Columbia County has never been considered a basketball hotbed, but during the past few years the county has gained plenty of respect on the hardwood.
That respect came during the terrific run in the past five years by Greenbrier High School's girls teams and some of the outstanding boys squads at Evans under Kevin Kenny. Augusta Christian also has had some very good teams during the past 10 to 12 seasons. Several area basketball players have earned college scholarships in recent years, an occurrence that used to be few and far between.
Well, 2008-09 should be an interesting year for the hoops fans in the county. Although it might not have a state championship caliber team, we will have plenty of talent to keep an eye on this season.
The Evans boys got off to a 5-1 start, and this year's team is playing a fun brand of basketball. Kenny's teams have built a reputation of playing solid defense, and this year should be no different. But the Knights are a bit more up tempo this season with point guard Troy Belton. I also love the play of Tony Davis. The 6-4 forward can be dominant on the glass and also can lock up the opposing team's top inside player.
At Augusta Prep, Jim Hull is the talk of the town. The talented guard will shatter virtually every scoring record in the county as he closes out his prep career this season. Hull had 46 in a recent game and could average 35 points per game this season. You should make arrangements to catch Hull play at least once.
Harlem also has a very talented player. Six-foot guard Cedric Boatner leads the ways for the Bulldogs. Boatner is capable of taking over games when he gets hot -- just ask Cross Creek coach Tracey Gamble. Boatner put up 30 on the Razorbacks last season. He will likely be a 21 to 24 points per game guy this season, and he will certainly have a chance to play at the collegiate level.
Not to be outdone, the Harlem girls team also features a couple of players worthy of some attention. The Wells sister, Ebony and Nicole, should carry the load. They have a chance to be very special for coach Amy Slagle if they keep getting better.
A few other players or teams to watch:
Greenbrier point guard Bryan Andrews. Andrews will have his hands full this season. He will be one of the area's top floor generals this season, but he will have to stay mentally focused as Greenbrier faces one of the toughest schedules in Georgia playing in Region 2-AAAAA. Andrews has great quickness and instincts.
Lakeside's girls. The team may not have a star, but they are fun to watch. The team is well-coached, balanced and disciplined. They might surprise a few teams.
Greenbrier's girls. Of course, they will likely be the county's top squad once again. However, do not expect the dominance that the Lady 'Pack has shown over the last few years. Like the Greenbrier boys, they will have a tough schedule, and they do so without high scoring guard Sarah Oland, who graduated, but this year's squad should be athletic and balanced.
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