10 from Gwinnett County to watch in college basketball this year

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10 from Gwinnett County to watch in college basketball this year

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Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Georgia Tech guard and Shiloh High School graduate Josh Okogie (5) is one of the ACC’s top players this season. 

Former high school basketball stars from Gwinnett County will have a chance to make an impact on the college basketball tournament picture this year.

Before he likely departs for the NBA, Shiloh product Josh Okogie will try to lead Georgia Tech to the big dance for the first time since 2010. D’Marcus Simonds, Devin Mitchell and Isaiah Williams will be key pieces for a Georgia State squad trying to win the Sun Belt.

And highly touted freshmen like Rayshaun Hammonds, Lance Thomas, Aljami Durahm, TJ Massenburg and Jordan Goldwire could be a boost to their new teams too.

Here are 10 basketball players from Gwinnett County that college hoops fans should keep an eye on this year:

Elijah Bryant — R-Junior, BYU (Mill Creek)

Bryant has had an interesting path to get to big-time college basketball. Scouts paid little attention to him at Mill Creek until he hit a six-inch growth spurt between his junior and senior season. He verbally committed to Samford, but instead opted for a prep year at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire. He then signed with Elon, where he was named CAA Rookie of the Year, posting averages of 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. After one season in Burlington, North Carolina, Bryant went west to Provo, Utah. Due to transfer rules, he sat out the 2015-16 season, but came back solid last year, scoring 11.7 points per game for BYU. He had a breakout game against Portland, tallying 39 points, five rebounds and six assists in a win.

Ahmad Caver — Junior, Old Dominion (North Gwinnett)

Like Bryant, Caver also took a long road to Division I college basketball. During his high school days, Caver left Charles Drew High School in Riverdale for North Gwinnett. Some days he’d drive back and forth, and other days he’d live with Jerry Stackhouse, his AAU coach. After North Gwinnett, he went to Wisconsin for a year at St. John’s Northwest Military Academy. He visited Kent State and Old Dominion, ultimately picking the school nestled in Norfolk, Virginia. That decision has paid off, and Caver is a key player for the Monarchs now. He averaged 13 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game and was named team MVP last year. Heading into this season, he was named to the All-CUSA preseason team.

Aljami Durham — Freshman, Indiana (Berkmar)

A three-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 point guard stayed with Indiana even after the school fired coach Tom Crean. Durham will now try to help Archie Miller revitalize a program with a ton of history. He was tabbed by ESPN as the 34th best point guard in the country and the 14th best player from Georgia for the class of 2017. He picked the Hoosiers over Florida, Miami, Georgia, Rhode Island and USF.

Jordan Goldwire — Freshman, Duke (Norcross)

Goldwire may not be big at just 6 feet, but he can ball. Rivals and ESPN pegged him as a three-star prospect, and he committed to Duke over Arizona State, Mercer, Butler, Cal, Eastern Kentucky and others. He averaged seven assists per game in high school and led Norcross to the 7A state title game. Goldwire told USA TODAY that he committed to Duke because they needed someone “who would be able to run the second group” and it was a “great opportunity” for him. He played AAU ball with fellow Duke guard and Milton native Alex O’Connell.

Rayshaun Hammonds — Freshman, Georgia (Norcross)

One of the top prospects in the state last year, Hammonds decided to stay close to home and picked the Dawgs over Alabama, UConn, Memphis, Miami, Texas, Georgia Tech and Georgia State. ESPN had him as a four-star recruit and the fourth best 2017 player in Georgia last year. At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds, he’s the second-highest rated recruit Mark Fox has landed while in Athens.

Lilburn’s Isaiah Wilkins was one of the ACC’s top defenders a year ago, and led the Cavaliers in rebounds, steals and blocks. Chuck Burton/AP

Josh Okogie — Sophomore, Georgia Tech (Shiloh)

As AJC columnist Jeff Schultz wrote back in March as Okogie was helping the Yellow Jackets power through the NIT, the 2017-18 season might be his last year at Tech. And that sounds about right as he’s already being mentioned in mocks for the NBA’s next draft. As a freshman, Okogie averaged 16.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game last year, earning a spot on the ACC’s All-Freshman team. Coming into this season, he was named to the All-ACC preseason second team.

TJ Massenburg — Freshman, Middle Tennessee State (Shiloh)

Massenburg got a lot of interest from mid-majors, and picked one of the best in Middle Tennessee State, which has appeared in the NCAA tournament three times since 2013, and has wins over Michigan State and Minnesota in March. A three-star recruit, the 6-foot-8 forward picked the Blue Raiders over James Madison, Temple, Georgia Southern, Towson and others. At Shiloh, he averaged a double-double, with 17 points and 11 rebounds per game as a senior.

Lance Thomas — Freshman, Louisville (Norcross)

Thomas picked Louisville over Florida, Southern California, Miami and Tennessee. A 6-foot-10 forward, ESPN said he was the 13th best 2017 recruit in Georgia. At Norcross, he averaged 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game last year.

Isaiah Wilkins — Senior, Virginia (Greater Atlanta Christian)

Wilkins’ junior year in Charlottesville was his best yet, as he averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal per game. The well-rounded 6-foot-7 wing helped the Cavaliers reach the NCAA tournament, and led Virginia in rebounding, blocks and steals last season. For his efforts, he was named to the All-ACC Defense Team. Perhaps his best game last year was on Feb. 6 against then-No. 4 Louisville, where he tallied 13 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and an assist in a win.

Isaiah Williams — R-Senior, Georgia State (Buford)

The 6-foot-2 guard had a solid season for the Panthers as a junior, averaging 7.7 points and two assists per game. Williams came back to his home state after spending his freshman year at Samford, where he was the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year. If given the playing time, Williams has shown the ability to score in bunches, notching 11 points or more in 10 games last season.

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