DeKalb basketball is on the rise

DeKalb County basketball has a long history of success, and local teams have taken steps in recent seasons to put the county in a position to retake its spot at the top of the state.

The trophies don’t yet match the days of Sharman White at Miller Grove, when the Wolverines won six consecutive state championships and seven out of eight. It wasn’t only White who found success during that time. DeKalb boys’ teams won 15 state titles from 2005 – 2014, while girls’ teams did even better –accounting for 21 titles from 2004 – 2016.

However, the talent level in the county is getting better, more teams are making the playoffs, and new contenders are rising in DeKalb. It’s only a matter of time before the county starts filling its trophy case again.

We even saw a glimpse of the county’s potential in 2022, when Drew Charter, Greenforest, and Marist all brought home high school basketball state championships, and other teams have been on the cusp of doing the same.

Phil McCrary’s Columbia Eagles are no surprise. McCrary accounted for several of the state titles during the 2005 – 14 stretch and has played in one title game and one Final Four game since returning to the sideline. Columbia will stay a yearly title contender with McCrary back in the mix, and the Eagles have found and developed college talent each year since his return.

Greenforest’s boys’ team falls in the same category, even though the former Greenforest coach—Larry Thompson—who won five state championships at the school has moved on. Rory Griffin, Greenforest’s new head coach, has filled in well. Griffin has produced as much college talent as anyone in DeKalb recently, sending alums to the likes of Mississippi State, Presbyterian College, Georgia State, North Carolina A&T, Seton Hall, Middle Tennessee, and other schools on basketball scholarships.
Griffin has played for two state titles since 2020, winning the 2022 title 61-52.

Cedar Grove has emerged as the newest contender from DeKalb, playing for the 2023 state title against Sandy Creek. There’s good reason to believe the Saints will continue to grow.

Cedar Grove coaches have a blueprint on how to build a powerhouse—with the football program turning into one of the best in the state and in the southeast—and the Saints already have some of the best talent in the state. Class of 2026 wing Manny Green is rated as a top 50 player in the country in 2026 by 247Sports. He’s joined by state championship winning quarterback EJ Colson, and two talented sophomores in Jayden Scott and Dontavius Stringfield. The trio of sophomores should have the Saints in state title discussion yearly.

The girls’ teams are pushing in a similar fashion.

Southwest DeKalb coach Kathy Richey-Walton has racked up honors and awards in recent years, but she has coached a young team and has continued winning region titles with them. Her Lady Panthers’ have also played tough schedules, including games against IMG Academy and a tournament in California. Walton will have a chance to get Southwest DeKalb back to its title contender days with a junior heavy roster filled with multi-year starters.

Teams such as Druid Hills, St. Pius X Catholic, and Lithonia have also made noise in recent years – giving DeKalb a host of potential contenders who can get the county back to its state title ways. So, watch some DeKalb basketball this season; you might be watching a state champion in the making.

Featured image by @HerdLani

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