Former Vol Tony Harris on Pat Summitt’s death: ‘People in Knoxville loved this lady’

ROCKY TOP REMEMBERS PAT --- Having coached the University of Tennessee women's basketball program for 38 years from 1974-2012, Summitt is widely known in the sports world for having brought respectability and relevancy to women’s college basketball. Summitt died Tuesday morning, five years after being diagnosed with early onset dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s. She was 64. (Photo by Wade Payne/AP)

ROCKY TOP REMEMBERS PATHaving coached the University of Tennessee women’s basketball program for 38 years from 1974-2012, Pat Summitt is widely known in the sports world for having brought respectability and relevancy to women’s college basketball. Summitt died Tuesday morning, five years after being diagnosed with early onset dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s. She was 64. (Photo by Wade Payne/AP)

Former University of Tennessee point guard Tony Harris on Tuesday offered a rather riveting suggestion hours after news spread of Pat Summit’s death.

“That’s Pat Summitt University,” Harris, a former Memphis East High star told MemphiSport during a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “I mean, look at her success, her wins…she was the winningest coach in college basketball history.”

Summitt, the legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach who enjoyed an illustrious career that was highlighted by an unprecedented 1,098 wins, eight national championships, and 16 Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles, died early Tuesday, five years after being diagnosed with early onset dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s.

She was 64.

A public memorial service for Summitt has been scheduled for 7 p.m. EST on July 14 at Thompson-Boling Arena on the Tennessee campus.

Having coached the Lady Volunteers for 38 years from 1974-2012, Summitt is widely known in the sports world for having brought respectability and relevancy to women’s college basketball.

TEN-NES-SEE THE SUCCESS --- Besides compiling a .841 winning percentage (1,098-208) during her stint with the Lady Vols, Summitt was named SEC Coach of The Year an unprecedented eight times and National Coach of The Year seven times, including in back-to-back seasons in 1994 and 1995. (AP Photo)

TEN-NES-SEE THE SUCCESSBesides compiling a .841 winning percentage (1,098-208) during her stint with the Lady Vols, Summitt was named SEC Coach of The Year an unprecedented eight times and National Coach of The Year seven times, including in back-to-back seasons in 1994 and 1995. (AP Photo)

Her best display as a Hall of Fame coach undoubtedly occurred in the mid-1990s when Summitt guided the Lady Vols to three consecutive NCAA titles from 1996-1998, that last of which came during Harris’ freshman season in Knoxville.

“It was a great experience,” Harris said of having crossed paths with Summitt. “I knew at the time she was going to be a Hall of Fame coach. So I was blessed to share the same campus with a legend. I had a close relationship with her as far as being a student athlete. The men’s basketball office was right next door to the women’s. And there were times I went in there. She was big on professionalism in everything I did.”

In August 2011, Summitt announced that she had been diagnosed three months earlier with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Still, she chose to coach Tennessee during the 2011–2012 season, but at a reduced role while longtime assistant Holly Warlick — an assistant under Summitt since 1985 — had assumed most of the responsibilities.

Besides compiling an all-time best winning percentage of. 841 (1,098-208) during her stint with the Lady Vols, Summitt was named SEC Coach of The Year an unprecedented eight times and National Coach of The Year seven times, including in back-to-back seasons in 1994 and 1995.

A former Parade All-American who named TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Basketball in 1997, Memphian Tony Harris starred at point guard for East from 1994-97 before ultimately signing a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Tennessee. To his credit, the Vols re-emerged as a national standout, having appeared in the NCAA Tournament in each of Harris’ four seasons, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2000. (Getty Images Photo)

A former Parade All-American who named TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Basketball in 1997, Memphian Tony Harris starred at point guard for East from 1994-97 before ultimately signing a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Tennessee. To his credit, the Vols re-emerged as a national standout, having appeared in the NCAA Tournament in each of Harris’ four seasons, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2000. (Getty Images Photo)

“People say she was stern,” Harris said. “But that sternness got her a lot of wins and won her a lot of championships. She had some of the top players in the country wanting to play for her.”

Although for years, the Tennessee football and women’s basketball enjoyed paralleled success, Harris said it was in large part because of Summitt’s well-publicized resume that the men’s basketball program had finally began to earn mentions on a national platform.

A former Parade All-American who was named TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Basketball in 1997, Harris starred at point guard for East from 1994-97 before ultimately signing a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Tennessee.

To his credit, the Vols re-emerged as a national standout, having appeared in the NCAA Tournament in each of Harris’ four seasons, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2000.

“I can’t put a number on it,” Harris, founder of the Tony Harris Basketball Academy in Los Angeles said, when asked how many Lady Vols games he attended during his time in Knoxville. “But every time they played, I tried to make when we didn’t have a game.”

BEST LADY VOL EVER? Chamique Holdsclaw starred for Summitt's Lady Vols from 1995-1999, having guided the Tennessee to three consecutive NCAA Championships from 1996-1998. The 1998 national title capped Tennessee's first ever undefeated season at 39–0 and also set an NCAA record for the most wins ever in a season. (AP Photo)

BEST LADY VOL EVER? Two-time Naismith Award winner Chamique Holdsclaw starred for Summitt’s Lady Vols from 1995-1999, having guided the Tennessee to three consecutive NCAA Championships from 1996-1998. The 1998 national title capped Tennessee’s first ever undefeated season at 39–0 and also set an NCAA record for the most wins ever in a season. (AP Photo)

Even as the catalyst of the men’s team, Harris said attending Lady Vols’ games was an experience in its own right, largely because tickets were hard to come by.

“It was one the great experiences I’ve been a part of as a student athlete,” Harris said. “I never really watched women’s basketball until I got to UT and saw the impact (Summitt) had on the program.”

Not just in Rocky Top, but the entire Volunteer state, Harris quickly acknowledged.

“People in Knoxville loved this lady,” Harris said. “Not just in Knoxville, but the whole state of Tennessee. When you talk about (the University of) Tennessee, you’ve got to talk about women’s basketball.”

Or, as Harris charismatically suggested, “Pat Summitt University.”



12308302_1264615573553243_4556209296677596210_nAndre 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.

Marion (Ark.) High senior Allen Latham, Jr. generating late interests from colleges

STOCK RISING --- To his credit, he certainly appears on track to possibly suiting up in a college uniform in the coming months, considering Allen Latham, Jr. was invited recently to put his mechanics on display before the coaching staff at Harding University, a Division 2 school in Searcy, Arkansas.

STOCK RISINGTo his credit, he certainly appears on track to possibly suiting up in a college uniform in the coming months, considering Allen Latham, Jr. was invited recently to put his mechanics on display before the coaching staff at Harding University, a Division 2 school in Searcy, Arkansas.

Allen Latham, Jr. was asked recently to assess his senior campaign for the Marion (Arkansas) High basketball team.

“I think it went really well,” Latham, Jr. told Sports Journalist Andre Johnson. Then after pausing momentarily, Latham Jr. recalled arguably his grandest memory of his final season of major prep basketball.

“I had a breakout game of 31 points and being the team captain, that led to me being a leader on and off the court,” Latham, Jr. said.

Now that his prep hoops tenure has ended, the 6-foot-2, 187-pound swingman is now clinging to lofty aspirations of extending his athletic talents at the collegiate level.

To his credit, he certainly appears on track to possibly suiting up in a college uniform in the coming months, considering Latham, Jr. was invited recently to put his mechanics on display before the coaching staff at Harding University, a Division 2 school in Searcy, Arkansas.

Although the 18-year-old Latham, Jr. has yet to garner any official offers, he has acquired some interest and qualified academically, according to his father, Allen Latham, Sr.

DAD KNOWS BEST --- Although the 18-year-old Latham, Jr. has yet to garner any official offers, he has qualified academically, according to his father, Allen Latham, Sr. For the past couple of weeks, Latham, Sr. has been quite complimentary of his son, saying, among other things, that he has exceeded expectations on and off the court and that he is worthy of having a shot of fulfilling his dream of playing college basketball.

DAD KNOWS BESTAlthough the 18-year-old Latham, Jr. has yet to garner any official offers, he has qualified academically, according to his father, Allen Latham, Sr. For the past couple of weeks, Latham, Sr. has been quite complimentary of his son, saying, among other things, that he has exceeded expectations on and off the court and that he is worthy of having a shot of fulfilling his dream of playing college basketball.

For the past couple of weeks, Latham, Sr. has been quite complimentary of his son, saying, among other things, that he has exceeded expectations on and off the court and that he is worthy of having a shot of fulfilling his dream of playing college basketball.

“He began playing (basketball) at the age of six,” Latham, Sr. said of his son, whom he said also generated interest from Arkansas Tech and Ecclesia College in Springdale, Arkansas.

Ever since his child first dribbled and launched a basketball toward a goal, the elder Latham knew his son would ultimately find his niche in the sport.

This past season, unlike any other, it seemed he had done just that, something by which he hopes college scouts and recruiters will subsequently take into account in the foreseeable future.

“He has a lot of talent and potential to do well in this sport,” Latham, Sr. said. “He had (a number of) good games (this past season), he didn’t get hurt, and he played team ball.”

Indeed he did.

pat3In leading coach Irving Clay’s Patriots in scoring at better than 13 points per game, Latham appeared in 25 of Marion’s 26 outings and, by season’s end, the Patriots’ late-season surge gave way to a 14-12 finish and a No. 43 overall ranking in the state in a final poll released by Maxpreps.com.

A pretty impressive resume for a talented swingman who doesn’t shy away from the notion that he’s aiming to make a favorable impression upon scouts — much sooner than later.

“I’m a solid shooter who can handle the ball and who is willing to go 110 percent and continue to work hard,” Latham, Jr. said, when asked what he’d like to say to recruiters. “(Basketball) is the love of my life. My whole life has been created to school, serving God, and basketball. I won’t stop now.”

That was quite evident this past season at Marion.



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.

North Carolina prep hoops standout Josh Nickelberry boosting recruiting stock, says his father, a native Memphian

Josh2Without question, Josh Nickelberry enjoyed what undoubtedly was a coming-out-party in this, his freshman season of major high school basketball.

For starters, Nickelberry was the catalyst of a Northwood Temple Academy team that erased the memory of last year’s 13-16 finish by ending the year with an 18-9 mark that was highlighted by a NCISAA Carolina Christian regular season title.

As if that wasn’t enough to draw rave reviews from Northwood coach Chris Lattimer and his staff, Nickelberry was the Eagles’ second-leading scorer, averaging better than 15 points per game.

Add to the fact that his attractive size — 6-foot-4 — for a newcomer, coupled with his keen ability to inspire those alongside him to flourish, and it’s no wonder letters of interest from a slew of colleges arrived at Nickelberry’s residence quicker than he managed to fill up the stat sheet.

According to Nickelberry’s father, Gerald Nickelberry, his son has fielded letters from a number of major Division 1 schools, a list that includes the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Virginia Commonwealth, Oregon, Maryland, Xavier, College of Charleston, Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgetown, Howard University, and North Carolina-Charlotte.

STAR WATCH --- According to Nickelberry’s father, Gerald Nickelberry, his son has fielded letters from a number of major Division 1 schools, a list that includes the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Commonwealth, Oregon, Maryland, Xavier, College of Charleston, Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgetown, Howard University, and North Carolina-Charlotte.

STAR WATCHAccording to Nickelberry’s father, Gerald Nickelberry, his son has fielded letters from a number of major Division 1 schools, a list that includes the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Commonwealth, Oregon, Maryland, Xavier, College of Charleston, Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgetown, Howard University, and North Carolina-Charlotte.

In addition, Gerald Nickelberry — a former Memphis Melrose football standout — said his son has been extended unofficial visits to UNC, Georgetown, NC State, Maryland, VCU, Howard, and that an unofficial visit to Xavier is currently in the works. Josh Nickelberry has taken part in an unofficial visit to Wake Forest.

In assessing his son’s overall display in his second full season as a starter, Gerald Nickelberry said things couldn’t have turned out better for Josh Nickelberry who, prior to the season, was considered North Carolina’s No. 1 shooting guard for the Class of 2019.

To Josh Nickelberry’s credit, he was as good as advertised, thus making a favorable impression on a laundry list of recruiters.

“Joshua is a much more mature player this year with regards to basketball IQ, shot selection and a feel for the game,” Gerald Nickelberry told longtime journalist Andre Johnson during a recent interview. “ At 14, he already has the poise and feel for the game that guys much older than he possess. Joshua is also a greatly improved defender. This was a point of emphasis in the offseason and in our daily preparation. He is the team leader in deflections and amongst the leaders in steals. As some prominent scouts in the region say when they see him play, ‘Joshua simply has the it factor.’”

HIGH RISER --- In leading Northwood in scorer, Josh registered more than 400 points, coupled with an ALL NCISAA Carolina Christian Conference selection for a second straight year --- the youngest player to ever accomplish such a feat. In addition, he was amongst the team leaders in minutes played, having generated approximately 29 minutes per contest.

HIGH RISERIn leading Northwood in scorer, Josh registered more than 400 points, coupled with an ALL NCISAA Carolina Christian Conference selection for a second straight year — the youngest player to ever accomplish such a feat.
In addition, he was amongst the team leaders in minutes played, having generated approximately 29 minutes per contest.

In a nutshell, as Josh Nickelberry goes, so goes Northwood. At least, that apparently was the case this season.

In leading Northwood in scorer, Josh registered more than 400 points, coupled with an ALL NCISAA Carolina Christian Conference selection for a second straight year — the youngest player to ever accomplish such a feat.

In addition, he was amongst the team leaders in minutes played, having generated approximately 29 minutes per contest.

As for drawing the attention of an assortment of major schools, Josh Nickelberry hinted that now is not the time to become complacent, considering there is so much basketball left to play, let alone so much progress to be made.

Gerald and Josh Nickelberry pose with Wake Forest head basketball coach Danny Manning.

Gerald and Josh Nickelberry pose with Wake Forest head basketball coach Danny Manning.

“It is fun,” Josh Nickelberry said of the early hoopla surrounding his recruiting process. “But I also know that I have to keep working hard and improving every day. I have enjoyed the schools that I have visited. I also greatly appreciate getting the opportunity to meet members of the coaching staffs, including the head coaches. I feel blessed to have visited (those schools) this early in my high school career, which has motivated me even more. But I also keep it in perspective and don’t let any of it go to my head. I have good people around me who help me with that as well. We always talk about staying in the moment and staying hungry and humble.”

Amongst the reasons is that what already is a remarkable list of major colleges inquiring about Josh Nickelberry figures to certainly become a longer one in the foreseeable future.

 



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.

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.

Arlington High RB Keelon Webber primed to upgrade his recruiting stock this season

STOCK RISING --- Keelon Webber, a 6-foot, 205-pound speedy rusher was a pivotal force for an Arlington High team that finished 11-4 last year, ran the table in District 14-AAA play, and manufactured an impressive postseason display before falling in the Tennessee Class 6A quarterfinals to perennial power Whitehaven. (Photos submitted by C. Webber)

STOCK RISING — Keelon Webber, a 6-foot, 205-pound speedy rusher was a pivotal force for an Arlington High team that finished 11-4 last year, ran the table in District 14-AAA play, and manufactured an impressive postseason display before falling in the Tennessee Class 6A quarterfinals to perennial power Whitehaven. (Photos submitted by C. Webber)

Listening to Carsett Franklin Webber weigh in on the athletic heroics of her son, Keelon Webber, and it would be rather easy to tell she’s an avid football mom.

One who, without question, knows exactly what she’s talking about.

Take, for instance, earlier this week when she was asked what she deems mostly intriguing about his son’s progress as the featured running back for Arlington High.

As usual, Carsett Webber was forthright and direct.

“He has passion for the game and he is very respectful and coachable,” Carsett Webber told MemphiSport. “Over the years, he has evolved into a beast of a football player.”

Indeed he has, a trend about which Keelon Webber hopes college scouts will take into account as he readies for what figures to be a productive senior campaign in the coming weeks.

To his credit, a 6-foot, 205-pound speedy rusher was a pivotal force for an Arlington team that finished 11-4 last year, ran the table in District 14-AAA play, and manufactured an impressive postseason display before falling in the Tennessee Class 6A quarterfinals to perennial power Whitehaven.

CHECK OUT KEELON WEBBER IN ACTION VIA VIDEO: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/3413846/highlights/213806383/v2

According to a season-ending poll released by Maxpreps, the Tigers finished 52nd overall in the state.

And, because the nucleus of Arlington’s starters will return in 2015, surely, Keelon Webber and Co. will be expected to make yet another brilliant run at that elusive state crown.

The Tigers open the season August 21 when they play host to Kirby.

GOOD AS ADVERTISED --- Fortunately for Keelon Webber, the assertiveness and poise he exhibited under the Friday night lights gave way to his being nothing short of impressive.  For starters, this bruiser, rugged back was a catalyst for an Arlington potent rushing attack that emerged as one of Shelby Metro’s finest last season, a unit that compiled nearly 200 yards rushing per game.

GOOD AS ADVERTISED — Fortunately for Keelon Webber, the assertiveness and poise he exhibited under the Friday night lights gave way to his being nothing short of impressive.
For starters, this bruiser, rugged back was a catalyst for an Arlington potent rushing attack that emerged as one of Shelby Metro’s finest last season, a unit that compiled nearly 200 yards rushing per game.

“I had a great junior season,” Keelon Webber said. “I showed I am a versatile playmaker. I continued to get better and better every week. Every game, I worked harder.”

Fortunately for Keelon Webber, the assertiveness and poise he exhibited under the Friday night lights gave way to his being nothing short of impressive.

For starters, this bruiser, rugged back was a catalyst for an Arlington potent rushing attack that emerged as one of Shelby Metro’s finest last season, a unit that compiled nearly 200 yards rushing per game.

Having appeared in a prep career-best 13 games as a junior, Keelon Webber had 1,270 all-purpose yards, including 1,104 yards on 204 carries and 16 rushing touchdowns. In addition, he registered 166 receiving yards while making 17 catches and one score as he complemented the play of then-senior Joe Stevenson.

Add to the fact that he led Arlington with 100-plus yards per outing, and it’s no wonder Keelon Webber is destined to generate interests from colleges this upcoming season.

As he tells it, that’s certainly one of his short-term — yet monumental — goals as he and the Tigers look ahead to training camp in the coming days.

KeelonIn addition, the summer months were indeed all business for a talented kid who boasts lofty aspirations of playing at the collegiate level. Keelon Webber made valiant attempts to establish a favorable athletic resume after attending such camps as the Rivals Combine, AEA Combine, as well as camps hosted by the University of Memphis and Tennessee State.

While he has yet to generate real interest from any schools, many figure that undoubtedly will change early and often this upcoming season.

Carsett Franklin Webber

Carsett Franklin Webber

“I am a hard worker. I give my all to my team,” said Keelon Webber when asked what direct message he’d like to send to college scouts. “I’m a leader, a motivator to my teammates. I am coachable. I can easily pick up new skills and plays. I am not a quitter.”

Surely, no one can vouch for that more than his mother who, on Friday, was seen witnessing her son’s continuous progress during the team’s scrimmage.

“In middle school, he had a natural talent for football,” said Carsett Webber, whose son has been playing competitive football since the age of six. “I’m always praying for an injury free game. Playing football will help him get a college scholarship to the college of his choice.”

Spoken like an avid football mom.

One who, without question, knows exactly what she’s talking about.

EDITOR’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.”

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 andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

LeBron James has earned the right to say he’s ‘the best player in the world’

COMMENTARY

AndreDALLAS — Two days after the NBA All-Star break last year, I walked inside of American Airlines Center, where the Miami Heat had just completed their morning shootaround session.

Then-Heat superstar LeBron James had retreated to the opposite end of the arena away from his teammates.

Consequently, I headed toward the area where James sat and, although he didn’t take questions from reporters, he and I partook in a rather brief exchange.

It had nothing to do with basketball.

WORLD'S FINEST --- Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, an 11-year veteran continues to register consistently remarkable numbers in a series (36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the NBA Finals while playing 45-plus minutes per contest) many didn’t expect to be this competitive, considering the shorthanded Cavs have lost their second and third-best players (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) to season-ending injuries. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

WORLD’S FINEST — Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, an 11-year veteran continues to register consistently remarkable numbers in a series (36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the NBA Finals while playing 45-plus minutes per contest) many didn’t expect to be this competitive, considering the shorthanded Cavs have lost their second and third-best players (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) to season-ending injuries. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Instead, I congratulated James on his recent marriage to the former Savannah Brinson, his longtime girlfriend of 13 years.

Suddenly, I jokingly asked James, “Do you have any marital advice you’d like to pass along to me?”

James, a seemingly ecstatic newlywed, then turned away from his cell phone and, without hesitation, said to me, “Choose your battles, man. Happy wife, happy life.”

It was, in fact, following that intriguing dialogue that I had drawn the conclusion that James isn’t merely the villain many sensed he had become in the aftermath of his infamous “The Decision” prime-time national television special when he unequivocally coined the phrase, “taking my talents to South Beach.”

But rather I had drawn the assessment that James is one who, love him or hate him, doesn’t shy away from the notion of always keeping it real.

In my estimation, he’s kept it real ever since.

Such was the case when after a memorable four-year run in Miami in which James guided the Heat to back-to-back world titles and four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, he revealed in a first-person essay to Sports Illustrated that he intended to rejoin the Cavaliers.

Such was the case when he met last summer behind closed doors with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to mend their well-publicized differences.

Such was the case following Cleveland’s 104-91 loss at the Golden State Warriors in Sunday’s Game 5 of their NBA Finals best-of-7 series.

Even after the Cavs were dealt their second consecutive setback to fall behind in the series three games to two, James, assuming his customary businesslike approach, was forthright and to the point in assessing how his team will devise ways to atone for squandering a 2-1 series lead.

“I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world,” James, after his 40-point, triple-double outburst, said when asked about his team’s chances of rallying to win the series.” It’s that simple.”

While many media pundits sense that Golden State — just like in its previous series against Memphis — has made the necessary adjustments to take control of a series the Warriors are favored to win, James, meanwhile, was only stating the obvious following a loss that now have the Cavs on the brink of witnessing yet another franchise heartbreaker heading into Tuesday night’s Game 6 at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.

That is, he uttered with such fearlessness a dauntless declaration many around the sports world had been professing for some time.

Love him or hate him, James, to his credit, surely has earned the right to say he’s the world’s best player, given his masterful, awe-inspiring display on basketball’s grandest stage.

SWEET HOME OHIO --- Such renewed hope and enthusiasm wouldn’t have come to fruition in Cleveland if not for the much-anticipated return of James who, to his credit, was such an integral part of the Heat organization that after he bolted South Beach and returned to his Ohio stomping ground, Miami failed to clinch a playoff berth for the first time in seven years. All of which is why even with a series loss to the Warriors, James ought to be named Finals MVP. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

SWEET HOME OHIO — Such renewed hope and enthusiasm wouldn’t have come to fruition in Cleveland if not for the much-anticipated return of James who, to his credit, was such an integral part of the Heat organization that after he bolted South Beach and returned to his Ohio stomping ground, Miami failed to clinch a playoff berth for the first time in seven years. All of which is why even with a series loss to the Warriors, James ought to be named Finals MVP. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

For starters, the 11-year veteran continues to register consistently remarkable numbers in a series (36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the NBA Finals while playing 45-plus minutes per contest) many didn’t expect to be this competitive, considering the shorthanded Cavs have lost their second and third-best players (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) to season-ending injuries.

Not only that, the 30-year-old James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player who finished third in this year’s league MVP race, has virtually done it all on both ends of the floor, most notably as the Cavs’ facilitator in a series showdown against Golden State’s Stephen Curry, the league’s reigning MVP.

How else to explain why Cavs undrafted shooting guard Matthew Dellavedova has filled in superbly for the injured Irving, thus manufactured his pro basketball coming out party?

How else to explain why Clevelanders who, on several occasions, had become accustomed to witnessing their professional sports teams wound up on the wrong side of arguably the most memorable moments in the history of sports — the Browns’ disheartening loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game known as The Drive and Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot over Craig Ehlo two years later, for instance — were ultimately given some renewed hope and enthusiasm when the Cavs surprisingly stole homecourt advantage with a decisive win in Game 2 against the heavily-favored Warriors?

POSITIVE APPROACH --- Even after the Cavs were dealt their second consecutive setback to fall behind in the series three games to two, James, assuming his customary businesslike approach, was forthright and to the point in assessing how his team will devise ways to atone for squandering a 2-1 series lead. “"I feel confident because I'm the best player in the world," said James, when asked about his team’s chances of rallying to win the series.” It's that simple." (Photo by Tony Dejak/AP)

POSITIVE APPROACH — Even after the Cavs were dealt their second consecutive setback to fall behind in the series three games to two, James, assuming his customary businesslike approach, was forthright and to the point in assessing how his team will devise ways to atone for squandering a 2-1 series lead. “”I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world,” said James, when asked about his team’s chances of rallying to win the series.” It’s that simple.” (Photo by Tony Dejak/AP)

Make no mistake, such renewed energy wouldn’t have come to fruition if not for the much-anticipated return of James who, to his credit, was such an integral part of the Heat organization that after he bolted South Beach and went back to his Ohio stomping ground, Miami failed to clinch a playoff berth for the first time in seven years.

All of which is why even with a series loss to the Warriors, James ought to be named Finals MVP.

All of which is why James, because of his undeniable excellence and astounding body of work in recent years, undoubtedly has earned the right to say he’s the best player in the world.

Love him or hate him.

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 andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praises each Southwest Division team on making playoffs

SOUTHWEST SUCCESS --- Dallas Mavericks coach Carlisle’s most memorable campaign as an NBA coach came four years ago when he led Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs to their first world championship in franchise history, a six-game upset of the Miami Heat in their best-of-7 NBA Finals series. That year, three teams from the NBA’s Southwest Division (Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis) had clinched playoff berths. This year, however, each of the division’s five teams have advanced to the postseason, a feat that was effectively decided on the regular season’s final day when the New Orleans Pelicans clinched a berth with a 108-103 win against the Spurs. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images Photo)

SOUTHWEST SUCCESS — Dallas Mavericks coach Carlisle’s most memorable campaign as an NBA coach came four years ago when he led Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs to their first world championship in franchise history, a six-game upset of the Miami Heat in their best-of-7 NBA Finals series. That year, three teams from the NBA’s Southwest Division (Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis) had clinched playoff berths. This year, however, each of the division’s five teams have advanced to the postseason, a feat that was effectively decided on the regular season’s final day when the New Orleans Pelicans clinched a berth with a 108-103 win against the Spurs. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images Photo)

DALLAS — First team to 16 wins…

“The first one to 16 will have a pretty nice piece for their jewelry cabinet,” Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said while addressing reporters Thursday afternoon at American Airlines Center.

Carlisle was alluding to the 16 teams that have punched tickets to this year’s NBA playoffs, a nearly two-month-long marathon that will culminate with one franchise hoisting the covenant Larry O’Brien trophy.

Now in his seventh season as the Mavericks’ head man, arguably Carlisle’s most memorable campaign as an NBA coach came four years ago when he led Dallas to its first world championship in franchise history, a six-game upset of the Miami Heat in their best-of-7 NBA Finals series.

That year, three teams from the NBA’s Southwest Division (Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis) had clinched playoff berths.

This year, however, each of the division’s five teams have advanced to the postseason, a feat that was effectively decided on the regular season’s final day when the New Orleans Pelicans clinched a berth with a 108-103 win against the Spurs.

HOT HANDED HARDEN --- The Southwest Division champion Rockets (56-26) are led by NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, the league’s second-leading scorer. Winners of three straight, the Rockets are in the postseason for a third consecutive year. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

HOT HANDED HARDEN — The Southwest Division champion Rockets (56-26) are led by NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, the league’s second-leading scorer.
Winners of three straight, the Rockets are in the postseason for a third consecutive year. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

“I think this is the toughest division in all of (professional) sports,” Carlisle said. “It has been for the last several years.”

Among the reasons is the Spurs (55-27) undoubtedly have been the division’s most consistent and dominant team. Making their franchise-best 18 consecutive postseason appearance when they open defense of their NBA title Sunday night at the No. 3 seed Los Angeles Clippers (56-26), the six-seeded Spurs have won five world titles during this stretch.

As for the Mavs, erasing the memory of last year’s seven-game opening-round defeat to San Antonio certainly will be a brutal task, considering seventh-seeded Dallas (50-32) will face the No. 2 seed Houston Rockets Saturday at 8:30 p.m. CST in Game 1 of their best-of-7 opening-round series.

BLOCK PARTY --- Marc Gasol (left) and the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (55-27), whose 9-7 division record was the best among the other four teams, is making their franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance and will open postseason play Sunday night at 7 CST against the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in FedExForum. (Photo by Jerome Miron/Getty Images)

BLOCK PARTY — Marc Gasol (left) and the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (55-27), whose 9-7 division record was the best among the other four teams, is making their franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance and will open postseason play Sunday night at 7 CST against the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in FedExForum. (Photo by Jerome Miron/Getty Images)

The Rockets (56-26) are led by NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, the league’s second-leading scorer.

Winners of three straight, the Rockets are in the postseason for a third consecutive year. Dallas is making its second straight playoff appearance.

The fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (55-27), whose 9-7 division record was the best among the other four teams, is making their franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance and will open postseason play Sunday night at 7 CST against the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) in FedExForum.

Memphis’ best postseason outing during this span took place two years ago when the Grizzlies manufactured their highest winning percentage and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history.

Arguably the surprise Southwest Division team to make the playoffs is New Orleans.

The NBA’s fourth youngest team with an average age of 24.9 years, the Pelicans (45-37) played arguably their most complete game of the season, which couldn’t have come at a better time, considering New Orleans controlled its own destiny.

Led by Anthony Davis’ 31 points and 13 rebounds, the Pelicans withstood a furious late rally by the defending champs to solidify the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot in the regular season finale, thus ending a four-year postseason drought.

Next up for upset-minded Pelicans is an opening-round date with the top-seeded Golden State Warriors, starting with Saturday’s Game 1 at 2:30 p.m. CST.

Led by Stephen Curry, whom many consider the frontrunner for league MVP, the high-octane Warriors enter the postseason with the NBA’s best record at 67-15.

Come Saturday, the race to 16 wins begins.

Which, of course, begs the question: Will the Larry O’Brien trophy remain in the Southwest Division for a second consecutive year?

As far as Carlisle is concerned, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if it does.

“It’s just quality teams from top to bottom,” Carlisle said of the Southwest Division. “During the battles of the division opponents during the year, I mean those were slugfest games. They were extremely meaningful. There’s a lot of wear and tear. (Games) were very physical. They’re emotional. But when you get a division like this, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and it gets everybody primed for this time of year.”

Let the nearly two-month-long marathon begin.

First team to 16 wins…

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Randolph on Conley for All-Star appearance: ‘I want the young fella to get in there’

DALLAS — No one, it seems, is more impressed with Mike Conley’s body of work this season than Zach Randolph.

The Memphis Grizzlies power forward, in fact, has been complimentary of Conley’s display since the early stages of the season.

Tuesday night was no exception.

BOLD PREDICTION --- Following the shorthanded Grizzlies’ decisive 109-90 win against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night in American Airlines Center, Grizzlies star Zach Randolph hinted that he anticipates point guard Mike Conley to be named to the All-Star team, a milestone he’s been seeking for some time. (LM Otero, Getty Images)

BOLD PREDICTION — Following the shorthanded Grizzlies’ decisive 109-90 win against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night in American Airlines Center, Grizzlies star Zach Randolph hinted that he anticipates
point guard Mike Conley to be named to the All-Star team, a milestone he’s been seeking for some time. (LM Otero, Getty Images)

Following the shorthanded Grizzlies’ decisive 109-90 win against the Dallas Mavericks in American Airlines Center in which the team was without Conley, Randolph hinted that he anticipates the Grizzlies’ starting point guard to achieve a milestone he’s been seeking for some time.

“It’s big when you can play like that without your All-Star point guard,” Randolph told reporters after posting a game-high 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting and 10 rebounds against Dallas.

While Randolph doesn’t shy away from the notion that he would like to see Conley, his teammate of six years, earn his first All-Star appearance of his career, the seven-year veteran won’t know for certain until Thursday when the East and West reserves are announced.

Just as it has been in recent years, making the All-Star team undoubtedly will be monumental for Conley, in large part because the Western Conference is loaded with a slew of All-Star-caliber point guards such as Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, among others — all of whom have played in the NBA’s annual midseason showcase.

The 64th annual All-Star Game is February 15 in Madison Square Garden.

While many media pundits believed Conley should have been named to the All-Star team last year, the 27-year-old Fayetteville, Arkansas native certainly has made a strong case to earn a spot for the West this season.

At 33-12, the Grizzlies currently own the NBA’s third-best record and are second in the Western Conference standings behind Golden State. Add to the fact that Conley, Memphis’ second-leading scorer, has been as assertive on both ends of the floor as he’s ever been since he entered the NBA ranks, and it’s no wonder many believe this year could very well be his to crash the All-Star party along with fellow Grizzlies teammate Marc Gasol.

A 7-foot-1 Spaniard, Gasol will be making his second All-Star appearance and his first as a starter.

“You know, it’ll be nice if it happens,” said Randolph, when asked if making his third All-Star appearance was one of his personal goals in this, his 13th season. “I said the other day in Memphis I prefer it be Mike Conley. He deserves it. You know, I’ve been there before. So it’ll be nice if someone else from our team makes it and hopefully it’s him.”

CASE CLOSED? While many media pundits believed Conley should have been named to the All-Star team last year, the 27-year-old Fayetteville, Arkansas native certainly has made a strong case to earn spot for the West this season.

CASE CLOSED? While many media pundits believed Conley should have been named to the All-Star team last year, the 27-year-old Fayetteville, Arkansas native certainly has made a strong case to earn spot for the West this season.

According to a four-panel of CBSSports.com writers who cover the NBA, neither listed Conley as an All-Star reserve in a story that was released Wednesday afternoon. During a preseason interview with MemphiSport, however, Conley reiterated that making his first All-Star appearance was something about which he would strive for this year and that being left off the roster “would suck.”

“Obviously, I want to make my first All-Star appearance,” Conley said.

However, whether the former Ohio State star will be shown some love Valentine’s Day weekend in the Big Apple as a member of the West roster remains a mystery.

At least until sometime Thursday.

“It’ll be nice,” Randolph said of Conley being christen an All-Star reserve. “It’s a lot of politics in the All-Star Game. But I’m not going to lose any sleep (if I don’t make it). Like I said, I want the young fella to get in there.”

Still, regardless of how things stack up when the All-Star reserves are announced, Randolph said nothing overshadows the bigger aspirations for a team that figures to be a legitimate threat to make its first NBA Finals appearances this year.

“Right now, we’re focusing on winning and that’s our big picture right now…especially mine,” Randolph said. “We’re playing good. Our team is playing good. Our bench is playing good. So that’s our main focus right now.”

Something even the team’s starting point guard would agree with as the season progresses.

All-Star appearance or not.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Former Duncanville sprinter to college coaches: ‘I’m going to give it my all and do my thing on the track’

DUNCANVILLE, Texas — D’Andre Jackson-Reeves loves track and field.

So much, in fact, that he deemed it necessary recently to consult an Olympic gold medalist for advice as he prepares to lobby for a spot on his college track and field team.

ON YOUR MARK --- D'Andre Jackson-Reeves emerged into a standout sprinter for Duncanville High in the Dallas area. After getting advice from two-time Olympian Rochelle Stevens recently, he hopes to earn a spot for Prairie View A & M track and field team this fall. (Photos submitted by Nathanial Reeves)

ON YOUR MARK — D’Andre Jackson-Reeves emerged into a standout sprinter for Duncanville High in the Dallas area. After getting advice from two-time Olympian Rochelle Stevens recently, he hopes to earn a spot for Prairie View A & M track and field team this fall. (Photos submitted by Nathanial Reeves)

Jackson-Reeves contacted Rochelle Stevens, a two-time Olympian who won a gold medal as part of the 4×400-meter relay team in the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

A conversation he said lasted for about 15 minutes, Jackson-Reeves admittedly came away inspired as he clings to hopes of earning a spot on Prairie View A & M University’s track and field this fall.

“She talked to me about what coaches will be looking for in a college athlete and the times they would want,” Jackson-Reeves told MemphiSport during a recent interview. She asked what events I ran and what were my best times were. “She suggested that I run cross country to help me get in shape. The conversation was some what informative because she told me a lot of things I already knew about track and what it would take.”

While Jackson-Reeves, the former Duncanville High sprinter, did not compete for a spot on Prairie View’s track and field program his freshman year so he could focus primarily on his grades, he believes now the time has come to prove he’s worthy of putting his skills on display for PVAMU coach Chris Clay’s squad.

ALL WORLD --- Before winning an elusive gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics, Memphian Rochelle Stevens was a four-time national champion at Morgan State University in Baltimore. (Getty Images Photo)

ALL WORLD — Before winning an elusive gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics, Memphian Rochelle Stevens was a four-time national champion at Morgan State University in Baltimore. (Getty Images Photo)

Ever since Jackson-Reeves set foot on the Houston, Texas campus last fall, he has taken part in mostly individual workouts as a way of staying in favorable shape. Add to the fact that he has compiled a 3.5 grade point average, and it’s no wonder why he believes he could contribute immediately for PVAMU.

“I believe (the PVAMU coaching staff) saw me working out,” Jackson-Reeves said. “I’m fast and I’m a go-getter on the track. I have the attributes to help that team.”

Said Jackson-Reeves’ father, Nathaniel Reeves: “That’s one thing I’ve really pushed and that’s work ethic. Being in the military for years, you’re working as a team to get a job done. We go out as a team, we shoot as a team, move and communicate as a team. Not only does (Jackson-Reeves) does it on the (track), but he can do it in the classroom.”

Prior to enrolling at PVAMU, Jackson-Reeves enjoyed an efficient stint for Duncanville’s tradition-rich track and field program.

He ran the 100- and 200-meter dash and took part in the 4×100- and 4×200-meter relays his freshman and sophomore seasons before omitting the 100-meter dash from his events his final two seasons.

Looking back, he said he felt his second full year was his breakout season, in large part because Duncanville came away with assortment of hardware.

“It was just that year, my teammates and I were doing really good,” Jackson-Reeves said. We would go to every meet and come back with medals. The team chemistry was really good. And plus it was good because we were winning. It really boosted my confidence.”

Now, Jackson-Reeves is destined to exhibit that same winning attitude for Prairie View. Surely, he realizes it will take a monumental effort on his part. But as he tells it, he welcomes the lofty challenge of making his presence felt.

Once again.

“I have the grades,” Jackson-Reeves said. “So you never have to worry if I’ll be eligible to run. And I have the will power to compete. I just want to be another student who wants to compete on the track.”

Said Jackson-Reeves former high school track coach William Henderson: “I was Dre’s summer track for two-to-three years but our relationship with him and his family goes beyond the track.  I’ve always had a good relationship with him even to this day as he moves toward and pursue his passion in and out of the classroom.  I was always partial toward Dre’ because he has the same passion towards track as I do. He has always been a hard-worker and focused young man.  Dre is a self motivator and a leader which are essential elements in being a track athlete.  He’s very aware of his abilities but isn’t afraid to tackle those things that will make him better.  I think each team, no matter if it’s Pop Warner, high school, college, or professional needs people like Dre’ on their team.”

If given the chance to compete for Prairie View A & m, Jackson-Reeves said he would have fulfilled his dream of competing at the collegiate level.

“I’m going to give it my all and do my thing on the track,” Jackson-Reeves said.

For Jackson-Reeves, it was similar advice he absorbed from Stevens who, before striking Olympic gold, made her presence felt on the track for a historically black college (Morgan State University).

“She helped me to realize that I’m really going to have to bust my butt and start making a name for myself and let my speed do the talking for me,” he said. “And with (good grades) and good times, then I can get a scholarship. She sounded like a nice person and a person that keeps it real, because she didn’t want to lead me on to false information.”

Now it’s time to put on display what he was told by one of world’s finest sprinters to ever grace a track.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also is the NBA Southwest Division reporter. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Lausanne basketball standout Camren Taylor eager for return to action

Camren Taylor has spent virtually his entire life as a multi-sport athlete, most notably on the football and basketball circuits. 

Nothing, he says, will ever top basketball.

COMEBACK CAM --- Lausanne Collegiate School basketball standout Camren Taylor missed all of last season because of injury. The rising sophomore has spent months rehabbing and is expected to resume play this upcoming season. (Photos submitted by Toby Taylor)

COMEBACK CAM — Lausanne Collegiate School basketball standout Camren Taylor missed all of last season because of injury. The rising sophomore has spent months rehabbing and is expected to resume play this upcoming season. (Photos submitted by Toby Taylor)

“I like basketball more than I do football,” Taylor told MemphiSport during a recent interview.
To get a thorough understanding out why Taylor has gained a fond admiration for hoops, look no further than his continuous rise on the court in recent years.

GREAT ADDITION --- Camren's contributions as a eighth grader helped propelled Lausanne to a state championship two years ago.

GREAT ADDITION — Camren’s contributions as a eighth grader helped propelled Lausanne to a state championship two years ago.

Despite missing his entire freshman season for Memphis’ Lausanne Collegiate School — the same institution that produced Memphis Grizzlies All-Star Marc Gasol — Taylor was as good as advertised.

To his credit, he reaped the benefits of his solid display.

During the Lynx’s TSSAA Division 2-A state title run two seasons ago, for instance, the 6-foot-4 swingman performed superbly as an eighth grade varsity player for a team that finished the year with a 25-5 mark.

With that came an array of accolades for a newcomer who has already been dubbed a three-star recruit by TNPrepHoops.com and Future150.com.

Among the honors:

Taylor was rated the No. 7-ranked newcomer in the state by Future150.com and the 68th overall prospect for the Class of 2017.

Camren Taylor with Lausanne head coach Kenneth White.

Camren Taylor with Lausanne head coach Kenneth White.

In addition, he was named to the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Boys Basketball Impact List. Also, he was named Most Valuable Player of Memphis’ Competitive Basketball League (CBL) in 2010 and has made his presence felt on the AAU circuit in recent years, particularly with the Memphis Pharaohs, Memphis War Eagles, Team Penny, and Mike Miller’s M33M AAU programs.

Currently, Taylor is ranked as the No. 20 prospect for the Class of 2017 by TNPrepHoops.com.

While his basketball prowess has been well-documented in recent years, this past year had been somewhat tumultuous for a kid whom many believe boasts a bright basketball future.

Last year, Taylor developed Osteochondritis Dissecean (or OCD). OCD is a condition of the knee in which a piece of the bone (or cartilage) separates from its surrounding area and lacks blood supply. The bone then becomes loosen and eventually cracks.

According to Taylor’s father, Toby Taylor, his son developed this injury over about a “two-year period” without any symptoms until he was at a basketball workout last summer and witnessed his knee buckle. Consequently, he developed severe pain and swelling at that time. An MRI later confirmed the diagnosis.

For Toby Taylor, the news of his son’s injury was difficult to stomach, in large part because he had started to earn the reputation as one of finest up-and-coming high school players in the Shelby-Metro area.

“As parents, this was disappointing because he would be out of sports for an extended period of time,” Toby Taylor explained. “Sports have been a huge part if our life since he was three years old playing recreational sports. He started playing competitive basketball at 10 years of age. He had skills training five-to-six days a week since the age of 10 until his injury when he wasn’t playing. We were hurting because we knew he was hurting and disappointed as well.”

Luckily for Camren, his basketball future wasn’t put in jeopardy, although he was sidelined as a freshman for Lausanne. Nowadays, he is recouping comfortably from his injury and has even begun taking part in individual workouts.

 “I have just finished up physical therapy a few weeks ago,” Camren said. “Now I go to the gym everyday and get on the elliptical for 30 minutes. After I get done with that, I lift weights. First, I do arms then I do legs. When I do legs, I do more on my right leg then left so I can get it just as strong. Then after that, I go to the gym and put up 100 free throws each day. I will be doing this until I am able to run and jump again.”

Although doctors held Camren out of AAU action this summer, he is expected to resume full contact drills in the coming weeks.

Despite an injury that sidelined him last season, recruiters did not back off from showing interest. According to Toby Taylor, Camren has generated interest from Arkansas State, Xavier and nearby Union University. Camren is expected to make a full recovery and boasts aspirations of playing at the collegiate level.

“If I earn a college scholarship in basketball, I will feel like all the hard work has paid off,” Camren said. “The ultimate goal is to get my education. And I will be able to further my education without using my parents’ money.”
Spoken like a true freshman, one who’s destined to have a huge impact, even in his household.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also is the NBA Southwest Division reporter. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.