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Hawks-Naismith basketball event draws 5 state champions, top prospects

Walker Kessler, the state’s No. 1 senior prospect, is a 7-foot center from Woodward Academy. Woodward is playing Saturday against Pace Academy in the Hawks-Naismith Tipoff Classic.
Walker Kessler, the state’s No. 1 senior prospect, is a 7-foot center from Woodward Academy. Woodward is playing Saturday against Pace Academy in the Hawks-Naismith Tipoff Classic.

Five reigning state champions of Georgia high school basketball and the state’s No. 1 senior prospect are playing this weekend in the Hawks-Naismith Tipoff Classic at Pace Academy.

The 12-game event also will experiment with a 30-second play clock. The GHSA has approved its experimental use for six events this season, and this is the first.

The lineup of teams features 2019 state champions Westlake (Class AAAAAAA girls), Tri-Cities (AAAAAA boys), Therrell (AA boys), St. Francis (A private boys) and Holy Innocents’ (A private girls), plus several other perennially strong teams.

The event also includes many of the state’s top recruits.

Woodward Academy center Walker Kessler, a 7-footer committed to North Carolina, is the state’s consensus No. 1 prospect. Woodward’s boys will play Pace Academy in the final game on Saturday.

Other top-25 state prospects in the event are St. Francis guard Dwon Odom (committed to Xavier), East Coweta guard Brandon Stroud (Kennesaw State), Mount Bethel Christian forward Jordan Meka (Georgia Tech) and Heritage-Newnan center Ebenezer Dowuona (N.C. State) and guard Kasen Jennings (Kennesaw State).

All students (K-12) and youth who attend will receive a voucher for a free Atlanta Hawks shirt while supplies last. On Saturday morning, the Hawks will host a free Junior Hawks Basketball Clinic for 100 boys and girls at Pace’s Boyd Gymnasium.

Friday

4:30 p.m. - Pace Academy vs. Carrollton (girls)

6 p.m. - Hughes vs. McEachern (girls)

7:30 p.m. - East Coweta vs. Therrell (boys)

9 p.m. - Wheeler vs. Heritage School (boys)

Saturday

10 a.m. - Maynard Jackson vs. Denmark (boys)

11:30 a.m. - Holy Innocents’ vs. Marietta (girls)

1 p.m. - Mount Bethel Christian vs. Glenn Hills (boys)

2:30 p.m. - St. Pius vs. Greenforest Christian (boys)

4:15 p.m. - Westlake vs. Spalding (girls)

5:45 p.m. - Westlake vs. Tri-Cities (boys)

7:15 p.m. - St. Francis vs. Hughes (boys)

8:45 p.m. - Pace Academy vs. Woodward Academy (boys)

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