In his 10-plus years as head coach of the Georgia Northwestern men’s basketball program, head coach David Stephenson has signed a lot of basketball players.
His latest signee might just be the most decorated player to ever pledge to play for the Bobcats.
Stephenson recently stopped in Varnell, Georgia - just down the road from famed Prater’s Mill - to get a player he hopes will be a big wheel in the Bobcats’ machine for the next two or three seasons.
Coahulla Creek standout Tyler Phillips will play for the navy and silver Bobcats next season after an outstanding career playing for the navy and silver Colts the past four years.
“From Day 1, we’ve been impressed with Tyler and our staff thinks this is a kid we can build our program around for the next two or three years,” Stephenson said. “One of things he’ll be very good at is filling that No. 3 spot because he can shoot, rebound, defend and do a little of everything that we’re losing with Darrius Fugh.
“Tyler is a hard-working kid from a great family and it’s important for us to sign a kid from Coahulla Creek. We hope this can be a pipeline for us in the years to come.”
The Colts went 20-8 this past season and 11-2 in region play on the strength of Phillips, who will graduate as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
The 6-foot-4 standout poured in 21 points a game, while grabbing 10 boards a night. He also finished with 1.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.3 blocks per game, while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and 80 percent from free throw line.
He scored a single-game record of 37 points in a 69-59 win over Bremen on Dec. 2 and took home several post-season honors, including All-Region (6-AAA), All-State Honorable Mention by the Georgia high school basketball website Sandyspiel.com and Class AAA North All-State honors by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association (GACA).
Phillips helped lead Colts to their first-ever state tournament win (49-45) over Franklin County and he had 25 points in a second-round lost to eventual state semifinalist Liberty County.
He is also the first Colt basketball player to ever sign on to play in college.
“That feels good and I’m glad to be the first one, but surely there will be more down the road,” Phillips said. “It seems like I’ve been working for this day for so long and now I’m finally getting to sign to play college basketball, so it’s a huge deal for me.”
Phillips said that choosing Georgia Northwestern was an easy decision for him.
“It’s the best fit for me academically and I think it will be fun to play basketball there,” he said. “I think I’ll fit in well. I’ve seen some of the guys they have and the other ones they are getting and I think we can be a pretty good group.”
“He’s close with his parents and he wanted to stay close to home,” Stephenson explained. “He came to one of our open gyms and said he just really liked the staff, some of people he might get to play with and what it was we were trying to do. He called me later that night and said he was ready (to commit) and I’m super excited to get him.”
Coahulla Creek head coach Matt Legg called Phillips a player who led by example.
“He’s a high character individual,” Legg said. “Every day he came to work looking to perfect his craft. He’s a hard worker and just your model student-athlete.
“He was our leading scorer. Day in and day out, we had junk defenses thrown at us, trying to find a way to stop him. But he overcame all of that and just played every game. He’s a heck of ball player.”
Phillips said he plans to major in business.
He is also the fourth student-athlete from Coahulla Creek to sign with Georgia Northwestern this spring, joining classmates Courtney Blair (cheerleading), Carre Welch (cheerleading) and David Manis (golf).