The Road To Birmingham, part 1

TROY, Ala---From all over the state they came. Their mission, which they did chose to accept, was to try and make it to the 2002 AHSAA Final Four in Birmingham. <br><br>Our first report is based on the Southeast Regional, which took place on the campus of Troy State University.

Without further ado, let's go to the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: Jai Miller, Selma. Miller's Saints fell to Central Phenix City, 65-55 and saw their season come to a disappointing end with a final record of 19-9. Miller, a 6-4 junior, is considered the state's top 11th grader, though Douglas High's Justin Jonas (6-6) is rapidly making a name for himself.

Miller did not disappoint, even though his team fell to Central. Jai finished with 17 points, seven boards, three assists and a block in 29 minutes of action. He played the "three" position, a.k.a. small forward, for the Saints this year but that will change next season, according to his head coach, Willie Maxey. "Jai will be the leader. He'll be the point guard. He has a very positive attitude. He can play any position on the floor. As a senior, we want to play him at the position he'll be recruited at."

Miller showed hops, the ability to drive to the hoop, adept passing and mental toughness. Jai will be the first to tell you what he needs to work on: "My shooting." He was 0-2 behind the stripe, with one air ball. Jai plans to play this summer for Kenneth Harris' Alabama Ice AAU squad.

As to former Tiders, Miller reminds us a little of Eric Washington.

IT'S ALL RELATIVE: Red Devil reserve big man Lorenzo McKissic is a distant cousin of 2003 football recruit Kelcy, who is the younger brother of Tide WR Triandos Luke and signee Nic Luke.

CRIMSON CONNECTIONS: Plenty. In the crowd were Tide head coach Mark Gottfried, assistant Orlando Early, Tuscaloosa News Sports Editor Cecil Hurt, former CMG teammate J.J. Jackson (currently head coach of Carver-Montgomery), former Gottfried aide Kobe Baker (currently a men's assistant coach at Troy) and former Lady Tide star Betsy Harris (who led UA to the 1994 Final Four and is now a Lady Trojan hoops assistant). In addition, coaching the Lady Trojan softball team a mile away was Bama and Tuscaloosa County grad Melanie Davis.

CHA-CHING: Jeffrey Tinkler tied Selma's Ben Obomanu for game scoring honors with 19, including 4-6 behind the arc. "Everybody knows Jeff can shoot the ball outside," said Central mentor Bobby Wright. "We try to go to him in those situations."

NIGERIAN NIGHTMARE: AU football signee Obomanu scored 17 of his 19 points before intermission and was plagued by foul trouble, a big reason the Saints went marching home. Obomanu had eight rebounds and seemed unstoppable inside early.

CHA-CHING, PART 2: Trojan Arena may not have seen as many points scored all day of the regional as were scored when the Troy State men beat DeVry, 258-141 back in January of 1992.

HOW 'BOUT THEM....CATFISH: Connoisseur that we are of the of the feline pond-dwellers, we have now added another restaurant to our list that includes Perry's in Corner, the Catfish House in Millbrook, and Top Hat in Blount Springs, not to mention the Kountry Kitchen of Barnesville, GA. That new addition would be Brittany's on U.S. 231 in Troy. We got a nice garlic breadstick a huge, hot baked potato, cold sweet tea, and two very nicely breaded and cooked catfish. The fish were tender and not over-fried. We'll be back.

NEXT: Our trip to Mobile for the Southwest Regional, where we saw top soph Mike Williams and Tide signee Chuck Davis.

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