Underclassmen Get Look From FNL

Greensboro is known for its catfish ponds, but the biggest fish to come out of this small town in Hale County might be a tenth grade basketball player. He helped his team to a 58-46 win over a feisty bunch from Walker County Wednesday in the Final Four of 3A.

Not a lot of high school basketball players -- or students, for that matter -- stand a legitimate 6-feet-9 inches in their sophomore year. Greensboro High school, home of the Raiders, has such a fellow. He's Jimmie Taylor, and he entered Wednesday night's Class 3A semifinal game against Carbon Hill at the BJCC averaging nine points, and an impressive 5.4 blocked shots per game.

To get to Birmingham, the Raiders had to beat top-ranked Sumter County. In that contest, Taylor swatted nine shots, the difference in an overtime win. He's not the team's go-to scorer in the post, yet, but rest assured opposing coaches have to game-plan against him because of the way Taylor patrols the paint for Coach Earlando Courtney, who had plenty of praise post-game for his big man.

"He's responsible for anywhere from (minus) 20 to 25 points per game, just with his presence," said Courtney. "I'm counting blocks and disruptions. When you've got a 6-9 monster behind you, you can get beat (by your man) and still be okay."

Against the feisty Bulldogs of Carbon Hill, Taylor registered six points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. (Most media on hand had him with five blocks unofficially.) He showed he can play either the high or low post. On one possession, he nailed a 15-foot free throw line jumper. On another, he collected an offensive board and feathered it in from two feet, using no glass but also avoiding going over the back of a much shorter Bulldog.

I came into the game thinking I would see what amounts to a young Roy Rogers -- the former Alabama and NBA player, not the movie cowboy. Was that the case? Hard to say, since I didn't see Rogers play until he got to Alabama. What I saw Rogers do was get better every year until by the time he was a senior, he was one of America's top centers.

That's what I think Taylor will do -- at the high school level. He has more weight now (210 pounds) than Rogers did as an Alabama freshman -- about 20 pounds more.

Alabama is said to be in very good shape with Taylor at this early juncture.

OTHER UNDERCLASSMEN TO WATCH: For Greensboro, 5-10 sophomore guard Donald King scored eight points and averaged 11 a game. For Carbon Hill, 5-foot-10 soph Tylor Owens scored 18, and averaged 12.3 for the season. In addition, ninth-grader Brandon Smith (already 6-3) chipped in 11 points and seven boards, including a pair of finishes on alley-oop slams.

Bear in mind not every prospect mentioned is of the SEC variety. This event is attended by juco coaches, and a few from mid-major schools.

FACES IN THE CROWD: Busy day for Tide coach Anthony Grant, who caught the end of Trevor Lacey's game, went home to conduct practice, and returned for Taylor's game. No one is going to outwork him on the recruiting trail. As was the case earlier with Lacey, grant did the legal post-game "bump" with Taylor.

Earlier, the Montgomery Academy girls were defeated by Madison Academy. So what? Glad you asked. MA is coached by Glenn Sylvest, whose mom Karen taught me fifth grade music in Montgomery a little over 40 years ago. Small world, and such.

PRESS ROOM FARE: Tonight, Legends Smokehouse owner Randy Walls was asked to serve a chicken tetrazini type dish, and he did so. It was okay, but the highlight of the meal was the garlic bread. I look forward to tomorrow, not so much to the burgers/dogs he's been told to serve at lunch, but to the grilled chicken at dinner that actually comes off the Legends menu.

Walls, by the way, is the son of the late Clay Walls, an Alabama quarterback during the tough times just before Paul "Bear" Bryant returned to his alma mater. Walls was a teammate of another quarterback named Bart Starr, who went on to fame with the NFL's Green Bay Packers.

NEXT UP: Thursday afternoon brings FNL's first look at the top instate prospect on Alabama's 2012 board: Carver-Montgomery guard Craig Sword. Sword comes in averaging nearly 24 points per game, and he's coached by former Alabama guard James Jackson. Jackson played on the 1987 SEC title team with Jim Farmer, Mark Gottfried and Derrick McKey. There's a good chance Jackson's college coach, Wimp Sanderson, will be on hand for that one, as he was for the Butler game earlier Wednesday. Chances are fairly good that at least one member of the current Tide staff will be on hand to check out Sword for the 1:30 p.m. CT tip.

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