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Georgia (and a bit more) on my mind!

By Bob Corwin, 06/26/24, 7:45AM PDT


The old and young of Georgia Live! #21 Jessica Fields of Mount Paran Christian and #1 Morghan Reckley of Sandy Creek (PC: Bob Corwin)

The 2024 (third year) Georgia Basketball Coaches Association Girls Live Event (known in-state as Georgia Live) was held June 13-15, 2024, at LakePoint Sports in Emerson, Georgia. A total of 164 high school teams (all GHSA [state federation] members except Florida power Dr. Phillips out of Orlando and Alabama power Hoover) played four running-clock games designed to fit into a one-hour time slot. Schedules varied but most teams played on just two of the three days in the 12-court facility. Alabama requires its teams to play two days at its event so Hoover played three times on Saturday.

About 40 media members attended one or more days (this writer was present all three days) along with about 125 college coaches (some schools sent multiple coaches) representing about 90 colleges ranging from junior college into NCAA Divisions 3, Division 2 through Division 1 (with the demise of the Pac 12 let us now call it) to multiple Power Four (ACC, Big 10, Big 12 and SEC) institutions.

Below the article will start with a look back at which high school team was tops in the USA last year (why most got it wrong) then pivot into Georgia starting with a quick examination of why Georgia Live succeeded and ending with a brief look at players of note at LakePoint.

A look back at final selection of the top ranked high school team in the USA 2023-2024 season: Only espnW got it right! “Bad optics” be dammed!

Being named a mythical national champion (there really isn’t an actual one in girls’ high school basketball) is a great honor and you would think that anyone involved in selecting such would cover all the bases to be sure to have gotten the call right.

Normally, a team has to win its state title to be considered the best in the USA. The saying goes “can you be the best in the USA if you are not the best in your state?” Normally the answer is “no.” The grand majority of high school teams do not play close to a national schedule. Thus, the anointed “best team in the country” generally comes from a small number of teams that won its last game and played a good schedule. This past season was the rare exception where the above did not hold up. Let’s see why!

In the 2023-2024 season, four national rankings (All-Star Girls Report, Blue Star Media, MaxPreps, SB Live) picked California Open Division Champion Etiwanda (32-3), which lost three games during the season including a 20-point loss to Long Island Lutheran (New York) on a neutral court in January. LuHi (as the school is known in New York State) went 21-2 losing by a single point to each Archbishop Mitty (California) at NIKE TOC in December and Montverde Academy (Florida) at Chipotle Nationals (6 teams) in early April and was the pick by espnW in spite of losing that last game.

Due to a change in New York Federation rules, LuHi had no post-season unlike past years. While many other states were in playoffs, from February 16-21 it scheduled and defeated Montverde Academy (which beat LuHi by a point in April), Morris Catholic (nationally ranked and consensus top team in New Jersey), Sidwell Friends (which was ranked by MaxPreps for much of the year until losing in the DC playoffs shortly thereafter) and Ursuline Academy (unranked but later Delaware state champions). All four wins were by 18 or more points. More competition in these games than a lot of teams’ post-seasons!

In sum, Long Island Lutheran beat 9 teams (split with Montverde) that finished nationally ranked by MaxPreps. Meanwhile, Etiwanda (which likely will start this coming year pre-season number 1) finished its year winning the CIF Open Division capping things off with a decisive win over then consensus #1 Archbishop Mitty out of Northern California. Etiwanda had four wins over teams that were nationally ranked at season’s end by MaxPreps compared with LuHi’s nine.

Both teams beat many other strong teams with LuHi finishing with unheard of 41.8 on MaxPreps strength of schedule (SOS) scale to Etiwanda’s very strong 32.2. Having followed this MaxPreps SOS metric for years, any finishing number over 20 indicates a strong schedule (over 30 very strong). Around 15 is respectable. Below 12 generally indicates a weaker schedule.

For better or worse, in viewing the USA girls’ basketball national title race, the lay of the land is much closer to the picking of the national champs in football in the early 1950’s than the college football playoffs of the 21st century. Back then there was no playoff and not everyone went to bowl games. The title was based on the resume of games played which is what we have now in girls’ basketball as very few states allow its teams to play after the state championship (California does not).

LuHi’s resume (unlike any other I can remember in several decades) of success vs an outrageously strong schedule gave them room to lose (by one) to Montverde to end its season and still finish number one as picked by espnW.

Versus common opponents, LuHi (including each other) went 6-1 (including beating Etiwanda by 20 points in January) while Etiwanda went 4-3. Again, both teams were very good and deserved very high finishes in national rankings. Rather than analyzing it, more than one of the four rankings probably viewed picking LuHi as “bad optics” (it does not look good) hard to sell to readers rather than thoroughly examining the numbers and realizing LuHi’s case was too strong given its results vs a massively difficult schedule.

Again, not only did Etiwanda lose three times to LuHi’s two, Etiwanda lost to LuHi by 20 on a neutral court. A case of result nullification (ignoring what happened as it does not fit the narrative being constructed)! To so many it is easier to go with the simpler wrong because it is more “sellable” to their readership than analyze the data and go with the more difficult (to explain) right!

Well done espnW! [Note that this writer had no vote in that decision.]

Time to go diving into Georgia Live!

What made Georgia Live so successful?

Having the event at a central site all under one roof made the event appealing to college coaches. Most important was the perception (correct) that recruitable talent would be in abundance at the event. Finally, outstanding organization from games running on time to the well-stocked hospitality room for college coaches to the simple but sufficiently complete college/media packet should help make it an easy decision for colleges and scouts to come back next year.

If playing in this, do not transfer to another GHSA high school without moving!

Georgia Live is actually the start of the 2024-2025 high school season although removed by many months from the official starting date in November. If a player plans to transfer, she should play for the schools she will be attending in the fall, not the prior school. By playing in the event, the player is declaring that this is her team for the next season. Although you may disagree, this writer believes GHSA should prohibit any player who participated in Georgia Live from playing for another GHSA high school for this coming year unless she physically moves. Honestly/loyalty in players needs to be encouraged!

One minor criticism to record

Please post all the scores on the app! Granted these contests do not count going forward but tracking results help give college scouts and media/writers a check as to whom they might not want to miss viewing before the team leaves the event. Results were mostly posted for Friday and Saturday but generally not Thursday.

Top team at the event

Hebron Christian stood out from the rest. The team dominated all four of its contests. From this view, its core of six (four seniors and two juniors) has five players who have or probably will get Power Four offers. Hebron has decent size up front showing physicality but not super-height (none over 6-2), quality perimeter wings and an athletic, experienced lead guard.

I told a national evaluator (not present) that “I have Hebron Christian #2.” The evaluator asked, “in Georgia?” I responded “no, in the nation!” The response of the evaluator could be summed up as “disbelief.”

This past year Hebron (now 2A) won its 3A class, the post-season The Throne event in New Jersey and finished the year ranked nationally but behind Georgia 7A champions Grayson (which should be down some from last year’s high national ranking). The teams never played last season.

Important changes in GHSA playoff system and other Georgia teams that looked most promising for 2024-2025

Georgia has dropped class 7A merging teams into six classes for the upcoming season. The private schools in 4A through 6A will play with publics in post-season. However, private schools in classes A, 2A and 3A will be playing for just one title (away from public schools) probably making it one of the most difficult titles to win in any state. While Hebron Christian will be favored in this (baring injuries), the competition will be more difficult than what they dealt with to win 3A the last two seasons.

Other Georgia teams that stood out at Georgia Live or will be amongst the state’s best assuming injured/missing players return as scheduled are noted here. With so many teams present, I probably missed some who should have been included below.

Amongst the public schools Carrollton 6A, North Paulding 6A, Norcross 6A, Langston Hughes 5A, River Ridge 5A (currently not at full strength) all impressed as to being strong in their respective classes. 3A Baldwin (previously 4A) should again be a contender for a state title. 2A Josey beat several larger schools at this event and should be one of the favorites in 2A where they finished second last year.

The private schools of Georgia continue to draw in quality talent and many impressed besides Hebron Christian. A bunch showed significant division 1 talent including Galloway, Greenforest, Holy Innocents’ (playing shorthanded particularly with USA U17 point guard Hailee Swain missing), Mount Paran Christian, St. Francis (all in the A-AAA post-season private mix) and 5A Woodward Academy.

Not present at the event was Marist School which won the 6A last year and drops to 4A this year where they are expected to be one of the favorites thanks to guard Kate Harpring (one of the best in her 2026 class in the USA).

Out of state:

Dr. Phillips of Orlando, Florida, went 4-0 (showing terrific intense defense) and should again be one of the favorites in Florida 7A as should Hoover (Alabama) which only lost to Hebron Christian. Hoover should be even better the following year with several key players not rising seniors.

Players below stood out as names to know for the upcoming season. Most are likely to have NCAA Division 1 offers or consideration (particularly for the younger) from at least the mid-major level. Listings are alphabetical within class with listed height, position and school. All are from Georgia unless otherwise stated.


Ava Andrews, 6-1, wing, North Paulding

Andrews is above average athlete with size and ability to drive to the rim.

Jasmine Baxter, 6-0, power forward, Langston Hughes

Strongly built, Baxter can score in the lower paint but also is a threat to step out and hit the three.

Tatum Brown, 5-5, point guard, Grayson

Brown is the most significant player returning from Grayson’s nationally ranked, state championship team. She shows up consistently leading her team and scoring primarily via penetration.

Ja’kerra Butler, 6-1, forward, Hebron Christian

Butler is one-half of Hebron’s physical up-front duo. She can hit the three but does most of her work in the lower paint.

Delaney Cooper, 5-9, wing, Woodward Academy

Cooper can drive the ball to the rim in half or full court setting showing some nice handles along the way.

Jocelyn Faison, 6-1, forward, New Manchester

A long lefty, Faison can create a shot at mid-range but also shoot the three.

Jessica Fields, 6-2, power forward, Mount Paran Christian

Fields appears to have added some ability to push the ball on the fast break as well as some range to her high-motored low post game. Having major D1 offers, she is one of the top players in Georgia’s 2025 class.

Mia James, 5-5, point guard, Hebron Christian

James has always had speed and quickness but appears to have improved her ability to run a team and shoot the three. She rebounds well for a smaller guard.

Danielle Osho, 6-0, forward, Hebron Christian

Bit more muscular in build than her running mate (Butler), game is very similar to what is written above.

Daija Preston, 5-9, guard, Carrollton

Preston is above average in both athleticism and basketball IQ letting the game come to her.

Anilys Rolon, 5-9, wing, Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Florida)

Rolon can hit the three better than most high school players, but perhaps more important hit them in clutch moments. She is working to improve her attack off the bounce.

McKayla Taylor, 6-2, post, Langston Hughes

Strongly built with good hands and low post game, Taylor recently oraled to Georgia Tech.


Khloe Ford, 6-3, center, Hoover (Alabama)

Having viewed Ford in two recent events at LakePoint, the more I see this lefty, the more I like her game. Strongly built with good hands, Ford can really disrupt opposition activity in the lower paint.

Lydia Ledford, 5-11, small forward, Buford

Ledford moves well and is an above average passer. She showed a nice mid-range pull-up.

Bella Ragone, 6-2, forward, Millcreek

Nationally ranked in the 2026 class, Ragone is light on her feet being more perimeter than post player looking to shoot the three or mid-range shot.

Jamila Ray, 5-10, guard, Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Florida)

Having an athletic medium build, Ray is coming of ACL surgery and progressing nicely. Able to play either guard slot, she showed a nice mid-range stroke.

Za’Rihanna (Coco) Rudolph, 5-7, point guard, Galloway School

Rudolph has major league quickness, speed to the rim, good handles, and court vision. Good D is another plus.


Kie’Aundria Acree, 6-1, guard, Monroe (Albany, Georgia)

Acree is considered one of the top prospects nationally in the 2027 class combining above average height, athleticism, and ability to play on the perimeter. Scoring is primarily by attacking the basket.

Suri Clark, 6-2, power forward, Baldwin

With medium-solid athletic build, Clark has a good motor and major D1 upside with continued progress in skills.

C’India Dennis, 5-5, point guard, Creekside

Dennis is considered one of the top players in Georgia’s 2027 class. Above average athletically, she can run a team and score off the bounce.

Nimah Ibidunni, 6-2, center, Alexander

Ibidunni still needs to fill out but uses both hands in showing nice touch around the rim.

Finley Parker, 6-2, small forward, River Ridge

Parker impressed in that she tried to attack the rim rather than just settle for a three-ball more than witnessed in the past. Her game appears to be growing.

Giaunni Rogers, 5-9, shooting guard, St. Francis

Muscular in build, Rogers can stroke it from mid-range, attack the rim and hit the glass.

Trinitee Thomas, 5-10, wing, Warner Robins

A superior athlete on the perimeter, Thomas needs to keep improving skills.

Janiyah Weaver, 6-3, small forward, Maynard Jackson

Tall and athletically slender, Weaver likes to take the ball to the rim along the baseline. She is a work in progress with a major D1 upside needing to avoid frustration (which she showed at times) and keep working on her skills.


Aaniyah Branch, 6-5, power forward, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal

Branch is still early in her post player development, but her height, high motor and overall athleticism put her ceiling well into major D1. Just keep working!

Leah DeWitt, 5-8, guard, Marietta

A coach’s daughter, DeWitt has above average basketball IQ and three-point range. She is one reason why Marietta is expected to become one of the better teams in Georgia 6A over the next few years.

Kyndal Hardaway, 6-1, forward, St. Francis

Hardaway is another young quality athlete on the St. Francis roster. She was listed as a 2029 but one of the team’s coaches said 2028 is correct.

Michelle McKenzie, 5-10, forward, Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Florida)

McKenzie came off the Dr. Phillips bench at the event. She might be called a player without a set position coming into high school. What was so impressive was her ability to “clean up garbage” in traffic in the lower paint.

Loriel Murray, 6-2, power forward, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal

Murray has above average understanding of post play coming into high school. Word at LakePoint is she has a chance to be one of the top 2028 performers in Georgia this year.

Morghan Reckley, 5-8, point guard, Sandy Creek

Reckley has fine handles, above average basketball IQ and court vision. She can score hitting the three or attacking the rim. She is another likely top player in Georgia’s 2028 class.

Tracy Wakefield, 5-6, guard, Cherokee

Wakefield is advanced for a rising freshman. She is a decent athlete, has a solid stroke and is willing to work on defense.


Kristen Winston, 5-10, guard, Hoover (Alabama)

Unlike Georgia, 7th and 8th graders can play on a high school varsity in Alabama and look for Winston to have major impact for Hoover this season. Still needing to fill out, Winston showed quality handles, court vision and basketball IQ. Above average athletically, she was active at both ends of the court and has to be one of the top 2029’s in Alabama and perhaps beyond.

Mia James of Hebron Christian (PC: Bob Corwin)

Jamila Ray of Dr. Phillips (PC: Bob Corwin)

Coco Rudolph of Galloway School (PC: Bob Corwin)

Giaunni Rogers of St. Francis (PC: Bob Corwin)

Leah DeWitt of Marietta (PC: Bob Corwin)