It became apparent early in the 2009-10 high school basketball season that Malcolm Brogdon could be the missing piece of the puzzle that could help Greater Atlanta Christian take the next step toward a state championship.
Of course, the puzzle metaphor also needed to work both ways, especially with the 6-foot-4 junior attending his third different high school in as many years.
But judging from the results both on and off the court, it seems like Brogdon and the Spartans have found the right fit.
The Spartans won their first state championship since 1977 by taking the Class AA title, and Brogdon was a big enough piece of the puzzle to earn the Daily Post's Boys Player of the Year honors.
"It's always a two-way street," Spartans coach Eddie Martin said of the period of adjustment when Brogdon came to GAC after attending Woodward Academy as a freshman and Fayette County as a sophomore. "But the great thing was, he came to us early and got to play about 30 games with us in the summer. It kind worked out the chemistry (with the team), and it was a building process the whole season."
The adjustment was multi-faceted for Brogdon, who not only had to adjust to new teammates, but also new classmates, new teachers and a whole new atmosphere at GAC.
However, he said it didn't take long to feel at home.
"School-wise, it just meant a little more work going from public school to a private school," Brogdon said. "But I went to Woodward Academy for six years, so I'd been through that before.
"Basketball was also an easy transition. Coach Martin's system allows you to be incorporated into the team."
It helped that Brogdon had been AAU teammates with Spartans point guard Paul Dawson.
It also helped that the Spartans already had a solid core in place that included Dawson, 2009 Daily Post Player of the Year Trent Wiedeman and seniors Elliott Long and Beaux Hebert.
While that meant a slightly different role for Brogdon than he had played a year earlier at Fayette County, it was one he was more than willing to accept.
"I knew GAC had a great big man (in Wiedeman), so I wouldn't be needed to crash the boards as much," Brogdon said. "But I knew I'd be needed to help Paul out handling the press. I think my ball-handling and confidence with the ball really improved this year."
It turns out Brogdon was very adept at handling many different roles, including the team's leading scorer.
"The one thing we try to push with everybody on our team is to be a complete player, and (Brogdon) was this year," Martin said.
Brogdon averaged 20.6 points per game -- trailing only Collins Hill's Saah Nimley and Norcross' Jeremy Lamb among all Gwinnett County scorers -- 6.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
More importantly, he jelled right in with the team and even asserted a leadership role on the team when it was needed.
Martin was surprised in the least.
"I think that is in his nature," Martin said. "We didn't want to go to him and say, 'We needed you to take a huge leadership role,' because we knew we had four good seniors. But his nature is to be a frontrunner.
"I think there were two reasons (Brogdon fit right in). One is, he's very unselfish. Two is, everybody saw how hard he worked, and I think that drew the respect of everyone involved."
Brogdon has also begun to earn the respect and attention of college coaches.
For now, the top schools on his list are College of Charleston -- where Wiedeman will attend in the fall -- plus Wichita State, Virginia Commonwealth and Alabama.
However, Martin says he is hearing from even higher profile programs asking about Brogdon, though added the biggest challenge for him will be to take his game to an even higher level during his senior season.
"Each year, your role changes," Martin said. "He'll get some added respect next year he didn't have this year, but we'll push and encourage him to become the player he needs to be to play at the next level.
"He knows what he's got to do. ... But he stepped up to the plate big time (this year), and I know with his work ethic, he'll keep working this summer and even this fall to help himself."
In the meantime, Brogdon is still enjoying this year's title and hoping for a return engagement next year.
"This was probably the most fun year," Brogdon said. "It's a memory I'll never forget, but I know I'll need to make bigger improvement next year and be consistent every game."