David Boyd, former head coach of six state championship basketball teams in Georgia, is not on the sidelines this season, but the outspoken, colorful and sometimes controversial coach is keeping a close eye on the state basketball tournament. He has a nephew, Cam Boyd, who starts for No. 1-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian and watched GAC’s 80-62 victory over Model on Tuesday. Boyd remains particularly interested in the highest class, which he won twice and was runner-up twice in a four-year stretch (2009-12) at Milton.
Boyd was asked Wednesday to give his thoughts on the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals, No. 1-ranked Wheeler, some of the state’s top teams and players and even Mark Fox and the University of Georgia, whose point guard is Milton alumnus Charles Mann.
Here is how some of that conversation went:
Wheeler’s boys are the team to beat in Class AAAAAA, and most would say they have the best talent in the state with a starting lineup of players headed for Division 1 basketball. They trailed by six in the fourth quarter Tuesday but beat unranked but talented Shiloh 93-90 in three overtimes. Wheeler also got by in overtime in the Region 5-AAAAAA final against Walton. Should Wheeler be more dominant?
‘’I was surprised (at how close the Shiloh game was). I’ve had a chance to see them play a couple of times, and the one thing I’ve noticed about Wheeler is they just seem to be inconsistent with their performance, and it’s almost like they turn it on and off. With the caliber of teams they’re playing, you just can’t afford to do that. It just seems like to me they feel like they’re good enough to turn it on when they need to. That seems to be their attitude on the court, and that’s just a dangerous way to play.’’
Would you agree they are the most talented team in AAAAAA?
‘’They have probably as good a starting lineup as you have in the entire state, and they also have great size to go along with the talent, and then they have probably the best or one of the best individual players in the state in Jaylen Brown (rated the No. 1 junior small forward in the country by 247Sports). One of the things I’ve found over the years is that especially in the state tournament that guard play is absolutely critical. Wheeler has an incredible front line with Brown, Elijah Staley and Daniel Giddens. But you win and lose in tournament play with your guard play. I look at a team like (second-ranked) North Gwinnett (Wheeler’s quarterfinal opponent Thursday) with their incredible guard play and see that as a strength for them. (North Gwinnett’s top guards are Ahmad Caver and Tobias Howard, and both pass, shoot and defend well). When you look at Wheeler-North Gwinnett coming up, it’s Wheeler’s inside strength against North Gwinnett’s perimeter strength. I just feel like when it comes to this time of the year, that guard play is often the deciding factor. Even though Wheeler has very good guard play, they don’t seem to have what I’d call a pure point guard. Avery Patterson (Western Kentucky signee) is an outstanding player, but he’s more of a scorer than a distributer. (Without a true point guard), sometimes you get caught betwixt and between in decisions on the court.’’
So do you think North Gwinnett wins?
‘’I would think that when you look at those two teams, they’re about as evenly matched as any two in the state. You have to give a little bit of edge from an experience standpoint in coaching to Wheeler. Coach (Doug) Lipscomb has been in these situations over and over again. But two years ago, Coach (Zach) Smith beat Wheeler, and some of those freshmen (from North Gwinnett) are still there. So it doesn’t always work that way in one game. That’s a real toss-up. Home court could really work to North Gwinnett’s advantage.’’
Is this really for the state championship? Who else do you like?
‘’I do think the winner of this game would be considered the favorite to win it all, and so you’re maybe looking at the potential state champion as a winner of this game. You can never count out Norcross because they find a way to win. (Norcross, the defending champion, survived Dacula 69-67 on Tuesday.) Tift County has been knocking on the door, and at some point you’re going to open it if you keep knocking on it. I like Hillgrove a lot. They’ve had a great run the past few years. I think it’s still pretty wide open. I wouldn’t call it a clear favorite. I would just say that both those teams (Wheeler and North Gwinnett) probably have a little bit more talent overall, but not head and shoulders.’’
What other teams do you like statewide?
“Greater Atlanta Christian (ranked No. 1 in Class AA) has a chance if they run the table to be one of those historic Georgia teams because they will have gone undefeated, they will have won a national tournament, they will have beaten a Hillgrove, a Milton, a St. Francis, Eagle’s Landing, North Cobb Christian, Winston-Salem Prep, a two-time defending champion out of North Carolina. They have a chance to be ranked in the top 10 in a number of national polls. They’re No. 13 in USA Today. The whole is the key for them. The individual parts with them are not nearly as strong as the team, and I give (coach) Eddie Martin credit for that. …
‘’I like Miller Grove. Here’s the thing about Miller Grove – guard play. They have premier guard play, and when you have that, you’re going to win, and you’re going to win big, and they have two of the top guards in the state, one a sophomore (Alterique Gilbert), one a senior (Keith Pinckney, signed with Tulane). And they have one of the best coaches in the state in Sharman White. People don’t realize how hard it is to keep winning at that level. I marvel at it. I know how hard it was for us (at Milton). We had chance to win three in a row but got knocked off in that middle year. (Milton won state titles in 2010 and 2012.) It’s really hard (with) the pressure you start feeling. What they’ve done is astronomical.’’
Who is the best player in the state?
‘’I think one of the most underrated is Ahmed Hill down at Aquinas, the small private school. He’s just tremendous. I think Isaiah Wilkins (of GAC) has just been dominant this year. But maybe the best player that I’ve eye-balled is Jaylen Brown (of Wheeler). He just does it all. He’s 6-6, he can shoot the 3, gets to the rim, outstanding defender. I see a future pro in Jaylen Brown. If you look at his numbers, he’s just had a terrific year.’’
Your former Milton point guard Charles Mann had a big night on Tuesday against Missouri with 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists. You’ve probably coached as many major D-1 prospects over the past few years as anyone. What will it take for Georgia to attract more of the elite in-state talent?
‘’It’s very very simple. What my players have told me in the past is they aren’t going to Georgia because they perceive it to be considered second-class to football. If Georgia can defeat that perception, that basketball is second class, then they will come, and they will come in droves. It helps that Georgia now has a couple of Miller Grove players there, Kenny Gaines from Whitefield Academy, Charles Mann from Milton. It helps to have that Georgia flavor to the team. This year is going to really catapult Georgia into some great things.’’