0

Gwinnett gets to see how it stacks up in loaded hoops showcase

NIKE EXPLOSION

What: Boys basketball showcase

When: Saturday

Where: Wheeler

Schedule:

2:30 p.m. -- Berkmar vs. Peachtree Ridge

4 p.m. -- Archer vs. Miller Grove

5:30 p.m. -- North Gwinnett vs. Columbia

7 p.m. -- Norcross vs. Shiloh

8:30 p.m. -- Wheeler vs. Alpharetta

For just the fourth time since 2000, a Gwinnett County boys basketball team didn't reach the Final Four in the state's largest classification last season.

If things get back to normal this season, it will likely be one or more of the Gwinnett teams in Saturday's Nike Explosion at Wheeler competing for the Class AAAAAA title next March in Macon.

Four-time state champ Miller Grove (now Class AAAAA) and three-time state titlist Columbia (now Class AAAA) are in the event, but the real interest is how the teams in the largest of the new six classifications stack up.

Six teams in the Score Atlanta preseason Top 10 for Class AAAAAA are competing in the five-game showcase and four are from Gwinnett.

The most intriguing game is Shiloh vs. Norcross, although the Blue Devils are missing several key players.

Norcross, which was No. 25 in the USA Today preseason national rankings, is waiting for College of Charleston signee Terrance O'Donohue to recover from minor knee surgery and is also without football standouts Lorenzo Carter and Myles Autry.

Norcross, No. 1 in the Score Atlanta rankings, and Shiloh, ranked No. 7, will play in the fourth game of the day, tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Blue Devils (2-1) split a pair of games in a showcase at Jacksonville before opening play in Region 7-AAAAAA with a victory at Mill Creek on Tuesday. Shiloh (1-0) won at East Hall on Nov. 17 and begins Region 8-AAAAAA play at South Gwinnett on Friday.

Shiloh, which was ousted by eventual champion Milton in the second round of the state tournament last season, is led by 7-foot-1 Trayvon Reed -- considered one of the Top 25 juniors in the nation. The Generals also feature a trio of talented transfer guards in Nate Mason and Idris Taqqee.

Norcross versus Shiloh is one of two all-Gwinnett games at Wheeler. The other is Berkmar (2-0) against Peachtree Ridge (3-2) in the opener at 2:30 p.m.

North Gwinnett, like Berkmar a loser in the state quarterfinals last season, will play Columbia, which doesn't open until Friday, in the third game at approximately 5:30 p.m. The Bulldogs (3-0) were scheduled to play at Norcross on Friday, but the game has been postponed because both schools are in the state football quarterfinals.

Archer (4-0) will play Miller Grove (3-1) at approximately 4 p.m. in the second game on Saturday and host Wheeler, which opens Friday, will face Alpharetta (2-1) in the finale at approximately 8:30 p.m.

Class AAAAAA appears wide open this season with Milton barred from the state tournament for recruiting violations that led to the firing of coach David Boyd.

The top teams not in the Nike Explosion are No. 2 Tift County, No. 4 Westlake and No. 5 North Cobb. Wheeler is ranked No. 3 by Score Atlanta. Rounding out the Top 10 after Shiloh are Peachtree Ridge, Alpharetta and Berkmar.

Gwinnett schools have won seven boys state titles in the highest classification since 2000, with Norcross winning four (2006-2008 and 2011). Berkmar won state in 2000-01 and South Gwinnett in 2004.