Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dresser explodes for 59 points in Alleluia's win Tuesday

Alleluia's Ben Dresser scored Tuesday in a way we won't see for a LONG time

Ben Dresser
's Alleluia Angels' 92-80 win over the Augusta Eagles was not featured at AugBball Tuesday. And the team won't participate in this weekend's Garden City Classic, which AugBball will feature prominently. But the 6'2" senior scoring machine found a way Tuesday, and probably will the rest of the season, to snatch the attention away from the area's more talked about games with a 59 point explosion that included a 10 for 16 three point shooting spree!

In a text exchange after Tuesday's game, Dresser had this to say about his scoring streak: "It was a crazy game! I was just clicking tonight! Back door cuts were open time and time again. And I was 10-16 from three, so that was good. My teammates did a great job of feeding me the ball."

Beginning with Tuesday's Alleluia-Augusta Prep AugBball Game of the Night showdown that features Dresser and Prep's Ryan Jolly, I'll try to pay closer attention to the guy who is second to no area player as a shooter, a scorer, a competitor, and an all around player and person.

Dresser is averaging 33 points per game for the 3-2 Angels. Anybody who thinks those numbers are any less impressive because Alleluia has only played one game against a public school should see Westminster's game against Richmond Tuesday, or simply watch Ben play, to realize it is nonsense to discount his abilities because of the league in which he competes. Or one can simply try to visualize how difficult a feat it is to score an average of two points every minute for an entire game. Such a thing happens very rarely and when it does it is often a fluke. Not so with Dresser, who is having a historic season that I predict will only get better.

Lady Yellow Jackets continue their roll; Burns leads with 18 in win at Cross Creek

Through North Augusta's play during the first eight days of the season, the Lady Yellow Jackets have made an emphatic statement that last year's South Carolina state tournament final four run was no fluke. Last night's 52-42 win at class 4A power Cross Creek confirmed what we saw last week when coach Crystal Cummings' team routed Hephzibah and beat Laney in the Spartan Classic at Glenn Hills: Her group, which is led by a pair of six-footers, sophomore Mya Burns (18 points Tuesday against Cross Creek) and junior Amari Young (23 last week versus Laney), along with a host of other contributors including junior Sarah Crews (12 points against Cross Creek and 13 versus Laney), will be regulars for years in the deepest rounds of post season play.

After logging two wins against teams which I believe have state title chances in Georgia, North Augusta (3-0) looks forward to a weekend that is no easier when they will face Strom Thurmond at home Friday and visit 5-1 Grovetown Saturday in an attempt to avenge last season's Christmas tournament loss to the Lady Warriors in a game that anyone who loves to see our area's best girls teams play needs to attend.

Richmond Tops Westminster 56-50 in the AugBball Game of the Night

Moses Williams led Richmond with 15 points in Tuesday's AugBball Game of the Night.

In a long overdue matchup between state championship contenders from the GHSA and the GISA, the league for many of the private schools, Richmond overcame a fourth quarter deficit to beat Westminster 56-50 at home, establishing a 5-0 record and gaining momentum before another difficult test Friday. Richmond's "three Musketeers" led the way again as Moses Williams scored 15 points and DT Stephens and Jason Weaver added 12 and 10, respectively.

Michael Dukes led all scorers with 23 points and Jelani Watson-Gayle chipped in 17 as the pair scored 40 of the Wildcats' 50 points. Watson-Gayle's three early in the fourth quarter gave Westminster a 46-45 lead, and after Dukes tipped in a Larkin Ison miss with 4:40 remaining, Westminster held its biggest lead of the night at 48-45.

Richmond's experience and composure was crucial in the Musketeers' game closing 11-2 run. The senior leaders, Williams and Weaver, whose leadership coach Steve Nobles talked about in our post game interview in the video above, sank 5 of 6 free throw attempts down the stretch. The Musketeers only scored one field goal, that by 6'5" sophomore Vontrez Roberts, during the fourth quarter. But Roberts also made a pair of free throws in the final period, and Stephens made three.

Michael Dukes led all scorers Tuesday with 23 points.

That Richmond was able to slow down Lakeside, which averaged 73 points per outing leading into Saturday's showdown with the Musketeers at Paine, and turn around three days later to win against an equally talented but much more methodical Westminster by getting defensive stops and sinking clutch free throws, is a good predictor that coach Nobles' team will be ready for the tests ahead during region and post season play. The Musketeers host Glenn Hills Friday and visit Westside Saturday in a pair of non region matchups that will pose different challenges to this impressive group.

Westminster plays Briarwood Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the Garden City Classic at Augusta Prep. During the three rounds of play, the Wildcats will possibly face some of the area's best players, like Augusta Christian's Nate Dunlop and Augusta Prep's Ryan Jolly, in an event that has become must see basketball for area hoops fans.

Coach Steve Nobles (left) and Mark Tebbs (right) shake hands post game.

There was a time, for example 25 years ago when I played at Westminster under coach Mark Tebbs, then in his first season coaching the Wildcats, where it would have sounded absurd that my alma mater would visit Richmond Academy and come a couple possessions away from winning. Times have changed. Coach Nobles said it perfectly in our interview: "They're good. Westminster's good."

I agree. And I'll add that Richmond is very good.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stay tuned for stories from Tuesday's games

Coming soon from AugBball

(estimated time for first story is 9 AM)

  • Full game highlights and coaches interviews from the AugBball Game of the Night: Westminster at Richmond
  • Details from two other games, one in which an area power edged a tough opponent despite being without its leading scorer, and another in which one of the town's top bucket getters got more buckets than we'll probably hear about for a LONG time.
  • News of a girls team built around juniors and sophomores which looks poised to be a perennial state title contender
  • And more!

North Augusta's visit to Cross Creek headlines AugBball's Tuesday night "bonus coverage"

You may have seen that Westminster's first ever game against a GHSA opponent, Richmond Academy, which I believe to be our area's best team, is Tuesday's "AugBball Game of the Night." See the preview I posted Monday at this link.

Tune in to @AugBball for bonus coverage of North Augusta Lady Yellow Jackets vs Cross Creek

My first camera and willing AugBball contributor will be dedicated to the Lady Yellow Jackets and Razorbacks, who will meet in the first of two non region battles between the two area powerhouses. After reaching the semifinals of the South Carolina state playoffs last season, North Augusta returns all of its key contributors. And the Lady Jackets rolled past Hephzibah and Laney in their first two games in last week's Spartan Classic.

One of my goals this season is for AugBball to provide either "game of the day" or "bonus coverage" every time two of the four girls teams I believe to be state championship contenders (North Augusta, Cross Creek, Grovetown, and Laney) play each other. This brings up the question I asked Alana Davis, Cross Creek's star center, at her national letter of intent signing event last month. Here's Davis, the future Memphis Tiger who averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds as a junior, on whether or not "the girls are taking over the area basketball scene:"

Also on the AugBball radar

Burke County at Grovetown Lady Warriors

I don't have anybody assigned to Grovetown's second straight game against a state tournament caliber team while playing without leading returning scorer Destiny Marshall. But I'm hoping to find a willing volunteer!

The Lady Warriors came oh so close to topping Johnson Saturday, losing 79-78 in overtime in the "Girls' Night Out Shootout" to the team that reached last season's class 3A state semifinals. In Marshall's absence, senior Elizabeth Metress scored 27 points, making 4 three pointers and 11 free throws. Metress also dished out 5 assists and logged 4 steals.

Coach Jamie Echols is no doubt anticipating Marshall's return, but Metress is certainly capable of filling the leadership role now and in the future. She has shown the ability to score at critical times. And when the Lady Warriors are at full strength, like they were during their season opening 70-39 win over Richmond, she fills up all the space in the stat sheet, as she did that night with 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists:

Greenbrier (1-4) at Josey (3-1)

Josey responded to its season opening loss to Lakeside with three straight wins over Greenbrier, Lakeside, and Grovetown in the following 8 days, including this overtime "payback" win over the Panthers Friday at Paine:

During that same period, Greenbrier has fallen just short in its four games against some of the area's best teams (Laney, Josey, Butler, and Glenn Hills). Guards Richard Crawford III (19 points) and Austin Canaday (23 points) combined for 42 points in this track meet of a game against Butler at Paine Friday:

Will Josey continue to roll, or will Greenbrier get over the hump? Hopefully I'll find someone to provide AugBball updates in real time from this fascinating matchup!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Richmond hosts Westminster in Tuesday's AugBball Game of the Night

Richmond (4-0) vs Westminster (2-0)

DT Stephens (left) and Jelani Watson-Gayle (right)

Westminster's first ever game against a public school opponent will come in the home gym of the red hot Musketeers, who skated through the first two weeks of the season, winning their first four games by an average margin of 21 points. Richmond's first challenge came Saturday when the "three Musketeers" combined for 43 points in a 56-51 win over Lakeside in the Thanksgiving Classic at Paine. Like Richmond's season opener against Grovetown, Jason Weaver (18 points), Moses Williams (13), and DT Stephens (12) led the way as their experience, honed during last season's second round state tournament finish, continued to distinguish the Musketeers from the pack early in the season.

Richmond poses a special challenge for Westminster, which will aim to slow the pace and make the very most of every possession, as the Wildcats did when they played Blythewood and North Augusta in scrimmage games at Evans three Saturdays ago. Whether Richmond employs the press that worked so well against Grovetown, or uses a zone with their long lineup to clog the paint and at the same time make it difficult to score from the perimeter, Westminster's Jelani Watson-Gayle should be able to run the Wildcats' offense in a way that limits turnovers and gets coach Mark Tebbs's team good shots.

Watson-Gayle scored 15 points and dished out 7 assists in Westminster's 47-37 win at Fox Creek last week, and Mike Dukes added 13. Both are strong and athletic guards who can score from deep and in the paint. And the Wildcats are much bigger than people may realize. 6'5" McKay Stackley and 6'4" Noah Kershner play their roles well and Westminster's offense puts them in position to positively affect the game.

The first marquee matchup between a school from the GHSA (Richmond) versus one from the GISA (Westminster) pits the top local team from each association against each other. Follow @AugBball on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for highlights and updates live from Richmond Academy beginning at 6:30.

Jags Women and Men Sweep Second Double Header in a Week

Keshun Sherrill scored 13 points in the final 6:51 to lead Augusta University to a 76-72 win over Wingate, completing the second double-header sweep of the week after the Lady Jaguars thumped Clark Atlanta 84-48.

Sherrill scored 29 points and junior forward Kyle Doyle added 16 as the Jaguars overcame a 7 point second half deficit, taking the lead for good at 69-67 when Sherrill sank a three pointer from the left wing with 3:21 remaining after a feed by Tyvez Monroe. Two trips later, the All-American guard converted a three point play to give the Jaguars a 5 point lead. And after a Wingate basket, he sank a floater with :41 left to provide a 74-69 cushion before sealing the game with two free throws while .3 seconds remained.

With three starters on the bench with foul trouble for an extended period during the second half, Doyle's contributions were key. The 6'6" Josey graduate made 7 of 8 field goals and scored 6 points during a key 8-2 Augusta run that erased Wingate's 52-45 second half lead. Tamyrik Fields and Deane Williams made key baskets to extend that run and give Augusta two brief leads before Sherrill's game ending barrage.

Lady Jags improve to 2-0; Four player score 10 or more

The Lady Jaguars assisted on 16 of their 32 field goals, and four players scored in double figures in their lopsided win. Brianna Middleton led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Abrea Harris scored 15, Breonna O'Conner 14, and Cynara Pitt 13.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Don't miss today's Augusta University Double-header

Starting at 2:00 P.M. the Lady Jaguars will try to upend Clark Atlanta to start the season 2-0, and Augusta's men will take on Wingate in a bid to improve to 5-1. So make plans now to be at Christenberry Fieldhouse for Augusta University's second basketball double-header of the week.

Augusta's women enter Sunday on a wave of momentum after last season's NCAA tournament sweet sixteen round finish, a 2015-16 season ending #25 spot in the national rankings, and a 73-47 win over Fort Valley State in Tuesday's season opener.

The men are also carrying high expectations after starting the season with three wins and rebounding quickly from last Saturday's loss to national #22 West Georgia with a 79-70 home win Tuesday over Benedict.

Fans who take advantage of a full afternoon of basketball are in for a treat. 

Both teams are led by preseason first team All Peach Belt Conference players. Breonna O'Conner scored 27 points Tuesday after starting the game with a 7 minute, 25 second long blitz of offense that included 11 points and two assists while Augusta built a 17-15 lead and never looked back. O'Conner lit up the scoreboard with remarkable efficiency, making 12 of 18 field goals in only 23 minutes of play.

Keshun Sherrill, of course, is almost always the best player in the gym. He is averaging 22 points per game while shooting 44% from deep and 94% from the free throw line. One would think I would have run out of good things to say about him without repeating myself by now. But I haven't yet gathered in one video all of the clips I've captured this month showing what I believe is Sherrill's most impressive quality: his ability and willingness to stay in perpetual motion away from the ball and to use off the ball screens to score his points while taking only shots of the highest quality. Or at least the highest quality when he is shooting them! After all, most players have trouble sprinting around baseline screens, and catching the ball at the three point line on a dead run directly away from the hoop, and stopping on a dime turning and drilling three after three. Keshun does that regularly:

O'Conner and Sherrill have plenty of capable help.

Sherrill was one of five Jaguars who scored in double figures Tuesday. The video summary of the win over Benedict shows Deane Williams, Tyvez Monroe, Tamyrik Fields, Ja'Shawn Brooks, Kyle Doyle and Aaron Byrd all making meaningful contributions in the most recent win.

Williams has been the most consistent Jaguar besides Sherrill. The 6'7" sophomore forward is averaging 14 points on 57% shooting and grabbing 9 boards per game. In the video above I asked him if by now he has shown us his full "bag of tricks." He said I'll have to wait and see. Here is what I've gathered so far to show Deane's complete skill set:

O'Conner's scoring burst Tuesday was partially made possible by the help of perimeter mates Kayla Lovett and Ashleigh Outler. The three connected for this beautiful fast break finish in the second half that made the crowd buzz.

If you don't want to miss out, then don't miss the two best games in town Sunday at 2:00 and 4:00 at Christenberry Fieldhouse!

Thanksgiving Classic Highlights are at @AugBball 's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Highlights for 7 of the 10 Thanksgiving Classic games at Paine can be found by scrolling the @AugBball Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram timelines. Here is an example of what will be found:

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ahmed Hill, Christian Nobles, and Kwajelin Farrar headline this college hoops update

Saturday's college hoops schedule includes at least three games featuring Augusta raised players who are earning notoriety for their contributions on the court:

USC Aiken (featuring Christian Nobles, Richmond) @ Florida Southern - 3:30 - Link to watch

Virginia Tech (featuring Ahmed Hill, Aquinas) vs Nebraska - 4:30 - on ESPN3

Charleston Southern (featuring Christian Keeling, Laney) vs Toccoa Falls - 7:30 - Link to watch

(Here's a link to a recent post about Keeling, which follows his red hot start to his freshman season)

Hill's 6 threes weren't enough for Hokies to top Texas A&M

Ahmed Hill continued a scorching hot shooting start to his sophomore season Friday by making 6 of 11 threes, scoring all 18 of his points from deep, in a 68-65 loss to Texas A&M in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, California. The Hokies play Nebraska at 4:30 today in the third place game.

Hill has made 19 of 39 three pointers this season, and he is averaging 15.2 points per game.

Nobles scores 18 as Aiken tops Paine

Richmond Academy graduate Christian Nobles scored 18 points Wednesday in USC Aiken's 75-71 home win over Paine. Nobles, a senior, is averaging 19 points per game during the Pacers' 3-0 start.

Aiken plays today at 3:30 at Florida Southern. The next great time to see the Pacers is Wednesday's double-header at home when the men host Anderson College at 7:30, right after the Lady Pacers take on Johnson C. Smith.

Kwajelin Farrar has made an immediate impact

Farrar was 6-6 in Aiken's win over Shaw.
Speaking of the Lady Pacers, Kwajelin Farrar, a freshman who starred at Grovetown, is off to a
fast start for USC Aiken. The 6'1" forward is second on the team in scoring (9.4 ppg), she leads in rebounding (6.6), and she is making a remarkable 74% of her field goals, while playing only 20 minutes per game.

More college hoops notes about area players

California University sophomore Don Coleman, who is Butler High's all time scoring leader, has played significant minutes during the Bears' 3-1 start. Coleman's most productive game came last week against San Diego State when he scored 7 points in 17 minutes in a 77-65 loss.

Frank Booker (Westside) and Jailyn Ingram (Morgan County) took turns leading Florida Atlantic in scoring in the Owls' recent wins. After an 0-3 start, FAU got in the win column with a 98-64 win over Edward Waters. Booker scored 18 points in the win.

Ingram followed with a 16 point, 8 rebound outing in Florida Atlantic's 78-62 win over South Florida. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Richmond will get its first challenge in Lakeside at Paine Saturday

Richmond improved to 3-0 Saturday with a 71-41 win over Harlem in the Thanksgiving Classic at Paine College. Five players scored 10 or more points including DT Stephens (14), Moses Williams (12), Devon Payton (11), Lucas Thomas (10) and Vontrez Roberts (10). The win comes after back-to-back 63-40 victories over Grovetown and Woodward, respectively.

Until an opponent threatens Richmond, or at least until one comes within 20 points of the Musketeers, Coach Steve Nobles' experienced group will remain my pick to be the area's best team. With three key players from last season's region runner up and second round state tournament team leading the way, the Musketeers started the season with that kind of confidence and composure that only the experience of winning together can bring to a group.

My choice of the Musketeers as the area's top team conflicts with GHSA expert Kyle Sandy, who places Thomson, Richmond's new region rival, in the third slot in his class 4A state wide rankings, while putting the Musketeers in the seventh spot. For the record, a pick for Thompson is just as good as a pick for Richmond in my book, especially at this early stage. The teams are very close to each other in many ways.

Richmond has not been challenged yet. 

But I expect that to change Saturday when it faces Lakeside at Paine, and Tuesday when it hosts Westminster. I will preview the latter matchup later so we can concentrate on tomorrow's game first.

Saturday's 3:30 matchup with Lakeside is interesting for many reasons. In the paint, Richmond's Moses Williams will battle Lakeside's Deon Berrien in a duel between the two most productive "bigs" in town. The 6'5" Williams has averaged 12 points while coasting through Richmond's three wins, using old-fashioned footwork and hustle to beat bigger and smaller players alike.

And the 6'5" Berrien entered the weekend averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds, including a monster game in a win over Laney in which he scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Both the Musketeers and the Panthers have plenty of firepower on the perimeter too. Richmond's guards, Jason Weaver and DT Stephens, have shown they can score and at the same time run the offense in such a way that it always includes Williams. Weaver is scoring 14 points per game and Stephens is averaging 11 through three games.

But Lakeside's three headed perimeter attack that includes Kalen Williams (22 ppg, 4 apg), Brad Hilley (12 ppg) and Kre'Sean Hall (12 ppg, 10 rpg) should be up to the task as well.

These two teams are so evenly matched that each also relies on a secondary inside player who is a sophomore and who shows great promise already. Richmond's Vontrez Roberts scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Musketeers' win over Harlem Friday. And Lakeside's Jake Gilbert scored 10 in the Panthers' first game, an 85-77 loss at Butler. Both Roberts and Gilbert are 6'4" and very active. And each can provide the spark that could be the difference in this matchup.

Richmond will either need to strap on their track shoes to out run the Panthers, who were averaging 76 points through three games, or they will need to slow things down to halt Lakeside's attack. Either strategy is feasible given Richmond's roster. If Coach Nobles chooses a slow pace, it will be fascinating to see if Lakeside can adjust its game accordingly, assuming Richmond can in fact impose its will in the first place. And if they run with Coach Jeff Williams's group, Saturday's game should be a treat for those in attendance at Paine.

*Note: Since publishing this preview, Josey beat Lakeside 64-60 in overtime in Friday's 8:30 Thanksgiving Classic matchup. The Eagles paid back the Panthers for Lakeside's 74-67 win over Josey 7 days earlier in the Wolfpack Challenge Tip-off tournament. The overtime loss to Josey does not change my mind one bit about the Panthers posing a stiff challenge for the Musketeers Saturday.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Hill helps shoot Hokies into semifinals of the Wooden Legacy tournament

Ahmed Hill (Aquinas, class of 2014) continued his hot shooting today with 18 points on 6-11 shooting as Virginia Tech ran past New Mexico 92-72 in the quarterfinal round of the Wooden Legacy tournament.

The Hokies face Texas A&M Friday in the semifinals in a bid to improve to 5-0 on the season. The game, like Friday's, will be broadcast on ESPN.

Through four games, Hill is Virginia Tech's second leading scorer with 14.5 points per game. He has made half of his field goals (20-40) and just under half of his threes (13 of 28) for the season. I featured him other times in the past several weeks at the following links:

Augusta University's Home Opener Punctuates an Exciting First 7 Days of College Hoops

Video footage from Hill's 20 point game against High Point was included in that preview of Augusta University's first home game.

Six players with local ties hit the ground running on the opening night of college hoops

Ahmed headlined that post about local players having standout performances by scoring 14 points on college basketball's opening day after sitting out an entire season with an injury.

AugBball College Hoops Preview Part 2

An interview with Hill, filmed right after he was cleared to play last Spring, and a few stories about the Hokies' preparation and expectations for the season are included in that AugBball college hoops preview.

North Augusta Lady Yellow Jackets 62, Laney 56: Full Game Highlights

Because I featured Augusta University's first double-header of the season, I missed Thursday's Spartan Classic matchup between North Augusta and Laney, the first of several non-region girls games that feature 2 of the 4 local girls teams* which in my opinion all have a chance to challenge for a state title this season in their respective classes. But David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle wrote a great story about North Augusta's exciting 62-56 win. And an AugBball contributor filmed it so I could watch it and bring you the full game highlights:

*The 4 teams I believe have the chance to win a state title are North Augusta, Laney, Grovetown, and Cross Creek.

By the way, Cross Creek hosts North Augusta Tuesday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Freshman Christian Keeling drops 20 in CSU's 17 point comeback road win

Charleston Southern freshman Christian Keeling, last season's Augusta Chronicle Co-Player of the Year from Laney, continued to play lights out basketball Tuesday, scoring 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting, and leading the Bucs with 7 rebounds in a 66-65 comeback (from 17 down) win at Abilene Christian. The Bucs improved to 2-2 and Keeling leads the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game on 58% field goal and 44% three point field goal shooting. Plus the 6'3" guard is second on the team in rebounding with 6.5 per game. Wow!

Christian is one of the fiercest competitors, and one of the most productive players, that I've seen in my three decades spent in Augusta's gyms. I've been following his first four Charleston Southern game closely. 

If you need to catch up on your Christian Keeling updates during the first two week of his college playing days, here is a list of links to AugBball features of him:

Basketball: A sometimes cruel sport that builds character. Here's an example.

This is the story from Saturday of Christian's pivotal last minute of play that seemed to put away USC Upstate that ended in heartbreak. The end of that story is that Tuesday (last night) we learned that Christian is more than capable of coming back strong after encountering adversity.

Augusta University's Home Opener Punctuates an Exciting First 7 Days of College Hoops

Christian and other hometown college players who had notable games in the season's first seven days were recognized. Included in the post are the highlights of CSU's first win (over CIU) in which Keeling scored 19 points.

Saturday's Standouts - College Hoops Edition

This is the story of Christian's first college game, a road loss at Florida State in which he led all scorers with 16 points and played a major role in keeping the Bucs in the game deep into the second half.

Matt Miller eclipses 1,000 career college points mark

Add 1,000+ college points to Miller's 3,000+ high school points to
understand why I say Miller has been getting buckets for nearly a decade.

USMMA senior Matt Miller has started the season fast, scoring 19 points per game in his first three outings, including a 33 point outburst Saturday against Keystone that earned him a spot on the Skyline Conference Weekly Honor Roll. In a 66-56 loss to Hunter Tuesday night, Miller scored all of his team high 12 points in the second half, eclipsing the 1,000 career point mark after finishing a drive with 11:50 remaining in the game.

Miller is averaging 19 ppg through three games.
Despite the 0-3 start, Miller is playing winning basketball. With several key teammates injured and not playing, he poured in 22 of his team's 30 first half points Saturday to keep the Mariners within striking distance against Keystone. After Keystone opened a 20-4 lead, Miller scored 20 points during a 10 minute long, 26-15 Mariners spurt that made the score 38-30 with just over 1:00 remaining in the half. USMMA would eventually fall 83-66, and Miller finished with 33.

Miller's 1000th point Tuesday came during a second half run that closed Hunter's lead over the Mariners to 1 at 42-41. After being held scoreless in the first half, Matt came to life in the second to lead the team in scoring (12 points) for the third time in three games this season.

I frequently say that Matt, who scored more than 3,000 high school points in his four seasons playing for my GAIS Eagles homeschool team, has been getting buckets for almost a decade. This flurry of hoops from all angles from Miller against South Carolina high school powerhouse Gray Military in 2012 is an example of the kinds of things Matt has been doing to defenders these last 8 seasons.

Find out what's new and what's coming soon at here!

Collier's 18 points and 10 boards lead Clemson to OT win; Lady Tigers start 5-0

Clemson sophomore Aliyah Collier, the leader of Laney's 2015 state championship team, scored 18 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in Clemson's 78-67 overtime win against Louisiana Tech Tuesday. The Lady Tigers are off to a 5-0 start, and Collier is averaging 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals per contest.

Seeing Collier showing emotion after sinking one of her 3 triples in the highlights above reminds me of one of my all time favorite interviews, which I recorded from GPB's broadcast immediately after Aliyah led the Lady Wildcats to the state title by posting the gaudy stats shown on the screen:

Clemson next plays a pair of games in Daytona Beach, Florida, against Loyola Chicago, Thursday (1:15 P.M.), and Wright State, Saturday (11:00 A.M.).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Augusta University Women's and Men's teams grab wins in season's first double-header

Senior Breonna O'Conner scored 27 points in 23 minutes in Tuesday's win.

For most of Tuesday evening, Augusta University's double-header at Christenberry Fieldhouse was an extended celebration as the Lady Jaguars routed Fort Valley State 73-47 in their season opener, and the men beat a solid Benedict squad 79-70, rebounding from Saturday's loss to West Georgia and establishing a 4-1 record going into Thanksgiving break.

The next double-header is Sunday, November 27, at home against Clark-Atlanta for the women's (2:00 tip) and against Wingate for the men (4:00 tip).

Senior Breonna O'Conner shot out of a cannon in the early game, scoring 11 and assisting on another four in the opening 7:25 of the first quarter during a 17-9 run that set the tone for the game. O'Conner finished with 27 points, leading all scorers, in 23 minutes of action. Ashleigh Outler, a South Carolina State transfer and Cross Creek graduate, scored 9 points on 2 of 6 shooting from deep. And Abrea Harris added 9 points.

Five Jaguars score in double figures in convincing win

After falling behind Benedict 11-5, the men would start a 35-16 run that lasted until halftime when the Jags would claim a 40-27 lead on their way to a 79-70 decision. Five Augusta players scored 10 or more points. Tyvez Monroe led the way with 16, Tamyrik Fields added 15, Deane Williams and Kyle Doyle each chipped in 13, and Keshun Sherrill added 11.

The Jags took their first lead with 12:15 remaining in the first half after Doyle converted a three point play. After scoring over 25 points per game during the first four, Keshun Sherrill scored his first field goal Tuesday on a fast break layup that extended Augusta's lead to 24-17 at the 6:04 mark in the first half. Doyle punctuated the first half spurt with a bucket just before halftime that put Augusta ahead 40-27.

Doyle closed the door on Benedict's most significant second half run when he scored in the post to give Augusta a 54-46 advantage with 11:57 remaining in the game.

More college hoops news

Also in other college hoops news, United States Merchant Marine Academy senior and former Augusta Eagles homeschool star Matt Miller notched his 1000th career point in last night's game at Hunter College. Matt scored the milestone bucket when he cut Hunter's lead to 2 at 41-39 in the second half as part of his squad's most effective run at the lead before falling short on the road. Miller is scoring 18 points per game through three. He earned Skyline Weekly Honor Roll recognition after a recent 33 point outburst.

Keeling scores 20; continues scoring streak

And Charleston Southern Buccaneers freshman Christian Keeling, a Laney graduate, continued to play lights out basketball, scoring 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting, and leading the Bucs with 7 rebounds in a 66-65 comeback (from 17 down) win at Abilene Christian

Monday, November 21, 2016

Westminster Downs Fox Creek ahead of a big week after Thanksgiving; plus bonus coverage of Alleluia's win at Harlem

Jelani Watson-Gayle led in scoring and assists in Monday's win.

Senior Jelani Watson-Gayle scored 15 points and dished out 7 assists to lead Westminster to a 47-37 win at Fox Creek as the Wildcats improved to 2-0 heading into the Thanksgiving break.

Junior Michael Dukes added 13 points, and Noah Kershner chipped in 10 for the Wildcats, who ended things by outscoring the Predators 18-5 in the game's final 10 minutes. That run came after Fox Creek took a 32-29 lead late in the third quarter behind a flurry of Ellis Priester threes. Priester scored 12 points on 4 three pointers, and Rod Culver added 10 to lead Fox Creek.

After Thanksgiving comes a big week for Westminster

Westminster will visit Richmond Academy next Tuesday in a matchup between my preseason choices for the best independent school team (Westminster) and the best GHSA team (Richmond) in our area. In the post game interview above, I didn't bother to ask Watson-Gayle about his Wildcats' game with the Musketeers. Of course he and his teammates are eager to prove themselves in their school's first ever opportunity to play a team from the public school league.

Instead I asked him about the Garden City Classic, which begins two days later and runs Thursday through Saturday (December 1-3) at Augusta Prep. The tournament features 8 teams. And all but one of the best independent schools will play, including Westminster, Augusta Christian, Augusta Prep, Fox Creek, and Curtis Baptist. This is always a fun tournament. And because Watson-Gayle, Dukes, Nate Dunlop (Augusta Christian), and Ryan Jolly (Augusta Prep) will all play under one roof three times in less than 60 hours, I will be spending a good bit of time there and bringing you the action via AugBball's properties.

Bonus Coverage: Alleluia Shoots Down Harlem

Elliot Balducci led the way with 23 points in Alleluia's win at Harlem.

Missing from the Garden City Classic will be Alleluia, which is easily one of the most exciting independent school teams. Its leading scorer, senior Ben Dresser, entered Monday's 61-54 win at Harlem averaging 30 points per game. But he was happier after last night's win than after any game this season, even though he "only" scored 15 points.

In a message he sent me after the game, Dresser said the following: "If you do a report, I want you to know it was a good team win. We haven't really had a good team win in a while. Everyone contributed in a way I haven't really seen before."

Ben was obviously happy for fellow senior Elliot Balducci, who led all scorers with 23 points. Elliot turned in a fine performance last week at Augusta Christian too, scoring 17 points in a 70-64 loss to the Lions. Dresser also made special mention of sophomore Ben Freed, as well as JP Masak, whom Ben called "hands down the MVP because he got a steal every time we needed it. Like literally."

It's unfortunate for me that I won't see Alleluia next weekend when all the other independent schools gather. But I WILL watch the Angels play Augusta Prep the following Friday, December 9. I usually don't plan that far ahead. But when Dresser and Prep's Ryan Jolly square off in a matchup of two of Augusta's best players, I know there will be no place I'll rather be.

AugBball Interview with Coach Jeff Williams of 2-1 Lakeside

After winning two of three games against three of the four state tournament team's from last season's most competitive region, Lakeside has established itself as a force in area basketball. And we are barely halfway through November. I talked to first year head coach Jeff Williams about the Panthers' back-to-back wins last weekend over Josey and Laney, and about a few of the players from his high scoring and very talented team.

Next for Lakeside:

Lakeside vs Josey
Friday, Nov 25 at Paine College

Lakeside vs Richmond
Saturday, Nov 26 at Paine College

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hephzibah's Mayo sisters are each other's mirror image

"I push her too be better. At practice I'm always wanting
to guard her to make her better," says  Nicolette
Mayo (left) of her sister, Emani (right).

Hephzibah's Nicolette and Emani Mayo score in loads, like in Friday's Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge game against last season's 4A state runner up Veterans when the twins scored a combined 33 second half points to nearly erase a 21 point deficit before falling 64-58 to the Warhawks.

Emani scored 31 points and Nicolette 18 in an early test for the Lady Rebels, who will face another difficult opponent, North Augusta, in Monday's Lady Spartan Tip-off Classic at 4:00 at Glenn Hills. The twins put enormous pressure on Veterans' defense, making 7 combined threes while also attacking the basket enough to log 16 free throw attempts. Such production will likely be needed Monday if they wish to scare the Lady Yellow Jackets, who are returning the core players from last season's 24-4 squad which reached South Carolina's class 4A lower state championship game.

The Mayo sisters are each other's mirror image

The senior duo averaged a combined 35 points, 4 made threes, and 10 free throw attempts last season while leading Hephzibah to a third place region 3A tournament finish and a trip to the state tournament. Both produce tons of offense and play with enormous confidence.

How that offense is produced is what makes the mirror image phrase and its definition work. Both shoot very well from deep. But Nicolette does that with her left hand, Emani with her right. Both make plays off the dribble. But Emani likes to use the bounce to create space for her jumper while Nicolette likes to weave through traffic and score with floaters, using either hand.

Nicolette sees more differences between her game and her sister's. "She's a way better shooter than me. I'm more vocal and see the floor better. She thinks score first. I get motivated and hyped by defense, and that's what makes my offense come," said the lefty.

A look at the video highlights above will make you question whether anybody, even Emani, who recently signed her national letter of intent with Temple University, is actually a "way better shooter" than the humble Nicolette. I suggested that to her in response, telling her not to sell herself short because she is a great shooter herself. But she quickly shut me down. "Thanks but she is a pure scorer" was her response. 

Fair enough. But Emani, in a separate conversation, backed me up, praising her sister's stroke: "I shoot more than she does, but we are both shooters."

Both sisters agree that Emani looks to score first while Nicolette is intent on distributing the ball and being a vocal leader. "She motivates me and talks to me throughout the whole game," said the Temple signee.

Nicolette logged 125 assists as a junior, a hefty total for a high schooler, compared to 30 for Emani. But "E," Nicolette's on-the-court nickname for her sister, scored 22 points, to Nicolette's 13, per outing. Different and opposite ways to produce offense. Loads of offense. The twins compliment each other perfectly.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Basketball: A sometimes cruel sport that builds character. Here's an example.

Screen grab of Charleston Southern freshman Christian Keeling on the floor after celebrating a last minute Bucs run.

Basketball can be cruel. Christian Keeling turned in another standout performance today, scoring 15 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and dishing 5 assists in Charleston Southern's 79-77 loss to USC Upstate. But he was seconds away from being crowned hero of the day before a freak play on what should have been CSU's final possession gave Upstate the ball with 10 seconds remaining and CSU leading by 2. Of course, because basketball can be cruel, Upstate proceeded to bury a three to snatch a 78-77 victory from the jaws of defeat.

Keeling's reverse layup made it 75-74, Upstate.
Making it sting even worse for our guy Christian was that the minute leading up to that fateful play was a series possessions full of the kind of Keeling-esque magic we grew used to seeing from him at Laney the last four years here.

Down 75-72 with less than a minute remaining, Christian finished a Jordan like reverse layup (see photo) to cut the deficit to 1. Then he grabbed a loose ball and pushed it up court and assisted on a Patrick Wallace three that put the Bucs ahead 77-75. Not finished yet, and with Charleston Southern needing a stop, CK took a charge on what should have been the final stand, exactly like coach Buck Harris (Laney) taught him to do.

The picture I post at the top is a screen grab of Christian lying on his back outside the team's huddle immediately after he sacrificed his body to draw the offensive foul. His teammates were so happy for him they shoved him in "tough-guy excitement" when he came off the court after the big play. Christian, probably spent from giving all he had, collapsed to the ground.

On the ground or not, I'm sure CK felt like he was on top of the world during that moment. And I'm sure he feels lower than ground level now. Like I said, basketball can be cruel. But the adversity and heart break also builds fine men. Like Christian.

Go CK. Keep Your head up and we love you man!

The Bucs travel to Abilene Christian Tuesday for an 8:00 P.M. (eastern) non-conference game.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Henley's heroics help Laney escape Crawford and Greenbrier's surge; and Lakeside takes a significant step forward with win over Josey

Richard Crawford III celebrates after a dramatic three pointer that
tied Greenbrier's game with Laney at 53 with 42 seconds remaining.

After getting possession late in the fourth quarter following Richard Crawford III's heroic game tying three, Laney junior Donald Henley dribbled through almost the entire 42 seconds left in the final possession before driving left and banking in a runner just before time expired Friday to beat the host, Greenbrier, 55-53 in the final game of the first session of the Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge.

The Greenbrier "campus," including the middle school, where Lakeside topped Josey in another Challenge game, turned into a basketball hotbed Friday night when the home team's matchup with the area's perennial powerhouse, Laney, turned into a high pressure game of "can you top this" in the game's final minute while the packed fan sections dueled to see who could scream louder their support for their team.

Crawford went first, stroking a three off the dribble with Henley draped on him well behind the line to tie the game at 53 with 42 seconds remaining. 
Crawford's third three of the second half capped an 11-0 run that started right after Maurice Paige, who led Laney with 16 points, scored a layup with 4:33 remaining in the fourth quarter to give Laney a seemingly insurmountable 53-42 lead.

Crawford, who scored 25 points in one of the most impressive individual performances of the first week of high school hoops, stopped at mid court after nailing the tying shot to pound his chest and yell with joy to his teammates who swarmed him after Laney called timeout to set up the final possession.

Henley, who is as cool of a customer as there is after two seasons of playing big minutes in some of the town's most heated rivalry games, dribbled from side to side near half court until attacking the rim and giving the ultimate answer to Crawford, his teammates, and the Wolfpack faithful.

What do Friday's games tell me?

On this first day (for Laney) of the 2016-17 season, Henley, a veteran of the Wildcats' recent Final Four and Elite 8 teams, imposed his will, keeping from Greenbrier the satisfaction of starting what I believe will be a promising Wolfpack season with an emotional win and an early statement made about whether there will be a new "order" of the area's best teams.

I've said since last season that the talent level of the younger players in Columbia County has caught up to that of Richmond County. Crawford, his Wolfpack teammates Austin Canaday, and Brandon Harris, as well as Kalen Williams, Brad Hilley, and Tucker Gilbert of Lakeside are some of the players who have caused me to make that claim.

Even though Greenbrier barely fell short of completing the Lakeside and Greenbrier sweep of Josey and Laney Friday, the Columbia County teams convinced me that the chances are at least as good as not that such a sweep will be in play Saturday when Lakeside plays Laney (7:00) and Greenbrier plays Josey (8:30) in the closing games of the second day of the Challenge.

Greenbrier and Lakeside are learning how to win

Greenbrier absorbed an onslaught of defensive pressure Friday and looked ready to fold when Laney's 2 point halftime lead became 10 in the third quarter after a series of Wolfpack turnovers led to a string of open court Wildcat layups. When Henley stole the ball on consecutive possessions and PJ Walker and Paige finished back-to-back layups as a result to give Laney a 39-29 lead with 1:33 left in the third quarter, Laney's crowd broke out in their familiar "Let's go Laney" chants that are normally heard downtown when a more familiar rival has invaded Laney Walker Boulevard.
But Crawford and his teammates weathered that barrage. And even when the deficit grew to 11 halfway through the fourth quarter, the Wolfpack found a way to put themselves in position to win.

Taking Laney's best shot and still finding a way to be successful makes me believe that in addition to the talent level at Greenbrier, coach Casey Heckathorn has reasons to be optimistic about having significantly more success with his maturing group. They are learning how to win, which is a necessary step that comes after the talent is in place. (Donald Henley once learned how to win too.)

Also learning is coach Jeff Williams's Lakeside team. After an emotional season opening loss at Butler, where no seating was available nearly two hours before the game tipped off, the Panthers looked crisp and confident in their 73-67 win over Josey, a long time hoops power that many people believe can be our area's best team. Even though he scored 9 fewer points (21 total) in today's win than the 30 he scored in last weekend's loss, sophomore Kalen Williams looked much more comfortable and confident tonight. So did seniors Kresean Hall (14 points and 11 rebounds) and Deon Berrien (11 points and 10 rebounds), as well as Hilley and Gilbert, who all contributed to this dominant first half Panther run:
Every day I am more convinced that our "area" has become a "basketball town." Players like Richard Crawford and Kalen Williams, not to mention Augusta Christian's Nate Dunlop, Augusta Prep's Ryan Jolly, and many more; and schools like Greenbrier and Lakeside, will prove that we have a basketball "town" that spans multiple counties and cities, not just the actual city of Augusta or any one geographically bounded space.

I will miss day two of the Wolfpack Challenge because I will be covering Augusta University, NCAA Division II's #18 ranked team, take on #22 West Georgia at 4:00 P.M. at Christenberry Fieldhouse. I won't regret choosing the best game in town, my favorite descriptor for our home town college juggernaut, over the games at Greenbrier. But I will be a little bit envious when I hear that the roof was again blown off the building because of the great basketball and the great environment, just like we witnessed Friday night.

Miller's senior season opener and the Wolfpack Challenge headline AugBball's Friday coverage

Matt Miller's preseason interview with brother Glen Miller:

Friday's AugBball Feature Games include Matt Miller's (Left) USMMA senior season opener at Muhlenberg, and also as much as I can see of the Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge games at Greenbrier.

Matt is entering his 8th season of getting buckets and being featured at AugBball. He is nearing 1000 career college points and he has already amassed more than 4,000 when you include his run here in Augusta as a GAIS Eagles star.

The Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge features Temple signee Emani Mayo of Hephzibah and Augusta University signee Sydney Grayden of Greenbrier. And the night cap boys game between host Greenbrier and Laney should be a fun first look at both promising teams, which I previewed here:

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jags top Claflin in home opener behind 35 from Keshun Sherrill

Keshun Sherrill scored 35 points, including 22 in the second half, to lead Augusta University to a 65-56 win over Claflin in Augusta's first home game of the season. The outburst from Sherrill, which came with stellar shooting statistics (9-17 field goals, 4-7 three point field goals, and 13-14 free throws), added to the senior All-American's early season momentum, which began with Augusta's November 5th exhibition game at Wichita State, and then gained steam during last weekend's pair of regular season opening wins at Barton College.

Sherrill recently received the season's first Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week award after he scored 46 points in the team's first two games. In the post game interview, he talked about the excitement about the team on campus that was originally fueled by the preseason performance at Wichita State. He thanked the many fans who turned out for the first chance to see the Jaguars, and he explained how the players' desire to play well in front of the big crowd may have negatively affected the team's shooting early in the game:

Here's the link to the background story about Sherrill's biggest fan.

While Augusta's defense was solid throughout the game, the Jags' offense started slowly and actually never got going, except for that of Sherrill, and to some extent 6'8" sophomore Deane Williams. Williams's contributions were especially important during a  key first half stretch. Down 20-16 with 7:44 remaining before halftime, the 6'8" forward scored 9 straight points, giving the Jags a lead for the first time at 25-22. Sherril punctuated the spurt with a three to give Augusta a 6 point advantage before taking a 30-26 cushion into intermission. The Jags never trailed again.

Williams continued his early season productivity with 13 points and 12 rebounds, marking his second double-double in the team's first three games. He is averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds this season to go with Sherrill's scoring average of 27 points per game.

Saturday at 4:00 P.M. the Jags host West Georgia, which was ranked #22 in the nation in the same poll that ranked Augusta #18. Hopefully Jaguar fans will be inspired again to come support their undefeated team while taking advantage of the opportunity to see what may be two of the country's best division II teams.

Matt Miller (USMMA): Preseason Interview with AugBall expert Glen Miller

Matt Miller (left) walks off with older brother Glen Miller (right) after the
3 point competition at the August U Alumni vs Eagles and Friends game in 2011.

Many of the college basketball teams and players I follow are tipping off their seasons in the next few days. Matt Miller, a former Augusta/GAIS Eagle and current USMMA co-captain, will officially start his senior season November 18th. Here his older brother Glen Miller asks Matt some that give us a view of Miller's approach to his final season, his goals, and his plans after he graduates.

Glen Miller's interview with Matt Miller (Senior, USMMA)

  • Give us some quick thoughts on how you’re feeling going into your senior season.
Matt: I am excited about this upcoming season. We have a great group of guys who are showing up every day motivated to put in the necessary work for a successful season. This is the most eager I have been to come to practice every day and motivate myself and others to improve in everything we do.
  • You're only a handful of points shy of passing the 1000 point mark for your time at USMMA…talk about what passing that milestone means to you.

Matt: It will be an honor to join the short list of players to break 1000pts and become one of the leading scorers in school history. I was a little upset that I didn’t break 1000pts last season. I didn’t feel good about my overall performance. However, I am enthusiastic about this year. This season is the first time since freshman year that I have had an off-season to develop. The past two years, I have detached from a ship and gone directly to practice. Often, this was a week into the official start of the season. For the first time, I am feeling good about my game heading into our first game.

Miller scored 953 points at USMMA in his first three seasons.

  • With the loss of a big time scorer in David Smith, how you will you guys try to fill that void?

Matt: It is always tough to lose one of your leading scorers. Nevertheless, I believe we are going to be a great team this year. Everyone has improved since last year. Also, I believe we will play smarter and have better execution on the offensive and defensive end.

  • Your team has gone through a bunch of changes going into this season (moving to a different conference and getting a new head coach). Talk a little bit about that. 
Regarding the conference change, I am excited about it for a variety of reasons. First, in our previous conference, we were traveling out of the state most weekends and often played double headers. This type of schedule was incredibly tough physically and academically. The new conference is based in the NYC metropolitan area. Additionally, the style of game is something I am more used to playing against from HS. The conference is fast paced and guard based.

Regarding the coaching change, it is not ideal to have four different coaches in 4 years. However, the Interim Head Coach Denis Kazmir and new assistant Nathan Edick have done an excellent job thus far. Practices have been challenging, well organized, and competitive. Everyone is playing with enthusiasm and getting after it. Also, my Co-Team Captain Hunter Jones has done a great job getting the team on board and focused on what we are trying to accomplish this year.
  • What are your expectations going into this season? For you personally and as a team.  
We are going to have a great season. Further, and most importantly, I believe we will continue to improve throughout the year. I think our culture of immediate gratification often only appreciates the final score and not tomorrow’s promise. It isn’t where you start, but it is all about where you end up. I firmly believe that this will be my best season and the team’s most successful season. However, I am looking even past my final year. My Co-Captain and I seek to create a new basketball culture at the academy that puts this program in a position to be successful for years to come.

A "Matt Miller" search in the search bar on the right side
 of the screen will take you through many years of Miller
 getting buckets on the high school and college levels.

  • Lastly, tell everyone about your experience at school like USMMA. What are your plans post-graduation?

3+ years ago, I would never have guessed the opportunities and development that this academy would make available to me.  Studying in a marine engineering and shipyard management program, enduring a regimental lifestyle, and playing basketball have been the most challenging experiences of my life. However, this is not an experience I would trade for any other college experience. Often the most challenging things we do in life are the most rewarding. According to this, USMMA ranks #2 behind MIT, and ahead of #3 Harvard, in the highest median salaries of graduates.

During my time here, I have worked as an engineering officer in training on three different ships (250ft-1000ft) sailing to 18 different countries on four different continents. After four years, I will have worked for 300+ days and earned 177 academic credits. As a senior, I was appointed the Regimental Honor Board Chairman where I lead a staff of nine people in charge of maintaining standards of integrity as well as developing character and professional ethics at the Academy. Further, I am the president of the KP Investment Club and founder and president of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes club. All of these things have contributed significantly to my development as a person and leader.

Miller organizes and conducts the KP Investment Club every other week
meetings; and he authored this presentation for the year's first meeting.

After graduation, I plan on working as a marine engineer for a U.S. shipping company and taking a reserve commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy.     

  • How much of a bad ass is your older brother Glen Miller? I know he taught you everything you know and you owe him a lot. Share some thoughts on him. 

Haha you are my biggest fan, supporter, and a role model. Love ya brother, and I am proud of you.

Augusta University's Home Opener Punctuates an Exciting First 7 Days of College Hoops

AugBball Game of the Day:

Augusta University (2-0) vs Claflin (0-1)

Augusta University's 7:30 P.M. home opener tonight against Claflin will put an exclamation point on the end of the first seven days of the college basketball season. The opening week began with an 82-67 Jags victory over Mount Olive last Friday.

After topping Barton College 85-76 Saturday, the 2-0 Jags will aim to keep the momentum going by evening the score with the Panthers after last season's 66-62 Claflin win over the Jags in Orangeburg.

Augusta's leading scorer Keshun Sherrill, a preseason first team All Peach Belt selection, hauled in the season's first Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week award after scoring 46 points combined in the team's pair of victories.

I won't soon get tired of talking about Keshun. But here I'll let you listen to his current coach, Dip Metress, his high school coach, Mike Gurley, and the ESPN3 announcing team talking about the senior All American in Augusta's preseason exhibition game at Wichita State two Saturdays ago. In the unofficial season opener, Sherrill scored 33 points, running off 28 points in 12 minutes, scaring 12,000 plus Shockers fans into thinking the division I power home team would fall.

Including that preseason trip to Wichita State in the first six days of Augusta's season makes me excited about seeing how the week ends when the Jags take the floor at Christenberry for the first time this season.

More exciting college hoops news from the season's first week

The home town team is certainly not the only local bright spot from the season's first week. Virginia Tech, which features Aquinas graduate Ahmed Hill, has also started 2-0. Returning from a season on the sidelines due to injury, Hill hit the ground running Friday with 14 points in a season opening 80-67 win over Maine. He followed up Tuesday with another 20 points on 6-11 three point shooting in another Hokies victory, this one a 99-73 decision over High Point.

Christian Keeling scores 19 points in CSU's first win

Laney graduate Christian Keeling wasted no time in making his mark at Charleston Southern. The freshman followed a 16 point outing at Florida State with another 19 Tuesday in a 90-53 home win over Columbia International University. Keeling led the Bucs in scoring for the second time, making 7 of 14 field goals, 2 of 3 from deep, and grabbing 7 rebounds.