No Favors, no problem for South Atlanta

South Atlanta's Nick Jacobs says it's nothing personal against Derrick Favors, his old high school teammate.

With Favors matriculated to Georgia Tech, Jacobs has rapidly developed into one of the state's elite basketball players this season. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Jacobs averages 22 points and 12 rebounds for South Atlanta, the defending Class AAA champions.

"Derrick is a great player, but he's gone," Jacobs said.

Behind the all-star efforts of its junior big man, South Atlanta is making another championship run. The Hornets (28-2) have advanced to the quarterfinals of this weekend's state playoffs, matching up with Westover (23-4) at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Columbus State.

"Nick has taken on a much larger role this year, he has made big improvements. He's not even close to the player he was last year," South Atlanta coach Michael Reddick said.

"Not only did we lose [Favors], but we lost nine out of our top 12 players from last year. Everyone was saying we weren't going to be any good this year and Nick took it as a personal challenge to make sure our team wouldn't see much of a drop off."

Playing in Favors' shadow last season, Jacobs averaged 8 points and tried to stay out of his teammate's way.

Woodward Academy coach Anthony Thomas couldn't believe the difference with Jacobs when the two teams played earlier this season, South Atlanta squeaking out a 58-56 win. While Favors was known for his all-around skills, Jacobs flourishes in the post.

"I think he realized he didn't have Derrick Favors to fall back on and he's stepped up big for the team," Thomas said. "He's a load in the post area. Once they get the ball to him in his spot, he's pretty much unstoppable with his size, strength and athleticism.

"Down the stretch in our game, they were lobbing the ball inside to [Jacobs] on every possession and he was cashing in."

South Atlanta may never have a player as decorated as Favors, who was named national player of the year by Parade Magazine and USA Today, along with winning MVP honors at the McDonald's All-America game. Nearly every college in country made overtures toward Favors before he settled on Tech.

"Derrick won national awards. Those don't come along too often," Reddick said. "Are we going to have other players that get national attention? Yes, and Nick is one of them."

Jacobs has already claimed one of Favors' old awards, winning this season's Region 4-AAA Player of the Year. Jacobs also has a slew of early scholarship offers, including Virginia Tech, Miami, Tennessee, Xavier, Florida State, South Carolina and Georgia. He has family connections with Georgia. A cousin David Jacobs played football for the Bulldogs nearly 10 years ago.

What about Tech? The Yellow Jackets haven't offered and Jacobs doesn't seem to be concerned.

"It's a good school, but not a place I can see myself going," he said.

That would rule out a possible reunion with Favors, who mentored Jacobs at South Atlanta last season. The competitive practices provided the then-sophomore with a glimpse of his potential.

"It was important for Nick," Reddick said. "It was a chance to go against another big guy every day. There were examples that Derrick gave to Nick to become a better player, almost like a blue print."