“First, where do I sign up to coach this team?” Martin, now at Buford, responded in an email. “I think this team would be very competitive. It has a great combination of players. (PG, SG, SF, PF, C). It gives you the opportunity to play big or you could choose to play small. Enough veterans with a mix of youth.”
Washington went further, believing the team would contend for an Eastern Conference title.
“I would say they would finish definitely in the top three of the East,” Washington said. “Eastern Conference finals would definitely be there. Lou-Will and Collin Sexton. Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brodgon. The lineups would be crazy. We could play big and go Dwight, Derrick and Wendell.”
This is the second of three articles that will bear witness to Georgia's growing ascendancy in major professional team sports. Each will include an all-star team of active former Georgia high school players in the NFL, the NBA or major league baseball.
Georgia’s presence in the NBA has not always been so impressive.
In 1970, there were only two former Georgia high school players in the entire NBA, according to basketball-reference.com. One was Walt Frazier, the famed point guard for the NBA champion New York Knicks. The other was a veteran center named Jim Fox from Gordon Institute in Barnesville. There were three ABA players from Georgia then.
By 1980, the numbers were up, but Georgia still had only three full-time NBA starters. They were Norm Nixon from Southwest-Macon, a starting guard on the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1980 NBA champion; Tree Rollins of Crisp County, the Atlanta Hawks’ 7-foot center; and Mike Mitchell of Atlanta’s Price High, a 22-point scorer for the Cavaliers.
Former Atlanta Hawks center Tree Rollins played high school basketball in Crodele. The 7-footer was drafted by the Hawks in 1977.
The pace picked up into the 1980s and 1990s with stars such as Jeff Malone of Southwest-Macon, Dale Ellis of Marietta, Dale Davis of Stephens County, Horace Grant of Hancock Central and Shareef Abrud-Rahim of Wheeler.
But even as recently as 2010, there were only three full-time NBA starters from Georgia — Howard with the Orlando Magic, Josh Smith of McEachern with the Hawks and J.J. Hickson of Wheeler with the Cavaliers.
Today, Brogdon, Brown, Favors, Sexton and Carter have started most of their games this season. So have former Norcross player Jeremy Lamb of the Indiana Pacers and former Villa Rica player Jae Crowder of the Miami Heat. That’s seven starters.
Williams, Jordan McRae (Liberty County) of the Detroit Pistons, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Callaway) of the Lakers and Malik Beasley (St. Francis) of the Minnesota Timberwolves average at least 9.5 points off the bench. Howard, who averages 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 12 rebounds in just 19 minutes per game, also comes off the bench.
The main criticism of this Georgia NBA team might be that there’s no superstar. The only player that’s made an All-Star team is Dwight Howard, and his last appearance took place in 2014.
But it’s still a young group. Carter and Sexton were top-eight NBA Draft picks in 2018, and two more high-lottery picks are on the way. University of Georgia guard Anthony Edwards of Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta is the consensus No. 1 projected pick. Former McEachern star Isaac Okoro of Auburn is a top-10 pick in most mock drafts, and Reggie Perry of Thomasville and Mississippi State is another likely first-round pick.
“This is a reflection of why Georgia high school basketball is so good,: Washington said. “When you think how good these guys were at their respective high schools is amazing. Now you fast forward and look at their NBA careers, it is still amazing to me. To think some of these guys were on the court competing at the same time against each other is utterly insane.
Martin has seen the evolution up close for longer than almost any Georgia coach. His first head-coaching job was at Brookwood in 1981. He’s won eight state titles during tenures at Norcross, GAC and Buford.
“Georgia has really become a hot bed,” Martin said. “Not real sure how this came about. Players are better and coaches are better now. Like I said earlier, where do I sign up for this coaching job?”
All-Georgia team in the NBA (click image to enlarge):
Georgia in the NBA through time
In 1970, there were only two former Georgia high school players in the NBA. Those were Walt Frazier of the New York Knicks and Jim Fox of the Phoenix Suns. Things have improved. Here are some projected all-star starting fives among Georgia players in 10-year intervals since 1980:
1980: C Tree Rollins (Crisp County), PF Garfield Heard (Ethel Kight), SF Mike Mitchell (Price), SG Mike Glenn (Coosa), PG Norm Nixon (Southwest-Macon)
1990: PF Horace Grant (Hancock Central), PF/SF Sam Mitchell (Columbus), SF Dale Ellis (Marietta), SG G Jeff Malone (Southwest Macon), PG Sedale Threatt (Therrell)
2000: C Dale Davis (Stephens County), PF Shareef Abdur-Rahim (Wheeler), PF Horace Grant (Hancock Central), SG Shandon Anderson (Crim), PG Charlie Ward (Thomas County Central)
2010: C Dwight Howard (SWAC), SF Josh Smith (McEachern), PF J.J. Hickson (Wheeler), PG Toney Douglas (Jonesboro), SG Lou Williams (South Gwinnett)
2020: C Dwight Howard (SWAC), PF Derrick Favors (South Atlanta) or C/PF Wendell Carter (Pace Academy), SF Jaylen Brown (Wheeler), SG Collin Sexton (Pebblebrook) or SG Lou Williams (South Gwinnett), PG Malcolm Brogdon (GAC)