(H/T Johnnie Photography)
The McEachern Indians spent the season ranked in the top ten in 2017-18, generating a 26-3 record while going 10-0 in their region. The Indians advanced to the GHSA Class 7A quarterfinals, and that felt like an early exit for head coach Mike Thompson and company. The Indians are loaded with returners, as well as a couple of impact transfers that help make McEachern our highest-ranked preseason team in Georgia. It’s important to note - every member of AOT’s reported roster also played for the AOT Running Rebels of the NIKE EYBL this spring and summer. They will have arguably the best chemistry of any team in our rankings.
Sharife Cooper and Isaac Okoro are bonafide stars. Cooper was the EYBL Offensive Player of the Year this spring, averaging 22.6 points, 7.1 assists and 5.0 rebounds for AOT. Cooper is a capable scorer at all levels, but he’s lethal from the perimeter and in transition. He plays with a rhythm and flow that is easy to play with, and he’ll have his favorite weapon to work with in Okoro. A 6-foot-6 swingman committed to Auburn, Okoro returns after a dominant season with McEachern, and an even more dominant spring with AOT. Okoro was a third-team All-EYBL selection, averaging 17.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.6 steals while helping AOT to a 16-5 overall record. These two are going to be as dynamic as high-school duos come, and the Indians desperately need their highly-ranked recruits to stay healthy.
The supporting cast is impressive. John Wright transfers in by way of Northwood Temple, and the 6-foot-2 combo guard will take on the exact same role that he did for AOT. Wright is a skilled shooter from the perimeter and can be counted on to do the little things. 6-foot-9 senior Jared Jones mans the middle, and the Northwestern commit has been waiting for the opportunity to be the Indians’, featured big man. Jones is an impressive athlete with good defensive instincts, and he should block a ton of shots this winter. Junior guard Alyn Breed is the wildcard here. The 6-foot-3 scoring guard player for AOT 16U, but it was clear that he could have been contributing at the 17U level. Breed is very skilled offensively, and he showed great body control while attacking the hoop this spring. This unit has a lot of options, and if everyone assumes their role, the product should be worthy of a top ten ranking.
The Indians have one goal; the school’s first state title. They test themselves in a big way, participating in Holiday Hoopsgiving, City of Palms, Bass Pro Tournament of Champions and the Hoophall classic. Cooper and Okoro are too good offensively for most of their in-state competition to legitimately contend and don’t be surprised if they lead the Indians to a string of wins at their national events. They should rack up a number of big wins and be ready to avenge their early departure from last year’s state tournament.