladdie has been a rock that Kenny could lean on for strong inside play.
But the lanky 6-foot-5 senior had to go up against some of the state's best players in one of the state's best basketball regions during the last two seasons.
He had to face Mr. Georgia Basketball, Corey Gibbs from Redan and now at UGA, two years ago. He also played against Robert Dozier, of Lithonia, now at Memphis, and Georgia Tech-bound Alade Aminu, a senior at Stephenson.
"Hank's one of the tallest players in the county and in the area," Kenny said. "But when you have to play against guys 6-7, 6-8, 6-10, night in and night out, it can be tough. But Hank never gave in and he played with everything he had every night. It probably helped him out as a player."
Now McCladdie is the giant dominating the low post in the county, averaging a double-double every night. He had 21 points against Harlem and 25 against Hephzibah.
"(McCladdie) is one of the best players in the area," Greenbrier coach Casey Dees said after McCladdie had 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Wolfpack. "He has so many moves in the post. His height is tough to defend against."
McCladdie's effectiveness in the post has been strengthened by Miller's perimeter game.
"He definitely takes pressure off everyone on this team," McCladdie said. "You have to respect his jump shot."
Miller, a junior transfer from Augusta Prep, exploded onto the scene this summer, hanging 28 points in the second half against Laney in a summer-league game.
"He is an unbelievable shooter," Dees said. "You have to keep tabs on him because he can hit from anywhere on the court."
The former home-schooler put up 20 points in his first game against Greenbrier, draining shots from well behind the 3-point arch.
"I'm proud of the way he stepped up," Kenny said after the game. "This was his first experience in this rivalry. He really responded."
Miller quietly knew he could make a big impact for the Knights.
"He knew he could play at this level," Kenny said. "Basketball is basketball."
Miller said the only thing that really matters is making the playoffs.
"That is where we want to be at the end of the season," he said. "And we know we can get there."
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