Four of state's top five reside in 6-AAAAA

Milton boys basketball coach David Boyd has won state titles at three schools in his 30 years, and he thinks he has seen some pretty good regions.

One was his training ground as a young coach in the 1980s, when Region 5-AAAA produced state champions Campbell (1982), Marietta (1983) and Wills (1986). Mr. Georgia Basketball recipients Brian Oliver and Cedric Henderson came and went.

But Boyd doesn't think that region - or any in state history - is better than this year's Region 6-AAAAA. It has four teams in this week's AJC top five in Class AAAAA.

"No, I don't think so, not four teams rated as high as these,'' Boyd said. "When you look at what's happened so far and the players in this region, I think all four are deserving of being up there.''

The big four are:

-- No. 1 Milton: Julian Royal, Shannon Scott and Dai-Jon Parker are rated among the 50 best juniors in the country by most recruiting services. With his team ranked No. 8 by USA Today, Boyd believes a national title is a reasonable goal for 2011.

-- No. 3 Centennial: There are no blue-chip recruits on par with the graduated Lorenzo Brown (N.C. State signee), but coach Allen Whitehart has five starters with Division I-A offers, led by guard Devonta' White (Georgia State). Centennial upset defending champion Wheeler last month.

-- No. 4 Walton: Ryan Harrow, a guard averaging more than 30 points per game, is the state's best pure scorer and has signed with N.C. State. Glen Rice Jr. is now at Georgia Tech, but brother G'mitri Rice is a Walton senior.

-- No. 5 Wheeler: Coach Doug Lipscomb's fifth state champion lost ACC signees Richard Howell (N.C. State) and Ari Stewart (Wake Forest), but the state's top-rated player, Jalen Kendrick (Memphis signee), moved from Westlake to join three-year starter Phil Taylor (Florida International).

And those teams aren't safe from upset against region rivals such as Pope and Campbell, which are 9-3. Centennial escaped Campbell 64-61 on Tuesday. The top teams can be humbled by each other, too. Walton, previously unbeaten against Georgia teams, lost to Milton 75-54 this week.

"You've got to bring it every night,'' Walton coach Joe Goydish said. " When you don't, things happen like Tuesday night. If you don't bring it against Milton or Wheeler, you're going to lose by 25 [because] those kids are that good.''

And there's a marquee game every week. Friday, Centennial travels to Milton. Next Friday, it's Centennial at Walton. The Milton-Wheeler rematch is Jan. 22.

"Our guys look at it like it's the ACC,'' Centennial's Whitehart said. "They know what Friday night is. Today's practice had that energy, that focus. And for me as a young coach to be able to battle against two legends like [Boyd and Lipscomb], I jump at those chances. This is just a lot of fun.''