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March 20, 2014

Holland to coach GACA South All-Stars

TIFTON — Blue Devils here, Blue Devils there, Blue Devils everywhere.

That will be the case Saturday afternoon as the basketball staff of Tift County is going to be worn thin trying to keep up with them.

The main showcase, the annual Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North-South game at Armstrong Atlantic in Savannah, will feature four locals in three games and one head coach; Dr. Eric Holland was selected to lead the South senior squad.

Holland's picked lineup has two of his own, Ladarius Stewart and D.J. Bryant. For the ladies, the junior girls game will have Brecklyn Greene and the senior contest sports Alexis Johnson.

Another game will be going on over at Darton State on the same day, this one featuring one Devil and one Lady Devil. Nate Thomas and Staceyanna Murrell will be playing in the Southwest Georgia games.

Tift girls coach Julie Conner said Murrell was a late addition to the roster. Thomas, who has battled back from a knee injury to be a defensive presence, was commended by Holland for his perseverance. "He's always been a tough player," he said.

Conner was elated to have so many of her players going somewhere. "I am very proud and very happy for the opportunity. I'm thrilled."

Greene will have a bit of a reunion in Savannah. One of her former teammates at Mary Persons, Ke Ke Calloway, was also invited. Conner said the two will be roommates.

Johnson has arguably been the team's rock over her career and scored more than 400 points this season. She was also responsible for the winning shot in their state tournament upset win at Westlake.

"I just want to coach the guys and have fun," said Holland. He is taking one of his assistants, Chris Wade, with him. They will be flanked by legendary Savannah coach, Tim Jordan. Holland said Jordan will specialize in post players, Wade will handle the defense and he will have the offense.

His roster is a who's who of basketball success. It includes Jakeenan Gant of Effingham County, who is committed to Missouri ("he's just an awesome player," he said) and several athletes who have either faced Tift or have been on the local floor at the McDonald's Invitational: Sam Daniel (Camden), Ramel Thompkins (Vidalia), Chris Cokley (Savannah), Rashad Lewis (Valdosta), Rico Bonds (Johnson), in addition to his own guys.

"I'm very excited for them. Boo (Stewart) has been here for four years. D.J. is very deserving. It's a great opportunity to close out their careers."

Bryant, he said, is weighing college offers. "He's going to make the best decision for himself and his family," he said.

The girls game at Darton tips at 5 p.m. For Savannah contests, the girls junior game begins at 11 a.m. with the senior game following. The boys senior game is set to start at 5 p.m. Tickets are $5.

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20140726 John Gamble.JPG

John Gamble (right) is joined by John Reid at the Tiftarea YMCA Saturday.

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