Junior big man transfer gives Norcross a boost

Norcross repeating as Class AAAAA state boys basketball champion remains a difficult task. But the Blue Devils' chances are looking better now than they did a few weeks ago.

Harold Givens, ranked as one of the top 10 college prospects in Georgia among juniors by ESPNU, enrolled at Norcross after leaving Northside in Columbus and joined the Blue Devils in time for the start of practice.

"The talent to be a great player is definitely there," Norcross coach Jesse McMillan said of Givens.

Norcross needed a boost. The Blue Devils had three players on last season's team sign major college scholarships and Chris Bolden, who has committed to Georgia Tech, transferred to North Gwinnett over the summer.

Returning for the Blue Devils are regulars Derrick Herbert and Jason Croom, plus sixth man Nate Sims.

The 6-foot-7 Givens will be stepping up in high school competition after playing on a losing Class AAAA team a year ago at Northside.

"He's a versatile wing and has the ability to play multiple guard and forward positions," McMillan said. "His biggest strength is his athleticism and length. He is a very humble young man and is working hard in practice."

Norcross is still attempting to cope with the death of Darrian George, who was killed last month along with three family members in an auto accident during a trip to Florida. The senior had transferred from Fort Dorchester, S.C.

The Norcross boys will begin the season on Nov. 23 in the Big Apple/Big Peach Challenge at Shiloh. The Blue Devils will open against Bishop Loughlin of New York and then play Long Island Lutheran on Nov. 25.

The Shiloh boys should be one of the most improved teams in the state this season with the addition of 6-foot-8 senior Robert Carter and 6-foot-11 sophomore Trayvon Reed. Carter, who transferred from Thomasville, is ranked the No. 2 prospect in Georgia for this season by ESPNU. Reed, who moved from Alabama, is No. 1 on the list among sophomores. The Generals will open their season on Nov. 15 at Centennial.

The Norcross girls, led by junior Diamond DeShields, have won two straight Class AAAAA state titles and will begin their season on Nov. 16 against McEachern in a rematch of last season's championship game. The showdown will be part of the Lady Blue Tip-Off at Norcross. The event will continue Nov. 17 and 19.

Like the boys, the Norcross girls have a significant out-of-state addition. Lorena Hubbard, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, transferred from New Jersey.

Gwinnett County claimed five state championships last season. In addition to the sweep by Norcross in Class AAAAA, the Greater Atlanta Christian boys and Buford girls won in Class AA and the Wesleyan girls in Class A. Buford has won three straight state titles and Wesleyan four in a row.

Coach Jan Azar's team will get an early test this season, hosting the Wesleyan Turkey Tip-Off on Nov. 21-23. It is a true eight-team tournament.

The Milton boys had their hopes of a three-peat in Class AAAAA dashed by Norcross in the title game a year ago and will play at Class AA runner-up Buford on Nov. 29. New to Milton is Tevin Glass, who transferred from Meadowcreek.