Collins Hills (20-2) girls look like a state contender again
From left: Collins Hill coach Brian Harmon, Javyn Nicholson, Kayla Dixon, Bria Harmon and Nia Lee pose for a preseason photograph at Gwinnett County’s basketball media day. Photo: Ty Freeman
Collins Hills girls basketball coach Brian Harmon says his second-ranked Eagles (20-2) look the part of a state-contending team. They just don’t always sound like it.
Harmon has a pair of 6-2/6-3 inside players with some 30 major Division I offers, a couple of 5-11/6-0 wings that play shut-down defense and a sophomore point guard headed to Purdue. And Harmon can bring another 6-footer off the bench.
‘’They pass the look test, definitely,’’ Harmon said. “You walk in the gym and you can see the stature of who they are. But it’s the leadership and expressing yourself in game that makes it look like it should look like. We’re working on that.’’
Harmon, in his second season at Collins Hill, is on the verge of returning the program to its glory days, when it won five state titles from 2001 to 2007, the last three with WNBA player Maya Moore.
In 2016, Collins Hill went 23-4 and reached the playoffs for the first time since Moore left for UConn. Collins Hill flickered out in the round of 16, when the team lost a fourth-quarter lead to Douglas County.
The current group has lost only to Class A private-school champion St. Francis and Riverdale of Murfreesboro, Tenn., the No. 2-ranked team in the country per MaxPreps.
The Eagles are led by Harmon’s daughter, Bria Harmon, at the point. She’s a 5-7 sophomore averaging about 12 points, 3 assists and 2.5 steals per games, numbers that would be higher if not for a rotation of 10 legitimately contributing players and so many blowouts. Collins Hill has won some of its Region 6 games by scores of 60-8, 91-5, 70-27, 62-7 and 85-10.
Collins Hill’s bigs inside are 6-2 Javyn Nicholson (averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds per game) and 6-3 Jada Rice (9 points, 9 rebounds).
Coach Harmon on Nicholson, a sophomore: ‘’Javyn is more of a big personality. She really loves basketball and wants to be a big-time player. She’s extremely talented, a kid that you can say will be a professional basketball player. She always wants to be better.’’
Harmon on Rice, a junior with major D-I and Ivy League offers: ‘’She’s an orchestra kid that plays basketball. That’s what I tell college coaches. If you just talk basketball, you probably won’t get a read on Jada. Talk about things like studying abroad, and she gets excited.’’
On the two together: “Both push each other. They get a chance that’s different from most teams. At 6-3, they get a chance to play against each other every day at practice.’’
Nia Lee (6-0 senior) and Kayla Dixon (5-11 junior) are the tough-defending wings who each score about 8-9 points a game. Lee, the team’s only senior, is a good shooter with a high motor, Harmon said. Dixon is more physical.
Reserves Jaron Stallworth (6-0, D-I prospect), Katherine Fourie (strong shooter), Desiree Connor, Savannah Samuels (freshman) and Natasha Anglin also play significantly.
‘’I think that talent-wise, we’re just as good as anybody else,’’ Harmon said. ‘’I know that in our classification, we’re probably the biggest. So if they gel going into this last stretch, they’re going to be tough because they’re so hard to score on.’’
Harmon just wants them to be heard come playoff time. He said his team still misses its 2016 seniors, notably Kira Dixon (Stony Brook) and Jasmine Smith (North Georgia).
”They were very vocal kids and could lead on the floor every day with enthusiasm,” Harmon said. “This year, leadership had to emerge. Most of these kids are quiet on the floor Off the floor, they’re as loud as they can be. They talk and laugh and love each other.
‘’It’s been a maturing thing to get them to talk on the floor. It’s understanding moments and when to tell people you have to rebound, you have to play defense or get to the basket. That’s been the part we’re working on in practice.‘’