POWDER SPRINGS — The past two seasons have been exciting for McEachern.
The Indians won a region title in 2015 and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs. Last year they captured another region crown and reached the quarterfinals.
If early returns are any indication, McEachern could be in line for an impressive 2016-17 campaign as well.
The Indians, who are only 3-0 on the young season entering Saturday’s game at Holy Spirit Preparatory, have taken down both teams from last year’s Class AAAAA state title game in champion Miller Grove and runner-up Allatoona.
The Wolverines have won seven state titles in the last eight years, while the Buccaneers are coming off back-to-back state finals appearances and have become a mainstay in the postseason discussion. The Indians also have a victory over an improving Langston Hughes squad.
With two returning starters in senior forward Tre Peoples and sophomore guard Isaac Okoro, as well as a deep and talented bench that includes 10 players, McEachern coach Mike Thompson is excited to see what else the season has in store for his Indians.
“I know it’s only been three games, but I’m not too surprised about where we are right now,” said Thompson, who is in his ninth season as coach. “I’m happy we’re off to such a good start, especially after playing such good competition.
“That’s the purpose of playing that schedule to find out about the team and to see where our deficiencies are and to see what things we need to work on. We’re a young team, but I’m happy with our effort right now.”
Despite returning only two starters, Thompson felt comfortable heading into the season because a few of his standout players — Okoro, sophomore center Babatunde Akingbola and freshman point guard Sharife Cooper — continued to play competitively during the offseason.
“I know those three play some pretty good competition during their summer schedule,” Thompson said. “They’re talented guys, so I believed we should fare well at this level based on how hard they compete over the summer.”
Cooper, Okoro, Akingbola and Peoples start along with junior guard Brandon Suggs. Junior Alyn Breed also sees significant time off the bench, but Thompson, who returned seven players from last year, platoons as many as 10 players into a game.
“We may be a better team this year because we have so many guys, maybe 10 players, who can run up and down the floor,” he said. “Isaac and Tre are the leaders, and it hasn’t been tough for them to be in that role.
“Tre has been a big-time player for us the last two years and he knows what effort in practice and in games looks like. He gets the guys to follow him. Isaac may be the most talented kid we’ve had here in a while, and his upside is as good as anybody we’ve had here. You add those guys to these young kids we have in the program and you can’t help but be a little bit excited about the season.”
Along with its tough region slate, Thompson scheduled the Indians to face 2014 Class AAAAAA state champion Tift County,three-time state champion Whitefield Academy and two-time state champion Milton. McEachern will also be part of the 32-team Tournament of Champions event at Wheeler Dec. 27-30, which will feature 12 games a day with schools representing eight different states.
“The Wheeler tournament will tell us things about our team and expose some things,” Thompson said. “That one interests me a lot. I'd like to see how we’ll handle the different situations we’ll be presented with there.”