Savannah is known as a hotbed for high school basketball, and that reputation will be bolstered this week as the first “Savannah Hoops Shootout” will be held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 24 and 25th, at Enmarket Arena.
The event includes the boys teams from Johnson, Savannah High, Benedictine, Calvary Day, St. Andrew’s and Groves and will follow the collegiate portion of the Savannah Hoops Invitational earlier in the week.
The action gets started on Friday with St. Andrew’s, the two-time GIAA Class 3A state champions, facing off with Groves at 6 p.m., with Johnson and Savannah High squaring off at 8 p.m. There will be a 3-point shooting contest between games.
On Saturday, Calvary Day takes on Savannah High at 4 p.m., with Johnson playing Benedictine at 6 p.m. There is a dunk contest set to take place between games.
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“To be able to play at Enmarket Arena is really exciting for our kids,” Johnson Coach Chuck Campbell said. “It’s like the first day of school for them, with their clothes all laid out on the bed. I’m happy for them to be able to play in a big arena like this. It’s a once in a lifetime chance for a lot of them who won’t be playing college ball.”
It’s a big spot for St. Andrew’s too, as the Lions get to go up against a Groves squad known for its scrappy, defensive-minded style of play. The Rebels have veteran leaders in Sidney Flaggs and Tyrone Chisholm
The Lions lost a star to graduation in Zyere Edwards, now playing at Augusta State. But his younger brother Zayden, a standout junior, is back along with sharp shooter Will Thompson and Jaylen Sheppard.
“This is huge for us as a small school to get invited to play with bigger GHSA teams from the city,” Zayden Edwards said. “It’s what we’ve always wanted, to get a chance to play on the big stage and show people what basketball on Wilmington Island is all about.”
For Savannah High coach George Brown, in his first season taking over for Blue Jacket legend Tim Jordan, it’s a chance to show off a team that is considered one of the best in the city. The Friday matchup with Johnson is a rematch of the famous state title game in 2013, where the Atom Smashers came out on top behind star Tim Quarterman. The Blue Jackets have a big-time player in junior Maki Joyner, who was on the preseason Class A Division I All-State team by Sandysspiel.com.
“I expect our kids to come out and compete with confidence, we’re going to play defense, defense and more defense and let the offense take care of itself. I think Maki is one of the top players in the city, in the entire 912 and among the top 5 in the Georgia. He has a natural knack and feel for the game and knows how to use his length and athleticism.”
Campbell said his senior star Joshua Quarterman has those same qualities.
“I think he’s one of the top players in the City, and with his defense — I think he’s the best all-around player,” Campbell said.
Benedictine and Calvary Day will compete without their crossover football players, who have state quarterfinal games on Friday night.
BC is coming off a trip to the Class 4A Final Four behind Caleb Jones, the star junior guard who averaged 21.0 points per game last season.
“We’ll be missing our football players, buy we didn’t want to miss this opportunity to play in the atmosphere of the Enmarket Arena,” BC coach Frank Williams said. “This event is generating a lot of early season hype for basketball and it harkens back to the days when we used to sell out the Civic Center. We’re excited to have a chance to play Saturday.”
Calvary Day is in the mix under first-year coach Sceptor Brownlee and the Cavs will be missing some key players still competing in football.
But senior guard CJ Gaines, one of the top players in the city, will be on hand, and the Cavs have talented bigs in 6-foot-8 Chol Kiir and 6-10 sophomore Kuol Deng, along with senior captain Josh Habersham.
Former Johnson coach Utaff Gordon is running the event with help from his close friend Jordan, now working for the Savannah Chatham Public School System. There are plans to expand the event to include girls in the future, and to make it more of a state wide event.
“We think the tournament has huge potential for growth,” Gordon said. “If we run this the right way I could see Region Championships, Final Fours and even GHSA State finals being held here. We could even host an AAU National Tournament, but first we need to show that we can host this event and put on a quality show. I have no doubt that we’ll be able to do that.”
Tickets, at $15 each, are on sale at Ticketmaster.com, Enmarketarena.com and at the Enmarket Arena box office. When fans buy a ticket, they can designate the school they support and a portion of that ticket sale will be directed to the school.
Dennis Knight covers sports for the Savannah Morning News. Contact him at Dknight@savannahnow.com. Twitter: @DennisKnightSMN