By Guy Curtright
Angie Hembree and Mike Mitchell - two of Gwinnett County's most successful girls coaches - each have three state championships.
Hembree will be at a different school and Mitchell in a new role, however, when the basketball season begins Saturday.
Hembree, who led Collins Hill to its first three state championships before becoming a college assistant at Miami in 2005, returned to Georgia as coach at Norcross.
"I'm excited to be back," said Hembree, who had a 181-33 record in seven seasons at Collins Hill.
Mitchell, who won his third title in seven years at Greater Atlanta Christian last season, is now the Spartans' boys coach. He hasn't coached boys since 1984.
"Coaching boys instead of girls hasn't been much of an adjustment so far, but we'll have to see what the results are," he said.
Mitchell, who was 177-45 as the girls coach at GAC, moved over to the boys to replace coaching legend Ron Bradley, now at Heritage.
Chan Means takes over the Spartan girls, who went 32-1 last season in claiming the Class AA title.
GAC and the Norcross girls are in the Dacula Shootout - one of three Gwinnett County tournaments before Thanksgiving. The others are the Lee Sports Tipoff Classic at Parkview and the Bulldog Classic at North Gwinnett.
The Norcross girls will play Central Gwinnett at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Dacula Shootout. The GAC girls are scheduled to face Duluth at
The girls competition at Dacula is an eight-team tournament, with the semifinals on Tuesday and championship game on Wednesday. Other first-round games are Dacula against Grayson and McEachern against Tri-Cities.
GAC graduated all five starters but returns Chaney Means, the coach's daughter, and Briana Jordan. They were super subs as freshmen.
The six boys teams at Dacula will play a partial round-robin, each having three games. Mitchell will make his debut coaching the GAC boys at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Duluth.
The Tipoff Classic at Parkview is a true tournament for both boys and girls, and has a strong field in both.
The girls tournament looks particularly tough, with two-time defending Class AAAA champ St. Pius and AA power Wesleyan entered.
Wesleyan had its streak of state titles ended at three by GAC last season, but the AA runner-up has a deep and talented team led by junior Anne Marie Armstrong.
Wesleyan opens against Riverdale at 1 p.m. Saturday at Parkview, while St. Pius plays Sandy Creek at 3:30 p.m. The boys and girls semifinals are Monday, with the title games Tuesday.
The Bulldog Classic at North Gwinnett is a true round-robin event, with four boys and four girls teams entered. Games are Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.
There is one good non-tournament matchup in Gwinnett County on Saturday, with Collins Hill traveling to Shiloh. The Eagles won their second straight Class AAAAA girls title last season, going unbeaten and claiming No. 1 in the USA Today rankings.
But Collins Hill will have to defend its titles without Maya Moore, the two-time Naismith national player of the year. The All-American is now playing at Connecticut.
The Peachtree Ridge boys and girls are in the Heritage Bank Classic, which begins Saturday at Union Grove, while the Meadowcreek girls will play in the Pope Thanksgiving Classic, which also starts Saturday.
Two boys teams from Gwinnett will travel out of state for tournaments on Thanksgiving weekend. Berkmar, led by Wesley Witherspoon, is in the Nike Classic at Memphis, Tenn.. Meadowcreek, featuring Oregon signee Teondre Williams, will play in the Thanksgiving Tournament at Defuniak Springs, Fla.
The South Gwinnett boys, under new coach Emmett Rouse, will also hit the road Thanksgiving weekend, playing in the Augusta Thanksgiving Classic.
SideBar: Basketball Tournament
At North Gwinnett
3 p.m. - Berkmar vs. Chattahoochee
6 p.m. - Lithia Springs vs. North Gwinnett
4:30 p.m. -M.L. King vs. North Atlanta
7:30 p.m. - Chattahoochee vs. North Gwinnett
11 a.m. - McEachern vs. Tri-Cities
12:30 p.m. - Central Gwinnett vs. Norcross
2 p.m. - Duluth vs. GAC
6:30 p.m. - Dacula vs. Grayson
3:30 p.m. - Duluth vs. GAC
5 p.m. - Apalachee vs. Central Gwinnett
8 p.m. -Dacula vs. Grayson
Lee Sports Tipoff Classic
Noon - Brookwood vs. Mill Creek
1 p.m. - Riverdale vs. Wesleyan
3:30 p.m. - St. Pius vs. Sandy Creek
4:30 p.m. -Decatur vs. Parkview
1:45 p.m. - Sandy Creek vs. South Cobb
2:45 p.m. - Decatur vs. East Coweta
5:15 p.m. - Mill Creek vs. Riverdale
6:15 p.m. - Parkview vs. St. Pius