Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Norcross guard Khalen Pinkett (3) gets fouled by Mill Creek Trevon Shaw (14) while driving to the basket during the game earlier this season.
As distinguished as the Norcross and Greater Atlanta Christian boys basketball programs are, both will be missing something four other teams in the Converse Invitational have on their resumés.
The 16-team tournament, which runs Wednesday through Saturday at Columbia, features four defending state champions, including the first-round opponent of GAC.
GAC will face Wenonah, Alabama's repeat Class AAAAA winner in 2012, at approximately 4 p.m. in one of the eight opening games at the DeKalb County school outside Decatur.
Norcross hardly gets an easy draw, either. The Blue Devils are scheduled to play Meridan, which won a 2011 Class AAAAAA state title in Mississippi, at approximately 8:30 p.m. in the first round's final game.
In addition to Wenonah, the other 2012 state champions in the field are Florida Class AAAAAA winner Norland, host Columbia, which has won three straight Georgia titles in Class AAA (now AAAA), and Class A champ Whitefield Academy.
All of the teams entered at Columbia made it to their state tournament last season.
GAC won Class AA state titles in 2010 and 2011 before being edged in the quarterfinals last season. Norcross, which won the Class AAAAA (now AAAAAA) state title in 2011, lost in the second round last season.
Other Georgia teams in the tournament are Jonesboro, Tucker, Alcovy, Crisp County, Chamblee, Butler and Greenforest. Joining the out-of-state contingent are Bartow, Fla., and Auburn, Ala.
Both Norcross and GAC are considered strong state title contenders this season, with the Blue Devils ranked No. 25 nationally in the preseason USA Today national rankings.
Norcross is just 5-4, but the Blue Devils are just starting to get a full compliment of players. Three players were key parts of the state championship football team and College of Charleston signee Terrance O'Donahue is still rehabbing after knee surgery.
"They were pretty banged up from football," Norcross coach Jesse McMillan said of Myles Autry, Lorenzo Carter and Chris Herndon. "But we're expecting to have them play at Columbia."
Among the Gwinnett County boys teams going out of state for holiday tournaments this week are Berkmar, Peachtree Ridge, Buford and Dacula.
Berkmar will play in the Arby's Classic at Bristol, Tenn. Peachtree Ridge and Buford are in the Upward Classic at Spartanburg, S.C. Dacula is in Daytona Beach, Fla., for the Sunshine Classic.