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For the past two high school basketball seasons, I covered a number of “big” games or intriguing matchups all over the Atlanta-metro area. I plan to do a little of the same since this site would never discriminate against quality basketball but now I’m shifting my focus to a section of the South side of Atlanta since I reside there and somebody should lead the coverage of the action on the court.
Langston Hughes (27-5) and Arlington Christian (20-2) finished last season as state champs while the boys’ teams from Tri-Cities (21-10), Woodward Academy (20-10), Therrell (20-8) and South Atlanta (25-5) had seasons to be proud of as well.
In girls’ competition, Westlake (30-2) capped the 2018 season with its first state title under the guidance of Hilda Hankerson.
At almost an annual rate, the South Atlanta Hornets have been a force to reckon with under Michael Reddick’s instruction. Last season, the Hornets failed to defend their 2017 championship after falling to Laney in the Class AA quarterfinals.
“Last year was disappointing because we lost four kids throughout the season and anytime you lose a kid it’s another adjustment to make,” Reddick said. “It was disappointing that we didn’t go further but this year we start fresh and I have expectations for the kids.”
The players who aren’t just returning but have the pressure of leading the squad are Ja’Quavian Florence (a 6-3 junior guard), Demetrius Headspeth (a 6-6 senior forward), Gary Davis (a 6-3 junior wing), Julius Lymons (a 6-4 sophomore forward) and senior point guard Rohan Garner.
“Those are the kids who we expect to make the biggest jumps and lead us,” Reddick said.
The Hornets don’t have any transfers joining the team but incoming freshman guard John Lawton could be a new contributor.
“John is going to be a pretty good player and has a chance to make varsity and be a contributor,” Reddick said. “It’s always exciting when you have an incoming ninth grader who you can expect a lot from. He is tenacious. He can shoot it, score it, pass it. He’s got a whole lot to learn but you can see the tremendous potential that he has.”
Since each game is broken down into four quarters, I decided to ask Coach Reddick and his peers four of the same questions in these inaugural previews for the South-metro Atlanta area.
What is the most important thing your team must improve on this season?
The most important thing is team defense. I know we will be able to put the ball in the bucket because of how hard they work at it but defense has got to be a team thing. Everybody has got to buy into it. Everybody’s got to get on the same page and that takes time, effort and it hurts a little bit.
What will surprise opponents about your team this season?
I don’t know if we can surprise anybody anymore. I was looking at something and at some point in the year in the last 17 years we’ve been ranked number one 12 times in our classification. I think everyone expects South Atlanta to be a strong team so I can’t ever see us sneaking up on anybody even if we don’t have the same type of talent that most people think we should have.
Which team outside of yours will be the biggest surprise in the region this season?
I don’t know about surprises but Therrell won the region last year. They had a lot of talent. Douglass is coming up pretty strong. Then we never know what Hapeville has since it’s a charter school and they get a lot of folks coming in and out. Those three are ones that you can call surprises even though they aren’t surprises.
What is one rule change you would’ve liked to see go into effect this season?
I could probably think of a whole bunch of them but I will always have loved to play with a shot clock because I think when you play strong defense, which we are always stressing, you get penalized because a team can just pull the ball out and try to reset it and reset it. I’ve just always wished we had a shot clock.