High school basketball teams across the area begin the 2023-24 basketball campaign with high expectations.
However, last season wasn’t one to write home about for most of the area’s teams.
Only one boys team won a region title, White County, but was ousted by Hebron Christian in the first round of the Class 3A tournament.
Only two of the nine area teams that made the tournament won first-round games, and none made it out of the Sweet 16.
None of the 26 area boys teams are ranked in the top 10, but is that a good gauge of what to expect this season? Let’s dive a little deeper.
-- Let’s begin in Region 8-4A, AccessWDUN’s largest region. The south side of the region has four teams in the top 10, and none are a surprise: defending region champion North Oconee (4), runner-up Madison County (5), Seckinger (7) and Walnut Grove (9).
-- In the north subregion, Cherokee Bluff is the defending champ and has several starters back, but the wild card pick might be East Hall. Head Coach Joe Dix has been quietly rebuilding at Valhalla and has a solid roster as they head into the season. Although still young, could the Vikings sneak into the playoffs in such a crowded field? They might just do it. However, don’t count out Bluff as well. Over in Sardis, Alan Griffin takes the helm of the program and returns one of the most dynamic players in the region, Colton Wilbanks. He also returns point guard Josh Bull. However, he’ll have to build the rest of the lineup with inexperienced players. How quickly they adapt will be key in how the War Eagles finish in the region. And questions are swirling around at North Hall. They return key players to the lineup, but how quickly they will learn new head coach Jarvis Davenport’s system is the question.
-- In Region 8-7A, Buford lost four starters to graduation, which accounted for 40 points per night. New head coach Wes Parker will have to rebuild quickly if the Wolves are to contend for the region title.
-- In Region 8-6A, Lanier and Shiloh are the early season favorites, and both are ranked in the top 10. However, all eyes are on Gainesville. The Red Elephants are under the direction of new head coach Charlemagne Gibbons. The program added a handful of transfers in the offseason, which boosted the roster. The roster is athletic but young, so how they develop in a tough non-region slate will give us a glimpse of how Big Red will be this season. Region play doesn’t start until after the first of the year. How good will the Red Elephants be by Jan. 1?
Other questions in the region: Habersham Central coach Tommy Yancey says the Raiders are better than last year. Will the Raiders be a playoff contender? North Forsyth lost several to graduation or transfer. Will NoFo have enough firepower to make it back to the playoffs?
-- In Region 8-2A, Union County was on the cusp of winning the region last season. They return three starters from last season’s Sweet 16 roster, and Banks County has a deep roster returning, including three starters. They made the playoffs last season and should be back dancing this season.
-- In Region 8-A Division 1, Athens Christian made the Elite 8 last season and is the early favorite to repeat as region champion. However, Rabun County has a roster ready to contend with the Eagles. The Wildcats have a roster loaded with shooters and size in the paint. If it all comes together for the Wildcats, they could hoist the region trophy in February.
-- In Region 8-A Divison 2, Towns County returns four starters to the lineup and is poised to make a run at the region title this season. However, they’ll start the season with a few starters on the injured list. How quickly they return will be key in the Indians’ quest for a region title. Defending region champ Warren County enters as the favorite. Still, Towns County coach Brian Hunnicutt believes, along with his team, Aquinas and Lincoln County will make a run for the title.
We offer below our 2023-24 season preview of every team in our coverage area.*
BANKS COUNTY LEOPARDS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Ryan Griffin, 4th season
-- REGION: 8-2A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 19-10, first round of the Class 2A tournament
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: PG Mason Adams (14.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.6 apg)
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Aaron Scott (12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.6 apg); Kolby Watson (15.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.1 spg); Hunter Youngblood (10 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.7 spg)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Antonio Gonzalez (4.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.1 spg); Dayden Rogers; Caden Rogers:
-- STRENGTHS: The Leopards have several guys returning, including three of the team’s five starters from a year ago. Griffin says they can play five guys at a time who are good with the ball in their hands and can make decisions.
-- QUESTIONS: Although the Leopards return several key players this season, finding help in the post is the biggest question. Griffin's biggest concern is defending the post and rebounding.
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: “Our goals don’t change very much from year to year,” Griffin said. “We want to try to play for a region championship by the end of the year.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “Our region is deep with talent. I think it will come down to who is playing well at the right time.” – GRIFFIN
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Wes Parker, 1st season
-- REGION: 8-6A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 20-7, Region 8-7A champions, first round of Class 7A tournament
-- KEY PLAYERS LOSSES: London Williams (14 ppg), Cameron Kelly (12 ppg), David Burnett (16 ppg) and Davis Church (8 ppg)
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Chase James Robinson (10 ppg), Brennan Wansley (6 ppg)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Asa Williams, Sr. Paul Peterson, Sr. Jackson Houston, Jr. Edward Hunter III, So. Torre Costin, Jr. Kyle Carpenter
-- STRENGTHS: Parker said the team’s senior leadership will be key.
-- QUESTIONS: The Wolves lost the top 3 scorers to graduation, so finding consistent scoring will be key early on. “With only two returning starters, there are plenty of opportunities for guys to showcase their talent and prove they deserve more minutes,” Parker said.
-- SEASON OUTCOME: The Wolves won the Region 8-7A championship last season and are expected to be a contender again this season. It depends on how quickly the new starters acclimate to their new roles.
CHEROKEE BLUFF BEARS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Josh Travis, 3rd season
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 17-9, Region 8-4A Sub-Region Champs
-- KEY PLAYERS LOSSES: G Carlos Marlow (16.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG)
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Jr. F Boston Kersh (15.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG), Jr. G Tyler Underwood (4.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, 3.2 SPG), Sr. F Logan Holmes (13.6 PPG 3.5 RPG), Sr. F Tanaka Munoko (5.9 RPG, 3.6 SPG)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: So. G Cooper Glover (4.7 PPG 3.5 RPG), So. G Andy Quirarte (5.3 PPG 2.1 RPG)
-- STRENGTHS: Travis believes team chemistry and depth in the backcourt are the team’s biggest strengths. “I think the biggest strength is the chemistry this group of players have. They like one another and play for each other. This year, we should have depth in the backcourt. Last year, we played a lot of underclassmen, mostly sophomores and freshmen, so it will be exciting to see how that year of experience has prepared them for this year.”
-- QUESTIONS: The Bears graduated most of their frontcourt, which leaves the post in question. Travis says if they don’t have all five boxing out, protecting the rim will be a struggle.
--SEASON OUTLOOK: “We saw great improvement in our second year with our guys,” Travis said. “We won the subregion and tied the school record for most wins in a season. Our guys are hungry and want to continue to build on that success this season. With four returning starters and two freshmen who saw plenty of court time last season, we feel we’re in a good spot to compete in a tough region. Each sub-region game will be important because it determines who we play on the other side, which has four preseason top-10 teams.”
FAVORITES TO WIN THE REGION: “Every game is going to be a battle this season with the largest region in the state (11 teams). “Only four state tournament spots are available, so it’s tough to say who the front-runner is with North Oconee, Madison County, Seckinger and Walnut Grove. All of them are in the top-10 preseason polls. On our side, East Hall will be very tough in Year 2 under Coach (Joe) Dix.” – TRAVIS
CHESTATEE WAR EAGLES
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Alan Griffin, 1st season
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 16-10
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Sr. G Josh Bull (5.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG), Sr. F Colton Wilbanks (6-foot-5, 21.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG)
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Hugh Pruitt, G Jarvis Weaver, G Henry Grimsley, G Eli Parlier
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Garett Selke, Sr. F Jack Tucker, Sr. C Bo Peek, Jr. C Landin Ray, Jr. C Ethan Dunn, So. PG Elian Salcido
-- STRENGTHS: The War Eagles return six veteran seniors who will provide leadership on the court.
-- QUESTIONS: The War Eagles lost three key starters from last year’s team, so production from the new starters concerns Griffin.
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: “We play in a difficult region where every game will be tough,” Griffin said. “We are looking to be our very best one game at a time.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “North Oconee and Madison County are the early favorites, but in such a difficult region, anything can happen come tournament time.” – GRIFFIN
DAWSON COUNTY TIGERS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Todd Cottrell, 4th season
-- REGION: 7-3A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 9-17
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Beau Robinson
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Sr. G Caden Reed (16.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.1 APG), Sr. F Trey Harvey (15.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.2 SPG) Sr. G Ethan Parker (7.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.6 SPG), Sr. G Joshua Priest (10.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.2 SPG), SR. F Amari Horner (0.4 PPG, 1 RPG).
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: So. G Landon Lee (0.2 PPG, 1 RPG), Sr. G Nick Bellinger (1.5 PPG), Jr. G Sam Glover (1 PPG, 1 APG)
-- STRENGTHS: The Tigers return all five starters from last year’s team, giving them much-needed experience. Cottrell says experience is one of three strengths of this year’s team. The other two are character and maturity.
-- QUESTIONS: Cottrell questions his team’s ability to take care of the ball, defend, and rebound consistently, making the non-region slate all the more important.
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: “We are excited about the upcoming season and the challenges of playing a tough schedule,” Cottrell said. “I really like this team. Our senior leadership has been fantastic. This group has played a lot of varsity basketball, and we return the majority of our roster-3 who were part of a Region Championship team as freshmen. Hopefully, we will continue to improve and build off of an outstanding summer and preseason in order to be extremely competitive in time for our region tournament.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “Gilmer, Wesleyan and Pickens” – COTTRELL
EAST FORSYTH BRONCOS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Jay Burney, 1st season
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 10-16
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Matthew Rouse, G Brice Bracco, G Davey Hyams
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Sr. P/G Cannon Hunter (7 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
-- STRENGTHS: The Broncos took a step back last season in a new classification and tough Region 8-4A. They only return one starter, but new head coach Jay Burney says this ground is skilled and has good basketball IQ.
-- QUESTIONS: With only one senior on the roster, the Broncos will be young. Those underclassmen will have to get up to speed quickly in a tough region. Burney also expressed concern about the team’s play in the paint, especially rebounding.
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: “We play in a very tough region,” Burney said. “Hopefully, we can keep improving and find a way to advance come February.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “Not being here last year makes it difficult to pick the favorites this year. I know the other side of the sub-region has four teams ranked in the top 10.” – BRACCO
EAST HALL VIKINGS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Joe Dix, 2nd season
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2022-2023 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 7-20
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: Sr. G Levi Holtzclaw, Sr. G/F Cletus Agborsangaya
-- RETURNING STARTERS: So. G/F Chasen Jones (9 PPG, 7 RPG), Jr. C Yair Fajardo (8 PPG, 6 RPG), So. G/P Jamarcus Harrison (15 PPG)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: G Chris Alford, Jr. G Maddox Smith, So. G/P Khalil Goss, So. G Devon Hughey, Jr. G Dennis Buffington, Jr. G Jevon Harrison, Jr. G Sebastian Lara, So. G Micah Morrow
-- STRENGTHS: The Vikings return several key players, but maturity will be key.
-- QUESTIONS: Dix said the key for the team will be how much they mature before tournament time. “We’re still playing a lot of young players. We only have two seniors, and only one may start, so it’s important for us to mature quickly.”
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Vikings have a roster full of young talent. However, the young roster will have to grow up fast in order to compete for a state playoff spot. Nevertheless, if the Vikings can fast-track that growth, they could be right in the state playoff mix.
FAVORITES TO WIN THE REGION: “Seckinger, North Oconee and Madison County.” – DIX
FLOWERY BRANCH FALCONS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: David Hawkins, 1st season
-- REGION: 8-5A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 15-10
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: Sr. F Tyleek Worth, Sr. G Jack Burney, Sr. PF Fe Honors, Sr. SG Jackson Owens
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Jr. PG Jeremiah Ware (13.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. SG Landon Mealor, Sr. SG Jordan Hayes, Sr. C Bo Farr, Jr. PG Isaiah Fairley.
-- STRENGTHS: Hawkins says guard play is the strongest position on the court. “We are a fairly young team with good guard play that are underclassmen.”
-- QUESTIONS: The Falcons only have one returning starter, which leaves very little varsity experience on the roster. “We have a lot of new faces that don’t have a lot of varsity experience,” Hawkins said. “We seem to be better right now at the guard position, but we’re not as big as the other teams in our region.”
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Hawkins says it will be important to get this group playing together to make a run in the region.
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “The region seems to be wide open with every night being a battle.” – HAWKINS
GAINESVILLE RED ELEPHANTS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Charlemagne Gibbons, 1st Season
-- REGION: 8-6A
-- 2021-22 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 14-11, Lanierland champions
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Charlie Reisman
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Sr. G/F Ellis Pitts (9.9ppg/5.4rpg)
-- STRENGTHS: The Red Elephants will be an athletic team with several multi-skilled wing players.
-- QUESTIONS: Although Big Red will be athletic, they are a young team with a new roster that lacks experience.
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Gibbons says getting through a tough non-region schedule should help them get ready for region play in January.
-- FAVORITES TO WIN REGION: "Shiloh" -- GIBBONS
HABERSHAM CENTRAL RAIDERS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Tommy Yancey, 2nd season
-- REGION: 8-6A
-- 2022-2023 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 17-11, first-round Class 6A tournament
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G/P Bryce Pittman (16ppg-7rpg), G Cole Gary (10ppg- 3.5rpg)
-- RETURNING STARTERS: F Josiah “JoJo” McCurry (10.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.4 apg 1.4bpg), G Brannon Gaines (6.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.4 apg,1.5 spg), G Brighton Paul (6.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.1 apg), G Enzo Combs (5.8 ppg, 2 rpg, 2.2 apg,1.2 spg)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Justus Gober (3.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Jalen Davis (3.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.1 spg)
STRENGTHS: The Raiders return with a ton of depth to the roster this season. It’ll give Yancey options and guys who can play multiple positions on the floor.
-- QUESTIONS: Although the Raiders return 6-foot-8 big JoJo McCurry, the Raiders still lack help in the paint. Yancey says rebounding and how his players adjust to new roles are a concern right now.
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Raiders improved last season, and Yancey believes they will build on it this season, saying, “We should be better than we were last year.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “Shiloh and Lanier” – YANCEY
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Kevin Morris, 7th season
-- REGION: 8-5A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 10-18, Region 8-5A region runner-up, first round of Class 5A playoffs
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: None
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Sr. G/F Jaden Butts (12 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, 2 SPG), Sr. C Micah Hooper (11 PPG, 7 RPG), Sr. G/F Drew Williamson (10 PPG, 4 RPG, 4 APG, 2 SPG)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jr. SG/F Tra Harrison (out last season with a torn ACL), Sr. G Dashaun Keith (7 PPG, 3 RPG, 3 APG, 2 SPG)
-- STRENGTHS: The Dragons return a lot of experience to the roster this season.
-- QUESTIONS: NONE
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Morris said the team’s goal is to play their best basketball at tournament time and see how far they can go.
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “Winder-Barrow or Clarke Central” – MORRIS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Gary Compton, 2nd season
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 0-23
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: PG Andre Hernandez (10 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 SPG)
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Sr. F Jaiden Riley (9 PPG, 7 RPG, 1 SPT), So. G Monty Young (5 PPG, 2 SPG, 2 APG), Jr. G Cruz Gobert (3 PPG)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jr. G Braydon Black, Jr. G/P Demetric Newberry, So. G Richard Silva, So. G Josh Smith
-- STRENGTHS: The Knights return a roster full of returning players with varsity experience. Compton says the team is coming off a good summer. “The players are enthusiastic and excited about the season. Two of our leading scorers return more confidently and look to continue contributing offensively.
-- QUESTIONS: Although the Knights have several returning players, Compton said the new being able to improve defensively and finding a point guard will be key.
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: “Hopefully, we can continue to improve and build on the experience our young players gained from last season and summer. We will need to improve defensively and try to gain some confidence early by getting a few wins before region play begins.”
FAVORITES TO WIN THE REGION: “North Oconee and Madison County” – COMPTON
LAKEVIEW ACADEMY LIONS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Benjie Wood, 1st season
-- REGION: GIAA 4A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 16-14
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Liam Wiedner, G Jack Collins
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Sr. P Tayden Ware (13.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Jr. G/P Justyce Sadler (14 PPG, 5 RPG), Jr. SG Brock Graham (9 PPG)
-- STRENGTHS: Wood says the team’s size and depth will be key to playing fast and forcing tempo.
-- QUESTIONS: “Our question mark is how fast these kids can adjust to playing functionally fast and being efficient,” Wood said. “We have to focus on getting a little better each day.”
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: “We believe we have a chance to compete for the region championship.”
LUMPKIN COUNTY INDIANS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Chris Faulkner, 1st season
-- REGION: 7-3A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 4-22
-- KEY PLAYERS LOSSES: G Jack Carroll, G Hunter Cooper.
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Jr. Cal Faulkner (21 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.3 APG), Sr. Preston Cox (5 PPG, 5.3 RPG), Stephen Sherrill (7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.5 APG)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: G Jack Chambers (2 PPG, 3.2 RPG)
-- STRENGTHS: “This year's team should have depth and be able to defend at multiple levels,” Faulkner said. “We have a lot of interchangeable parts and guys that can defend multiple positions. We will look to be solid defensively in both the full and half-court.”
-- QUESTIONS: “With many guys who have not had a lot of varsity experience, the biggest question will be how these guys respond and how quickly they become acclimated to a new system and playing at the varsity level.”
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: “We hope to contend for a spot in the state tournament in a very balanced region. There are a lot of good teams in this region that all will have a chance to advance to the state tournament in February.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “Wesleyan, Gilmer and Pickens” – FAULKNER
NORTH FORSYTH RAIDERS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: David Sokol, 5th season
-- REGION: 8-6A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 15-13, first-round Class 6A tournament
-- KEY PLAYERS LOSSES: G Kal-el Delgadillo, C Cole Kirouac, G Will Sokol
-- RETURNING STARTERS Sr. G/F Brayden Turner (10.5 PPG)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: G Brogen Casey (5 PPG)
-- STRENGTHS: Sokol says his team’s ability to shoot the ball and their competitive drive and IQ will be key to success this year.
-- QUESTIONS: The Raiders lost a ton of scoring to graduation or transfer. Sokol says although the team is inexperienced, he hopes they’ll be able to “show resiliency to improve as we move along the season.”
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: “We are looking forward to the challenge of growing and competing in every game,” Sokol said. “We feel good about going to battle with this team.”
NORTH HALL TROJANS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Jarvis Davenport, 1st season
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 14-13, Lanierland Tournament runner-up
-- KEY PLAYERS LOSSES: G Sam Gailey
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Jr. F Cole Hulsey, Sr. G/F Andrew Bales, Sr. G Luke Sanders, Sr. F JT Chester
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Matthew Ray, Jr. Krobyn Sosebee, Rolan Imai
-- STRENGTHS: The Trojans returned most of the starters and several key contributors last season. Davenport says the depth will allow them to play fast.
-- QUESTIONS: The Trojans enter this season with the same issue as last season: help in the post. Davenport is concerned about his team’s ability to rebound. He also said handling the good and bad moments and scoring.
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: “We are looking to compete in our huge region and put ourselves in a position for a playoff berth.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “Madison County” – DAVENPORT
RABUN COUNTY WILDCATS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: David Adcock, 6th season
-- REGION: 8-A Division 1
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 16-12, Region 8-A D1 runner-up, Battle of the States champion, Class A D1 second round
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Jayton Henry, G Mike Swager
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Sr. G Cooper Welch (14 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG), So. PG Huey Blalock (7 PPG, 6 APG, 3 RPG), Sr. C Jack Hood (8 PPG, 6 RPG)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. P Jack Hood, Sr. G Tristen Burrell, Jr. G Michael Bone, Sr. P Trent Thompson, So. P Hayes Free
-- STRENGTHS: Adcock says his team’s ability to move the ball offensively and play through everyone on the court is the biggest strength. “We have six players who can score 15 points on any given night,” he said. “This will put a lot of pressure on the opposing defense.”
-- QUESTIONS: “Our biggest challenges will be improving defensively and learning to rebound as a team. We will also be relying heavily on younger players, and their development throughout the season will be imperative to the team's success down the stretch.”
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Adcock expects to challenge for the region title and make a deep run in the playoffs.
TOWNS COUNTY INDIANS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Brian Hunnicutt, 3rd season
-- REGION: 8-A Division 2
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 17-11, first round of Class A D2 tournament
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: Sr. Layne Rouse, Jr. Julian Mosley, Sr. Grant Ingram
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Sr. PG Zane Floyd ( 2022-23 Region 8A DII Player of the Year, 17.7 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.6 apg, 2.1 spg), Sr. G Tanner Cunningham (2nd Team All-Region 8A DII, 9.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.5 spg), Sr. C Connor Chastain (6.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.4 apg), Sr. G Gage Rogers (8.7 ppg. 5.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.1 spg)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. Kade McConnell, Sr. Walker Underwood
-- STRENGTHS: Hunnicutt says the team’s experience will be the biggest strength this season. “We have six seniors, with four seniors who have started or played significant varsity minutes since their sophomore year,” Hunnicutt said. “We have held opponents scoring under 50 ppg the last two years and have gone to four straight state playoffs with a state championship and Elite Eight appearances. This roster has several key players who have been a large part of 62 program wins over the last three years.”
--QUESTIONS: The Indians will begin the season with “a few” starters on the injured list. Hunnicutt says developing the young depth will be critical as they enter “the meat of region play in January.”
-- SEASON OUTCOME: “We will look to build depth early in the season as we hopefully await key players to return from injury. We expect to compete for the region championship in a very competitive region.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “Warren County won the region in 2022-23 and returned most of its roster. Warren will be considered the favorites, but Towns County, Aquinas, and Lincoln are also expected to compete for the region championship. – HUNNICUTT
UNION COUNTY PANTHERS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Corey Garrett, 7th season.
-- REGION: 8-2A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 19-10, Region 8-2A runner-up, second-round Class 2A tournament
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: F Eli Underwood
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Jr. G Houston Henry (10 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg, 2 spg, First Team All-Region), Jr. G Jude Ellis (13 ppg, 3 apg, & 3 rpg - All-Region Honorable mention), Jr. F Hayden Hughes (12 ppg, 4 rpg, 42% 3FG, 92 made three-pointers, 1st Team All-Region)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: So. G Cade Dockery (6 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg & 1 spg)
-- STRENGTHS: It wasn’t long ago the Panthers were struggling to win a game. Last season, they turned a corner, played for the region title, and made a Sweet 16 trip in the Class 2A tournament. Garrett says the team’s leadership and guard play will be key to improving on last season’s success.
-- QUESTIONS: Union County has three returning starters, but depth and size are a big concern for Garrett.
--SEASON OUTLOOK: “We are looking to take the next step. The next step is winning the region championship and making it past the Sweet 16.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “It should be a very competitive region.” – GARRETT
WEST HALL SPARTANS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Chuck Graham, 1st season
-- REGION: 7-3A
-- 2022-2023 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-14
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Owen Jenkins, G Isaiah Holder
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Jr. G Xavier Felix (8 ppg, 5 apg)
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Ian Pardue, Sr. G Ethan Clifford, Sr. SF Jackson Ledford
-- STRENGTHS: Graham points to roster depth. “We have a lot of depth this year and a nice mix of youth and upperclassmen. We have guys that can create, finish at the rim, shoot, and make the 3. The guys have brought into our style of play, so I'm excited to see our development.”
-- QUESTIONS: Graham’s biggest question is how his team deals with adversity. “We have some guys that can play, but the mental aspect of the game is where the separation lies. I'm excited to see how this group of Spartans respond.”
--SEASON OUTLOOK: “I like where our program and the culture is right now. I can't and will not give you a win total, but one thing I know is that this group is going to play hard and fight.”
-- FAVORITE TO WIN REGION: “There has been so much turnover in the region with head coaches, So I’m not sure if there is a clear-cut favorite. But I can’t wait to compete.” – GRAHAM
WHITE COUNTY WARRIORS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Stephen Stuart, 1st season
-- REGION: 7-3A
-- 2022-23 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 17-12, Region 7-3A Champions, first-round Class 3A tournament
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Jadon Yeh, G Chad West
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Jr. F Dawson Oliver (4.1 ppg, 4 rpg), Sr. F Noah Futch (7.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Jr. G Tripp Nix (4.5 ppg, 3 rpg), So. G Braxton Anderson (7.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.1 apg)
-- RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Reid Tanner, Sr. G Zach McCoy, Jr. G David Boman, Jr. G Cade Dockery, Jr. G Tristan Orndorff, Jr. F John Phillips
-- STRENGTHS: "We have a group of tough kids who love to play hard," Stuart said. "We are looking to be in great shape and push the ball down the floor."
-- QUESTIONS: "We are looking for a leader on and off the court," Stuart said. "Who is going to be the guy or group of guys that step up and take us where we want to go?"
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: "We want to find our identity as a team," Stuart said. "We will need to know our role in order to succeed in this region."
-- FAVORITE(S) TO WIN REGION: "If we can play together and defend, we have a shot to go back to back in this region if we can play together and defend, Stuart said. "We are excited to see what we can do this year."