COVINGTON, Ga. — The NewRock showcase was the first time we have seen all six schools on the court this season, and having them all competing in the same tournament on the same day gave way to some key observations.
Less of observation and more of a statement, but there are some outstanding athletes on each of these rosters. Each of these teams has playoff potential, and it would not be surprising in the slightest to see all six make it to state.
Lady Rams can win on down days
After the Newton Lady Rams' 42-29 win over the Lady Seminoles of Salem, it was easy to see Lady Rams head coach Tiffani Johnson was not pleased with the performance besides the fact they won.
Shots were simply not falling for the Lady Rams, but they still found a way not only to win but win by a pretty substantial margin. The talent on this Lady Rams squad from top to bottom is solid, and that type of depth means this team has the making of a deep playoff run. No guarantees are being made here, but if this team gets going during the state playoffs, it should be a part of the state title conversation.
Oliver Gerard: Covington's most dynamic player?
There is a plethora of talent in the Covington basketball scene this season, and Oliver Gerard is one of the many names that has shined in the early stages. This is not a conversation about if Gerard is the best player — that title still has a long way to go before being decided — but more about if he is the county's most dynamic player.
Do not view this as a slight to the Shawn Smith, Caleb Byrd, Myles Rice or other dominant players in the county. Gerard has just stood out as a dynamic game-breaker this season. By that, I mean, he has the ability to make big-time show-stopping plays that leave you with your mouth gaped open wide. He has already done that in both games this season, but it seemed evident in the NewRock Showcase.
The play that remains etched in my mind is when Rockdale County was getting back after a huge dunk that swung momentum in the Bulldogs' direction, Gerard returned the favor. He did so by putting up a monster dunk of his own on the very next possession that brought the momentum back to the Tigers. That type of ability stands out and makes Gerard one of the most dynamic players in the area, if not the most.
Plenty of diamonds in the rough
We have already highlighted the five preseason players we felt were the very best in the county, but other players are stepping up for both boys and girls squads this season.
In the girls basketball scene, Alcovy's Serai Johnson has led the Lady Tigers in scoring in the first two games. It was indisputable Johnson had the ability, but there's always uncertainty on how a player will respond after a knee injury, and she has been outstanding. For the Lady Rams, Tijunna Freeman has led the way thus far and is doing an excellent job on both sides of the ball. Finally, for the Lady Eagles, Jodi Reid has been a critical piece coming off the bench and a significant contributor. Her play on the boards has been next level and has given the Lady Eagles a boost in that area.
As for the guys basketball scene, a pair of Jaylens have stepped up as of late for Eastside. Jaylen Lelie-Johnson finished with 15 points in the Eagles' win over Heritage in the NewRock Showcase, while Jaylen Woods put up 12 points in about six minutes of play in the Eagles' loss to Woodward Academy. If these two guys get it going, watch out for the Eagles offense as they could easily put up 100 in a game.
For the Tigers, Avion Young has been a pleasant surprise as both an excellent scorer and defender. He does an excellent job of not missing easy shots and getting in position for those shots. Finally, for the Rams, freshman Qua Brown has been a huge surprise. He put the area on notice with his play in the season opener against Morgan County and is definitely one to keep your eyes on this year and for the next few years.
Eastside the county's most complete team?
The Eastside Eagles boys team was arguably the most dominant team in the NewRock showcase, and their vast skill set makes them dangerous. The Eagles have shown they have multiple guards and shooters that they can sprinkle in and out with Myles Rice leading the way. As the other guards continue to grow and give Rice help, the Eagles will become tougher to guard.
What sets Eastside apart from other teams is their excellent size in the paint. Chauncey Wiggins, at 6-foot-8 is a known commodity for the Eagles, but 6-foot-5 Jake Casola and 6-foot-6 Miokaye Grant have both proven they can be effective in the paint as well. We are in the early stages of the 2019-20 season, and this squad will only get better. Eastside fell to Woodward Academy by 13 points, but as the Eagles continue to grow, they should be a tough test for War Eagles not only in region play but also in the state tournament.
Early loss could pay off for Rams
The Newton Rams suffered a surprising loss at the hands of the Salem Seminoles in the final game of the NewRock Showcase, but this loss may be a kick start for the Rams. One thing to always look for after a loss like this is how the team's head coach responds, and Rams head coach Charlemagne Gibbons seemed calm and confident in his guys.
The Rams ability to almost comeback after being down 15 with six minutes left in the game shows that they are not the type of team to lay down when adversity strikes. I fully expect them to make an impact in the state conversation and bounceback in a big way under their first-year head coach.