St. George’s has been the team to beat in the Division II-A West district that includes University School of Jackson and Sacred Heart in recent years.
The Gryphons are traditionally among the best in the district, region and state.
St. George’s could again be that strong this year with the return of guard Justin Wertner.
But USJ hopes to have a say in the top spot of the district by the end of the season.
The Bruins return four of the five starters from last year that hung with a good Lausanne team in the region quarterfinals.
USJ is now in its second year with Oliver Simmons as head coach and with Nigel Peeples at point guard.
Peeples, a senior, has the ability to push the ball quickly up the floor and forces defensive problems for the opposing team.
Jonathan Adkins was the second-leading scorer last year with his ability to hit some outside shots. Adkins will again be a strong shooter.
But the biggest returner is junior Clayton Hughes, who is being recruited by NCAA Division I schools and already has two offers from SEC schools.
Hughes led the team with 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last year as a sophomore.
Experience will be a big factor this year to the success of the Bruins.
USJ will not be the only Jackson school looking to push for the district title as Sacred Heart also has a shot to take a big step up.
The Knights have dealt with some injuries over the last two seasons, but if they can stay healthy, Sacred Heart should have a strong season.
The Knights are led by leading scorer Tay Gibbs and David Johnson is strong at the guard position.
Sacred Heart will look for a signature win early in the season to build off of for a strong push late.
Tipton-Rosemark was also a team that pushed for a top-two seed in the district entering the region tournament, but the Rebels lost their two key scorers.
The team doesn’t return anyone who averaged over five points per game last year.
Fayette Academy Vikings
Coach: Jason Morgan (1st season)
Last year’s record: 15-14
Postseason finish: Lost to FACS in region quarterfinals
Key losses: Brennan Bowling (Guard); John Michael Atkeison (Guard)
Key returners: Jamie Shotwell (Sophomore, guard); Will Howell (Senior, guard); Tillman White (Senior, guard)
Rossville Christian Wolves
Coach: Mark Duggin
Last year’s record: 7-16
Postseason finish: Lost to Rossville Christian in region first round
Sacred Heart Knights
Coach: David Hunt
Last year’s record: 9-14
Postseason finish: Lost to Memphis Catholic in the region first round
Key losses: None
Players to watch: J.C. Spencer (Senior, Guard); Tay Gibbs (Senior, Forward); David Johnson (Senior, Guard)
St. George’s Gryphons
Coach: Jeff Ruffin
Last year’s record: 25-3
Postseason finish: Region runner-up; Lost to FRA in sub-state
Player to watch: Justin Wertner (Senior, guard)
Coach: David Hunt (1st year)
Last year’s record: 14-13
Postseason finish: Lost to Harding Academy in the region quarterfinals
Key losses: Connor Alexander (Guard); Matt Moody (Center)
Players to watch: Logan Stewart (Senior, forward); Johnie Sanfratello (Junior, guard)
University School of Jackson Bruins
Coach: Oliver Simmons (2nd year)
Last year’s record: 18-9
Postseason finish: Lost to Lausanne in region quarterfinals
Key losses: Hunter Smith (Forward)
Players to watch: Clayton Hughes (Junior, Forward); Nigel Peeples (Senior, point guard); Jonathan Adkins (Senior, guard)
Michael Odom, 425-9754
Predicted Order of Finish
1. St. George’s
3. Sacred Heart
5. Fayette Academy
6. Rossville Christian
This is voted on by coaches and members of the media.
Coming this week
Today: Division II-A Boys
Thursday: District 14-A Girls
Friday: District 14-A Boys
Saturday: District 15-A Girls
Sunday: District 15-A Boys