By James Butler
TYRONE Ga. – Since taking over as head coach of the Sandy Creek boys basketball program back in June, Anthony McKissic has been busy pushing the rebranding of the Patriots as well as pushing the talents of his players.
That is something his athletes like about him. Much like a John Calipari on the collegiate level, McKissic is known as a coach who is passionate about seeing his players (and even players he does not coach) get an opportunity to take their talents to the next level.
While the 2015-16 basketball season remains in its infancy — as some teams have yet to take the court — early indications are that McKissic on the court, also like a Calipari type, will put the considerable talent he has into the best possible position to succeed.
Sandy Creek won its first two regular season games of the season, beating Cambridge 82-37 and Banneker 75-36. In those contests Sandy Creek’s Division I caliber backcourt of Elias Harden and Christian Turner combined to score 33 (Cambridge) and 30 (Banneker) points. Also, 6-foot-6 junior forward Evan Jester registered 19 and 14 points in those contests, and 6-foot-3 senior guard A.J. Freeman tallied 19 against Banneker.
Those performances came within a week of the Patriots’ 93-55 victory in a scrimmage over Morrow. Harden had 38 points in that game while Turner added 23. The 93 points against Morrow and 82 against Cambridge were higher than Sandy Creek scored in any game last season.
McKissic refers to the Patriots as “Lob City South” and so far the Patriots are doing that name proud. The competition will get better as Cambridge and Banneker are coming off of losing seasons, though Cambridge was competitive a season ago and has been a tough out so far in its other games this season. Still, McKissic, who coached high-scoring Morrow girls guard Da’Ja Green the past two seasons, figures to put Sandy Creek’s scorers in a position to allow them to do just that – score.
“D” Leading Drew Lady Titans
Another team in the Southern Crescent that will find out how well it is adjusting to new coaching and a new mindset once the competition gets tougher are the Drew girls. Unlike McKissic and the “field goal a minute” Sandy Creek boys, first-year Drew head coach Virgil Amey said he wants defense to be the calling card of the Lady Titans.
After giving up 75 points in its eight-point loss in a scrimmage with 2015 playoff team Hiram, Drew has won its first two games of the season by stifling Riverdale 69-32 and Northgate 63-31.
The Lady Titans are used to winning, having advanced to the State Final Four two seasons ago, and they also have a standout scorer in point guard Jada Hargrove.
Drew leaning on its defense might not have the drawbacks that some teams have when displaying a defensive mentality to make up for a lack of a true scoring option. On the other hand, teams with the DNA of the Lady Titans have taken well to an increased emphasis on defense — think Tom Thibodeau taking over a Derrick Rose-led Chicago Bulls team and leading them to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Amey will get a another chance to see just where his team sits when they play three games in three days, beginning with Ola on Thursday before facing Mundy’s Mill and North Clayton this weekend.