Basketball will take center stage Saturday at Pope with the return of the Southeast Basketball Academy Atlanta Hoop Festival.
In its sixth season, the pre-Christmas showcase will highlight six teams from Cobb County playing against other metro-Atlanta teams.
Pebblebrook, competing in the event for the first time, will tip things off against Paulding County at 1 p.m. Both teams return talented players to their rosters, with Pebblebrook forward Derek Ogbeide, a 6-foot-8 move-in from Toronto, going up against Paulding forward Raasean Davis, a 6-7 Kent State signee.
“It’s a great event,” Pebblebrook coach George Washington said. “The director (William LoPresti) gave me a call early in the year and invited us. We had a bunch of sophomores on the team last year, and playing in this event will be a great way to showcase what they can do now that they’re a year older and a year wiser.”
Washington has seen some good things from Paulding County on tape and in person and knows his players will have their hands full. He’s hoping to see some consistency from his squad which has had trouble in that area for a full 32-minute game.
“Our offense usually gets out to a good start, and then we have a lull before trying to get our energy back,” Washington said. “We need to rebound and play with consistency from start to finish. That’s what I want to see.”
After facing Hiram today, Sprayberry will face St. Pius X on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets, who are 3-0 at the event with victories in 2008, ’09 and ’10, have senior guard Armel Potter, the returning Region 7AAAAA player of the year and a Florida Atlantic commitment, and junior forward Nkem Ojeh to provide a scoring punch
St. Pius, which made the Class AAA quarterfinals last season, will counter with 6-10 senior forward and College of Charleston commitment Nick Harris, along with senior guard Will Maguire.
Kennesaw Mountain, 2-6 and on a five-game losing streak, will look to get back on track when it faces Blessed Trinity (8-3) at 4 p.m. The Mustangs, with senior guard Andrew Jimenez and junior Nigel Hayes, will face a Titans team led by senior guard Patrick Lamar and senior forward Chris Bertrand.
McEachern follows with a 5:30 p.m. game against Berkmar.
Senior guard Logan McIntosh and senior forward Lawrence Castor will have to counter Patriots guard Jonathan Sanks, who has committed to Georgia Southern, along with 6-11 forward Tim Rowe, who is being recruited by several Division I programs.
“LoPresti does a good job with these events,” said McEachern coach Mike Thompson, who last coached in the event in 2007. “They’re always first-class.
“We didn’t do a Thanksgiving event, so we were looking for a one-day tournament environment game that didn’t involve a lot of travel and this was the best deal. Berkmar will be a good test for us. Our guards have played well for us. I need to see our front court play well and see some good things from them going into our next bunch of region games.”
The fifth game will see host Pope (7-2) face Starr’s Mill (2-8) at 7 p.m.
The Greyhounds’ junior leaders, guard Chase Hutchins and wing player Garrick DeBowles, will match up against Panthers forward Jeremiah Vrundy and guard David Watson.
The highlight of the event will feature perennial Class A state title contender North Cobb Christian against defending Class AA champion Greater Atlanta Christian.
North Cobb Christian are a senior-laden team with three players bound for Division I colleges — Kendall Crute (Ohio), Hunter Ware (Bryant) and Stephon Jelks (Mercer). The Eagles also sport a new player in the frontcourt, 7-footer Trey Kalina, who moved in from Alabama.
Greater Atlanta Christian, which returns four starters, has won three state titles in the last five years. Senior forward Isaiah Wilkins, the stepson of Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, has signed with Virginia.