The 2018 draft class is particularly strong in Georgia. Hankins and fellow Team Elite righthander Kumar Rocker both have the potential to be selected in the top 10 picks next June. Banfield, who catches them both, is a rare breed–he’s got the tools to stick behind the plate, a potent righthanded bat with power potential and a long track record of success playing up against top competition. Meadows fits the classic Peach State draft profile–a tooled-up center fielder who could be a star if his hitting continues to improve.

This year’s Georgia prep class has a chance to exceed the state’s normal expectations. Georgia preps have gone high in the draft before. When Frazier and Meadows were drafted in 2013, it was the fifth time since 1990 that two high schoolers from Georgia were selected in the top 15 in the same year. The deepest year in Georgia was 2010, when five prepsters went in the top 30 picks.

Beyond the Team Elite program, Georgia has southpaw Luke Bartnicki, righthander Cole Wilcox and infielders Ryan Bliss and Kendall Logan Simmons, all of whom show the potential to be high picks themselves.

“Everybody in the state feeds off each other,” Hankins said. “I’ve talked to Cole Wilcox about it. We’ve texted back and forth, we’ve all met each other. We all support each other, not just us who play for Team Elite.

“We try not to pay attention to our names being thrown around, or the ‘the 2018 Georgia class is something else,’ talk. We try to just go out there and play our game. We don’t let any of the hype affect the way that we play.”

The Team Elite crew backs up those kinds of statements with their performance on the field. They don’t just talk about their commitment to the team, or their love for the game. They prove it.

Five days after dominating in Sarasota, Hankins did the same thing at the Tournament of Stars on June 28, throwing three hitless innings. The Forsyth Central High (Cumming, Ga.) righty struck out four and walked none. His velocity was the same, and he threw his breaking ball and changeup for strikes as well.

“It would be easy for a pitcher to say ‘I’m not going to throw an outing and waste bullets,'” Hankins said. “But even if you’re throwing a bullpen or a flat ground at home, you’re not getting the in-game feel of facing hitters or being in live situations.”

With the opportunity to make Team USA’s 18U national team at TOS, many top prospects take a break for a few days. But the Team Elite core didn’t want to do that. Many of their top prospects chose to play for the travel team at the Wilson Premier event and fly directly to TOS from Sarasota.

“It wasn’t really a tough decision,” Banfield said.

The catcher went from facing–and catching–mid-90s velocity in the Florida heat at the Perfect Game National Showcase straight to the Wilson Premier Classic and then straight to the Tournament of Stars. Time for a break? Nope. The Team Elite boys headed straight back to Georgia to play in PG’s 17U World Wood Bat Association tournament to suit up for Team Elite.

The 2018 draft class will see plenty of Team Elite alumni hearing their names called early, but the players aren’t in it for themselves. Whether it is Hankins, Banfield, Meadows, Rocker, righthanders Makenzie Stills, Ethan Smith or Alaska Abney, or infielders Tim Borden, John Malcom or Isaiah Byars–or any of the hoard of talented players in the program–they’re in it for each other. They’re loyal to their pack, and they’re playing to win.