Friday Night Lights coverage of Alabama basketball tournament

A look at state tournament teams and the prospects playing for them

BIRMINGHAM –Each year they gather at Legacy Arena at the BJCC, “they” being 56 girls and boys high school basketball teams with one goal: a state title. FNL is all for that, but also realizes annually that future college basketball (and football) players are playing in these games.  That was certainly the case this year. To the categories:


FUURE PHENOMS: Based solely on Wednesday’s games, I’d give this award to two young hoopsters with great upsides. They are Homewood’s 6-10 sophomore center Trey Jemison and Huffman’s 6-3 guard Myreon Jones, Jr., also a tenth grader.


They faced off against each other in the 6A semifinals Wednesday, and Homewood won the game, 64-51. The box score showed Jones with 13 points, four boards and two assists. Jemison contributed six points, 11 boards and two blocks.


Jones is a lightning-quick combo guard who averages 17 points per game, can score in many ways, and has a good handle. He made two huge fourth quarter treys to keep his team in the game, and is good at nailing pressure free throws. Jones is long and lean, so he can clog up the passing lanes, too. He’s also an adept passer who finds open teammates. An area of improvement for him is the same as another Jones, Hale County’s Herb, profiled last week by FNL. He needs to demand the ball at crunch time.


Said Huffman Coach Stephen Ward of Jones: “He stays calm, he doesn’t get ‘shook,’ and he’s a great floor leader.” Jones is likely a point guard at the next level, but can play the two.

Physically, Jemison is a younger version of Spain Park star/Auburn pledge Austin Wiley. More time on the court and in the weight room will make Jemison a prized 2018 recruit. He’s already on the radar, but should be more dominant in the next two years. A skilled post passer, Jemison weighs around 225, but that will change. When it does, he will be stronger around the basket. When that happens, watch out.  He wears a size 17 shoe, so he may become a seven-footer.


Jemison said he’s been working on his footwork, “slowing down in the paint, and being a better defender.”


Because we had to ask, FNL learned from Patriots Coach Scott Shepler that Trey Jemison is not related to former Huffman and Alabama player Demetrius Jemison. Trey averaged 7.5 points, 6.1 boards this year.


Make no mistake about it: both these two guys will be heard from down the road. A lot.


SENIORS WHO SHINED: Antonio Nelson, a 6-1 guard for Carver, is quick as a cat. He’s also clutch. He made three free throws with 11.5 seconds left for the go-ahead, but not deciding points in the game. Nelson scored 18, but Carver fell to the Trojans, 46-45.


 JUNIORS TO WATCH: Homewood guard Luke Touliatos has been honored as a Player of the Week by the Birmingham Tipoff Club. He scored 31, including three treys, to lead his team to the 6A finals.


Carver’s 6-6 junior forward Xavious Turner is fun to watch. He tallied seven points and grabbed five boards in the Wolverines’ loss.


SUPER SOPHS: Not only is Muscle Shoals 5-10 guard Riley Wolgamott a tough player, he also has maybe the best haircut in the state. Google him.  Oh, he also made the winning shot in the game with a driving lay-in with under a second left. No pressure!


FOOTBALL MENTALITY: Mack Wilson, a five-star linebacker prospect from Carver, starts for the basketball team too. He’s a Bama signee, and his hoops coach, J.J. Jackson, played in Tuscaloosa from 1985-87. Jackson said Wilson brings “that football strength, that leadership, and he does the little things you don’t really think about.”


Wilson played 15 minutes, during which he scored one point to go with four rebounds. Those rebounds, along with off the ball screens, are the “little things” Jackson spoke of.


OTHER STATS FROM PROSPECTS: Bama has been interested all season in sophomore forward Isaac Chatman of Cordova. In his team’s opening round win over Monroe County (home of the late Harper Lee), Chatman had 14 points and grabbed four boards. He had one block. He’s 6-6 and plays the point, shooting guard, and small forward for the Blue Devils. Alabama coaches saw his first game this week.


Alabama has shown interest in several players from a 1A private school in Anniston.  One is 6-5 sophomore forward Diante Wood of Sacred Heart. He had 17 points, 12 boards in a win over Keith Monday. His teammate, 6-0 guard DJ Heath, scored 24. Junior 6-1 guard Kevion Nolan poured in 20.


CRIMSON CONNECTION: Spotted in the crowd was former Bama star Buck Johnson, whose son Jamal is a top prospect for 7A semifinalist Spain Park. Jamal visited Alabama Saturday for the Auburn game. Is Bama in it for Jamal? “Most definitely,” was Buck’s reply.


Jamal Johnson averages 18 points, 6.8 boards, and 4.3 assists. He’s a 6-4 combo guard. Buck Johnson’s college coach, Wimp Sanderson, was also in attendance.


MEDIA FOOD UPDATES: For lunch, we had Jim n’ Nick’s BBQ. I had some pulled pork with regular sauce, but elected to put the white sauce on my chicken. (They were small portions.) Both were tender, and both sauces satisfied the palate.  A quick dinner before heading to Tuscaloosa for Bama/Arkansas consisted of breakfast: eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy and grits. Good stuff, Jim n’ Nicks!  (Turns out the local stores don’t serve breakfast, but if you’re ever in Destin…)


NEXT UP:  FNL’s second  look at 2017 J.O. Johnson wing John Petty, who will play for the title Saturday morning at 10:45 after his team’s 87-43 win over Sumter-Central. Petty scored 19 in that one Wednesday night. The Jaguars face Faith Academy for the title Saturday. Faith beat Kirk McNair’s alma mater, Ramsay, on Wednesday. Petty came into the Final Four with averages of 19.8 points, 7.3 rebounds.

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