Thanks to the Redskins, there’s a neat correlation to Marlon Johnson’s latest birthday

COMMENTARY

AndreDALLAS — I recall as if it had all unfolded yesterday.

It all happened on Sunday, January 31, 1988.

At the time, I was a 14-year-old lad, living in a three-bedroom townhome in the Whitehaven district of South Memphis.

It was the day of arguably sports’ grandest annual event, Super Bowl 22.

42 FOR 42 --- On Thursday, Memphian Marlon Johnson will celebrate his 42nd birthday which, ironically, equaled the points total for the Redskins in Super Bowl 22.  Denver was installed as a three-point favorite to outlast Washington and send the Redskins to their second Super Bowl defeat in four years. But Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to start --- and win --- a Super Bowl had other ideas.

42 FOR 42 — On Thursday, Memphian Marlon Johnson will celebrate his 42nd birthday which, ironically, equaled the points total for the Redskins in Super Bowl 22.
Denver was installed as a three-point favorite to outlast Washington and send the Redskins to their second Super Bowl defeat in four years. But Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to start — and win — a Super Bowl had other ideas.

From Jack Murphy Stadium in sunny San Diego.

Before a raucous crowd of 73,302 while millions around the globe looked on.

The Washington Redskins versus the Denver Broncos.

An unproven Doug Williams versus surefire Hall of Famer John Elway.

The burgundy and gold clad wearing Redskins squared off against an Orange Crush Broncos team that was looking to atone for a dismal 39-20 setback to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 21.

For me, a devoted sports fan who had become a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fanatic, largely because of the Niners’ display in 1984 that was ultimately culminated with the franchise’s second world championship, I had one valid reason to cheer on the Redskins that day.

The reason: Marlon Johnson.

An avid Redskins fan who had gained  a fond admiration for the team back during our snot-nose, childhood days growing up and running the streets of North Memphis, Marlon had instantly become my favorite uncle, in large part because our relationship had evolved to more of that of brothers.

Since the beginning of time, it seemed that we both were virtually inseparable.

As young lads, we resided in the same household.

We ate meals together.

We attended church together.

We attended summer camp at Shannon Park and Memphis State together.

We got in trouble and took whippings together.

We acted like professional wrestlers together in the vacant lot adjacent to my grandparents’ home.

mARLONAnd, because we never owned an actual baseball and bat as kids, we assembled bats out of wooden two-by-fours and batted raw pecans as they went soaring hundreds of yards in the North Memphis blue sky.

Surely, those undoubtedly were yearning memories by which I will cherish for the rest of my life with an uncle, a brother, of sorts who, to his credit, helped shaped and mold my life to what it has become to this very day.

Fortunately for me, this is not an obituary whereby I am left to recall and reflect on the life of arguably one of the closest individuals to me. Rather this is a moment’s notice column whereby I deemed it essential to pause and pay homage to a big-hearted guy who, even though we reside eight hours apart, is still considered one of my life’s biggest inspirations.

Thursday, Marlon will celebrate his 42nd birthday which, ironically, equaled the points total for the Redskins in Super Bowl 22.washingtonredskins_logo

Denver was installed as a three-point favorite to outlast Washington and send the Redskins to their second Super Bowl defeat in four years.

But Williams, the first black quarterback to start — and win — a Super Bowl had other ideas.

The Broncos, in fact, had jumped out to a 10-0 lead, a sequence that was highlighted by John Elway’s 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ricky Nattiel just 1:57 into the game.

But from that point, it was all Washington.

The Redskins, behind arguably one of the most remarkable performances by a signal caller in Super Bowl history, scored 42 unanswered points, an awe-inspiring display that ended with Williams finishing the game by completing 18-of-29 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns, while being intercepted once.

It was, by all accounts, a tear-jerking moment that not only gave way to something that had never happened on football’s biggest stage — a black man leading a team to victory and being named MVP — but for me, it was a moment that left me in all smiles.

Not because of my deep adoration for sports.

Not because I clung to lofty aspirations of someday interviewing and writing about professional athletes.

Rather because my beloved uncle had adopted a fond admiration for the Redskins back during our snot-nose, childhood days of growing up and running the streets of North Memphis.

Which is to say that his latest birthday essentially ought to be a grand celebration in its own right.

Come Thursday, Uncle Marlon turns 42.

Forty-two as in the same amount of points his Redskins registered in Super Bowl 22, an extraordinary feat that gave way to arguably one of the biggest, most commendable moments in NFL history.

An indelible exploit I recall as if it had all unfolded yesterday.

Here’s wishing you a Happy 42nd birthday, Unc.

Now that you’ve equaled the Redskins’ points total they manufactured in Super Bowl 22, I can finally tell you this: Dude, you are the real MVP.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you would like to pay homage to your mom, grandmother, wife, girlfriend, friend, loved one, etc., with a unique celebratory tribute that will be designed like this one, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to memphisgraduate@yahoo.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

 

 

 

 

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle described Flip Saunders’ death as a ‘dark day’ in the NBA

REMEMBERING FLIP SAUNDERS (1955-2015)

DALLAS — Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wasted little time paying homage to Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders following his team’s two-hour practice Monday morning.

“Flip was one of those guys who was a great and intense competitor, always did it the right way,” Carlisle said while addressing reporters. “And as competitive as he was and as great a coach he was, he had no enemies in this league.”

FABULOUS FLIP --- Flip Saunders, who returned to Minnesota for a second stint last summer and compiled more than 1,000 victories during a professional coaching career that spanned more than three decades, died Sunday of cancer at the age of 60. Saunders’ death comes just three days before the Timberwolves’ season-opener at the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Nam Y. Huh/AP)

FABULOUS FLIPFlip Saunders, who returned to Minnesota for a second stint last summer and compiled more than 1,000 victories during a professional coaching career that spanned more than three decades, died Sunday of cancer at the age of 60. Saunders’ death comes just three days before the Timberwolves’ season-opener at the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Saunders, who returned to Minnesota for a second stint last summer and compiled more than 1,000 victories during a professional coaching career that spanned more than three decades, died Sunday of cancer at the age of 60.

Saunders’ death comes just three days before the Timberwolves’ season-opener at the Los Angeles Lakers and two days after the team announced he would not return this season as he continued to battle his dreaded disease.

Saunders announced in August that he was being treated for Hodgkin lymphoma during which doctors described it as “very treatable and curable.” Saunders, in fact, said at the time he had planned to remain the Timberwolves’ head coach and president of basketball operations.

However, after enduring a setback last month that led to him being hospitalized, the team turned the coaching duties over to interim Sam Mitchell while Milt Newton assumed the general manager responsibilities.

In assessing Saunders’ coaching career that also included stints with the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, Carlisle ironically liken Saunders’ style of coaching to the late Chuck Daly, the former Pistons coach who led the franchise to back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990.

“He reminded me a lot of Chuck Daly,” Carlisle said. “He was innovative. He was creative. He was a great coach that coached a lot of different kinds of teams, and he was an impact guy as a GM as well.”

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Saunders was also part-owner of the Timberwolves, although he is widely known for his 35-year coaching tenure.

With the emergence of a young Kevin Garnett, Saunders guided Minnesota to its first-ever playoff berth in 1996-97, his first full season as an NBA head coach. The following year, he led the Timberwolves to their first-ever winning campaign, then helped propelled the team to a franchise-record 50 victories in 1999–2000, a feat they repeated two seasons later. (Getty Images Photos)

With the emergence of a young Kevin Garnett, Saunders guided Minnesota to its first-ever playoff berth in 1996-97, his first full season as an NBA head coach. The following year, he led the Timberwolves to their first-ever winning campaign, then helped propelled the team to a franchise-record 50 victories in 1999–2000, a feat they repeated two seasons later. (Getty Images Photos)

Saunders assumed his first NBA job when he joined the Timberwolves in May 1995 as general manager, working alongside former college teammate Kevin McHale. Seven months later, he was named the team’s head coach, replacing Bill Blair after Minnesota had gotten off to a dismal 6-14 start.

Two seasons later (1996-97), with the emergence of a young Kevin Garnett, Saunders guided Minnesota to its first-ever playoff berth in his first full season as an NBA head coach. The following year, he led the Timberwolves to their first-ever winning campaign, then helped steer the team to a franchise-record 50 victories in 1999–2000, a feat they repeated two seasons later.

LASTING IMPRESSION ---When asked how Saunders’ legacy will be remembered, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle paused briefly then said, “He’s one of the most respected coaches in history. Getty Images Photo)

LASTING IMPRESSIONWhen asked how Saunders’ legacy will be remembered, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle paused briefly then said, “He’s one of the most respected coaches in history. Getty Images Photo)

Consequently, Saunders was fired midway through the 2004-05 season during which the Timberwolves had failed to advance to the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

However, following coaching stints in Detroit (2005-2008) and Washington (2009-2012), Saunders rejoined the T-Wolves organization last summer before his health began to decline.

Saunders, whose professional coaching career began in 1988-89 with the CBA’s Rapid City Thrillers, led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals during the 2003-04 season.

When asked how Saunders’ legacy will be remembered, Carlisle paused briefly then said, “He’s one of the most respected coaches in NBA history. There’s no doubt about that. He experienced great success. And he helped build that Minnesota franchise, really, from the depths of the lottery to a team that was in the Western Conference Finals.”

With the NBA regular season set to begin on Tuesday, Carlisle described Saunders’ passing as a “dark day” for the NBA.

“But we’ll all look back at all of the great things he did and all of the wonderful things he stood for and we’ll learn from his example,” Carlisle said.

The Mavs will wear lapel pins throughout the season in Saunders’ memory, Carlisle said.

Dallas’ season-opener is Wednesday night at 9 CST at Phoenix, the first of a three-game road trip.

 

AndreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to memphisgraduate@yahoo.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

 

 

 

Perennial power Tennessee among colleges eyeing Washington, DC-area hoops standout Maya Calder

Maya Calder doesn’t have anything to hide.

As a rising basketball standout at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Maryland, among the lofty ambitions for the junior forward/center is plain and simple: earn an athletic scholarship.

STOCK RISING --- Given the success National Christian Academy basketball standout Maya Calder has enjoyed since coming to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica some seven years ago, the possibility exist that this hoops prodigy appears well on her way to putting her immense skills on display at the collegiate level. (Photo by Getty Images)

STOCK RISING — Given the success National Christian Academy basketball standout Maya Calder has enjoyed since coming to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica some seven years ago, the possibility exist that this hoops prodigy appears well on her way to putting her immense skills on display at the collegiate level. (Photo by Getty Images)

Given the success on the court Calder has enjoyed since coming to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica some seven years ago, the possibility exist that this hoops prodigy appears well on her way to putting her immense skills on display at the collegiate level.

Entering her third full season at NCA, Calder played an integral role for a Lady Eagle team that produced an impressive postseason run last year en route to a 25-9 finish. In addition, NCA finished the year ranked No. 6 overall in Maryland, according to Maxpreps.com.

For Calder, she enjoyed a stellar sophomore campaign for coach Henry Anglin’s squad, considering she recorded a double-double in nearly every contest.

The team’s second tallest player behind senior Mikiyah Croskey, the 6-foot, 16-year-old Calder averaged 10 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists for the Lady Eagles, who won 11 of 13 games to end the season.

“My last season was good and I always try to make every season better than the (previous one),” said Calder, assessing her overall display as a sophomore. “I practice four days a week in the offseason and practice five days a week during the season. My strength as a player is that I’m very athletic, a great rebounder, and a great defender.”

Some might label that which Calder has expressed as cockiness or boasting. However, to her credit, her consistency, poise, and assertiveness on the court consequently have drawn the attention of a slew of college scouts.

HUGE TIP-IN --- That Calder has progressed considerably as a basketball player in such a brief time span since relocating to the U.S. with her mom has prompted to her uncle, Stephen Baker to assume a vital role in ensuring she garners the essential exposure in her quest to solidify an athletic scholarship.

HUGE TIP-IN — That Calder has progressed considerably as a basketball player in such a brief time span since relocating to the U.S. with her mom has prompted to her uncle, Stephen Baker to assume a vital role in ensuring she garners the essential exposure in her quest to solidify an athletic scholarship.

According to Calder, she has fielded letters of interest from several major Division 1 schools, mostly notably, the University of Minnesota, Jacksonville University,

Hofstra University, Robert Morris, St. Mary’s College, The University of North, North Carolina A&T, George Washington University, Elon University, and the University of Tennessee, among others.

That Calder has progressed considerably as a basketball player in such a brief time span since relocating to the U.S. with her mom has prompted to her uncle, Stephen Baker to assume a vital role in ensuring she garners the essential exposure in her quest to solidify an athletic scholarship.

STAR WATCH --- According to Calder, she has fielded letters of interest from several major Division 1 schools, mostly notably, the University of Minnesota, Jacksonville University,  Hofstra University, Robert Morris, St. Mary’s College, The University of North, North Carolina A&T, George Washington University, Elon University, and the University of Tennessee, among others.

STAR WATCH — According to Calder, she has fielded letters of interest from several major Division 1 schools, mostly notably, the University of Minnesota, Jacksonville University,
Hofstra University, Robert Morris, St. Mary’s College, The University of North, North Carolina A&T, George Washington University, Elon University, and the University of Tennessee, among others.

Baker’s son, Malachi Baker, also is a rising basketball standout in the Washington, DC area and has become a fixture on the local AAU circuit.

“I first saw her interest when she first arrived in this country around 2008,” Baker said of Calder. “She began playing basketball on a team around that same time. I was excited for her as an uncle, considering that she (relocated) here from Jamaica and began playing   playground basketball with little to no skills.”

As Baker tells it, what separates Calder from other youngsters with whom she plays is that she has managed to accept and embrace constructive criticism, something about which she must become familiar at the collegiate level.

“When I’ve watch her play, I’m constantly critiquing her,” said Baker, “but I am also overjoyed to see her hard work on display.”

Said Calder, a marquee player for Team Sol, her DC-area AAU squad, when asked what she’d like for college coaches to know: “The colleges that offer me (a scholarship) will be inheriting a hard-worker, a great rebounder and defender, and also someone that can put it in the basket.”

What’s so astounding for a player of Calder’s caliber is that not only has she done a masterful job of generating interest of scouts, but as it pertains to her weaknesses, she two full season of high school ball ahead of her to fine tune them.

“My weakness is probably my ball-handling,” Calder said. “But I’m not as bad, but it’s also not as great as I want it to be.”

Regardless, she still has more than enough time to progress, something she’s constant done she arrived to the states.

“In the summer, I will be at camps and I’ll have my AAA teammates (to help improve my mechanics),” Calder said. Playing college ball is a dream for me, because that’s what I’ve been working hard for every day. I’ve get in the gym since I was young just so I get a scholarship.”

Plain and simple.

With absolutely nothing to hide.

 

AndreEDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to memphisgraduate@yahoo.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Nationally-ranked Tiger football program creating a buzz in Memphis, says Jarvis Greer

Following Saturday’s emphatic 37-24 win over No. 13 Ole Miss, the University of Memphis was officially dubbed a “football school” by various media pundits and fans whom, for years, had become accustomed to developing a rooting interest in the tradition-rich basketball program.

TOP CATS --- Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller and tight end Daniel Montiel  celebrate during the game against No. 13 Ole Miss at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon. The No. 18-ranked Tigers' 37-24 win extended their winless streak to 13 games dating to last season. (Photo by Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

TOP CATS — Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller and tight end Daniel Montiel celebrate during the game against No. 13 Ole Miss at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon. The No. 18-ranked Tigers’ 37-24 win extended their winless streak to 13 games dating to last season. (Photo by Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

Among those who’s mostly intrigued by such a notion is former Tiger defensive back Jarvis Greer.

Greer, who played for what was known at the time as Memphis State in the late 1970’s, is currently the sports director for WMC-TV, an NBC affiliate for which he’s worked for more than 35 years.

While his news gathering responsibilities call for him to become mostly dispassionate and fair, Greer admittedly was “ecstatic” while sitting in the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium press box as he witnessed the Tigers erase an early 14-0 deficit and outscore the high-octane Rebels 37-10 the rest of the way.

As a result, Memphis (6-0), which plays at Tulsa (3-3) Friday night at 7 CST,  extended its undefeated streak to 13 consecutive wins dating back to last season.

“This is a great time to be a Tiger, because not only is the team performing well on the field, but the administration is putting money in the program with new facilities for the athletes,” said Greer, alluding to the U of M’s plans to erect an indoor practice facility, weight room, and medical services, among other things. “(The football program) is getting the fan base excited because they are pushing hard for inclusion in the Power 5.”

MAKING NOISE --- Because of the success of several teams in the American Athletic Conference, it’s safe to assume this league is making strong case that it is among the nation’s elite. That’s because Memphis and Temple captured spots in The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season, joining Houston to give the American three ranked teams for the first time in the conference’s three years of existence. (Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP)

MAKING NOISE — Because of the success of several teams in the American Athletic Conference, it’s safe to assume this league is making strong case that it is among the nation’s elite. That’s because Memphis and Temple captured spots in The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season, joining Houston to give the American three ranked teams for the first time in the conference’s three years of existence. (Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP)

By definition, the Power Five conferences are generally regarded as having the best college football teams in the country.

Because of the success of several teams in the American Athletic Conference, it’s safe to assume this league is making strong case that it is among the nation’s elite.

That’s because Memphis and Temple captured spots in The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season, joining Houston to give the American three ranked teams for the first time in the conference’s three years of existence.

Jarvis Greer, who played for what was known at the time as Memphis State in the late 1970’s, is currently the sports director for WMC-TV, an NBC affiliate for which he’s worked for more than 35 years.

Jarvis Greer, who played for what was known at the time as Memphis State in the late 1970’s, is currently the sports director for WMC-TV, an NBC affiliate for which he’s worked for more than 35 years.

So remarkable was the Tigers’ win against Ole Miss that the Tigers moved five spots up to No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25, their highest ranking in school history.

Saturday’s nationally-televised triumph seemingly has been the talk of the town, considering many Memphians had taken to various message boards and social media sites to express their newfound admiration for a U of M program that has suffered decades of futility before a mostly empty stadium.

That certainly wasn’t the case in the Tigers’ latest outing as announced 60,241 attendees watched in wonderment a football program whose greatest milestone heading into Saturday’s contest was a 21-17 upset of nationally-ranked Tennessee in November 1996.

Even that year, the hapless Tigers limped to a 4-7 finish.

To the delight of this basketball-crazed Bluff City, though, Tiger football is now in rare form, something this city has never seen.

“Incredible coaching job,” said Greer, when asked what this milestone says about the job Memphis coach Justin Fuente has done. “He’s very heady and calm in his approach, but no nonsense on results. Players know exactly where they stand and exactly what they need to do to play. Plus, he’s a good evaluator of talent and can see potential in players other schools might pass on.”

Now at the midway point of the season and owners of the nation’s third-longest winning streak, talks have now surfaced as to whether the Tigers can run the table with an undefeated campaign.

Surely, it will take some doing. Three of Memphis’ final six regular-season outings are on the road, including consecutive games at nationally-ranked foes Houston (Nov. 14) and Temple (Nov. 21).

NEW ATTITUDE --- Saturday’s nationally-televised triumph against the Rebels seemingly has been the talk of the town, considering many Memphians had taken to various message boards and social media sites to express their newfound buzz for a U of M program that has suffered decades of futility before a mostly empty stadium.

NEW ATTITUDE — Saturday’s nationally-televised triumph against the Rebels seemingly has been the talk of the town, considering many Memphians had taken to various message boards and social media sites to express their newfound buzz for a U of M program that has suffered decades of futility before a mostly empty stadium.

“Why not,” said Greer, when asked could the Tigers go undefeated. “They’ve got a tough road ahead. But the American is turning into a power conference in its own right. They’ve got three teams ranked in the AP and the Tigers are one of them. As for this writing about the American is 7-7 against the Power Five conferences and 10-1 against the group of 5, that sounds like a power conference to me.”

Among the reasons is that Tiger football is now in rare form, something Memphians have never seen.

AndreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to memphisgraduate@yahoo.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Duncanville High’s Clarence Taylor, Jr.: ‘I think I can play with anybody in the nation’

DUNCANVILLE, Texas — When Clarence Taylor, Jr. walked into the gymnasium at Duncanville High a few weeks ago, he knew immediately things would be a lot differently than what he had witnessed in recent years.

Photo By Deena Byrd/Sportraits by Deena

Photo By Deena Byrd/Sportraits by Deena

For starters, Taylor — widely known as “CJ” — had emerged as a marquee player for an Odessa Permian High basketball team that finished at the .500 mark (12-12) last year, having registered 15 points per game after making his varsity debut just six games into the season.

Consider the fact that Taylor, a 6-foot-1, slim, 150-pound swingman, was only a freshman a year ago, yet enjoyed instant success and as a varsity newcomer, and it’s no wonder his former coach, Danny Wright, doesn’t shy away from the notion that Taylor is making a strong case that he could be something really special by the time his prep career culminates.

“The boys basketball program was fortunate enough to have a young player in Clarence Taylor, Jr.,” Wright told Sports Journalist Andre Johnson. “He has definition to his body. As a new kid, I was excited to have him. You see, I’ve watched this young man play growing up in Midland (Texas).”

To his credit, Midland is where Taylor’s basketball prowess was discovered. As the featured player for Midland’s Goddard Jr. High, he was seemed arguably a man amongst boys, averaging better than 30 points per game. In addition, he walked away with the American Legion Award as the area’s top scholar athlete for posting the highest grade point average.

In other words, with so much high school basketball ahead of him, it’s safe to assume that Taylor’s reputation is such that he has the tools and wherewithal to be effective on and off the court.

Which, of course, begs the question: Does this lanky, talented kid who has the ability to become a game changer at any given moment boasts the poise and assertiveness to perform on the larger stage that is Duncanville?

Don’t be surprise by his forthright answer.

“It’s a different atmosphere…more speed,” Taylor said. “But I think I can play with anybody in the nation.”

Suddenly, without hesitation, Taylor, flashing a slight grin, offered a dauntless prediction.

“I’m going to get the numbers,” he said with a straight face. “The stats prove I can get the numbers.”

Asked if his predictions are a sense of cockiness or pure confidence, Taylor wasting little time saying,” I think it’s just confidence in myself. I’ve got to have a chip on my shoulder every time I go out.”

CJ2Among those who don’t have an issue with Taylor adopting the proverbial “Me against the world” persona is his father, Clarence Taylor, Sr. CJ’s father, a native Mississippian who, along with his wife, Capacine, has strong ties to the Memphis metropolitan area, having coached his son for years when he played AAU ball for the Memphis Red Hawks.

While CJ has yet to be installed on the varsity roster at Duncanville, Taylor, Sr. has been instrumental in helping position his son to put forth a valiant effort, whether in JV or varsity competition.

So far, he likes what he’s seen in a kid who’s armed with so much promise, a youngster who doesn’t dismiss the notion that he’s destined to make his presence felt at mighty Duncanville just as he did at Permian.

“He dedicated on getting better…ever since he was a little kid,” Taylor, Sr. said of CJ. “I’ve trained him to get better. I’ve trained him on ball handling, shooting, and defense.”

Fortunately for CJ, his intense training under the direction of his father proved beneficial, particularly when he was installed in the varsity rotation at Permian.

“CJ is one of those kids who does the little things such as taking a charge, being very active on defense, always around the ball on defense, trapped without fouling, celebrating others for his team’s success, never misses free throws,” Wright said. “You see, that type of maturity doesn’t normally present itself through a freshman.”

All of which is why CJ brings to Duncanville a wealth of confidence for a 15-year-old sophomore.

His track record is such that he could very well become one of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s most feared players sooner than we think.

Never mind that he has yet to be named a varsity player.

“You don’t always get what you want when you want it, but you have to persevere,” Capacine Taylor said. “Just because you’re where you’re supposed to be isn’t a bad thing. It could be a good thing.”

Even at mighty Duncanville.

AndreEDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to memphisgraduate@yahoo.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Ex-U of M star Danton Barto gives worthy advice to pro football hopeful Braylon Burks

DALLAS — Braylon Burks doesn’t shy away from the notion that he is auditioning for a roster spot on professional football team.

PRO DREAMS --- Just recently, Dallas native Braylon Burks was introduced to Danton Barto, a former University of Memphis All-American linebacker and ex-Canadian Football League standout who currently works as a college scout for the St. Louis Rams.  According to 24-year-old Burks, he came away thoroughly appreciative and knowledgeable about what it takes to assume --- and retain --- a roster spot as a pro. (Photos courtesy of SAGU Athletics)

PRO DREAMS — Just recently, Dallas native Braylon Burks was introduced to Danton Barto, a former University of Memphis All-American linebacker and ex-Canadian Football League standout who currently works as a college scout for the St. Louis Rams.
According to 24-year-old Burks, he came away thoroughly appreciative and knowledgeable about what it takes to assume — and retain — a roster spot as a pro. (Photos courtesy of SAGU Athletics)

So much, in fact, that the former South Oak Cliff High standout has gone to great lengths in recent weeks to absorb as much pivotal advice he can as he prepares to fulfill a long awaited dream he’s had since his childhood days of playing recreational football in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Just recently, Burks was introduced to Danton Barto, a former University of Memphis All-American linebacker and ex-Canadian Football League standout who currently works as a college scout for the St. Louis Rams.

According to the 24-year-old Burks, the Dallas native came away thoroughly appreciative and knowledgeable about what it takes to assume — and retain — a roster spot as a pro.
After all, who better to learn from than someone who has spent years not just as a player in the professional ranks, but has functioned as the chief executive officer of a professional football franchise?

Barto is a former Arena Football League coach, a stint that included a brief tenure as an assistant and subsequent head coach of the now-defunct Memphis Xplorers of the arenafootball2 league. To his credit, Barto enjoyed a wealth of success in Memphis, having guided the Xplorers to a championship.

BIG CHANCE --- Fortunately for Burks, it’s safe to assume his golden opportunity to put his skills on display will take place as early as before year’s end.  Burks said he has been in discussion with team officials of the Arena Football League’s Green Bay Blizzard for a possible tryout. Also, he has generated interest from a few other AFL teams, most notably the Arizona Rattlers.

BIG BREAK — Fortunately for Burks, it’s safe to assume his golden opportunity to put his skills on display will take place as early as before year’s end.
Burks said he has been in discussion with team officials of the Arena Football League’s Green Bay Blizzard for a possible tryout. Also, he has generated interest from a few other AFL teams, most notably the Arizona Rattlers.

For someone who has familiarized himself with the pros and cons with regards to making a favorable impression on pro scouts and general managers, Barto lessoned Burks the best way he knew how during a phone conversation Burks said lasted approximately 15 minutes.

“(Barto) said there is nothing wrong with Arena Football,” Burks told Sports Journalist Andre Johnson. “He said I must learn as much as I can, stay focused, and don’t get caught up in other things.”

Other things such as what’s in the past are exactly where they belongs — in the past.

For instance, following a remarkable stint at South Oak Cliff in which he emerged as the catalyst for the Bears on both sides of the ball, the 6-foot-7 Burks consequently took his talents to Southwestern Assemblies of God University in nearby Waxahachie, Texas, where he played sparingly, in large part because of a number of coaching changes.

By and large, among those who admittedly were discouraged in Burks’ lack of playing time was his mother, Kimberly Session, who sensed her son — whom SAGU current head coach Frank Tristan in a telephone interview on Tuesday emphasized boasts “a wealth of size and is a true talent” — has possessed the mechanics all along to play major college football.

Professional football too.

DREAM CHASER --- Aside from working his daytime job and partaking in his customary community service as a way to enhance his resume, Burks trains intensely, sometimes as many as five times per weeks, sometimes as late as 10 o’clock nightly.

DREAM CHASER — Aside from working his daytime job and partaking in his customary community service as a way to enhance his resume, Burks trains intensely, sometimes as many as five times per weeks, sometimes as late as 10 o’clock nightly.

“He has been overlooked like so many other great players,” said Session, who has played an integral role in aiding her son to generate the essential exposure in hopes of playing at the professional level.

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Aside from working his daytime job and partaking in his customary community service as a way to enhance his resume, Burks trains intensely, sometimes as many as five times per weeks, sometimes as late as 10 o’clock nightly.

As he tells it, there is simply no room for error, no time to let up, especially considering his support system has become solid than it has ever been in some time.

“I am very confident in myself as well as my abilities and I feel that God has divinely favored me with a gift of being a professional athlete as well as being a strong leader in the community,” Burks said. “I perform at my best when my back is against the wall. I also feel I can play at the professional level if granted an opportunity. It takes a lot of work, patience, hard work and faith.”

Fortunately for Burks, it’s safe to assume his golden opportunity to put his skills on display for a pro team will take place as early as before year’s end.

The former high school teammate of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith, Burks said he has been in discussion with team officials of the Arena Football League’s Green Bay Blizzard for a possible tryout. Also, he has generated interest from a few other AFL teams, most notably the Arizona Rattlers.

So far, things appear to be holding up nicely for this resilient, opportunistic youngster, who doesn’t shy away from the notion that he is auditioning for roster spot on professional football team.

“I feel like I can play at the next level,” Burks reiterated.

More than anything, he acknowledges, he plans to heed the advice given to him by Barto.

“He just said to me, ‘Keep your eyes on the prize and know what is important,’” Burks said. “He said some guys are comfortable where they are, so I must make sure I keep my eyes on the prize.”

Spoken like a big, soft-spoken athlete who’s yet clinging to Texas-size dreams.

 

AndreEDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to memphisgraduate@yahoo.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Rosa Fort linebacker Ronald Ladd, Jr. making noise in emerging as a 4-Star recruit

Ron1TUNICA, Mississippi — Ronald Ladd, Jr. is only a junior for Rosa Fort High’s football team.

In looking at his athletic resume, one could easily mistake him for a senior.

For starters, Ladd has made appearances at virtually every major football 7-on-7 camp throughout the Mid-South and Southeast regions since embarking upon the high school ranks.

Add to the fact that this speedy, 6-foot, 200-pound outside linebacker has been as good as advertised this season for a Rosa Fort team that carries a 6-0 record into Friday night’s Mississippi Region 2-4A game at Lafayette for first place supremacy, and it’s no wonder college scouts and recruiters have made it a point to keep a close watch on a player that has been upgraded to a 4-Star recruit by various recruiting analysts.

During a recent interview with Sports Journalist Andre Johnson, Ladd’s father, Ronald Ladd, Sr. said that Memphis, Purdue, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Alabama, Cincinnati, Florida State, Florida, Indiana, Navy, Mississippi State, Southeast Louisiana, UCLA, Auburn, and Kentucky are among the schools that have expressed interest in Ladd, Jr.

Given his remarkable display in this, his pivotal junior campaign, now we know why.

Through the Lions’ six outings, Ladd has garnered a team-leading six tackles, including 32 solo tackles.

FAMILIAR FACE --- Ladd has made appearances at virtually every major football 7-on-7 camp throughout the Mid-South and Southeast regions since embarking upon the high school ranks.

FAMILIAR FACE — Ladd has made appearances at virtually every major football 7-on-7 camp throughout the Mid-South and Southeast regions since embarking upon the high school ranks.

To his credit, he has been nothing less than impressive for potent Rosa Fort defense that has limited the opposition to an average of just seven points per game.

So how to explain Ladd, Jr’s continuous rise as arguably one of the Mid-South’s finest high school linebackers?

As his father tells it, his son has always envisioned becoming a force on the competitive football circuit since his recreational playing days roughly a decade ago.

STOCK RISING --- During a recent interview with Sports Journalist Andre Johnson, Ladd’s father, Ronald Ladd, Sr. said that Memphis, Purdue, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Alabama, Cincinnati, Florida State, Florida, Indiana, Navy, Mississippi State, Southeast Louisiana, UCLA, Auburn, and Kentucky are among the schools that have expressed interest in Ladd, Jr.

STOCK RISING — During a recent interview with Sports Journalist Andre Johnson, Ladd’s father, Ronald Ladd, Sr. said that Memphis, Purdue, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Alabama, Cincinnati, Florida State, Florida, Indiana, Navy, Mississippi State, Southeast Louisiana, UCLA, Auburn, and Kentucky are among the schools that have expressed interest in Ladd, Jr.

“(Ronald) Jr. started playing football when he was about five or six years old,” Ronald Ladd, Sr. explained. “He also played basketball, but he stuck with football. I was overwhelmed that he was as good as he is. I knew he had great athleticism, because I was great in sports. Going to games watching him play when he was playing peewee football, I would give him pointers on how to play. I never got tired of trying to get him to the next level. I always wanted him to be active and open-minded. I was excited to know that he could play as good as he has.”

Ronald Ladd, Jr., on the other hand, is swift to acknowledge that a majority of his success as one of the area’s top underclassmen has come to fruition, in large part because of the tireless support of his father and mother, Jill.

Because of them, he said, he had been afforded the golden opportunity to connect with that about which he’s passionate.

What’s even more impressive, particularly for a kid who appears headed — for a lack of better words — tackling a full-ride scholarship is that college scouts and recruiters are watching him intensely, a trend that is almost certain to continue into next season.

WE ARE FAMILY --- Ronald Ladd, Jr., on the other hand, is swift to acknowledge that a majority of his success as one of the area’s top underclassmen has come to fruition, in large part because of the tireless support of his father and mother, Jill.

WE ARE FAMILY — Ronald Ladd, Jr., on the other hand, is swift to acknowledge that a majority of his success as one of the area’s top underclassmen has come to fruition, in large part because of the tireless support of his father and mother, Jill.

“My family has been supportive a lot throughout my football life,” Ladd, Jr. said. “Coming to games, pushing me to work hard, telling me to stay focused and humble.”

Not to mention cling to relentless faith as he continues to add to an already solid resume for National Signing Day 2017.

“If you put God first, anything may happen,” Ladd, Jr. said.

Given his remarkable display in this, his pivotal junior campaign, now we know why.

 

AndreEDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to memphisgraduate@yahoo.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

 

MID-SOUTH RECRUITING: Son of Orange Mound native rated as North Carolina’s top SG for Class of 2019

Josh2Gerald Nickelberry and his wife, Jessie, have been residing in Fayetteville, North Carolina for some time.

Fortunately for Gerald, his career the social work industry spans more than three decades and, most importantly, ultimately afforded him the opportunity to move from the Orange Mound district, a poverty-stricken community in Northeast Memphis.

A former Melrose High football standout, Gerald Nickelberry, to his credit, has become knowledgeable about what it takes to excel on and off the field during his playing days for the Golden Wildcats.

It is, in fact, because of his determination to thrive as a student athlete that has largely inspired him and his wife to ensure that their son, Josh Nickelberry, follows suit.

Given how Josh Nickelberry has progressed considerably in recent years as basketball standout for Northwood Temple Academy in the Fayetteville area, it’s safe to assume this freshman sensation appears destined to carry with pride the torch handed to him by his old man.

SEE JOSH IN ACTION VIA VIDEO: http://youtu.be/1zC0honX7oM

At 6-foot-4 and just 14 years of age, Josh Nickelberry is considered a big swingman who undoubtedly could create matchup problems for the opposition early and often this upcoming season for an Eagle team will be aiming to atone for last year’s dismal 13-16 finish.

STAR WATCH --- According to various recruiting experts, Josh Nickelberry (left) is rated as the No. 1 overall shooting guard in North Carolina and one of the top overall recruits nationally for the Class of 2019.

STAR WATCH — According to various recruiting experts, Josh Nickelberry (left) is rated as the No. 1 overall shooting guard in North Carolina and one of the top overall recruits nationally for the Class of 2019.

Because of his immense size, coupled with the fact that he has four full prep seasons to upgrade his skills and mechanics, it is abundantly obvious that the sky’s the limit for a kid who has already been thrust under the radar by a number of college scouts and recruiters.

How else to explain why Northwood Temple coach Chris Lattimer is eager to witness this year’s version of an Eagle team that figures to cause fits for opposing teams, in large part because Josh Nickelberry and speedy point guard Dakari Johnson are expected to wreak havoc as a potent backcourt?

“Josh is a big time scorer with above average athleticism, and really commits to the defensive end,” Lattimer told Sports Journalist Andre Johnson. “His length allows him to disrupt passing lanes and get deflections. He plays much older than he is and plays with no fear on the court. He is a humble young man with an incredible work ethic.”

Add to the fact that this Fayetteville-area hoops prodigy — who insists he possesses a high basketball IQ — had emerged as a force on the AAU circuit in recent years, and it’s no wonder his athletic is such that he will likely be faced with a good problem, of sorts, by the time his prep career ends.

In other words, given his solid hoops track record, the possibility exists that Josh Nickelberry will have a slew of colleges vying for his services by 2019.

According to various recruiting experts, Josh Nickelberry is rated as the No. 1 overall shooting guard in North Carolina and one of the top overall recruits nationally for the Class of 2019.

LOVE AND BASKETBALL --- Nickelberry trains intensely, partaking in regularly workouts weekly, particularly when organized team practices and conditioning sessions aren’t taking place.

LOVE AND BASKETBALL — Nickelberry trains intensely, partaking in regularly workouts weekly, particularly when organized team practices and conditioning sessions aren’t taking place.

“I want to go as far as God and my talent takes me with basketball,” Josh Nickelberry said during a recent interview. “I also know that it takes a lot of hard work and I am willing to do that. I want to go to college and further (my education). As with every player, the dream is the NBA. But my dream is also an MBA or Harvard Law.”

While clinging to aspirations of someday enrolling in Harvard Law School, give Josh Nickelberry credit in terms of how he’s steadfastly gone about cross-examining opposing players on the court. In flourishing as a marquee player for his AAU’s Team Loaded squad, Josh has had the luxury of putting his skills on display in several gymnasiums across the country, most notably North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, New-York, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, among others.

In addition, he trains intensely, partaking in regularly workouts weekly, particularly when organized team practices and conditioning sessions aren’t taking place.

For someone who knows full well what it takes to evolve as an efficient athlete, Gerald Nickelberry is pleased at how far his son has come with so much high school basketball ahead of him.

“The little things, I watch his body language, how he reacts to adversity, how he responds to successes,” Gerald Nickelberry said. “I watch for good sportsmanship and humility, while at the same time being fiercely competitive. I watch to see if he is accepting coaching, while at the same time being a ball player.” I watch his execution on offense as well as his effort on defense. The list goes on. Most of all, what goes through my mind is I watch to see if he is having fun. Because when you love something, you have fun while doing it. Josh loves basketball and he works so hard at it.”

 

AndreEDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to memphisgraduate@yahoo.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.