A solid returning group combined with a talented freshman class is cause for excitement for the West Georgia Technical College Men's Basketball team. Coach Niki Okolovitch has led West Georgia Tech to four GCAA Championships in the last six years and is optimistic that that this year will by five out of seven.
"We bring back a lot of experience," Okolovitch said. "We also have a talented group coming in. Our goal is to win another championship and make a run at a NJCAA National Championship Tournament bid."
The returning class is led by 6-4 guard Joy Boyer. The Douglasville native and New Manchester product averaged a league-leading 19.5 points per game and was a First Team All-Region selection. Point guard San Rozier (Conyers – Heritage) started every game last season, averaging eight points and 5.5 assists. Brooklyn, N.Y., native and Redan High alum Chris Haye is back after suffering a season-ending knee injury shortly into the 2016-17 season. In a handful of games, the 6-1 guard was averaging 16 points and seven rebounds before being lost to injury. One of the most-improved players over the off-season is 6-1 guard Dennis Wilkins (Jacksonville, FL – Yokoka, Japan). As a freshman, he averaged just more than seven points, but is pushing for more time this year.
The front court is expecting to play a larger role this season. Antonio Smith (6-7, F, Covington – Newton County) returns after sitting out last season. The sophomore averaged five points and five rebounds during the 2015-16 campaign and is expected to make a much larger contribution this year. Also down low will be Jacob Ali (6-5, F, Atlanta – Maynard Jackson) and D'Shawn Foster (6-6, F, Grayson – Grayson). Both Ali and Foster come to West Georgia Tech via Middle Georgia Prep and are expected to make major contributions. Noah Thomas (6-4, F, Atlanta – Redan) plays much bigger than his 6-4 frame would suggest and is expected to be a force rebounding.
Several other newcomers are expected to make an immediate impact. Two McEachern High School products, Chris Freeman (6-0, G, Powder Springs) and Devante Garside (6-3, G, Powder Springs) played on one of the top high school teams in Georgia and bring that experience to Carrollton. Another talented freshman is 6-4 swingman Isaiah Greer (Atlanta – Banneker). Greer is expected to stretch defenses with a post presence but can also score from long-range. Other newcomers include three-point threat Malik Amos (6-2, G, Atlanta – Solid Rock Academy), Sterling Bonds (6-5, F, Douglasville – New Manchester), Jordan Brown (6-1, G, Douglasville – Alexander), Rodney Thomas (6-1, G, Villa Rica – Villa Rica), and Quayshawn Long (6-3, G, Atlanta – Faith Christian).
Depth and quickness is exactly how what Okolovitch wants in his up-tempo style.
"Last season, we were second in the country averaging 108 points before several injuries slowed us down," Okolovitch said. "We have a good returning group and I believe that our frontcourt is much stronger than last season. We have more quickness and I believe that we can pick-up where we left off last year."
The Golden Knights compete at the non-scholarship Division III level of the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association (GCAA). Last season, they finished 14-14 against a Division I laden schedule, but were 3-1 in the conference and won the tournament championship, advancing to the District finals.
West Georgia Tech opens the season Wednesday on the road against the junior varsity of Reinhardt. The home-opener is Saturday when BC Howren comes to town. Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Oak Mountain Academy.