Entering his senior season, Etowah's Jaxon Etter was only concerned with keeping his team on top.
During his sophomore and junior seasons, Etter helped guide the Eagles to the first two region titles in team history and a pair of playoff wins, while picking up a Region Player of the Year award along the way.
Though Etowah did not quite cruise through the regular season like it did last season year and entered the Region 4AAAAAAA tournament as the No. 2 seed, Etter got his third straight region title with a win over Cherokee.
“It was about pride,” said Etter, the 2018-19 Cherokee Tribune Boys Basketball of the Year. “I didn’t want to lose to any other team in the region, let alone a county team like Cherokee. We wanted to set the tone for Etowah. Etowah is going to be dominant in this region. You can already tell. I wasn’t going to leave without a region championship.”
The end result was the same, but Etter played an even larger role this time around.
After losing the other four starters to graduation, Etter had to do a little bit of everything. He led the Eagles with 21.3 points per game, but he also added 6.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.2 steals while being more vocal at both ends of the floor.
“My mindset was to take on more of a leadership role for myself,” he said. “I was that guy being carried last year by our other four starters, but I knew I had to be that guy this year. This year, I had to change my role to more than a scorer. I needed to be a leader, too.”
For Etter, that process started during the offseason with the Atlanta All-Stars. Playing on the AAU circuit, Etter said the improved competition only made him better, and he tried to share that with his high school teammates.
“My AAU season helped tremendously,” he said. “I was playing better competition and getting better myself. I can bring that in here and help those younger guys with the same push.”
Etter said Etowah has learned to play with the quicker guards it sees in the postseason, and with the height coming through the program, he thinks the Eagles could be ready to take the next step to the quarterfinals next season.
“Some height would help,” he said. “We’ve gotten some tough draws in the bracket, but some height could help level that playing field. We have a lot in the program now. As long as we have some pieces around it, we can break that streak of losing in the second round.”
As Etowah looks to break through to the deeper rounds of the playoffs, Etter will be playing at Georgia as a preferred walk-on. He said he received the offer at the beginning of the season, and once Bulldogs coach Tom Crean signed top recruit Anthony Edwards from Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta, Etter knew he and the coaching staff were on the same page.
“I’m just happy to have the opportunity to earn some minutes on the court,” Etter said. “Now it’s my time to work and earn it. I went into it looking how I could help grow the brand of Georgia basketball. I think they have that same thinking now to try to build that program into a national powerhouse.”