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Statesboro High basketball coach Lee Hill is currently the winningest coach in the GHSA with 877 victories.
For over 40 years, Hill has led the Blue Devils to statewide success including making five Final Four appearances, two championship games and winning the state title in 1991.
Over that span, Hill has been fortunate enough to help develop some players into Division I talent and has quite a few memories of both individuals, and teams throughout the years.
“Well obviously the 1991 state championship team is the most special season,” Hill said. “I feel like we were the best team in the state that year, regardless of classifications. To have a backcourt with Keith LeGree and Mitch Taylor was something special.
“Keith was the first ever McDonald’s All-American from the state of Georgia. We had Rick Pitino, Bob Huggins, Denny Crum all coming to Statesboro to look at him. He was a true point guard, and what set him apart was how strong he was. He could shoot, dribble, pass and played great defense.
“Mitch was probably one of the best shooters I have ever seen,” Hill said. “He signed with Auburn, and had such great range, as well as a pretty shot. Not only did he probably lead the state in three pointers that year, he also played defense. I think that’s what made him so attractive to many coaches.
“You can’t leave out the rest of the guys on that starting five,” Hill said. “Crecy Robbins, Dreg Humphries, and Miquill Jones. We also got a lot of help from Marlon Hendrix, Jason Harrison, Andy High, Keith Prince, Danny Lamonte, Marko Wright, Carlos Strong and Billy Logan coming off the bench.”
Statesboro went 30-1 en route to the state title, beating Southwest Macon in the final four, and future UCLA Bruin Cameron Dollar’s Douglas High School by a score of 87-78 in the championship game.
After winning the championship in 91 the Blue Devils were invited to play in many prestigious tournaments including The Arby’s Classic in Bristol Tennessee. Marko Wright was named to the all-tournament first team and the Devils placed fifth in the nationwide tournament which featured a few future NBA stars.
“We beat Ray Allen’s high school team which was Hillcrest out of South Carolina,” Hill said. “It was the only loss they had the entire season. We also played against Ron Mercer and Jerry Stackhouse, who played at Oak Hill Academy.”
The 1992 Blue Devils went 23-8, advancing to the state championship once again before falling to Johnson in the title game.
“We lost our entire starting five from 1991 to graduation,” Hill said. “Those kids behind them knew how to win though, and did a great job getting back to the championship. Marko Wright helped fill the void from losing Keith, and became one of the best players I’ve coached as well.”
Wright ended up being a highly sought after player in his own right. Many of the same coaches that were on hand to watch LeGree were back in Statesboro to watch Wright, who ended up signing with Cincinnati.
“Marko was so quick, and explosive to the rim,”Hill said. “He could really shoot the ball well. He was also a great ball handler, and was a great defensive player.”
Prior to winning the championship in 1991, the farthest the Blue Devils had gotten under Hill was the 1984 state final four.
“The 1984 team was the first one I had that made a serious state run,” Hill said. We had a lot of talent on that team. Jimmy Rogers signed with New Mexico, and was a great point guard. You could not trap him, he was an excellent ball hander, and a smart player as well. Jeff Brannen was one of my first real big men. He was 6-7 and he ended up signing with UNC Wilmington. We also had Keith Harrsion, who was a very physical player, and could really shoot the ball well outside. Keith ended up playing at Georgia Southern.”
The Blue Devils would not reach the state semifinals again until 2004. The ‘04 team featured another strong backcourt led by Kenny Chavers and Courtney Houston, as well as small forward Ronnell Wooten. All three went on to sign college scholarships.
“Wooten was a very versatile player,” Hill said. “He could handle the ball, shoot, and could jump out of the gym. Chavers was tough, he played solid on defense and was a good ball handler. Houston was a lot like Wooten. They could both jump and run the floor, as well as shoot.”
Houston ended up signing at Georgia Southern, while Wooten went on to have an outstanding collegiate career at Kennesaw State. Wooten averaged double figures in each of his four seasons with the Owls, and is currently their third all-time leading scorer.
There were plenty of other noteworthy teams, and individuals. Hill’s son Lee Jr, along with backcourt mate Rashad Wright, helped lead his class to three consecutive state quarterfinal appearances. Wright went on to sign with Georgia, and finished as their all-time leader in assists.
“Rashad was a lot like his older brother Marko,” Hill said. “He was a little more of a true point guard, and was one of the best passers we have had. He was a great leader, and had a lot of success playing basketball professionally overseas.”
Other individual standouts that wound up signing Division 1 scholarships include Ron Christian (‘95), Donta Humphries (‘98), Kendall Hill (‘96), Eric Ferguson (‘08) and Jaquan Raynond (‘10). Humphries, Hill and Ferguson all played at Georgia Southern, while Raymond signed with N.C State, and transferred to MTSU. While at MTSU Raymond helped lead the 15th seeded Blue Raiders to an upset of 2nd seed Michigan State in the 2016 NCAA tournament.
“Ron was a great athlete,” Hill said. “He could run the floor and finish with big dunks. Donta was one of the most clutch players I have had. He was a great shooter, and team leader at point guard as well.”
“Ferguson could do it all for such a tall player,” Hill said. “He still holds the record for points in a game with 51. Jaquan was another of our taller guards. He was another good leader who could run the floor, shoot and jump. It was fun to see him help his team upset Michigan State a couple years ago.”
With so much talent over the years we will be encouraging our readers over the next few weeks, to vote for who they think is the best overall player from a particular sport, or school. We will begin with the Statesboro Blue Devil boys basketball team.
To vote, visit www.statesboroherald.com/shshoops