Talk about playing in the Hotbed Classic in New Albany.
"When I was told that we would face McComb (in the Hotbed Classic) I jumped right on it. I knew that would be a big game. You have the State's two top teams playing against each other. You have Jackie Butler and Travis Outlaw. You have the Mississippi State connection with both of them going to Mississippi State. Everybody wants to see that."
Talk about the different styles of Butler and Outlaw? You put Travis on Jackie man to man.
"We don't play a lot of zone defense, so Travis was forced to have to guard him one on one. It was unfortunate for Travis to have to guard him one on one; almost unfair because Jackie is a big post center. Travis is not a center. He is a small forward type player, a natural small forward actually. But he did the best he could. He actually blocked his shot a few times early. That might not have been so good for him because he tried to stay behind him too much. But at the same time, Jackie made it very hard for him to get around him. He's big and physical and knows how to keep people behind him."
Talk about Travis' devolvement since you first got him as a player.
"I saw him play last year and he is a lot better than he was last year. He was better than that this summer when I first came in because he never stopped working. He improved his perimeter skills. He improved his perimeter jump shot to the point where he can play out there all the time. And it is natural for him to play out there because of his size. He is only 210 right now (He is 6-7.-Gene)."
Talk about some of the teams that you have played up to this point.
"We haven't played as many games as a lot of people. We are 13-2 now. The best teams that we have played have been out of state. We went to Delaware and played in the Slam Dunk to the Beach, which is a big-time national tournament. We won the first game against Tuscaloosa Hillcrest and they have one of the best juniors in the country, 6-9 D. J. White. We played two other real good teams, Bergen Catholic from New Jersey. They beat us at the buzzer. And Hopkins from Minnesota is ranked number 12 in the country. They beat us by 10 the next morning. We've played some tough teams but we just haven't played them here in Mississippi."
The spotlight was on Travis and Jackie but (Starkville sophomore guard) Jarvis Hill came through in the second half hitting 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
"He did it (Friday) night, too. He had 32 points against Noxubee County (Friday) night. I knew he could do that since I came in in June. It was just a matter of working him into the offense. He has worked himself into it real well. He is our second leading scorer. Before last night, he was averaging 18 points per game."
Did you guys try to get the ball to him more in the second half after he made a three?
"Yeah, we kept driving into the gap and kicking it to him or pitching it up the floor in transition to him. We wanted to get it to him out there on the wing where he could spot up and get his feet set and knock it down."
Where does Travis stand with his grades in terms of getting eligible next year?
"As far as his grades are concerned, he can still get eligible. A lot of people have given up on him eligibility-wise. That is not the case. He is close to getting eligible. When I say close, I mean that he has to finish out what he is doing this semester. Keep his gpa up and he has a real good chance to make it, real good."
What do you think he can do as a freshman at State?
"It is tough for a freshman coming in. Talent-wise, he can make it, but he has to learn a new system. He has to learn defense. He has got to play at a more physical and faster pace. It is going to be a lot different for him. Earlier on I don't expect a whole lot out of him other than just flashes, flashes of great talent. As the year goes on, he has a chance to step up and really be a guy who can make plays."
Has Travis played against a player that is similar to Jackie Butler?
"We played against Tuscaloosa Hillcrest. They have 6-9 D. J. White and he is bigger than Jackie Butler, and probably more mobile and definitely more athletic. He can run a little better and jump a lot higher. That game started the same way. I think Travis blocked D. J. White's first three or four shots. Then he started letting him catch it too deep and he was able to start scoring on Travis. It is hard for him to guard big, strong, physical guys inside, especially one on on."
It seemed like Jackie has really good hands because when the ball was thrown inside you guys had him double-teamed but he still caught the ball and went up and scored.
"He has got really great hands. And he has a real good knack for scoring in there. He doesn't jump over people. He just puts the ball in the basket."
How do you think he will do in college?
"He has a chance to do real well in college, because one on one on the block he is hard to stop. I don't care who it is guarding him, he is going to be hard to stop. He has jump hooks, turnaround jump shots, shot fakes and he is going to catch everything thrown his way. What you didn't get a chance to see is he can pass it."
Travis Outlaw (Travis had 18 points in the game.-Gene):
During the first half, you blocked a few of Butler's shots, but you didn't do it in the second half. Talk about that.
"In the first half I was motivated. In the second half I was a little winded because pushing up on him felt like I was pushing against a wall. I started feeling myself wearing down. The more I tried to bang with him, the more he kept pushing me up under the goal."
Did Jackie surprise you with anything else about his offense?
"Jackie showed me that he is starting to get a little range with his shot."
Talk about your game tonight.
"I dodn't think that I played as well as I could, but you take them where you can."
McComb High School head basketball coach Hilton Harrell:
Jackie just took over in the second half.
"Exactly, he isn't used to playing against 6-9 kids every night. Early on, he was kind of adjusting his shot, then he started getting a little deeper in the post area. We made some adjustments to pin him deep in the post. We knew his strengths and he went to them in the second half."
He looks like he has really great hands.
"He has great hands. That is a plus for him. That is one of the things about him. He is also strong in the upper body."
When I talked to Travis earlier, he said Jackie showed him an outside game that he didn't know about.
"He can really shoot the ball. He didn't shoot tonight as well as he normally does."
How do you think he will do in college?
"I think Jackie can step right in and be an immediate factor."
How is he doing in regard to being academically eligible for college?
"He is working real hard and we definitely think that he is going to be ready."
Jackie Butler (31 points, 16 rebounds (5 offensive).-Gene):
What do you weigh now?
"I weigh about 255. This is as good of shape as I have ever been in."
You went head to head against (the number 1 ranked junior in the nation) Al Jefferson (of Prentiss High School) and pretty much had your way. Compare Travis Outlaw to him.
"Al can't drive like Outlaw can. He can't shoot like Outlaw can. But if you go in the post against him, he is good. Really, they are different type players."
What are you expecting of yourself in college?
"Play hard. Don't think about anything but playing my game."
You were thinking about the NBA a lot this summer. Where do you stand with that?
"I don't know. I might go through the draft. I'm just going to lay low and see."
Will it surprise you if you wind up playing in college?
"I don't know. I don't know. I think I can play on the next level."
Are you still committed to Mississippi State?
So there's nothing to the rumors that you aren't?
You surprised Travis with your outside game.
"I missed a couple of shots out there I should have made. I can shoot threes, but I guess they want me to stay close to the goal."
Are you 6-9 or 6-10 now?
Talk about you and Travis as a combination on the college level.
"I wish we could go on the college level and the NBA. I love Travis. He is a good player."
Have you played much against Travis?
"When I was in the 10th grade, we played them up in (Starkville). We were at the Mississippi State camp but we didn't play against each other. We also played on the same team in Colorado this past summer."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.