HAMMOCK: Grayson boys basketball rising to new heights

Geoffrey Pierce

Geoffrey Pierce

Around this time last year, I wrote a column praising some of the most improved high school basketball programs in Gwinnett County with a list that included the Grayson boys.

By last January, the Rams and first-year head coach Geoffrey Pierce had already stepped it up a notch from the 2011-12 season, when they went 5-21 and Pierce was an assistant coach at Meadowcreek.

A year later, they’ve taken it to a whole new level.

The long-struggling program is 17-2 overall, 8-2 in Region 8-AAAAAA and winners of 15 of its 16 last games. The only loss during that span is a close loss to region leader Berkmar.

Despite the sudden success in Pierce’s second season, Grayson is still overlooked by many in the basketball community, likely because of its past track record of futility.

The Rams’ boys basketball program has struggled since its formation, mixing some bad and some mediocre seasons together and never reaching sustained success — or success at all. It’s never made the state playoffs in Georgia's largest classification — and only once since the school opened in 2000. Its 17 wins is easily a school record.

Over the past decade, Grayson has rarely hit double-figure victories in boys hoops and on four occasions it has won five or fewer games. That included back-to-back, three-win seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

On the heels of a five-win season, Pierce, his coaches and players began to make those days a distant memory last season. They finished 13-13 and fell short of their state tournament goal after losing to Shiloh in the Region 8-AAAAAA Tournament quarterfinals.

Don’t expect them to miss out on state this year, though.

Seniors Marquise Lanier, Austin Morris, Jordan Dilwood, Marquise Bumpas, C.J. Brown, Cam Boaz and Deshawn Foster have meshed well with some talented young players, building a cohesive unit that is piling up the wins. They play with energy and a commitment to defense, two traits that will result in a lot of victories.

It also helps that Grayson has the right guy in charge.

Pierce is young and energetic, but also wise. He worked for six seasons under a proven, veteran coach in Meadowcreek’s Billy Davis, and played for another one at Central Gwinnett — he graduated in 2000 and played for longtime Black Knights head coach Melvin Sweat. In his final season at Meadowcreek, Pierce led his junior varsity team to the region championship.

It’s nice to see the Rams, after all these years, finding the right combination for boys basketball success. Hopefully we’ll be writing about their continued improvement for years to come.

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.