File Photo Buford's Andraya Carter goes to pass the ball during a state tournament game last season. The Wolves went on to claim the Class AA state title for the third year in a row.
Very few of us have witnessed the Buford girls basketball team's games this week in the Nike Tournament of Champions, but the reports on what's happening seven states away makes the obvious pretty clear.
The Wolves need Andraya Carter back. Very badly.
It was painfully obvious Tuesday in a lopsided 54-23 loss to Incarnate Word (Mo.). Pressure defense quickly put Buford in a 10-0 hole that turned into 15-4 after a quarter and 30-15 at halftime.
Without Carter's ballhandling and leadership, the three-time defending state champions will struggle against national-caliber teams. The Wolves should still do fine against region and state competition, but they'll find the going a lot easier down the stretch when they get their senior leader back in the lineup.
Carter, a Tennessee commit, had surgery on a torn ACL in her knee back in June. Her rehabilitation has progressed well, so Buford fans are hopeful that her return will be soon.
I'm hopeful of the same, so Carter can end her heralded high school career on the right note.
Here are some other things we've learned in the first few months of the prep basketball season:
--While the Buford girls haven't had much luck in Arizona, the Wesleyan girls continue to prove their merit, even against the nation's top programs.
The Wolves, winners of four straight state titles and eight in the past 10 years, are loaded with one of their best teams. They have more size than usual and their typically stout defense, which combine to make one of their best teams ever.
That's bad news in Class A, where Wesleyan is virtually unbeatable.
--Kudos to the Mountain View girls for a great start to the season.
The Bears finally have some depth, which showed in a win over Mill Creek earlier this season. It was easily the program's biggest win ever and a nice confidence booster for the rest of the season.
It will be interesting to see how they fare in the Lanier tournament next week, and in the tough Region 7-AAAAA schedule. No matter what happens, head coach Jackie Lindquist and her staff have done a nice job of building that program.
--Don't write off the Norcross' boys after another slow start.
The same thing happened last season and the Blue Devils bounced back to win the Class AAAAA state championship. Matching that feat this year will be tough, but Norcross will be plenty good down the stretch with their usual strong defense and promising 6-foot-7 junior Harold Givens.
-- While Norcross isn't at the top of state title contenders this season, Shiloh has jumped its way there.
The Generals boosted their lineup greatly with a pair of big-man transfers, 6-foot-9 Robert Carter (a Georgia Tech signee) and 7-foot Trayvon Reed, who played a huge role in an upset victory at Wheeler last weekend. While those two players will continue to be important, senior Jordan Gaither is just as important to Shiloh's hopes this season.
Will Hammock can be reached via email at email@example.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.