Thomas, Kennedy lead the way for Bevill

JASPER, Ala---About 500 fans braved rainy weather for an Alabama Junior Community College Conference matchup between the home-standing Bevill State Bears and visiting Wallace State of Hanceville's Lions. They got more than their money's worth, as they saw an overtime game and several big-time prospects plied their wares.

One has already inked with the Tide; another could well join him in the late signing period. For the record, the exciting contest was won by Bevill, 98-93. To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: Emmett Thomas is 6-5, 215 and can play either the two-guard or small forward position at the next level. Thing is, Emmett's already played at that level. He competed as a true freshman for South Alabama, averaging 9.5 but choosing to transfer to a junior college to fulfill his dream of playing in the SEC.

"Emmett's a player when it counts," said Bevill head coach Ott Knight, a veteran of the hardwood wars. "He's a 6-5 kid who handles the ball that can play the one, two or three position at the next level"

Thomas averages over 20 per game for the Bears, and can shoot the three as well as drive to the hoop. He is a tough man-to-man defender, showing the quick feet necessary to guard SEC-level opponents.

Emmett bore out his coach's comments by scoring 6 of his 17 points in the extra period. He prepped at Birmingham's John Carroll Catholic high school, and was a favorite recruit of then-Tide assistant, the late Robert Scott.

Emmett embodies many of the same characteristics of "Rah-Rah," like pride, class, competitiveness, desire and a love of the game.

Thomas is known for playing hard at both ends of the floor.

THE BIG FELLA: With the apparent departure of Rodney Bias from Alabama's future plans, Tide hoop fans are wondering who is left in the recruiting pool of big men who could help rest Kenny Walker and Erwin Dudley next year. Playing in Jasper by way of Wilcox County is 6-9, 230-pounder Gabe Kennedy. Gabe played high school ball two years ago with Tider Antoine Pettway, who has said he'd love to be reunited with his former teammate. The two defeated Thomas and John Carroll for the 2000 Alabama 5A championship, and all three were on the All-Tourney team selected that year for their efforts in Birmingahm.

Many who were at the Jefferson Civic Center that weekend recall the play that propelled Wilcox past Fort Payne in the semifinals. Fort Payne, which featured current Auburn guard Nathan Watson, was pushing the ball up in an effort to take the lead when Pettway stole an errant pass. Antoine immediately fed Kennedy on the baseline, who calmly sank a 15-footer as the buzzer sounded, giving Wilcox the win.

Kennedy had 15 and seven (not a typo) blocks for the Bears the night we attended. He and Thomas each had around seven boards. Gabe has nice low-post moves, a soft touch and needs only to work on his hands a bit prior to D-1 competition. He signed with Marshall out of high school but ended up in Jasper for two years, where Knight calls him "the best big player in the state."

As a freshman last year Kennedy averaged 20 points, 12 boards and three blocks. This year, Knight is bringing Gabe along slowly as the big man recovers from recent thyroid surgery. The folks from Wallace-Hanceville would tell you he's recovered.

Knight says Gabe is hearing mostly from Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss regarding his next stop. Tide head coach Mark Gottfried has been spotted at Bevill games at least three times this season, so he knows all about Kennedy (though he cannot comment on recruits). Several people close to the Bevill program feel Gabe will eventually wear crimson. He and Thomas both have three years to play two at the major college level.

OTHERS WHO SHINED: For Bevill, freshman Jarmaine Vanness (6-7, 220) 16 points and was quite a presence around the basket. He prepped at Birmingham's Parker high. Former Gardendale star Chris Campbell is a 6-1 point guard who can still shoot and distribute the rock. Campbell is a soph who will be a fine d-1 playmaker,

For Wallace, two guys had 25 points apiece to account for most of the Lion's output. 5-8 sharpshooting point guard Ronnie Banks hails from the Magic City. He can fill it up from the perimeter. Kris Howelll (6-3, 180) is cat quick, attacks the basket and can also shoot the trey. Banks and Harris are sophomores. Guard Lloyd Savage (6-2, 185) of Birmingham showed flashes. Also playing well for the Lions was Hoover's Blake Matthews (FR, 6-6, 210) who came off the pine to give a big contibution around the basket.

FASHION STATEMENT: We're not sure who designed the AJCCC's referee's shirts, but they looked awful, something one might see at his or her local bowling alley during league play. Whew!

TOP THIS: Many who travel or live in the area of Highway 78 in Sumiton know all about Leo and Susie's Green Top BBQ.

We discovered the decades-old establishment ten years ago while travelling home from a Tide football game in Oxford. Known as one of the state's best barbecue joints, the Green Top features tangy sauce made in-house, and hand-cut french fries (not the frozen ones) that go from potato to fry vat to mouth in a pleasing manner. The pork is always cooked just right, and many love the nearly football-sized baked potatoes which can be served stuffed with the above-mentioned pork. Good stuff, and must-visit for BBQ aficionados who find themselves in the Sumiton area of Highway 78. The green roof is easily distinguishable atop the aptly-named Green Top hill just before the Walker County line.

LATER THIS SEASON: We plan to catch a game featuring top-ranked Southside of Selma and 6-8, 230 UA signee Chuck Davis. Also, schedule permitting, we will try to get an early look at the state's top junior, Selma High's 6-4 Jai Miller.

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