The number of former Georgia high school players taken among the first eight picks in the NBA draft since 2016 reached six last year when Sandy Creek’s Jabari Smith, the 2021 AJC all-class player of the year, went No. 3 overall.
The year before, Anthony Edwards of Holy Spirit Prep went No. 1. Georgia’s latest run of NBA elite-talent funneling began in 2016, when Wheeler’s Jaylen Brown went No. 3.
None of those previous stars was more decorated at this stage than Isaiah Collier, the 2023 AJC all-classification boys player of the year.
The Wheeler point guard led the Wildcats to two state titles in three seasons, the most recent three weeks ago in Macon, where the Wildcats of Marietta won Class 7A.
Collier averaged 20.2 points, 6.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game for a 26-6 team that went undefeated against Georgia competition. In his final high school game this week, the McDonald’s All-American game, Collier scored a game-high 25 points.
“Collier is a dynamic on-the-ball playmaker who has elite size (6 feet, 3 inches), strength and vision and plays with tremendous pace,” said Joe Veihman, coach of Class 7A runner-up Cherokee. “He’s also underrated defensively and has the ability to wreck a game on that side, too, because of his instincts and his IQ.”
Collier has won the Naismith and the Morgan Wootten national boys player-of-the-year awards. The last Georgian to win the Naismith award was South Atlanta’s Derrick Favors, who in 2009 would be the last consensus No. 1 recruit from Georgia until Collier. (Edwards was No. 1 by many evaluators but finished No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite.)
The only Georgia player among those recent lottery picks to match Brown’s two state titles was Pace Academy’s Wendell Carter. The lottery picks also include Collin Sexton and Isaac Okoro, both well-established in the NBA.
Collier’s Wheeler team was ranked No. 1 from wire to wire. Collier, who has a brother, an uncle and cousins in the Los Angeles area, signed with Southern Cal, as has his Wheeler teammate Arrinten Page. A third major Division I prospect, Iowa State-bound Jelani Hamilton, made the team nearly invincible, especially with Collier playing so well down the stretch.
Collier scored 24 points in the quarterfinals against No. 3 McEachern and 19 in the semifinals against No. 2 Grayson.
Grayson coach Geoffrey Pierce called Collier another coach on the floor.
“He controls the pace at all times, and it’s difficult to make him play slower or faster than he wants,” Pierce said. “He’s a great leader, constantly putting his teammates in the correct sports offensively and defensively.”
In Wheeler’s title game against Cherokee, a 78-58 victory, Collier scored 22 points and had seven assists and three rebounds. It was Wheeler’s fourth victory against its region rival.
“He is hard to keep out of the lane and makes the right play every time he gets there,” Veihman said. “And when he is making shots like he did against us in the championship game, he’s virtually impossible to defend.”
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