County's best gather for annual media day
DeKalb County has been a stronghold for state champions in basketball. It is now 13 straight years the County has won a state title after the Miller Grove boys and Southwest DeKalb girls continued the winning tradition by claiming the Class AAAAA championships, the Wolverines' seventh and Panthers' fifth all-time. On October 25, Tucker High School held Media Day highlighting plenty of storylines to follow in 2016-17.
The Doctor is in
Dr. Phillip McCrary returns to the sidelines at Columbia after spending 25 seasons (1988-2012) on the bench, compiling a 546-185 (.746%) record and winning five state titles. He joins a difficult Region 5-AAAAA that holds defending state champion Miller Grove, Southwest DeKalb, Lithonia, Arabia Mountain, Chamblee, Clarkston and Cross Keys.
"I enjoy the game and sometimes you just got to go back to what you really love," explained McCrary on why he decided to return to coaching after serving an administrative role as Assistant Athletic Director for DeKalb County Schools. "I like administration but I love the game of basketball. Once I was able to see that side and weigh the option, basketball outweighed the administration end."
Being able to view coaching from the opposite end of the spectrum has given McCrary a better understanding and respect for both sides.
"It's totally different. I see the error on both parts. I can see the errors that the administration was actually trying to do for the game of basketball in DeKalb then when I was on the coaching end, I would see the things that we would complain about what they weren't doing and they really were doing, so I can see both ends of it."
Panthers looking to get over the hump
Southwest DeKalb has become one of the premier programs in DeKalb County, amassing an all-time 714-548 record including a 25-6 season last year with a trip to the Elite Eight, but the one accomplishment that has eluded the Panthers has been a state title. Southwest DeKalb has seen their rival Miller Grove repeatedly hoist the trophy as the Wolverines have been the ultimate thorn in the Panthers' side. Housed in the same region yet again, Coach Eugene Brown continues to push his group to finally slay the dragon and hang a banner of their own.
"You just keep grinding. We've been working since I got here three years ago, building the program. It takes time to build a program if you're going to do it the right way," explained Brown as he has seen growth each season since taking over in 2014, increasing the Panthers' win total each year from 7 to 18 to 25 last season. "We feel like these guys know our system now and know what's expected of them and their ready to take it out with them onto the court. We got a lot of leadership, a lot of youth and senior experience so we are ready to go."
Arabia tries to climb the Mountain
Now in Year 8, Arabia Mountain is still in search of its first winning record. The Rams finished 10-16 in Region 6-AAAA last year, the best region in the classification, and now will try their hand in Region 5-AAAAA.
Coach Dedrick Whiting looks for his Rams to get out and run in 2016-17.
"We are probably going to play a little more up-tempo this year. A different style of basketball, more exciting. We are going to shoot the three a little bit more than we did last year. We aren't going to be as big," explained Whiting. "We are going to let our guys get out and go. And we are going to step up the pressure a little bit on defense. Our guys are going to be a little bit more of a VCU Rams aggressive type of team."
Presented by Ford, the Atlanta Falcons Coach of the Week program recognizes 12 high school football coaches across the state of Georgia for their hard work and dedication to making a difference in student-athletes lives on and off the field over the course of the GHSA season. The ninth winner of the 2016 season is Chris Parker of Pickens High School.
Chris Parker is in his 4th season as the Head Football Coach, after he served as the Head Football Coach at Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville, GA for four seasons. Coach Parker also is in his first year as Athletic Director. The AJC named Coach Parker the "Top New Coach in the State for 2008." When Coach Parker joined Pickens the Atlanta Journal-Constitution named him the "best new hire in AAAA."
Coach Parker was as humble and honest could be when asked about winning this week's award saying, "It says a lot more about my assistant coaches and the players than it does me." Parker added to that by saying, "Our whole community has helped earn that award here and have helped turn the program around.
The parents, kids, and coaches all come out and work hard. Parker was not shy about his involvement in the community when he spoke about the various things the school has done: Clothes drives, Food drives, Donations, and various service activities. Parker has made a tremendous impact on the community in Pickens county and one that I can personally vouch for. My parents live in Jasper just minutes from the high school and they even have talked to me about the efforts the school has gone to make sure the community is close knit.
Coach Parker talked about his time at Pickens and Chapel Hill and how he has never lost his way even when the teams have been losing saying, "It is about getting over the hump at some of the schools that I have been at that struggled. Some of them went 0-10 or 1-9, but we just pushed ahead and got a little better every game." The team started 1-3 losing on the final possession of multiple games but then went on a three-game win streak to make the teams record sit at 4-4. Coach parker talked to me about how the guys have stayed level headed throughout the tough season so far, "We didn't get down when we were losing, and we haven't gotten to excited when we have been winning. As a team, we know our goal of trying to win in the playoffs so until then we have to stay focused." Coach Parker and the Pickens county Dragons are a force to be reckoned with now and in the future.