Every winter it has become tradition for many of metro Atlanta’s top high school basketball teams to load their I-pods and pack travel bags to play in elite national tournaments. But last week, some of the area’s premier teams simply headed to Centennial High in Roswell for the "Hoops in Overdrive". In only three years, the tournament has become a showcase for the best teams and player in America.
The highlight of the tournament for most fans was the New Year’s Eve match-up of Milton versus Winter Park of suburban Orlando. Milton, ranked No. 15 in the USA Today rankings, defeated No. 10 Winter Park for the second time over the holidays 75-60. All the talent on the floor made it a big-time atmosphere for hoop fans and recruiting gurus. Milton (11-2) boasts six players that have received scholarship offers from Division schools and Winter Park was led by Austin Rivers, the son of former Atlanta Hawk and current Boston Celtics coach, Doc Rivers. Rivers, a 6-4 shooting guard, is widely considered the top college prospect in the country and will play for Duke next fall.
Rivers did not disappoint. He led all scorers with 31 points while creating several moments of montage worthy basketball. The Eagles were paced by the inside outside play of senior power forward Julian Royal (ranked as the No. 90 prospect by Rivals.com) and senior shooting guard Dai-Jon Parker (ranked no. 57 by Rivals). Parker, a future Vanderbilt Commodore, scored 18 points and Royal, a Ga Tech Yellow Jacket, led Milton with 19.
In a matchup of all-star shooting guards, Rockdale County cruised past Greenville 75-60. Rockdale’s Kevin Ware is rated No. 14 at the position and has committed to Tennessee. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is rated No. 3 at shooting guard and No. 11 overall in the nation by rivals.com and will play for Mark Fox and the upstart Georgia Bulldogs next fall.
SW DeKalb defeated Norcross 66-63 on the shoulders of strong play of two juniors, center Shaq Goodwin and guard Jordan Price. Goodwin is a two-sport star that may have to choose between the football field and the basketball court for Georgia. Price is being recruited by both the Bulldogs and Ga Tech.
Lithonia’s Miller Grove, ranked No. 3 by USA Today, carried the banner for Georgia prep basketball in the prestigious Beach Ball Classic held over the winter break in Myrtle Beach, SC. The Wolverines won the tournament by defeating teams from Washington D. C, Oklahoma City and Brooklyn. Junior center Tony Parker led the team averaging over 20 points per game and 19.7 rebounds. Parker who has already received offers from Duke, UConn, Ohio State, UGA, Tech and just about every other school in the country, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. In the final, he scored 20, grabbed 13 boards and blocked four shots.
The 2A GAC Spartans, ranked No. 1 in Georgia, and the Wheeler Wildcats also represented Georgia hoops well in Myrtle Beach. The Spartans went 3-1 and claimed fifth place with a 73-49 win over Rice High School from New York City. Shooting guard Malcolm Bragdon, who has committed to Virginia, scored 28 in the game.
Wheeler lost their tournament opener but rebounded well. The Wildcats won all three of their final games all by double digits to win the consolation bracket. UNC-Wilmington commit K. K. Simmons, scored 19 points behind 3-6 three-point shooting in the Cats’ 64-52 win over Clark County High School, of Winchester, Ky.
Inside the Perimeter, Paideia won the Westminster Holiday Classic. Form the semifinals on it was a who’s who of Atlanta private prep teams. Paideia beat host Westminter 62-60 while Pace beat Weslyan 60-58 on the opposite side of the bracket. The Pythons were led by all-tournament performers guard Kennan Palmore and power forward Sid Muwallif. Palmore, the MVP, scored 23 in the final while Muwallif added 18 and pulled 14 boards off the glass. Thanks to the championship, Paideia (No. 5) is the top-ranked metro team in 1A.