The Loganville Celtics have been a force in local basketball for some time now. Existing since being restarted by Brandon Clay in 2007, the team has captured numerous league titles while compiling a record of 195-30 since 2007. The team has competed at all levels of basketball and seen a graduation rate near 100 percent.
The team has competed in every league from local leagues, to AAU tournaments and competed now in four seasons in the GHSA Suwanee Sports Academy Varsity Basketball Spring League. The team has posted a winning record against GHSA teams each season and captured the Southern Division title in 2011. In the 2012 season the team finished with a 25-0 record competing in various leagues and tournaments. The season was highlighted by a 10-0 season in the 2012 GHSA Spring league.
Capturing success has been even more inspiring as the teams players over the years have been composed nearly exclusively of players who did not play varsity school basketball.
“I have been very fortunate to work with some amazing young people over the years," said Coach Brandon Clay in a press release. "For one reason or another, the vast majority of the guys did not play Varsity basketball so the success they have is great to see at this level. A lot of my guys play with a chip on their shoulder to prove doubters of our team wrong.”
But this season Clay had a new challenge. H decided to form a team of the top local unsigned Seniors who were looking to play college basketball. None had offers when the school year began and the team provided valuable exposure when competing against AAU teams and GHSA teams. The team competed weekly in Suwanee to provide the seniors a chance to play in front of college coaches.
“We were told we wouldn’t be able to compete with teams from Atlanta and Gwinnett, and we set our goals on winning the league,” Clay said. "The team has done quite well so far compiling a 10-0 record including defeating four state tournament teams including Buford, Centennial, Dawson County and Providence Christian."
The team is comprised primarily of players from Walton County and players represented each GHSA school in the county as well as a few players who were previously unsigned, signed seniors from local schools.
The success of the program is evident in the number of players who are going on to play at the collegiate level. The Celtics team finished the season unbeaten and with no team coming within 20 points of defeating them. However a more important accomplishment was the graduation of all of the teams senior players. Each of the teams 13 senior players have committed to play college basketball and will begin college this Fall.
“In the last two years we have had nearly 20 players receive offers to play collegiately and it really is a testament to their dedication to continue their playing career and more importantly their education,” Clay said.
He gave a breakdown on each of the team members achievements.
is represented by senior forwards Oliver Banks and Donte Sykes helped lead the Varsity program to the Sweet 16 in the State Tournament. 6’6 Forward Oliver Banks led the Red Devils in Scoring, Rebounding, Blocks, and Charges. He has led the Celtics in rebounding thus far in several games and is leading the league in offensive rebounds per game at 9.4 defensive rebounds per game.
“Oliver is a pleasure to coach," Clay said. "He is so selfless and a tireless worker. He is from a great family and I know his dedication will see rise to great heights. Banks has dominated games and will be continuing his career on full scholarship at Chattahoochee Tech.
6’4 Forward Donte Sykes finished second to Banks in rebounding and blocked shots and is widely known as one of the elite low post scorers in the region. He frequently is fronted in Suwanee by opposing defenses and finished the year averaging a double- double. Coach Clay added “Donte is kind of a throwback post player. He is an exceptional low block scorer and defender.” After numerous college offers Donte will continue his career at Georgia Gwinnett College for Coach Teiko Johnson as the team transitions into the NAIA.
Social Circle was represented by Darius Still. Still is a 6’4 athletic forward who has incredible leaping ability. He scored nearly 1,000 points during his career and had a collection of emphatic slam dunks. Coach Clay commented “Darius is a hard worker who can really show out in games thanks to his skill set and athleticism. “ Darius will be continuing his career at the University of West Georgia this Fall.
is well represented on the Celtics team as well. De’Andre “Big D” Robinson is an incredibly skilled big man who helped lead Walnut Grove to the region championship. Robinson has participated with the Celtics and dazzled players and scouts alike with his skill set. Coach Clay added “Big D is so phenomenally skilled as a shooter, passer, and ball handling it is unreal. He has a tremendous career ahead of him at the collegiate level.” Robinson has committed to continue his college career at Crossroads College in Minnesota.
The 6’5 Brian Pearson is a tireless worker leads the Suwanee with nearly nine offensive rebounds a game. Pearson in recent weeks has also been near the team lead in scoring several times. He has already had four twenty point and twenty rebound games. Coach Clay added “Brian is a great low post scorer. He is a great teammate and he is the ultimate competitor who goes after every rebound on both ends.” Brian will be continuing his college career on Scholarship at East Georgia College.
Junior Malcom missed a large part of his senior year due to a severe ankle injury. He returned down the stretch and helped lead Walnut Grove to the Region championship and a berth in the state tournament. In recent games Celtics Malcom has led the team by scoring early in bursts and initiating the offense and leading the team in steals. Against Providence Christian Malcom scored twelve of the first eighteen points and helped lockdown Providence’s best player. Malcom in one recent game recorded nine steals that led to Celtics baskets. Coach Clay commented “Junior Malcom is an excellent guard. He comes from a great basketball family and it shows with his basketball IQ that he exhibits. He makes very few mistakes and is a great defender for our team.” Malcom is committed to joining the Claflin University basketball program for the 2012-2013 Mens basketball team.
Rounding out the Walnut Grove contingent is Point Guard Nick Peters. Peters helped lead Walnut Grove to a region title was named to the Associated Press All-State team in Region 3A. He scored over 1,000 points in his career and his gritty defense has allowed him to be among the Suwanee leaders in points, assists, and steals. Coach Clay added “Nick Peters is an immensely talented point guard. He is a complete player in all aspects of his game and the college that signs him is going to get an elite level player who is arguably the best I have ever coached.” Nick will be joining Donte Sykes playing at Georgia Gwinnett College leading the transition into the NAIA.
Monroe Area High School star guard Ken Jackson also helps provide outstanding impact for the team. Jackson volunteered early in the season to come off the bench for the team of stars. Jackson scored nearly thirty points per game for Monroe Area during the past season and finished just shy of 2,000 points in his varsity career. Coach Clay added “Ken is a very gifted scorer who can score in every way possible. But more impressive to me is that Ken is a great defender and exceptional passer. Ken will make an incredible impact in college basketball and I know he is capable of amazing things on the collegiate level.” Ken Jackson will continue his career at Georgia Perimeter College this Fall on full scholarship.
George Walton Star player Kirby Kendall provides tremendous outside shooting and a very fundamental skill set. Kirby is also a tremendous leader and influence. He is widely known as a tremendous Christian influence on his teammates and great worker. Coach Clay added “Kirby is a tremendous shooter and fundamentally incredibly sound. He is a great player to coach and work with.” Kirby will be continuing his collegiate career on Scholarship at Truett McConnell College beginning this Fall.
Four non Walton County products rounded out the squad. Trent Burton of Winder Barrow is a 6’5 post player who is a great athlete and very skilled player. He has the ability to dominate games from the inside out and really excelled. He is well known through the region and is an exceptional high flying hard working big man. He averaged a double-double nightly and at a recent showcase he scored at will including three high flying dunks. Trent has signed a full ride scholarship to continue his career at Georgia Highlands College for Coach Phil Gaffney.
The team was also joined by Jordan Wyton played at and is a tremendous rebounder. He is a 6’10 big man who has a great shot and can pass well from the high post and short corner. Coach Clay added “Jordan is very gifted on the court and equally in the classroom. He is a tireless worker and comes from a great family who truly support him. He is a brilliant student as well and a pleasure to coach.” Jordan has been offered a spot as a preferred walk on at Ole Miss in the Southeastern Conference for the 2012-2013 season.
Daniel Howell of Prince Avenue High school also will be continuing his career on the collegiate level. Howell is 6’1 guard who is a tremendous athlete and scorer. He is an excellent shooter and scored over 1,300 points in his career at Prince Avenue and in a recent Benefit Basketball event nailed five three pointers in the First Quarter. Coach Clay added “Daniel is an excellent basketball player who really has a heart for serving the community. He is a great young man and athlete and I know he will be successful moving forward.” Howell has signed a college scholarship at Shorter College.
The final Senior player is also not a Walton County product. Travis Wildgoose transferred here from the Bahamas. He has averaged five dunks and a double-double per contest including one dunk he hammered home from a step in front of the free throw line. Coach Clay commented “Travis is an absolute athletic beast. He is the most athletic player in the league and really competes every night. He has had a tough senior year, but he is a young man of great character who will succeed without a doubt on the collegiate level.” Wildgoose has committed to Lamar State University in Texas and will begin this Fall on a full basketball scholarship.
One member of the class of 2013 joined the team in the pursuit of a championship as well. Takein Dixson is a 6’0 Junior guard from Loganville High School who is regarded as one of the top scoring guards in Metro Atlanta. He is an incredibly gifted shooter who can take people off the dribble and finish in traffic. He was an incredible boost to the team and scored 22 points in the win over Centennial High School. Coach Clay added “Takein is one of the elite guards in the 2013 class. Takein plays at a incredibly high level on both ends of the floor and truly makes his teammates better.”
The team was also joined by two young guards who are members of the 2015 Class. Aaron Udell who came in and contributed by giving the team needed energy on both ends of the floor. In one game against elite competition Udell added 17 points including four three point baskets. Coach Clay added “Aaron came in and gave us a big boost and his ability to score the ball in transition in unrivaled. He is a great young man and in so many ways is invaluable.”
The second young guard is three point marksmen Tucker Laughlin. Laughlin is regarded as one of the top shooters in the county and his skill set continues to develop. Laughlin stepped up and started a late season game against Johnson High School and nailed several critical three pointers. Also in a late March game in Snellville, Laughlin went off and scored 40 points in a victory over a team from Duluth. Coach Clay added “Tucker stepped up and had some great games for us. He has a lot of potential and he can achieve great things if he remains focused and works hard.”
The final member of the team is one that Coach Clay regards as having a tremendously bright future. Caleb Skinner is a member of the Class of 2015 who joined the Celtics team this Spring and started several games as the teams Small Forward. He is only a Freshmen at Loganville High School but displays a skill set beyond his years. Skinner played valuable minutes of time at the Varsity level this past season. He had provided great scoring and energy during his games with the team and led the team in charges as a Freshmen. Coach Clay continued “Caleb is an excellent student athlete who also in an intense competitor. He has the ability to play and defend multiple positions on the court while also having great offensive versatility. He and all our young players have a bright future ahead of them and I cannot wait to see their success.”
The team was also joined by other coaches by Brandon Peters and Mitch Owen who provided valuable in game input and assistance with practice and team operations. Clay commented “I truly appreciate all the support they provided and our success would not have been possible without their support. I had a great coaching staff and I know a large part of our player’s success is due to their contributions.”
(Contributed by Coach Brandon Clay)