Player, Coaches honored as All-State

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Ingram named player-of-the-year in AAA

By R. Alan Richardson

sports editor

The Morgan County High School basketball teams continue to stack up the awards after both garnered state championships this year.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution came out with its All-State Selections this past week and five Dogs were named to the elite list including both coaches, Jamond Sims and Josh Reeves, along with three players.  Jailyn Ingram was named first-team all-state and the AAA player-of-the-year.  Alexis (Pumpkin) Brown, along with her backcourt teammate, Tatyana Davis, were both selected to the first-team in AAA.

The past season was a magical run for the boys and girls under the direction of coaches Sims for the boys and Reeves for the girls.  Both coaches were selected as the AAA coaches-of-the-year.  There wasn’t much doubt in most peoples’ minds about any of these selections with the success of both teams.

Point guard Brown said, “I’ve worked really hard for a long time.  The ACL tear I had in the eighth grade just made me stronger and I worked harder.  We made it to the state all four years, but got knocked out last year in the first round by Franklin County.  That gave us the motivation to come back this year and work even harder to make this happen.”  Pumpkin told us that she started playing ball when she was four or five years old and joined an AAU team in the sixth grade.  She gives a lot of credit to former Duke point guard and NBA player Will Avery, from Augusta, for being a mentor to her and her brother Tookie (now at Georgia Southern).  Alexis has also signed a scholarship to play alongside her brother at GSU. 

Brown also commented, “I really wasn’t thinking much about the personal awards as much as I was our team success.  It felt good getting the award with my teammate and friend Tat.”  Pumpkin was named player-of-the-year in 2016 for region 8-AAA and has been an honorable mention all-state player the past two seasons.

Davis said, “This honor is great, but I was more focused on getting that ring.  We were an unselfish team that didn’t worry about stats.”  She was an all-state honorable mention honoree a year ago as a sophomore and is being pursued by numerous Division I teams.  If you watch her play, it’s obvious why college coaches are drooling over her tremendous athleticism, relentless style of play on both ends of the court, and her inside-outside abilities.  Davis commented, “I’ve worked hard to get to this point and have already started preparing for next season with my AAU Team Elite for that.”  She started playing roundball in the third grade and joined Tommy McWhorter’s AAU squad in the seventh grade.  Tat gave him a lot of credit for her earlier development as a player.

Just to name a few of the current colleges that would love to see her sign on the dotted line next year include: University of Cincinnati, Toledo, Southern Mississippi, Georgetown, Wichita State, Georgia, Clemson, Alabama, Florida State, and Louisville.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Let’s just say that she will be playing big-time basketball next year.

The AAA player-of-the year is 6’5” megastar Ingram.  His athletic abilities have landed him a scholarship to play at Florida Atlantic University under Dale Curry, father of Stephan Curry now a superstar in the NBA. He is also reconnecting with his former Morgan County High School Coach Charlemagne Gibbons who is an assistant coach at FAU.  Ingram was also named the 8-AAA player-of-the year after the Dogs went undefeated in the regular season region schedule at 12-0.  He told us, “Being all-state means a lot to me that all the hard work paid off.  It was an honor to get all these awards, but the bond we all had in the locker room was something I’ll cherish for a lifetime.” 

Ingram said that he’s been playing organized ball all his life since about seven in recreation ball here in Morgan County.  He said, “I started playing AAU in the summer of my eighth grade year.  It helped to give me some exposure to help along with my high school games and play against a different variety of players from all over the country.  It allowed me to test my skills against the best.”  Ingram has been recruited since his ninth grade year by big-time Division I teams from the ACC and other conferences, but said that he felt FAU was the best fit for him because of the coaching connection and fit for his game.

Ingram was touted as a Division I receiver in football as well and received offers from the likes of Florida State.  When asked why he chose basketball he said, “I liked football, but it wasn’t something I loved like basketball.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a lifetime career out of it.”

Next on the list was Coach Jamond Sims who was named as AAA boys’ coach of the year in only his second year at Morgan County.  Sims inherited a talented group but was under the microscope from day one as he came in on the heels of a MCHS state championship under Gibbons.  He commented, “You know it was tough coming in under those circumstances not knowing the kids’ strengths and weaknesses.  I have to give a lot of credit to Coach Jonathan Nelson, Milfred Franklin, and Brian Green for helping me make the transition.  They all knew the kids, had a relationship with them watching them grow up, and made my life a whole lot easier” 

Sims has shown his worth with back-to-back state championship appearances losing by two to Jenkins a year ago and defeating them in the finals this year 65-55.

Coach Josh Reeves was named the AAA All-State girls’ coach in only his fourth year at the helm of the girls’ program.  Having served as an assistant to Gibbons, he took a very youthful group of ninth graders and developed them into champions.  He told us, “With me it’s a testament of how hard the girls worked.  They were a great group of girls, but it was more about maximizing their talent together and getting them to put those talents together on the court.  It’s pretty easy when you have two first-team all-staters out there, but we tried very hard to fight off complacency with that much talent on the floor.  We had a good team, good players, and a good schedule, but wanted to make sure they wanted to work hard every day and find that common thread of consistency in practice.” 

Reeves also added, “Our motto was one game at a time and just keep it going.  Sydney Nash was also an all-state player in my mind.  She showed all of us that you can work together and not necessarily be the centerpiece of everything, but be one play away from being the difference in the game.  Many of our players had that same mindset.”

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