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 AJC all-classification girls players of the year and how their post-high school careers progressed.
All of them became star players on their college teams. Well, except for the 2019 winner, Kayla McPherson, who is still in high school, leading the state if not the nation in scoring. Nine are still playing basketball, two in the WNBA with a third projected to go early in next month’s draft. Those two currently in the league are Diamond DeShields of Norcross and Asia Durr of St. Pius, and Te’a Cooper of McEachern is on her way.
As a matter of trivia, three other recent Georgia high school players are in the WNBA who never were AJC all-class players of the year. They are Allisha Gray of Washington County, Lexie Brown of North Gwinnett and Kaela Davis of Buford.
On Wednesday, we’ll take a look at the past 10 boys all-class players of the year.
2019: Kayla McPherson, Madison County
McPherson became the first sophomore to win the AJC’s girls all-class player of the year award since Diamond DeShields in 2011. She averaged 28 points per game despite playing less than three quarters in most games for a team that went 25-3. She also averaged six rebounds, five assists and four steals. As a junior this past season, she improved on those numbers and led the nation in scoring – at 36.3 points per game – among schools that use MaxPreps to publish their statistics. She scored 63 in an 81-79 season-ending loss to Stephens County. (She had scored 64 in a game the year before.) ESPN rates the 5-foot-7 point guard as the No. 15 overall junior prospect in the country.
2018: Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Winder-Barrow
The 6-5 forward and McDonald’s All-American averaged 19 points, six blocked shots and three assists for a team that went 24-5 and lost in overtime to eventual Class AAAA champion Lovejoy. She led Winder-Barrow to 74-18 record and three quarterfinal appearances in her three seasons as a starter. Her school previously hadn’t won a playoff game since 1993. Ranked the No. 5 recruit as senior by ESPN and Blue Star Report, Nelson-Ododa signed with UConn. She averaged 10.9 points and a team-leading 8.5 rebounds this season. UConn finished ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press.
2017: Mikayla Coombs, Wesleyan
Coombs, a 5-9 shooting guard, averaged 16.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.0 steals for a Wesleyan team that finished 28-4 and won the Class A private-school championship. It was the Wolves’ second state title during Coombs’ career. She scored a game-high 17 points and added nine rebounds in a 51-48 victory against Holy Innocents’ in the state final, and her 10 points in the last 4:11 of the second quarter helped Wesleyan rally from a 32-15 deficit. A McDonald’s All-American, Coombs signed with UConn and averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds as a freshman. She missed her sophomore season after tearing an ACL in the opening game. She transferred to Georgia and sat out this season. She has two years of eligibility remaining.
2016: Jenna Staiti, West Forsyth
Staiti, a 6-4 center, averaged 26.2 points, 13.7 rebounds, 4.2 blocks as a senior while leading West Forsyth to a 25-7 record and the school’s first state semifinal. She finished her high school career with 2,623 points, 1,598 rebounds and 421 blocks, all Forsyth County records. Rated the No. 17 senior prospect in the country by ESPN, Staiti played her freshman season at Maryland, then transferred to Georgia. She averaged 11.9 points and led the team in rebounds (6.6 per game), field-goal percentage (.493) and blocked shots (56) as a redshirt junior this season.
2015: Asia Durr, St. Pius
Durr and Te’a Cooper of McEachern shared the 2014 all-class award, which was unprecedented. Durr, a 5-10 guard, was Parade magazine’s national girls player of the year in 2015, when she averaged a state-leading 33.3 points with 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals. She finished with 2,764 points, 706 rebounds, 254 assists, 266 steals and 75 blocks for her St. Pius career. She had 14 points with six rebounds in the McDonald’s All-American game. Durr signed with Louisville and was a two-time ACC player of the year (2018, 2019) and Dawn Staley Award winner (nation’s best guard). She was the second overall pick of the New York Liberty of in the 2019 WNBA Draft and averaged 9.7 points and 1.7 assists as a rookie. She had hip surgery last fall and hopes to be ready for the 2020 season.
2015: Te’a Cooper, McEachern
Cooper, a 5-8 point guard, averaged 27.3 points, 7.3 assists and 3.5 steals as a senior while leading McEachern to its third state title in four seasons. She scored more than 2,300 points in her career. She was a five-time All-American (McDonald’s, WBCA, USA Today, Parade, Max Preps) and the co-MVP of the 2015 McDonald’s All-America game. Cooper signed with Tennessee, started 15 games as a freshman, then sat out a season injured. She transferred to South Carolina, made second-team All-SEC and scored a team-leading 11.9 points per game. She then transferred to Baylor and averaged 13.6 points and 4.6 assists this season. Baylor finished ranked No. 3. Cooper is projected as a top-10 overall pick in the WNBA Draft next month. Also of interest, it has been reported that Cooper is engaged to NBA center Dwight Howard, also of Atlanta.
2014: Kahlia Lawrence, Kendrick
Unlike most all-class players of the year, Lawrence was not a big-time recruit despite averaging 26.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and six steals and guiding Kendrick of Columbus to an undefeated season. She set school records for points in a game (45), season (759) and career (2,086). A 5-8 guard, she helped the Cherokees snap Wesleyan’s streak of six state championships when they beat the Wolves 69-58 in the Class AA final. Lawrence signed with Mercer, started four seasons, and was the Southern Conference player of the year in 2016, 2017 and 2018. She was Mercer’s all-sports female athlete of the year in 2018 after leading the program to its first 30-win season and NCAA Division I tournament appearance. She was selected by the Minnesota Lynx in the 2018 WNBA Draft with the 24th overall pick but chose to play in Europe. Lawrence played last season with Fixi Piramis Torino in Italy, where she played 21 games and averaged 13.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
2011, ’13: Diamond DeShields, Norcross
DeShields, the most decorated Georgia high school girls player since Maya Moore five years earlier, was a four-year starter who averaged 23.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 3.1 assists as a senior and played on her third state championship team in four seasons. As a senior, she won the 2013 Naismith Award and two other national player-of-the-year honors. DeShields, a 6-1 guard, signed with North Carolina and was named the national freshman of the year by multiple organizations. She finished up at Tennessee, where she averaged 15.7 points over two seasons. She turned pro after her junior season and signed with Cukurova of Turkey. She then was the third overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky and made the all-rookie team in 2018, then the all-star game in 2019.
2012: Pachiyaanna “Pachis’’ Roberts, McEachern
Roberts, a 5-11 guard, averaged 17.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.8 steals, 2.4 assists and 1.7 blocked shots in leading McEachern to a 33-0 record and its first state championship. It started a dynasty, as McEachern would win five of the next six state titles in the highest class. Roberts signed with Syracuse and transferred to Georgia after one season. As a senior, she was a full-time starter and led Georgia in points (14.5) and rebounds (6.9). Roberts played last year for an Australian professional team called Mount Gambler. She averaged 20.3 points and 8.7 rebounds.
2010: Kayla Lewis, Southwest DeKalb
Lewis, a 6-foot forward, led Southwest DeKalb to three straight Class AAAA titles while averaging 13.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.5 assists and 1.4 blocks across 100 career games. She was a top-100 recruit who signed with Florida and became the first Gators true freshman to start the opening game in five years. But stress fractures to a lower leg severely curtailed her first two seasons. She started her final two seasons and became the 23rd player in school history to score 1,000 points. Lewis graduated with two degrees and married Christian Norman, a former Michigan State linebacker who turned down NFL offers to enter the ministry. The Normans, who have a toddler child, recently moved from Detroit to Woodstock, where Christian Norman is a pastor.
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