CATEGORY: FOL High School Football



A minister, tired of football recruiting hype aked me about the top basketball prospects in Northeast Mississippi. I had to tell him this is a typical year, there just aren't any major prospects. He then asked me about them over the last 25 years.

It has been slim pickings. Contrasted with the nine major college football signees this year alone, there has a only been a smattering genuine basketball prospects and even fewer big timers Terry Catledge of Houston, Lorenzen Wright of Lafayette County and John Stroud of West Union are about it. I guess Wright doesn't count any more since Memphis adopted him as a hometown player.

The question reminded me of Potts Camp's 66-60 win over the area's No. 1 New Albany, which has one of the few Division 1 prospects for next season in Shawn High. The Cardinals have also beaten Myrtle, which has the leading junior prospect, LaKendrick Bailey, though Myrtle gets a chance to get even Saturday.

Potts Camp is typical of what makes Northeast Mississippi basketball so special. Great no-name teams. Even the great teams with a future major college star, like the 1986-87 Class 2A champion Baldwyn Bearcats with Tim Jumper, were made special by a superb no-name cast. Who can forget Alcorn Central's 1988 state champion, whose, no-names drained a lake of prospects?

Potts Camp fits into that mold very well with a combination of young players built around this week's player of the week 6-1, 160-pound Javian "J.V." Smith, whose 16-point, 10 rebound average has led to a 21-8 record.

It's a team that has overcome adversity, that is they have continued winning despite the loss of a 6-5 center Curtis Thomas early in the season.

The big man on the team is 6-3 guard Philip Brock (14 ppg), with 6-1 Keith Traylor (11 ppg) at a forward and a pair of quick gunners in Garon Marion (11 ppg, 6 apg) and Antwon Marion (8.5 ppg). Antwon Marion has averaged 12 points over the last 17 games since moving into a starting role.

"What makes this team successful is we have five people averaging around 10 points. They sort of outrun bigger teams up and down the floor," coach Chris Greer said. "I sure hope this winter storm hasn't slowed us down."

Recruiting haul: This has been a vintage recruiting year for Northeast Mississippi. Especially with the Amory quartet which helped give Ole Miss coach Tommy Tuberville one of the the best harvests of Division I talent in in the area with seven signees.

Itawamba Community College coach Jay Miller is right up there with the talent he picked up.

His No. 1 recruit, noseguard Terris Burns of Amory, follows the ICC tradition of Okolona's Tim Bowens, now of the Miami Dolphins and Nettleton's Jason Ferguson, now of the Georgia Bulldogs. ICC may have the best incoming duo since Bowens and Norman Hand, with Burns and defensive end Carnell Houston of Okolona.

Miller's haul includes offensive lineman Shane Grice of Shannon, defensive back-running back Marcus Bell of Tupelo, running back Corey Lipsey of North Pontotoc, linebackers Frank Bates of Amory and Corey Bolden and Demond James of Pontotoc and running back Freddie Word of Nettleton.

Quarterback Trio: There were three top quarterbacks in the current crop of prospects. Only one will remain in the quarterback loop with Ryan Hooker of Pontotoc going to Auburn.

Chad Hill of Oxford became the second Oxford quarterback in the past three years to pass up college football for baseball, following the lead of friend Brad Freeman a Mississippi State third baseman.

Bradley Prather of Falkner is a linebacker-fullback in frame, 6-1, 230 who is being curiously ignored. He is just a razor thin fraction of a point away from making his ACT score and is scheduled to retake.

Coach Ricky Bates is both a little confused and amazed by the inactivity in on Prather, who equals the athletic abilities of his father, former NFL running back Michael Haddix.

There are some non-qualifiers in worse shape than Prather who had to fight off recruiters. Bates said anyone who doubts Prather's ability should watch him play basketball.

"In the Ripley game the only one bigger than him was Kendall Simmons (6-3, 270) and he was out there out-running the smaller guys,"

Bates said. "He's amazing."

Mike Talbert is a sports writer for the Daily Journal.

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