High school basketball officially starts in Georgia on Nov. 10, with most DeKalb teams playing their first games on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11.
Coaches from DeKalb gathered at Tucker High School in October to discuss the upcoming season and their teams.
The 2022-23 DeKalb season saw the Cedar Grove Saints make it to the state title game and six DeKalb teams reach the Elite Eight. Columbia and Greenforest joined Cedar Grove as DeKalb teams in the Final Four.
DeKalb basketball media days usually include a moment to honor some of the county’s legendary coaches, and 2023 followed suit as Tucker’s James Harty was honored for his recent Clark Atlanta Hall of Fame induction.
“I’ve gotten a lot of honors … but the hall of fame is a whole different subject,” said Harty. “You don’t get in the hall of fame by being a good coach or a good player, you do it by being a standup person. But now I have that bullseye on my back. You can’t just sit back; you have to show people why you’re a hall of famer.”
Harty wasn’t shy about his team’s potential, crediting an offseason that included two summer leagues and fall league for keeping his team active and continually improving.
“My thing is, you don’t get better if you don’t play,” said Harty. “I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the region. That’s what we play for, and I want my guys to have that mentality. We’re good enough to win it all, we just have to put it together.”
Another one of the county’s top coaches is Southwest DeKalb girls’ coach Kathy Richey-Walton, but she said the offseason hasn’t been as kind to her team’s schedule.
“This offseason has been challenging,” said Walton. “We had six kids playing softball, three playing volleyball, and two running cross country. So, we really couldn’t come together on a regular basis as a team.”
Southwest DeKalb’s season includes a special trip and a hungry team, so Walton said they can make up for the hectic offseason.
“We were really disappointed last year, so I believe they’re hungry and that they’ll put in the work,” she said. “We’re going to travel to California, and we’re playing some of the top teams in California while we’re there. We want to get out there and give them an experience they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Columbia’s boys team has also flirted with state championships since head coach Phil McCrary returned to the sideline. The Eagles made the Final Four in 2022-23 and played for the state championship in 2020-21.
“That’s always the goal. We’ve probably been in the state playoffs for 20 straight years,” said McCrary. Once we get there, we’re able to do a little damage and who knows, something might fall our way. You have to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that are given to you at any time, and that’s what we look for.”
Columbia’s head coach said this season’s team will look different, compared to McCrary fielding one of his tallest teams last season. He added that the offense has just as much potential.
“We have guys who are more interchangeable. Last year, our big guys couldn’t stretch the floor. This year, our guys are more athletic, better ball handlers, and they all can shoot,” said McCrary.
For every DeKalb County School District team’s full schedule, visit www.dekalbschoolsga.org.