Courtship of Big Al continues

Published 6:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2004

The NBA’s courtship of Big Al Jefferson will continue for thenext few months. Countless stories and endless televisioninterviews will take place during that time, projecting andpredicting the basketball future of the gifted Prentiss High Schoolsenior.

Can a teenager cope with that kind of adoration andadulation?

Probably not.

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We first met the 6-foot-9 Jefferson when he was a sophomore onthe Prentiss basketball team after playing a game in the LawrenceCounty Round-Robin Tournament in Monticello. What impressed me themost was his physical maturity. He had well-developed muscles inhis legs and arms.

He was neither skinny or plump. This was no Pillsbury posterchild.

Jefferson could shoot the ball with a velvet touch, crash thebackboards for rebounds and run the floor quite well when he feltlike it. That was the key to his future star status.

How bad did Jefferson want it?

As a junior, Jefferson led the Class 3A Bulldogs to the statechampionship. He was honored as The DAILY LEADER’s MisterBasketball on the All-Area Boys Team. His stock continued to risethrough the summer months and he signed early with the Universityof Arkansas.

As the 2003-04 season got under way, Jefferson became the objectof much scrutiny by NBA scouts. NBA great Jerry West, now generalmanager for the Memphis Grizzlies, visited the ancient Prentiss gymin January as did other NBA scouts.

Although West wasn’t allowed to comment publicly on his opinionof Jefferson, West indicated that he would take Jefferson back toMemphis right now. Jefferson is expected to be an NBA lottery pick,guaranteeing him of a multi-million dollar contract and a generoussigning bonus.

Jefferson was in the national spotlight Wednesday, playing inthe McDonald’s All-American High School basketball game in OklahomaCity. He accounted for 18 points and 11 rebounds as the Eastoutscored the West 126-96.

For sure, Jefferson was closely scrutinized by all those expertswho gathered at the Ford Center. The roster reads like a Who’s Whoamong future college and NBA stars.

This is the 27th year for McDonald’s to sponsor the game. Thisis the third year for McDonald’s to host a girls game. It receivedthe early tipoff.

A portion of the proceeds from both games will benefit theRonald McDonald House Charities Chapter of Oklahoma. The RonaldMcDonald House program has provided a “home-away-from-home” formillions of family members of seriously ill children since itsinception in 1974.

McDonald’s All-American alumni include such current and formerNBA and NCAA superstars as Michael Jordan (retired) and MagicJohnson (retired), Kevin Garnett (Minnesota Timberwolves), CarmeloAnthony (Denver Nuggets) and LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) aswell as Chris Duhon (Duke), Talike Brown (UConn), Josh Childress(Stanford) and Shannon Brown (Michigan State). Another alumnus isPicayune product Johnathan Bender of the Indiana Pacers who madethe leap from high school straight to the NBA.

It’s that time of the year when the flowers are blooming, birdsare singing and coaches are on the move. At Lawrence County,longtime assistant football coach Mike Davis has been elevated tothe head job. Davis replaces Trent Hammond who has taken the headcoaching post at Water Valley.

In another change of major significance, veteran basketballcoach Billy Vaughn of Enterprise has stepped down. He is returningto his alma mater, Loyd Star, as athletic director and junior highbasketball coach.

Expected to replace Vaughn as girls coach at Enterprise is JillCoon Nations. We always enjoyed working with Vaughn because hecooperated and was media-minded. He tried his best to promote hisplayers and the program.

Certainly, Loyd Star will benefit from Vaughn’s experience andpresence in that athletic department.

Meanwhile, the search continues for a new head football coach atLoyd Star to replace Sidney Wheatley, who resigned in January.Wheatley also coaches the Loyd Star baseball team and has enjoyed aseries of successful campaigns on the diamond.

Wesson filled its football coaching vacancy with hometownproduct Tommy Clopton last month. Clopton returns to Wesson aftercoaching the last five years at East Central Community College.

Clopton replaces Ronald Greer who plans to remain on staff ashigh school principal. Greer wants to devote more time to hisfamily and plans to enter the ministry where he’ll serve God andman.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or