When basketball season began the Southwest DeKalb boys were sporting a starting lineup they called “The Big Five.” It was a group that was talented enough and deep enough to contend for the state championship.
But two players were ruled ineligible, leaving the Panthers with “The Big Three.” Then an injury stripped them of another key piece. Say hello to “The Big Two.”
But while the numbers have dwindled, the goals remain the same. Southwest DeKalb continues to play at high level and hasn’t given up on its goals set before the season began. The Panthers still have their eyes set on the postseason.
“The guys have really pulled together,” said veteran SWD coach Eugene Brown. “We’ve played a very tough schedule. About 75 percent of the teams we’ve played have been ranked. It’s been very imposing, but that’s what we asked for and we think it will help us.”
Southwest DeKalb is 13-5 and is 6-0 in Region 5, one of the toughest leagues in the state. The Panthers host Clarkston tonight as they return to region competition.
“We’ve only got seven games left so we’ve got to finish strong,” Brown said.
The Panthers are without Maurice Harvey (last year’s Region 5 Player of the Year) and Terrence Edwards, who both transferred from Miller Grove but were ruled ineligible. The duo appealed the decision but the GHSA upheld the call and both are attending a prep school.
The other big blow came when guard Eugene Brown Jr. fractured his tibia just beneath his kneecap. The injury required surgery and Brown’s long-range prospects are good. There is a chance he could return for the playoffs, but the coach isn’t going to push it. Brown, who was averaging 15.5 points, was able to return to school this week, which is a good sign.
That leaves “The Big Two” of Kadarius “KD” Johnson and James Glisson, who have carried their load – plus more.
Johnson, a 6-foot-1 guard, is one of the top guards in his class. He leads DeKalb County with 23.7 points per game, as well as 5.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 4.9 steals. Johnson is an offensive machine, with perimeter shooting skills and the ability to drive to the basket.
In the Tournament of Champions, Johnson totaled 98 points in three games, including 34 against Wheeler and 36 against Newton, a pair of Class AAAAAAA teams.
“KD has picked it up and run with it,” Brown said. “I’m proud of him. He’s gotten a lot of attention. He’s seen a box-and-one every game.”
Glisson, a 6-6 senior forward, averages 16.6 points and 8.5 rebounds. He’s been a presence on defense, too – a hallmark of the Southwest brand.
“He’s defended well, on the wing and perimeter,” Brown said.
One player who has raised his profile during all the hubbub is Jarrett Walton, a 6-foot junior. The guard averages 7.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
“He’s done a fantastic job and relieved some of the burden on KD,” Brown said.
The Panthers have also gotten contributions from seniors Myles Love and Amir Abdullah, junior Wytavis Searcy and sophomore Rion White.
Although Southwest has the lead in Region 5, it still has games remaining with the other big dogs – Columbia, Lithonia, Miller Grove and Arabia Mountain. The Panthers beat Lithonia by a point at the horn in their closest region game of the season when Searcy hit a layup after receiving a pass from Johnson.
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