The rich got richer.
The Milton Eagles, 2010 Class AAAAA boys champion, returned nearly all of their roster intact, having lost zero seniors, and even added a huge piece off the bench to give the Milton faithful hope of a mythical national championship. Despite two losses early in the season, Milton is still the top-ranked team in the state’s highest classification and are also ranked in the top five of several national polls, as the team enters the 2011 GHSA state finals. The Eagles boast six players with Division I offers and a coach with five state titles. Milton has to be considered the one of the best collections of talent ever to be assembled in the history of Georgia high school basketball - but are they THE best ever?
SCOUTING REPORT …
The Milton attack is headed up by Shannon Scott, a dominating point guard who, at 6-foot-2, can see the floor well and has enough size to post up defenders as well as break them down. ESPN.com’s recruiting service has him receiving a grade of 96 and calls him “an excellent floor general (who) does a good job of running the team.”
Scott is headed to Ohio State, where he should slide right up the list of top point guards during Thad Matta’s tenure with the Buckeyes. The senior has been hailed as the top college prospect in the state of Georgia by Score Atlanta and GPB recruiting expert Scott Janovitz, who likes Scott’s ability to glide to the hoop and his nice mid-range game. He also has a size advantage over nearly every defender he sees matching up against him. He will play in the McDonald’s All-American game on March 30.
Who does Scott dump the ball to once the offense is initiated? For starters, how about Georgia Tech-bound power forward Julian Royal? Standing 6-foot-8, Royal can face up to the basket like few other players with his size, and this season, Royal has added a few back-to-the-basket moves that will benefit him at the next level. Royal is one of the top 60 players in the country, and he alone would be enough to make folks come out to the games if not for his uber-talented teammates hooping it up beside him.
Scott is joined in the backcourt by a defensive whiz name Dai-Jon Pakrer, who is heading to Vanderbilt next year. The 6-foot-2 off-guard has amazing athleticism and can jump out of the building. Parker had offers from most SEC programs before he decided upon Vanderbilt. The defensive dynamo can score in bunches if his team needs it, but his intensity as a defender may very well lead to a stellar career in Nashville.
Another senior guard, Jordan Loyd, has signed with Furman. Loyd is sometimes forgotten about with Royal, Scott and Parker trotting around the court, but if you forget about him for too long, he makes you pay. It was Loyd who led the team in points and rebounds in its quarterfinal victory over Mill Creek.
Then you get to the juniors, who might be even better than the seniors. Shaquille Johnson is the first player off of the bench for Milton and Johnson is known across the southeast for his “prowess at leaping and dunking” according to one writer from the Huntsville Times. A YouTube video of Johnson breaking a backboard in an AAU game was also very popular earlier this year. Johnson is headed to Auburn and has grown into an all-around player, not just a thunder-dunker during his time with Milton.
Perhaps the best player currently on Milton’s roster is junior small forward Evan Nolte, who as a sophomore was receiving interest from Duke, North Carolina and a host of other colleges. Nolte earned his stripes by knocking down 3-pointer after 3-pointer in last year’s playoffs. At 6-foot-8, he is a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches and has a very special skill-set that is hard to match on the prep level.
CREAM OF THE CROP…
But is this team, coached by one of the nation’s best in David Boyd, the greatest in Georgia history? Royal thinks you’d have to consider it because of its success against a tough schedule. “We (played) more of a national schedule, perhaps even (competed) for a ‘national title.’”
Some recent teams might have an argument or two though. The 2006 Norcross boys team went 28-4 en route to the school’s first of three straight state titles in Class AAAAA. The squad was coached by the legendary Eddie Martin and starred eventual Kentucky standout Jodie Meeks, Georgia Tech star Gani Lawal and future NBA lottery pick Al-Farouq Aminu.
Another great team from the 2006 season was Columbia, which went 32-1 and won the state title. Jeremy Price and Travis Leslie went to Georgia, while Lance Storrs plays at Georgia Tech.
There would have to be some girls teams to also enter the discussion as best ever. The 2007 Collins Hill girls team went undefeated and was led to the school’s third straight title by senior Maya Moore, who has since gone on to star at UConn. The 2010 Norcross girls were buoyed by two sensational freshmen Kaela Davis and Diamond DeShields as well as a fine supporting cast of juniors and seniors.
The Wesleyan girls program has also been a force for the last decade, winning at both the Class AA and A level. It is hard to single out one team but the 2009 Wesleyan girls were led by Anne Marie Armstrong, Grace Leah Baughn, Erin Hall, and Holli Wilkins, which might have been the most talented roster the Lady Wolves have ever assembled. Head coach Jan Azar has seen her squads win six state title in the past seven seasons.
But perhaps one of the two teams to beat Milton this season should also be in the discussion for best ever. The 2011 Miller Grove Wolverines are bursting with talent including Devon Provost, Henry Brooks, Brandon Morris and the dynamic junior center Tony Parker. In fact, Miller Grove is the only team to have defeated Milton this season.