The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s all-state basketball teams and all-classification players of the year will be announced Thursday on AJC.com and appear Sunday in the newspaper’s print edition.
As a lead up to that, here are the past 10 years of AJC all-classification boys players of the year and how the players’ careers progressed. The past 10 girls players of the year were featured Tuesday.
Three of the boys players of the year are in the NBA. They are Wendell Carter of Pace Academy (Chicago Bulls), Jaylen Brown of Wheeler (Boston Celtics) and Malcolm Brogdon of the Greater Atlanta Christian (Indiana Pacers). Former St. Francis player Kobi Simmons also has played in the NBA and remains under contract with the Charlotte Hornets while in the G League.
There are a handful of other former Georgia high school players from this decade who were in NBA but who were not AJC players of the year, most notably Collin Sexton of Pebblebrook (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Callaway (Los Angeles Lakers). They were up against some strong competition, though.
Here is a look at the past 10 years:
2019: Sharife Cooper, McEachern
Cooper and teammate Isaac Okoro became the first boys players to share the all-class player award. At 32-0, McEachern became Georgia’s first undefeated team in the highest classification since Dunwoody in 1995 and to finish with a No. 1 national ranking since Southwest-Macon in 1979. A junior in 2019, Cooper averaged 28.6 points, 8.6 assists and 4.1 steals. He was named the MaxPreps National Boys Basketball Player of the Year, the first junior to win that honor. With close friend Okoro gone this season, Cooper averaged 30.1 points, 8.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 steals while McEachern remained a top-10 team in Class AAAAAAA. Cooper, a brother of 2015 girls player of the year Te’a Cooper, is a five-star recruit signed with Auburn.
2019: Isaac Okoro, McEachern
Okoro, a 6-6 forward/wing, averaged 19.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.7 steals on McEachern’s state championship team. He got all-state recognition all four seasons at McEachern, the foundation of building that program into a state and ultimately national power. A top-40 prospect in the country, Okoro signed with Auburn and averaged 12.9 and 4.4 rebounds this season as a freshman. He has applied for the NBA Draft and is projected as a late lottery pick.
2018: Landers Nolley II, Hughes
Nolley averaged 31 points, eight rebounds and three assists as a senior for Hughes, which successfully defended its Class AAAAAA championship. Nolley scored 34 points and had 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals in the finals against Gainesville. The state title was Nolley’s third. He won his first in 2016 at Curie High School in Chicago. The Georgia championship in Nolley’s junior season was Hughes’ first in any sport. A 6-7 shooting guard and four-star recruit, Nolley signed with Virginia Tech and averaged 15.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists as a sophomore this season. He entered the transfer portal last week.
2017: Wendell Carter, Pace Academy
A 6-10 forward, Carter averaged 22.7 points, 15.5 rebounds and 5.8 blocks per game as a senior for Pace Academy, which won its first state titles in boys basketball in 2016 and in 2017 with Carter the central figure. Carter’s main competition for the award in the 2017 season was Pebblebrook’s Collin Sexton. Both would be high lottery picks in the NBA Draft a year later. A McDonald’s All-American and consensus top-five national recruit, Carter signed with Duke and finished second all-time among Blue Devils freshmen in rebounds (335), blocked shots (76) and double-doubles (16). Carter was the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft to the Chicago Bulls and is averaging 11.3 points and 9.4 rebounds in his second season in the league.
2016: Kobi Simmons, St. Francis
St. Francis won 100 games, claimed two state titles and reached four championship games in Kobi Simmons’ four seasons. As a senior, Simmons averaged 26.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists for a 23-8 team and scored 31 points in the championship game. A 6-5 point guard and top-25 national recruit, Simmons signed with Arizona, where he played one season. He turned pro but went undrafted. He’s played in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Hornets. He’s currently under two-way contract with the Hornets and the Greensboro NBA G League team.
2015: Jaylen Brown, Wheeler
Brown, rated the No. 1 prospect nationally by Scout.com, averaged 28 points and 12 rebounds as a senior and led Wheeler to its sixth state title, first since 2009 and last under retired coach David Lipscomb. In a 59-58 victory over Pebblebrook in the finals, Brown had 22 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block and was 12-for-12 from the free throw line. A 6-6 guard/forward, Brown signed with California and was the Pac 12 freshman of the year after averaging 14.6 points. He declared for the NBA Draft and was taken third overall by the Boston Celtics. In his fourth year in the league, Brown is averaging 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
2014: Tadric Jackson, Tift County
Jackson, a 6-foot-2 combo guard, helped Tift County become the first South Georgia state champion in the highest classification since Savannah in 1998. He averaged 18.8 points as a senior and was part of 101 victories in his four seasons as a starter, each of which earned some all-state recognition. A four-star recruit and top-75 national prospect, Jackson played four seasons at Georgia Tech, usually off the bench, and averaged 12.1 and 12.7 points per game his final two seasons. Jackson played in Europe in 2019.
2013: Brannen Greene, Tift County
Greene, the state’s No. 1 senior prospect, had played three seasons at Mary Persons and transferred to Tift County for his senior season. He averaged 27 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals as a senior. He shot 91 percent from the free-throw line. Tift went 26-5 but was upset in the quarterfinals. He was a top-40 national prospect when he signed with Kansas. He was a great shooter (42.2 percent for his career from 3-point range) but spent most of his career coming off the bench. He left Kansas after his junior season and played in the G-League for a couple of seasons, most recently with the Salt Lake City Stars.
2012: Tony Parker, Miller Grove
Parker was a sturdy 6-9 power forward/center who led Miller Grove to four straight state titles. (The only other player in modern Georgia history to start on four boys state champions was Dontonio Wingfield in 1990-93.) Miller Grove was 117-19 in Parker’s four seasons. As a senior, Parker averaged 16.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game. He was a consensus top-25 recruit who went to UCLA and averaged 12.6 points and 8.2 rebounds as a senior. Parker played internationally for a time, but knee injuries forced him out of the game. According to his high school coach, Sharman White, Parker is not an art adviser for professional athletes and helps them build their investment portfolios. Parker is working to bring an art gallery to Atlanta.
2011: Malcolm Brogdon, Greater Atlanta Christian
Only the seventh highest-rated recruit in Georgia in 2011, Brogdon kept proving his critics wrong. (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was No. 1. No argument there.) But Brogdon accomplished more than any of them as a high school senior, and perhaps beyond. He averaged 25.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals and led GAC to a state title. In the final, Brogdon had more points than opposing Buford in the first quarter and finished with 21 and 11 rebounds. Brogdon was a four-year collegiate player at Virginia, ultimately averaging 18.2 points and 4.1 rebounds and becoming the ACC player of the year and first-team All-American. Then just a second-round NBA Draft pick, he was the 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year. No rookie picked that late in the draft had won that award in more than 50 years. Brogdon is averaging 16.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists this season with the Indiana Pacers.
2010: Marcus Thornton, Westlake
Thornton averaged 24 points, 12 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots for a Westlake team that reached the Class AAAAA final in 2010. Thornton suffered a freak injury in warmups for that game, which virtually sealed Westlake’s fate against already favored Milton. A 6-8 power forward and four-star recruit, Thornton signed with Georgia and became a two-year starter and led the team in scoring and rebounding as a senior. Thornton played professionally for Eurocup teams for a couple of years. With a degree in business administration, he’s worked the past three years as an office space broker with T. Dallas Smith & Company in downtown Atlanta.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.