The Evans Knights still have two of the top guards in the area in Glen Miller and Jerome Manuel. The Knights also have an emerging young standout in guard Brandon Durr, and they boast a great deal of size inside. Couple that with the fact that Greenbrier will be without the services of All-County performers Rich Poythress and Reggie Rice, and Evans is primed to make a run at top honors in the county.
In addition to the race to be "King of the Mountain" among the teams in the county, there also is going to be a battle for the spots on the all-county basketball teams.
It will be fun to see which new players emerge as the top performers in Columbia County.
Glen Miller (6-2, Sr. Evans) Miller might be the best pure shooter in the area. When he gets hot he has the potential to carry the Knights offense. Last season, Miller averaged 13 points per game and that number is likely to go up this season. He should have a chance to play on the college level next season.
Jerome Manuel (6-0, Sr. Evans) Manuel emerged last season as one of the county's top all-around players. He can score, play either guard spot and plays excellent defense. Manuel might not score as many points as some other guards in the area, but he is valuable to his team.
Brandon Durr (5-10, Jr. Evans) Durr could battle Miller for the top scoring honors in the county. He has excellent speed and at times can score points in bunches. His role is to provide a scoring punch for the Knights and he's demonstrated that ability this season by picking up MVP honors at the Turkey Tip-Off Tournament.
Sean Hackshaw (6-1, Harlem) Hackshaw will be counted on heavily this season by the Bulldogs. He will be one of the county's top all-around players, and he has the ability to average 15 or 16 points per game.
Demarcus Morris (5-9, Harlem) Morris will run the show for the Dogs this season. He is a good outside shooter, and he is one of the top ball handlers in the area. Morris also has good speed and is a floor general for the Bulldogs.
Josh Whitaker (6-2, Jr. Augusta Christian Schools) Whitaker plays as hard as anyone in the county. He returns as Augusta Christian's leading scorer and rebounder from a year ago. His numbers this season might not blow you away because the Lions will be extremely balanced this year, but Whitaker definitely is the team leader.
Preseason Honorable Mention:
Evans - Wes Wuchte (6-5, Sr.), Carter Turner (6-3, Sr.)
Harlem - Eric Beard (5-10, Sr.), Wesley Gower (6-3 Sr.)
Lakeside - Bena Tshishiku ( 5-9, Jr.), Blake Brandenburg (6-1, Jr.)
Greenbrier - Luther Holmes (6-4, Sr.)
Augusta Christian - Kyle Redd (5-9, Sr.), Nolan Belcher 6-8, Soph.), Wayne House (6-4, Sr.), Fred Auston (6-2, Soph.)
Augusta Prep - Michael Crosland (6-0, Sr.), Trey Minor (6-2, Sr.)
Preseason Player of the Year:
Glen Miller - Guard, Evans
Miller is one of the area's top returning players and can match anyone in the area from behind the 3-point line. He will be challenged for top player honors by a couple of his teammates, but Miller should take the top honors by year's end. Miller also is a real gym rat and plays as much as possible. This hard work enabled him to improve his game. Miller needs to work on his defense, ball handling and speed to make himself a top-notch college prospect.
1. Evans - With the return of Miller and Manuel, the skills of Durr, and more size than any other county team, this choice was an easy one.
2. Harlem - The Bulldogs could be scary for some teams in their region. They have several players who can hurt opponents on any given night. The key to the team could be the play of Morris. The junior will be counted on heavily to run the offense.
Hackshaw also will have to provide the outside scoring punch. The Bulldogs might not be blessed with any major Division 1 prospects, but they will be scrappy and can beat most area teams.
3. Greenbrier - The Wolfpack will face a major challenge this season. Coach Casey Dees was expecting to have a trio of key contributors back from last season's state tournament squad.
The county's top inside player a year ago (Rich Poythress) and Greenbrier's point guard (Chris Johnson), however, both decided to not to play this year so that they could concentrate on their baseball careers.
With the county's best player (Reggie Rice) no longer with the team, the Pack went from contender to middle of the "pack" in Columbia County.
4. Augusta Christian - The gap between ACS and the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked teams in the county is slim. In fact, this year's Lion squad could hold their own with a lot of the public schools in the area.
Like Harlem, they do not feature a big-time college prospect, but they do have terrific balance and six players who are capable of leading the way.
If they stay out of foul trouble they could be a contender in South Carolina Independent School Association AAA.
5. Lakeside - Unfortunately, it looks to be a long season for the Panthers. They simply do not have many scoring options. Some of their young players will have to contribute major minutes if they plan to be competitive.
6. Augusta Prep - The Cavaliers actually do have a terrific one-two punch in guard Michael Crosland and forward Trey Minor.
The team won 15 games last season and could improve on that mark by playing in what appears to be a weak Georgia Independent School Association crop this season.
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