The state of Georgia, specifically the ATL area, has been a breeding ground for talented young hoopers for quite some time now. And it doesn’t look like that’s about to change anytime soon. At the grassroots level the Peach State is currently home to a player some say has the chance to be the top prospect in the Class of 2019 in Anthony Edwards. For 2020, Atlanta has two of the top 25 recruits in America in Brandon Boston Jr and Sharife Cooper. The former, a 6-6 wing out of Norcross HS (GA), is ranked No. 7 by ESPN and looking to climb even higher.
“I picked up a ball when I was 3,” says BJ. “My dad used to have me in the basement dribbling the ball through my legs with gloves on until my back started hurting and I used to start crying. The grind is never a job. I’ve been born with the grind. It’s just fun to me—to know that when working on it you can be the best at something.”
In his first two seasons at Norcross, Boston Jr helped lead the program to consecutive trips to the Class 7A championship game, ultimately falling short and emerging as the state runner-up on both occasions.
“He wants to win. There’s no doubt. He has a killer mentality. He feels like he has the ability to take over a game, and as a coach you want guys to have that confidence. He’s the ultimate competitor. You want guys on the floor that value winning over everything else,” says Norcross coach Jesse McMillan. “I think he values the opportunity to compete against guys that may be ranked higher than him and he wants to show everybody that he can be the very best player at his position—that he could be the best player in his class.”
The Blue Devils finished with a 28-4 record last season while Boston Jr averaged 16.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks. He balled out again this year as Norcross advanced to the state Final Four, where they lost to Sharife Cooper’s undefeated McEachern squad by four points.
Boston Jr has shared the floor with USC commit Kyle Sturdivant, a 6-3 senior point guard, and Issa Muhammad, a 6-9 forward with a plethora of D1 offers.
“Georgia hoops, I think we have the most competition,” he says. “It’s a big state and [there is] a variety of people. People that everybody don’t [even] know about that come hoop every day.”
Highly touted for his smooth demeanor, versatile skill set, scoring prowess and ability to play multiple positions (1-3), the junior has gained comparisons to Lakers wing Brandon Ingram.
“I think he is underrated as a defender and I think he is underrated as a passer,” McMillan adds. “We ask him to do a lot of scoring for our program. He is an underrated passer and I think that’s something that will show itself in the coming years as his role changes within our program.”
He wasn’t even nationally ranked going into his sophomore year, but after a strong performance in the Nike EYBL circuit last summer while hooping with the AOT (Athletes of Tomorrow) Running Rebels (who also feature Cooper), for whom he averaged 16.5 points per game (including 21.6 points and 8.0 rebounds during the Peach Jam championship week), Boston Jr has skyrocketed into the top-10 national conversation.
“Two years ago, I was not on the map at all. It was maybe [after] my ninth grade summer—that’s when I blew up. I started getting in the rankings. I played on the EYBL circuit [and] just balled out in front of everybody,” Boston Jr says. “I’m blessed. I want to thank God, my family and my trainers. I just put in the hard work to be the best player—need that No. 1 spot.”
For the hoops community in Atlanta, the annual tradition of producing elite talent continues, with the top spot within range. Once again.
Franklyn Calle is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @FrankieC7.
Portraits by Ben Rollins.