First of two parts looking at the Alabama high school boys and girls basketball tournaments

Alabama prospects and connections at Alabama prep basketball tournament

BIRMINGHAM – It’s that time of year again. February/March madness at Legacy Arena at the BJCC is upon us, and with it comes a lot of prospects and crimson connections. That’s always been the case, dating back to when the finals were played at then Memorial Coliseum on the Alabama campus. To the categories:

TOP FRIDAY PROSPECT: This is, so of course we’ll go with Hale County Wildcat senior wing Herb Jones. When last we saw the 6-7 Jones, FNL expressed disappointment that the athletic and skilled forward didn’t really demand the ball late in a quarterfinal loss to Midfield. A year later, things have changed.

And people, present company included, have noticed, during Hale County’s 79-60 win over Cordova in the 4A semis. The Tigers will face the Monroe County/Madison County winner for the title Friday night.

“He’s taken it upon himself to carry the team and lead the team,” said Wildcats Coach Antwan Butler. “He’s been more aggressive offensively this year.”

Added Jones: “I heard a lot about it, and they told me I wasn’t as aggressive in that Midfield game. There were a lot of long nights and early mornings (of extra practice), with somebody denying me (the ball), and I worked on getting the ball. The coaches drew up plays so someone would screen for me and I’d get the ball easier.”

In some ways, Jones’s game resembles that of recent Tider Rodney Cooper. He’s a lefty, he can shoot the 3, he can dunk, and he can defend. One example of that last trait came when Jones hustled back on defense and stopped a two-on-one break with a blocked shot and rebound. Jones is a better ball-handler than was Cooper, and as such, better at taking the ball to the basket.  Jones is also adept at breaking the press. He also doesn’t mind diving on the floor for a loose ball.

In his team’s matchup in the 2017 semis against Cordova, Jones scored 14 points, eight in the final period. He also had 14 boards, four blocks, three steals, and two assists.

Yep. He wants the rock now. He doesn’t always shoot it, but he’s quite good at drawing double teams and finding open teammates, as evidenced by his assists, which I think the scorers missed a few.  And he made eight straight free throws down the stretch.  Jones will have to work hard to make the regular playing rotation next season at Alabama, but the tools, and now the mentality, are there.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: This is a comprehensive report on Wednesday’s games, so let’s hear it for 6-foot guard Kaddell Perry of Hale County. He scored 19 points and dished out eight assists in the win.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Plainview’s 5-11 guard Jeffery Armstrong scored 18 points and hit 4-for-7 behind the arc in his team’s 68-52 win over Hillcrest Evergreen. He did it against a high pressure Jaguar defense. Armstrong also dealt six assists, grabbed six boards, and tallied three steals.

In the same game, Hillcrest’s Kobe Bradley also shined in the loss, as the 5-11 guard scored 18, hit 2-5 on 3s, grabbed seven boards,  dished five assists, and had two steals.

We’d be remiss not to mention Cordova’s Isaac Chatman, a 6-6 wing getting lots of looks. He scored 17 points and went 3-for-7 on 3s while grabbing five boards against Hale County. 

SUPER SOPH: Don’t let the modified Mohawk ’do fool you. Hillcrest Evergreen’s 6-2 guard Christopher Lett can flat out ball. He’s the type that dunks on you one trip and pulls up for a facial 3-pointer the next. Finding guys like Lett is one of my favorite things about covering the state tourney. In his team’s loss to Plainview, Lett scored nine points including the afore-mentioned dunk and 3-ball. He had another 3-ball spin in and out, costing him a double digit game.

JUST A FRESHMAN: Kam Woods led Midfield with 26 points in the Patriots semifinal win over Holly Pond. He also had three assists, four steals, and was 7-of-9 at the foul line. He’s a ninth grader and he stands 5-9 (for now). He’ll be a state tourney staple for years to come. He will have college coaches flocking to Midfield. Bet on it.

 CRIMSON CONNECTIONS: There are tons. “Bear” with me. The coach at Paul Bryant (get it?) is former Alabama forward Shon Peck-Love. Former Bama guard Ronald Steele is a first year coach at Cornerstone, and he took the Eagles to the Final Four before falling to South Lamar in the 1A semis. Jones’s teammate at Hale County, 6-6 senior Chris Rollins, has a dad of the same name who played at Alabama around 20 years back. Former Tide and CFL linebacker Juwan Simpson is an assistant coach at his alma mater, Austin, where he played both sports. And, former Alabama player Krystle Johnson has her Hoover Bucs in the 7A semis where they will face Central-Phenix City Thursday morning.

HOW ‘BOUT THEM MEDIA MEALS: Wednesday lunch featured Jim ‘n’ Nick’s pulled pork on nacho chips. It was okay, but I was hungry, too. Where were the side items? For supper, we had fried chicken and potato salad from the same caterer. Both were good, though the chicken needed a tad more salt. At least it wasn’t’ greasy.

NEXT UP: A look at Tide signee John Petty, whose Mae Jemison Jaguars (32-4) take on Sylacauga in the 5A semis Wednesday afternoon. We’ll also check in on Homewood junior Hannah Barber, who is verbally committed to Kristy Curry and Alabama. And, we will see three sport Paul Bryant star athlete Seth Williams, who sits high on the Bama wide receiver board for 2018.

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