2018-19 Sleeper Teams
What is a Sleeper Team? There are varying degrees. Some teams may be able to sneak into the state playoffs and cause a ruckus, while others may see a more modest improvement, taking the baby steps to eventually becoming a statewide presence by eclipsing the .500 mark. Here are a few teams that could wake opponents up this year.
The Warriors sank from 17-11 and missed out on the playoffs with a young team that featured the Class 7A Freshman of the Year Tai Owens, a 6-foot-4 combo guard that averaged 12.9 points and 4.7 rebounds while garnering First Team All-Region 4-AAAAAAA and First Team All-Cherokee County honors. Coach Roger Kvam has two other talented sophomores poised to make increased impacts for a unit that graduates just one senior. 6-foot-7 Johnny Sweeney has improved his game and provides a long-armed stretch-big that can hit the corner three and has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor. 6-foot-5 Elijah Tucker is a good-looking athlete with raw tools that plays combo forward for the Warriors. Cherokee’s young nucleus has veteran leadership in juniors Zack Vickers and Delaney Heard, both team captains as sophomores last season. Vickers, 6-foot-5, is a sturdy post presence that can rebound and score from 15-feet in. Coach Kvam has even more youthful talent to integrate into his program with rising freshmen 6-foot-3 guard Brandon Drummer, 6-foot-1 AJ Swann, 6-foot-3 Caleb Richardson and 6-foot-2 Ezra Milton, all who could see varsity minutes in their first two years on campus. The Warriors might be a year away from becoming a Top 10 candidate, but make no mistake that the most young talent in Cherokee County lies in north Canton.
Milton played at a high level over the summer but the loss of reigning Region 5-AAAAAAA Player of the Year, All-State guard Christian Wright hurts momentum, but the Eagles should be fine as All-Region pick Donaven Hairston returns to pace the offense alongside junior Evan Hurst. Hairston, 5-foot-11, is a crafty guard that plays with pace and is a pest defensively. Hurst, 6-foot-1, has a smooth feel to his game and is ready to take a big leap in Coach Allen Whitehart’s offense. 6-foot-5 senior David Banks moves in from Cambridge to bolster Milton’s frontcourt. Malachi Martin enters his final season while highly touted freshman Bruce Thornton Jr. is an explosive 6-foot-2 guard that can help fill the void left by Wright immediately. Football standouts 6-foot senior Jordan Yates and 6-foot-4 225-pound freshman Jack Nickel are expected to provide physicality and athleticism for the Eagles.
The big bad wolf in Region 8-A, Lakeview Academy has won 20-plus games in three consecutive seasons. The Lions fell to Holy Innocents’ in the Sweet 16, 73-66, and lose Region Player of the Year Drew Cottrell, but three-point experts Blake McIntyre and Adam Cottrell are back after earning Second Team and Honorable Mention selections, respectively. McIntyre, all 5-foot-9 of him, has proven to be a fiery competitor that can go berserk from beyond the arc in the blink of an eye. The deep ball will always give Lakeview Academy a punchers’ chance even against the heaviest of favorites. Senior KJ Millwood helps round out the backcourt while undersized forward Arturo Varela, 6-foot-2, is a key cog inside for Coach Todd Cottrell.