Coastal Georgia is not an area historically known for its hoopers, but colleges will likely make the trek to the Golden Isles with increasing frequency in the future.
Kyle Sandy of Sandy’s Spiel and Prep Hoops Georgia listed Brunswick High’s Tyrease Jones and Glynn Academy’s Max Hrdlicka among his sleepers in the Class of 2021.
Jones and Hrdlicka are currently ranked 128th and 129th, respectively, among the class of rising seniors, however the location of their home courts may be artificially lowering their placement.
Sandy believes the higher density of schools, and therefore prospects, packed into a smaller radius of metro Atlanta, naturally leads to coaches focusing their in-state recruiting efforts in that area.
“I think a lot of it has to do with geography and knowledge of the state,” Sandy said. “When colleges come to Georgia they always focus in on metro Atlanta because that is where the greatest concentration of talent usually is. There are great players all over Georgia however. Coaches would prefer to make a pit stop where they can see 10 viable recruits at one location instead of an area where they can get maybe two or three. It’s all a numbers game at the end of the day, whether it’s right or wrong.”
But Sandy predicts that Jones and Hrdlicka will rise on recruiting boards come the next rankings adjustment based on what they put on film over the course of their junior seasons.
On paper, Jones had a modest season, averaging 10.5 points per game for the Pirates. However, that figure belies the 5-foot-10 guard’s scoring ability.
Jones played well within the structure of Brunswick’s system, but when the team needed it, he could turn into a certified bucket-getter — as evidenced by his 37-point outburst in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
“He’s a kid that can score the ball,” said Pirates boy’s head coach Chris Turner. “He’s not used to having to really having to distribute the ball a whole lot, but he did do a pretty good job of that at the point.
“But he’s a kid that can go get a point if you need to, or clear out a side and let him try to drive. He’s made some big shots in his time.”
A handful of senior guards ahead of him on the depth chart kept Jones from accumulating many varsity minutes as a sophomore, but he quickly found his niche as a sneaky-athletic combo guard that can score on all three levels.
Turner feels that now that Jones knows where he needs to improve, namely in his individual defense and playmaking, the sky’s the limit for him and Brunswick next year.
“Going through a true varsity schedule, and what it really takes to win these big games, I think is going to really help him given that talent,” Turner said. “He played a lot of minutes. He jumped from the two to the point, whatever I had to use him at. He’s been versatile.”
Hrdlicka didn’t necessarily suffer from a lack of numbers as the 6-foot-5 wing averaged 17.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists — team high’s outside of rebounds, in which he was second — but a lack of opportunities to shine on a big stage for the Terrors, who were eliminated in the opening round of the postseason.
However, Hrdlicka has an intriguing skillset at his size with his ability to handle the ball, shoot from the perimeter, act as the team’s primary playmaker, and absolutely throw it down at the rim when the moment arises.
“I think it’s just his size and versatility are key components to his game,” said Glynn Academy boy’s head coach Terrance Haywood. “Also the fact that he’s a smart kid. He knows the game of basketball, he understands it, and I think that’s what gives him an edge at the high school level.”
Following a sophomore season that saw Hrdlicka average eight points per game while starting alongside four seniors, his production leapt through the roof this past season — per request of Haywood.
“He started with four seniors around him, so he kind of took somewhat of a backseat, passed up some shots here or there,” Haywood said. “I called him in and said, ‘I understand what you did, but that’s over and done with. I need you to really step it up and be that guy. You need to try to double, if not more, what you scored last year as a sophomore.’
“I said, ‘You’ve pretty much got four guys that are coming up from the JV. You’re going to have to be the leader of those guys, and not just in games. You’ve got to be this kid in every practice.’ I said, every practice, you should look different from everybody in the gym just because of your experience, your size, your ability. You have to look different every single time. I harped on that, I harped on that, and he didn’t disappoint.”
Haywood stressed to Hrdlicka the importance of his junior season in recruiting. It was imperative to get his name circulating in coaching circles as to allow colleges the chance to then focus a closer eye on him come time for the summer circuit and his senior year.
Jones and Hrdlicka are each set to compete during the travel ball season once again with the Pirates standout competing with Team Next Up and the Terrors’ star suiting up for the Atlanta Timberwolves.
If the duo can continue to build upon their strong junior seasons in Glynn County, the offers will come.
“Just because you might not play in Gwinnett, Cobb or Fulton County, it doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence for your career,” Sandy said. “You don’t have to transfer to a bigger school. If you do what you’re supposed to do and get better every single game and start winning games and your coach helps provide some exposure, colleges will find you. There just might be a little more emphasis on playing with the right travel team that plays in the best tournaments for exposure.”