ATLANTA, GA -- All eyes in the Peach State weren't just watching the action in Athens on Saturday afternoon in the Peach State. Sure the Georgia Tech and Georgia battle on the gridiron was gripping. So was the action inside Georgia State Sports Arena for the Elite 8 Thanksgiving Hardwood Classic.
FAVORS, MALONE POWER SOUTH ATLANTA
After helping his South Atlanta team win it's first game of the season, Derrick Favors stood outside the back door of the Georgia State Sports Arena on a rainy Saturday night handing out hugs to female schoolmates and getting pats on the back from friends and families.
Favors was smiling in large part to his 29 point, 12 rebound, four block, four steals and three assist effort in South Atlanta's 88-77 win over Centennial.
The five-star big man was also smiling because for the first time in a long time, he was just the normal 17-year-old from the south side of Atlanta that just so happens to be one of the elite high school players in the nation.
There were no questions from strangers asking him where he is going to college. There were no over eager super fans begging and pleading with him to choose their school. There were no coaches waiting for him outside of the locker room.
"It's nice, not having to worry about any of [the recruiting pressure]," Favors said after the game. "There are no worries. I can just play ball. I can just hear the ball bounce. I can just be me."
Favors was just the normal 17-year-old that just so happened to score a lot of points, rebound a lot of basketballs, block a handful of shots and make a number of steals in his team's first game of a hectic and competitive season.
While there were schools there to see him, Favors paid no attention to them. He says he won't pay much attention to the recruiting process for a while. With the spring signing period still months away, Favors said his focus is on the here and now.
"All I care about is this team," Favors said. "All I care about is winning the state championship."
Favors had plenty of help from his teammates.
Auburn bound wing Andre Malone was outstanding in the first half, scoring 14 points and shot three of four from three-point land. The four-star guard pumped in 28 points in the victory.
His presence on the wing opened up the middle of the floor for Favors to do his best work under the basket.
Malone, a strong-bodied wing, is physically ready for the college game and his transition to the next level, at least from a physical standpoint, should be seamless.
Favors, Malone and South Atlanta had to hold off a terrific effort by N.C. State bound guard Lorenzo Brown.
The four-star guard scored 19 impressive and aggressive points and dished out eight assists in the defeat. Brown played with great intensity from tip to the final buzzer and did everything that he could possibly do in order to put his team into position to win a tough game.
MILLER GROVE MAKES MAJOR STATEMENT
Miller Grove and Westlake, two of the top teams in the Peach State, matched up in the most anticipated game of the young season in Georgia and the game certainly lived up to it's billing.
Miller Grove took full advantage of it's roster rich with Division I prospects to claim an 81-65 win over Westlake.
Down by three points at the halftime break, Miller Grove came out strong in the third quarter. The Wolverines won the quarter 30-13 thanks to full court defensive pressure and quick scoring offense from under the radar guard Malcolm Frank, a 6-foot-2 senior.
"It was our defense," Frank said. "We told ourselves that defense was going to win that game."
The offense didn't hurt either. Especially from Frank, who scored a team high 21 points.
"That's him," Georgia Tech bound point guard Mfon Udofia said. "That's what he's been doing all season long so far. I knew he was going to step it up. That's what he does."
Frank said he has heard from Lafayette, North Florida and Alabama State on the recruiting front and he is hoping to pick up his first scholarship offer this season.
Udofia scored 14 points on an off night shooting the ball. His leadership down the stretch played a big role as he fed Frank, who had the hot hand, for scores and directed his young post players.
Donte Williams, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, came off the bench and scored nine points, grabbed six rebounds and had three blocks. He's a good-looking long term prospect with a substantial upside.
Williams was oftentimes matched up with fellow 2010 big man Marcus Thornton, a Clemson commitment.
Thornton struggled against Miller Grove's length, scoring just one field goal en route to seven points and three rebounds.
Westlake junior Jalen Kendrick started the game off strong but cooled off like the rest of his teammates in the second half. Kendrick manned the point throughout the game and the 6-foot-6 prospect finished with 16 points on six of 14 shooting from the floor and six assists in the defeat.
He showed flashes of why so many high-major teams are lining up to get involved with the versatile prospect.
THE KID IS ALRIGHT
Favors is the now at South Atlanta and within the Peach State. And the future is coming sooner than later.
"I'm the future, I guess," a sheepish Nick Jacobs said after South Atlanta knocked out Centennial.
Jacobs, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, had some big glimpses of the future in his seven-point, 10-rebound, three-block effort. He won't post huge numbers this season but his role is increased this season and Jacobs looks ready for the challenge that awaits him this season.
Jacobs said he has heard from Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Memphis, Winthrop, Wichita State, Oklahoma, Georgia and Georgia Tech early in the process.
ATKINS IS ALL GOOD IN VICTORY
Virginia Tech bound wing Manny Atkins pumped in 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in an 83-66 Tucker win Southwest Atlanta Christian.
The 6-foot-6 forward made it look too easy against the undersized SACA team. He scored the buckets he should score down low and knocked down three of his nine three-point attempts.
Virginia Tech has had success in the past with players like Atkins on the wing. He's a step quicker than he was last season and with his ability to crash the boards as well as stretch the defense, Atkins should be a nice reserve as a rookie next season for the Hokies.
HI, MY NAME IS…
South Atlanta was paced by an understated 10-point, 10-assist game from unsigned point guard Nick Watkins. He ran his team with great efficiency. For low-major teams looking for a simplistic point guard in 2009, Watkins is worth a look.
With Brown leading the way for Centennial, the Knights had 13 points from Adrian Rogers, a 6-foot-4 junior, and 13 points and eight rebounds from Kam Belin.
Rogers hit all three of his three-point attempts and only missed one shot from the floor. Rogers will be a player that mid-majors sniff around in the class of 2010 this season.
Belin had the tough task of trying to defend Favors and Jacobs and all things considered the 6-foot-6 junior did the best he could do. He worked hard for his rebounds and scored some tough buckets with longer defenders draped on him. Belin could be a in store for a big year this season.
Westlake had a team high 21 points from unsigned senior Javaris Bryant, a 6-foot-5 combo forward. The low-major prospect was a tough match-up for Miller Grove because of his versatility inside and out. He scored on the wing, the midrange and at the basket all the while being a threat on the boards as a rebounder.
Southwest Atlanta Christian has been the home to some of the best prep players in Atlanta for the last six years. This year's team is very young and inexperienced and the club is looking for it's identity early.
Junior guard Michael Murray scored 20 of his 29 points in the first half. He was a nice surprise for the young but storied program. Murray played his way onto the low-major radar in the class of 2010.
ALL EYES ON US
Georgia Tech head man Paul Hewitt, Georgia State head coach Rod Barnes, a pair of assistants from Georgia and an assistant coach from N.C. State and Kennesaw State all made it out for the day's activities.