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Norcross boys' schedule challenging again

Some late misfortune in scheduling left the Norcross boys basketball program with a void, but that quickly turned into a huge positive.

The Blue Devils, who always play a demanding national schedule, had entered an event in Kentucky that was canceled. In a bind, they called the tournament organizer up there for contact info on the other teams in the field. Through that, they found out all the teams that planned a Kentucky trip were in the same dilemma.

From that point, Norcross became a host.

The Blue Devils' schedule now includes a home showcase event - Bring Your A Game to the A - with many of the top teams that had planned to go to Kentucky.

The main event will be Saturday, Jan. 23, although some games also may be played on Friday, Jan. 22.

"Talking to these folks, I find everybody is excited to come to Atlanta to play," said second-year Norcross head coach Jesse McMillan, an assistant on the Blue Devils' 2006-08 state title teams. "It seems like a lot of these teams have relatives in Atlanta or in the South, or they just want to play a game down here. They're all excited."

The Bring Your A Game to the A field features some of the nation's best prep basketball teams, including Nevada's Findlay Prep, the reigning USA Today and ESPN Rise High School Invitational national champion. Featured recently with a Sports Illustrated article, Findlay Prep is a conglomeration of players from all over the world. The team features rising senior Tristan Thompson, a 6-foot-9 Canadian who ranks fourth in the Class of 2010 and is a Texas commitment.

The field also includes teams like God's Academy (Texas) - with guard Ross Miller, who famously committed to Kentucky before his sophomore season of high school - Mountain State Academy (W.Va.), St. Francis (Md.), Friend's Central (Pa.), Thomas Jefferson (N.Y.) and Pinewood Prep (S.C.).

"We're bringing some of the top teams in the nation down here," McMillan said.

The following weekend, Norcross hosts its Marriott Invitational, which pits Atlanta teams against some of the Southeast's best. Norcross, Greater Atlanta Christian, Centennial and Dunwoody will represent Georgia in the event.

The Blue Devils' two tournament trips in December will be to Kentucky, where they match up with nationally ranked Scott County, and to Houston. The Houston tourney features Texas powers Bellaire and Yates, which finished last season ranked 19th by USA Today.

Norcross must replace the loss of three top guards - Taariq Muhammad, Denzail Jones and Zach Lamb - to graduation. Adrian Hubbard, Malcolm McDonald, Jeremy Lamb and Marty Johnson lead the returning players, who should get a boost from Brookwood transfer Chris Bolden, who McMillan hopes will fill the shooting void left by Jones.

McMillan also has added a few new coaches to his staff, David Akin and Marcus Jackson.

Akin, who has worked the past few years with the University of Georgia women's team, currently coaches the Buford Majic semi-pro team. He played at Berkmar, where he was a member of the school's 1998 Class AAAA runner-up team.

Jackson is a former Norcross basketball player, although he's more known for football, the sport he played on scholarship at Georgia.

GAC boys to host showcase event

Greater Atlanta Christian's boys basketball team plays in one of the state's best high school gyms, the new Long Forum, and the Spartans will host at least one showcase event there next season.

GAC is one of eight boys teams participating in a four-game, one-day basketball event on Dec. 12. The Spartans' field also includes Norcross, Milton, Rockdale County, Centennial, Turner County, Dunwoody and Greenville. Most matchups have not been set (but a Norcross-Milton matchup is likely), but the list features some of the state's top teams and individual talent.

"I think we've got a showcase gym, so hopefully we can do a lot of things like this in the future," GAC boys coach Eddie Martin said.

Martin's team also will play in Centennial's Martin Luther King Day showcase, as well as trip to the Arby's Classic, a 16-team tourney in Bristol, Tenn.

GAC lost just one key player to graduation, and also got a boost recently when Malcolm Brogdon, a 6-foot-4 rising junior wing from Fayette County, was accepted at the Norcross private school.

Wesleyan girls decline Nike trip

Because of expenses and the long trip, Wesleyan's girls basketball program declined an invitation to the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler, Ariz. The Wolves played in the event last season - joining Collins Hill as the only two Gwinnett programs to play in the prestigious tourney - but decided against it this season.

Gwinnett will have a third program reach the Nike tourney, however. Mill Creek accepted a bid earlier to its first Tournament of Champions.

With no Arizona trip, the Wesleyan girls still face a tough tournament, the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They also will play an early-season tourney at South Forsyth, along with two Peach State showcase events (one at Wesleyan and one at GAC).

The Wolves also will play Marietta in the Martin Luther King Day showcase at Centennial.