Phil McCrary knows the questions are coming so he keeps his scorebook handy after basketball games.
The Columbia boys’ basketball coach needs the statistics to settle friendly challenges between his post players, who are the cornerstone of the Eagles’ brutish defense.
“They have a running competition of who can get the most blocks, rebounds and have the best dunks,” McCrary said. “All in all, it’s fun, but they’re very competitive. After a game, they’re always asking me about statistics.”
Seniors Jhaustin Thomas, Jarmal Reid, Chris Horton and Damian Goodwin give opposing offenses fits and give the Eagles something they don’t usually have—versatility in the post.
“We’ve always had size,” McCrary said. “We’ve got size now, but they all bring something different to the table. The guys we used to have were more bangers and bruisers. Horton and Reid are more finesse-type players.”
The foursome has helped Columbia earn a No. 1 ranking in the Class AAA Georgia Athletic Coaches Association poll with an 18-1 record before the Jan. 24 game against Arabia Mountain. Reid, Horton and Goodwin were part of the Eagles’ state championships in 2010 and 2011.
Reid and Goodwin have known each other since middle school, while Reid and Horton have been teammates since their sophomore season. Thomas, who was concentrating on football, joined the team last season.
“Most of them have been in the program a long time,” McCrary said. “And Jhaustin brings that football savvy…. The guys all put the work in.”
Horton leads the county with 85 blocked shots and is among the county leaders in rebounding, averaging 10.6 per game. Thomas leads the Eagles in scoring, averaging 12.2 points and has scored at least 12 in the past eight games. He also averages 10.3 rebounds a contest. Reid is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 11.6 points. Goodwin has been solid off the bench all season and averages five points and five rebounds per game.
“We’re very competitive and we know what each other can do,” said Reid, 6-foot-6, who has signed a basketball scholarship with Oregon State “We always try to come up with something new to push each other. I do things that help them out and they help me by making me work very hard.”
Columbia has one of the best defenses in the state and allows a county-low 42.3 points per game. The Eagles are tied with Miller Grove in the county in rebounding and are second as a team in blocked shot average.
Reid and Thomas (6-5) are the more physical players, but Horton (6-8), who has signed with Austin Peay University, worked to improve his strength in the off-season.
“He’s always had people ahead of him,” McCrary said of Horton. “He’s had to go against those guys and it’s made him that much better.”
In addition to having versatility under the basket, the fact that each player understands his role makes them more effective as a group.
Said Horton: “I definitely block more shots. My length helps me go up against stronger opponents. We definitely have a defense first mentality.”
Goodwin, who has committed to a scholarship at Southern University, can play on the wing as well and battle on the boards, while Reid and Thomas are more physical.
“My physicality is my strength,” Reid said. “I’m stronger than they are and have more of a physical presence. I do things that help them out and they help me by making me work very hard.”