Team SSB Formerly Known As Georgia Jaguars Has New Mission Statement Heading Into 2022 Club Season @TEAM_SSB22

When the upcoming AAU season still was in the distance, Mike Woods thought his days as a coach would be coming to an end within a few years.

But that was before his Georgia Jaguars became Team SSB. That stands for Strong, Smart and Bold, the slogan of Girls Inc., a non-profit that Woods had done some part-time work for in the past. When Woods was offered a fulltime position with Girls Inc., he jumped at the chance and that move means that a coaching career that began more than 20 years ago is likely to last 30 or 40 years.

“This was a no-brainer for me,’’ Woods said. “Girls Inc. is something that I believe in strongly because it’s all about helping girls do things that they otherwise would not have had a chance to do.’’

Woods also is refreshed because SSB, based out of Columbus, GA, has a roster that is loaded with talent for both the near and short term. That talent will be on display at The Deep South Classic in Raleigh, NC, April 22-24.

The unquestioned leader and floor general for SSB will be Mya Giles. The 5-foot-7 point guard is projected as a mid-major recruit, Woods said.

“She’s quick as a cat,’’ Woods said. “She’s an unbelievable defender. We just need to stop her from trying to be Chris Paul.’’

Giles will be a member of the Class of 2023 and she’ll be joined by a player that Woods thinks has a chance to be one of the biggest sleepers on the summer circuit.

That’s La’Daja Caldwell, who was not part of the program last year. The 5-11 small forward elected to play for a team in her hometown of Albany, GA., last year.

“She’s an unknown to recruiters,’’ Woods said. “A lot of times, kids are very loyal to the teams in their hometowns. But La’Daja realized that she needed to play for a better team to get more exposure. She’s deadly in the mid-range game and I think she’s going to catch a lot of attention from mid-major recruiters this spring and summer.’’

Giles and Caldwell will be the elder statesmen for SSB, but the real strength of the roster will come from younger players.

Two members of the Class of 2024 are drawing interest from Power 5 programs, according to Woods. They are 5-8 guard Morgan Thomas and 6-3 power forward Zakyra McGee.

“Morgan has a chance to be a big-time player,’’ Woods said. “She’s a killer scorer and she’s built like a track athlete. She’s incredibly humble. She’s always asking me, “Coach, do you think I’m that good’’. Trust me, she is that good, especially now that she’s finally wearing contact lenses. Her dad was reluctant to let her wear contacts and she didn’t want to wear glasses. She played half-blind throughout high school.’’

Woods sees McGee as a clone of Ariel Butts, who came through his program and went on to play at Rutgers from 2012 through 2016.

“She’s a big, strong bully,’’ Woods said. “She plays so hard around the rim and she can post up.’’

But SSB’s Class of 2025 is the one that Woods is most excited about. The class features Power 5 prospects in 5-11 wing Makayla Johnson, 6-2 guard Akila Shelton and 6-2 post player Chantell Barnes.

“Makayla is an athletic wing,’’ Woods said. “She can do it all from 15 feet in. Akila is a lefty who can shoot the three. She’s a mismatch nightmare because she played the post in high school. Akila and Chantell are high school teammates (at Hardaway High in Columbus), so they play well together. Chantell is a dynamite post player who is really good around the basket right now and she’s trying to expand her game out to 15 feet.’’

SSB also will carry a player from the Class of 2026 on its under-17 team. Woods is trying not to get overly excited about combo guard Jabria Lindsey, but he’s having an extremely hard time.

Lindsey is from Phenix City, AL and it’s important to keep in mind that Alabama is rare in that it allows girls to play on the varsity team from the time they are in seventh grade. After only two seasons at Central High, the 5-8 Lindsey already has scored over 1,000 points.

“It would be unfair to play her on the seventh-grade team,’’ Woods said. “She’s a Power 5 prospect without a doubt. She gets doubled and tripled and she never panics. She just goes about her business.’’