By James Butler
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — When boys and girls basketball teams from the 10 Clayton County high schools gathered for the county’s media day on Thursday at North Clayton High School, a couple of the high-profile girls programs featured new head coaches.
Virgil Amey replaced Candence Jackson at Drew after Jackson left for South Atlanta and John Bishop is the new head coach at defending Region 4-AAAA champion Jonesboro.
“It felt good,” Bishop, said about his decision to take the Jonesboro job after previous coach Lamar Harris resigned at the end of last school year. “It felt like a good fit. I’m excited about it.”
Bishop spent nine years as an assistant under Dan Maehlman for the Jonesboro boys. He will have two returning starters in the backcourt to work with in Saudia Munford and Victoria Sutton.
“They’re athletic,’ Bishop said. “They’re strong. They have no weaknesses, so it’s a matter of us finding some girls to play around them.”
FPHS WANTS TO STAY DOMINANT
The perennial top girls program in a county of high-level girls teams has been Forest Park. The Panthers made it to the Class AAAAA semifinals a year ago. Coach Steve Cole is happy to have Alexius High for his Panthers. High is a four-year starter.
“We expect big things out of her,” Cole said. “The first thing we expect out of her is to be a great student.”
Cole expects the same out of all his players, but he also wants fans and opponents to know what Forest Park brings to the court.
“One thing you can rely on is at Forest Park, we’re going to play hard every game,” Cole said.
JONESBORO TITLE DEFENSE, MTZ HOPES
The two-time defending boys Class AAAA champions Jonesboro Cardinals is unquestionably the top boys team in the county — if not the state — while boasting one of the top juniors in the nation in James “M.J.” Walker.
The key for Jonesboro will be replacing the six key seniors who graduated from last year’s team, including Georgia State freshman Austin Donaldson and sharpshooter Deantre Mack.
But a couple of other boys squads — namely Drew and Mount Zion — will come into the 2015-16 seasons hungry after experiencing some success a year ago. However, they both will be younger. Drew head coach Michael Zachary says his squad is rebuilding after losing five seniors, including high scorer Maleek Taylor who paced the Region 4-AAAAA runners up last year with 24.3 points per game.
Mount Zion, who finished second to Jonesboro in Region 4-AAAA last season and advanced to the second round of the state tournament, only returns a couple of seniors with Darius Dessiut being one. Bulldog head coach Maurice Triche wants to make a habit out of his team having postseason success.
“We’re going to try to capitalize on it,” Triche said.
Both Lovejoy’s boys and girls teams made the Class AAAAAA State Tournament a year ago, but both have first-year head coaches this season — Gregory Freeman for the boys and Cedric King for the girls.
The North Clayton boys also qualified for the postseason as the fourth seed out of Region 4-AAA, but the Eagles lost eight seniors from that team, including star player Reggie Scurry. Still, head coach Martisse Troup is optimistic.
“I’m expecting a lot of big things out of my team this year,” Troup said. “I’m expecting some of my JV guys, who won the JV county championship, to come up and step us this year.”
“We just got to get them ready fast because they didn’t get a chance to play varsity last year,” added North Clayton’s lone returning starter, center Ahsan Asadullah.
The Mount Zion girls will look to return to the state tournament behind the play of Tyeisha Juhan, while Morrow’s Da’Ja Green — another one of the county’s top girls players — will look to help Morrow get to the playoffs under first-year head coach Ashley De Marr.
“We’ve gotten sort of used to how she works,” Green said. “She’s a very aggressive coach. She wants the best out of us and she’s going to get it out of us.”