Pollard Attracting Basketball Offers

Long and angular at 6-7, 200 pounds, Devonta Pollard can snatch a rebound and race coast-to-coast for a score. Those multiple skills have attracted hordes of Division I coaches to the diminutive Mississippi county seat of De Kalb, population hovering around a thousand. Scout.com's five-star rated, class of 2012 25th overall player has mesmerized the Magnolia State's basketball crowds for years.

Jeff Andrews first laid eyes on "Tay" -- Devonta Pollard -- as a seventh grader. Knowledge of the game and athleticism are his strengths according to the AAU coach of the Southern Phenoms. "He sees the floor, makes good passes and recognizes defenses," said Andrews. The natural small forward displays signs of being a good defender. "I wouldn't worry at all about him playing man-to-man on the wing or even at half-court," said Andrews. "He has great footwork."

Kemper County High School (De Kalb,Mississippi) Basketball Coach Kelvin Young boasts of additional defensive skills. "He can help side defend because he gets off the floor so high," Young said. Pollard is a quick leaper with a propensity for deflecting the ball. Exceptional timing is the superior skill utilized to swat away attempts.

Andrews said, "He can stay on the ground and wait for someone to put the ball up before jumping to block the shot. I think that's how he gets so many of them." The shot blocker extraordinaire relishes the man-to-man individual challenge guarding on the perimeter.

Borderline goal-tending incidents have frozen befuddled officials. "He jumps so quick and high," Young said. "I've seen someone shoot and he reached up and cupped the ball. The referees couldn't blow the whistle fast enough." Occasionally teammates are gazing flat-footed in awe of the rejection. Pollard said, "A couple of times in a game they are standing around watching. The next time I won't just block it--I'll grab it in the air and go down the court and score."

Self-described as reserved, his shy mannerism is shed once familiarity has been established. "Very coachable," claims Andrews. "Whatever you ask him to do, that's what he does. He tries to please you. I never had a problem at all with him."

Close to six-feet tall since junior high, Pollard mastered post moves early on. Operating on the perimeter is in the infant stages. Scoring in the paint has been the preferred option to insure victories at the high school level. "Playing on the wing is something that is new to him but posting up is like going back home since he's been doing that all his basketball life," Andrews said. "He has some of the best post up moves I've ever seen."

A pickup game moment forged a lasting first impression in the mind of Young. Pollard snared a rebound and proceeded down court with all the athleticism and skill on display. He halted the dribble midcourt to hand off to the point guard so as not to appear selfish in front of his new coach. Immediately Young blew the whistle to stop play. Dazzled by the sophomore, he interceded with the following edict. "Only time I want you to pick it up is if they trap you," he told Pollard. "His talent is unlimited."

Young preaches continued improvement of the mid-range game, ball-handling and free-throw shooting for the highly touted prospect. Patience executing offensive sets has been a lesson learned over the last three seasons for the gifted athlete able to physically dominate prep level competition. Quiet by nature, action on the court is the instrument to communicate leadership.

Most celebrated hoopsters would be ecstatic living the dream of winning the 3A Mississippi Boys Basketball Championship and earning a roster spot on the McDonald's All-American team. He is anxious to compete against the best and will travel to Chicago for the March 28th nationally recognized event.

Pollard had a triple double in the 3A finals, registering 28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks as the Kemper County Wildcats (28-8) defeated the Booneville Blue Devils (27-4) 75-65. Additionally he has chosen to represent the Magnolia state in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Basketball Classic to be held March 16th in Montgomery.

Prior to achieving those two goals, Pollard eschewed cautionary words discouraging pursuit of a football fantasy. His Dad, Ervin "Earl" Pollard, succumbed to cancer a few years ago. Fulfilling a wish initiated by his late father, he grasped at the one last opportunity to compete on the gridiron, missing two early season basketball games.

He rejoined the Kemper County High School football team having last played as a freshman. Doubling as a wide receiver and cornerback, the 4.42 40-yard dash timed speedster totaled 37 receptions for 531 yards, 7 touchdowns and recorded 3 interceptions on defense.

The hardwood trinity of Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant were emulated growing up. Pollard, like the NBA trio, presents match-up issues for opponents. Undersized defenders cannot guard him inside the paint and taller players lack the mobility to shut down the perimeter scoring options. A 15-18 foot shot range comfort level exists even though he successfully drained 37 of 111 treys the past two seasons. Extra drills intended to tighten the ball-handling skills are part of his routine along with weight training to increase strength. Thus far his bench press max is 225 pounds.

Pollard was born with southpaw tendencies. His mother adhering to her father's suggestion steered young "Tay" to using the right hand. Consequently Pollard can throw with either. Near the goal he flashes the ambidextrous competence. "The only thing he does now with his left hand is play sports," said Mrs. Pollard. Any shot of distance is launched with the left.

He has unofficially visited Alabama, Georgetown in October for Midnight Madness, and Mississippi State. Official visits have been to Missouri and Texas. Kentucky is another school under consideration.

Pollard has traveled to Tuscaloosa numerous times. He likes the campus, the facilities and coaching staff. Anthony Grant and Assistant Coach Dan Hipsher are among the suitors vying for his signature on a National Letter of Intent.

Alabama's head coach has made a favorable impression ever since the recruitment began in the latter stages of ninth grade. Pollard said, "We have a good relationship. He is a nice man. Every time I've been over there to a practice or game you could see he is going to work his guys and get the most out of them. I like that about him. He (Grant) feels like the way I play the game of basketball fits the style of play at Alabama as far as the way they get up and down the court, press and run their offense."

Devonta's mother, Mrs. Jessie Pollard, shares the sentiments. Mrs. Pollard, the Kemper County teacher of government and economics, is more knowledgeable than many about the game of basketball. She said, "Coach Grant is a great coach. I respect the man's coaching ability. He's a nice young man and very knowledge about the game of basketball."

Mrs. Pollard is qualified to chaperon him through the recruiting journey. Well-versed in the nuances of the process, she traveled a glorified athletics road parallel to her accomplished son.

The first All-America women's basketball player in school history led the East Mississippi Junior College Lionettes (31-1) to the NJCAA Women's Tournament runner-up spot. Over 40 major colleges courted the dominating versatile 6-1 post player lauded for her incredible vertical leaping ability, amazing quickness and exceptional ball-handling. One of the biggest recruiting battles in the state's history at the time was for the player known as "the franchise." She eventually signed to play at Delta State for the legendary Hall of Fame Coach L. Margaret Wade before finishing her career at South Alabama.

Accolades, physical attributes and skill are not the only similarities mother and son share. Both wore jersey number 24 and recorded almost identical double-digit scoring and rebounding totals. She averaged 24 points and 15.4 rebounds per game as a junior college sophomore standout. Son, Devonta, finished his senior season scoring 23.8 points per game and hauling in 15.7 rebounds per game.

Pollard inherited a family characteristic indigenous to prolific scorers. "Offensively he likes going to the basket," said Mrs. Pollard heralded as an offensive gem herself. "You really can't pinpoint the type of game he will play because I really think it comes to him as the game flows. He does whatever he has to do to get the win."

Honor roll student Pollard currently holds a 3.0 GPA and has been cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Uncertain of a major, he has aspirations to remain around the game in some capacity. "When all is said and done and I have stopped playing the game of basketball I want to be doing something to be around the game," he said. "I don't know what I would like to do yet."

Basketball is the primary focus but not the sole interest for Pollard. He volunteers at the nursing home and sheriff's department. A junior deacon and choir member at this church, he enjoys the video games 2K12 Basketball and 2K12 Call of Duty.

An April decision is forthcoming. He favors playing the small forward position and views all six contending programs equally. Mother and son agreed upon a selection strategy. "When he gets down to the last two, let me know," said Mrs. Pollard. "Therefore, if he has any questions for me in making his decisions, I will answer them at that time. Until then, I'm putting everything in his lap."

Preliminary plans are to announce the choice from the Kemper County High School library. Love of basketball is one of the bonds binding mother and son. The ball is in Devonta's hands but his most ardent fan, Mom, is waiting in the wings to distribute an assist if called upon.

BamaMag Top Stories