Take a look at most of the state's successful Class AAAAA boys basketball teams over the past decade and the evidence is clear. Nearly every roster has been boosted by students transferring in from other districts.
Every AAAAA boys champion dating back to Berkmar in 2001, most notably powerhouses Norcross and Wheeler, has featured prominent transfers who didn't start their high school careers at the school where they finished.
That history makes what Central Gwinnett's boys have done this season more special. The Black Knights are 28-2 and in today's Class AAAAA quarterfinals at West Georgia entirely on homegrown talent that moved up from their feeder middle school, Richards.
"To some degree, it does (make the season more special)," Central boys coach David Allen said of not relying on move-in students. "All you can do is continue to work hard and do what's right. ... Regardless of all that, our job is to make them better players and better people. Winning and losing takes care of itself if you do things the right way."
Not only is Central winning with its own talent, it is doing so while enduring transfers to other places. Richard Howell bolted for Wheeler, helping the Wildcats to a state title last season. DeVonta White, a Georgia State signee who would have been a Central senior, transferred to Centennial. But his team lost in the first round, while his former team is rolling with 14 straight wins heading into today's game with McEachern.
The current success has plenty to do with Central's star players sticking around. Some players have bolted for other programs, but top scorers Brian Williams and Jordan Adams have stayed in Lawrenceville.
"They're great players and they've got great dedication to Central Gwinnett, Brian's got family ties here (his older brother Darren played at Central)," said Allen, a former Brookwood assistant and Loganville head coach who is in his sixth season at Central. "They're good leaders for our program and good players, too."
Ayo Madamidola, a senior like Williams, also has been a steady scorer to go with Adams, a heavily recruited sophomore. Senior Kyron Anderson also is a key player, as are 6-foot-2 posts Jerry Coleman and Kwabena Frimpong.
"Our two unsung heroes are Jerry Coleman and Kwabena Frimpong, they're outsized in the post every night," Allen said. "The job we ask Kwabena and Jerry to do every night is amazing."
Central only played those six players Wednesday night when it upset defending state champion Wheeler. That victory was the 28th of the season, breaking the school record of 27 set by the 1969 state runner-up team.
A 29th win today won't be easy against McEachern, led by 6-foot-3 senior guard Trae Golden, a Tennessee signee. A victory also would bring the Black Knights back to the Arena at Gwinnett Center for the state semifinals.
The Norcross boys (27-2) also play today at West Georgia, facing a showdown with a Milton team it lost to earlier in the season. The Blue Devils lost in last year's quarterfinals after winning the previous three AAAAA titles.
Milton (26-4), state runner-up to Wheeler last season, has four of the state's top underclassmen in 6-8 junior post Julian Royal, 6-4 junior wing Dai-Jon Parker, 6-3 junior guard Shannon Scott and 6-7 sophomore forward Evan Nolte, a dangerous 3-point shooter.
Two Gwinnett AAAAA girls teams also are in action today at West Georgia, with Mill Creek (26-4) playing Milton (22-5) and Norcross (25-4) playing Campbell (24-6). The four teams make up the top two seeds from tough Regions 7-AAAAA and 6-AAAAA.
At Marietta High School, today's Class A quarterfinals will feature three Gwinnett teams, including the two-time defending state champion Wesleyan girls. They take on a transfer-laden St. Francis team at 4 p.m.
The 5:30 p.m. matchup pits longtime rivals Providence Christian and Wesleyan in a boys quarterfinal, with the winner advancing to Macon for next week's Final Four. Both teams are 23-6 and share the same region, though they didn't match up in 7-A tournament after Wesleyan was upset.
But the Wolves have defeated Providence both times this season -- 61-56 on Jan. 15 and 62-50 on Feb. 5 -- and three straight times overall. The Stars' last win over Wesleyan was Jan. 16, 2008, a 64-62 overtime victory.