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County AD: Basketball still strong

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Mundy’s Mill girls basketball coach Tu Willingham says that Clayton County has become a hotbed for basketball over the years.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Mundy’s Mill girls basketball coach Tu Willingham says that Clayton County has become a hotbed for basketball over the years.

RIVERDALE — Just before the start of Wednesday’s Clayton County basketball media day, county athletic director Kevin May gave a brief state of the basketball address on the county.

The county is coming off one of its most successful seasons after seeing 10 schools make the state playoffs and four advancing all the way to the semifinals.

Drew played in last season’s Class AAA championship game.

“We had a very successful season, and much is do to the strength of the coaches in the county,” May said. “We have some good talent here in Clayton County.”

Although several top players have graduated, including county player of the year Marcus Hunt, many say basketball is still as strong.

“There will be no drop off,” said Drew coach Jarrod Davis, whose team lost to Columbia in the finals.

Jonesboro boys return its entire lineup, which has reach consecutive semifinal appearances.

“They are proven,” Davis said. “Jonesboro starting five is a highlight film.”

Jonesboro center Duby Okeke and Mount Zion forward J.R. Holder will sign with Jacksonville next week.

“I have to play my game this season,” Holder said. “There is a lot of talent in this area.”

Because of the bi-annual Georgia High School Association re-alignment, the majority of the schools in the county are in different regions. The past two years, eight of the nine county schools were all in the same region.

Some rivalries have been put on hold because of the new classification alignments.

“I’m going to miss playing some of these teams,” Jonesboro point guard Daniel Peace said. “There has always been a lot of competition in the county. However, we now face a lot of new challenges outside of the county.”

Lovejoy coach Rick Francis agreed.

Lost in the region shuffle is the Lovejoy and Jonesboro rivalry.

“I hate we will not play Jonesboro,” Francis said. “In terms of basketball, the county is one of the strongest in the state.”

Jonesboro boys and girls team could make another run at the state title. North Clayton returns enough talent in Stafan Bradley and Devin “Tank” Lewis to for another playoff run.

Eagles coach Martise Troup calls this the “quickest team” that he has coached. With the graduation of Hunt, the Eagles will rely a lot more on its defensive pressure.

On the girls’ side, Forest Par, Jonesboro and Mundy’s Mill could be the marquee teams.

Coaches say that playing in a new region is a challenge as they learn the styles of other teams.

“We will see a lot of new styles now,” Mundy’s Mill coach Tu Willingham said. “We will miss the games in Clayton County because of the crowds and the rivalries. Clayton County has become a hotbed of basketball because it is so competitive.”