Wednesday, February 16


Vestavia Hills' William Dillard didn't go for two

, February 16, 2011 8:29 a.m.

Vestavia Hills’ William Dillard (32) has had a solid senior basketball season at guard for the Rebels, averaging 11.7 points and 5.0 rebounds. (The Birmingham News / Hal Yeager)

William Dillard wishes he had a do-over.

Although he was considered a better college prospect in football than basketball, Dillard decided not to play football for the Vestavia Hills Rebels last fall so he could concentrate on his senior season of basketball.

“I’m not saying I don’t like football, but basketball is the game I love,” Dillard said. “I wanted to work on my game on the court.”

Two of Dillard’s teammates in basketball who also play football — quarterback Patrick Prewitt and wide receiver Neil Gannaway — tried to talk him out of quitting football. Dillard was a standout 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback as a junior.

“I should have listened to them,” Dillard said. “I missed football a lot. I’m starting to regret my decision because it was my senior year and I feel like I let my teammates down.”

Vestavia Hills basketball coach George Hatchett, who helps coach the Rebels’ freshman football team, also tried to persuade Dillard to play football. But Hatchett said, “Our job is not to tell them what to do, but to give them the opportunity if they want to be a two-sport athlete.”

One of the toughest things Dillard had to do was tell longtime Rebels football coach Buddy Anderson that he wouldn’t play.

“He was a little disappointed, but he said he still supported me,” Dillard said. Dillard has had a solid senior basketball season at guard for the Rebels, averaging 11.7 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 82 percent (91 of 111) from the free-throw line.

“He’s a good kid, a tough kid and he adds that to our basketball team,” Hatchett said. “He runs, jumps and he’s physical. He’s not a knockdown 3-point shooter, but he makes a lot of wow athletic plays.”

The Rebels struggled in regular season, going 11-16 and finishing winless (0-6) in Class 6A, Area 12. But last Friday in the opening round of the area tournament at fourth-ranked Homewood, Dillard and Rebels stunned the Patriots 60-53 in overtime. Dillard scored 12 points as Vestavia Hills erased the memory of three regular-season losses to Homewood.

“Homewood was a real tough opponent for us,” Dillard said. “The last time (before the area tournament) we played them they beat us by 30 points. We thought we owed them something so we decided to come out, play hard and give it our best shot and we wound up winning.”

The Rebels’ victory ended the high school careers of two of Dillard’s friends, Homewood guard Marvin Whitt and center Jeremy Watson. They played AAU basketball together for the Alabama Twisters.

Dillard didn’t gloat when he talked to them on Saturday. “They called me and told me they hope we win it all,” Dillard said.


Dillard was a sophomore on Vestavia Hills’ 2009 Class 6A state championship team.

“It was very exciting,” he said. “That was my first time going to the BJCC and playing.”

He hopes the Rebels can make it back again in a few weeks. Vestavia Hills played Spain Park for the Area 12 championship Monday night and will play either Hoover or Pelham in the sub-regional on Friday. The winner of that game will advance to the Northeast Regional next week at Jacksonville State.

“We want to keep playing, so we’re going to try to make it to regional,” Dillard said.

Whenever the Rebels’ season ends, Dillard will decide where he wants to go to college. Football might still be a part of his future. Prewitt and Gannaway signed football scholarships two weeks ago with Tennessee Tech, coached by former UAB coach Watson Brown.

Tennessee Tech also has shown interest in Dillard.

He said if Brown had another scholarship and offered it to him, “I’d go play football.”

Otherwise, he has designs on going to Spring Hill College in Mobile and playing basketball, joining former Rebel Charles Gordon, who’s a freshman there.

Whatever sport plays, Hatchett believes Dillard has a bright future.

“Whether he plays basketball or football, his best days are front of him once he gets more mature,” Hatchett said.

Hoover's John Crain feeds off basketball

, February 02, 2011 7:43 a.m.

With a 33 on his ACT and 4.16 GPA, academic schools such as Yale are showing interest in the Bucs senior. (Special to The Birmingham News)

John Crain doesn’t fear failure.

The Hoover High School senior embraces life’s disappointments, molding and transforming each deficiency until the obstacle falls to superior skill and talent.

Basketball is his passion, and Crain has struggled periodically since beginning the sport as a youngster.

The journey to a starting spot for the Bucs provided challenge and failure along the way, but success became his ultimate reward.

“I love basketball, and no matter what, I always find myself coming back to it,” Crain said. “I’ve always had the drive to be the best I can. I just love it and want to keep getting better.”

Hoover started the week 20-6, but played at rival Vestavia Hills on Tuesday and hosts Ramsay on Friday.

The Bucs end the regular season hosting Class 6A fifth-ranked Bob Jones on Feb. 7 and the Area 10 tournament begins four days later.

An integral part of Hoover’s success this season, Crain’s first sport was baseball as a second-grader, but found his love when he began basketball the following year.

Crain was an average player with some offensive skills starting out, but he persevered. Two years of Upward basketball that focused on sportsmanship and basics were followed by a year in a recreation league and two years of AAU travel ball.

He failed to earn a spot on the seventh grade team at Simmons yet still showed up at every game to cheer his friends. He made the middle school team as an eighth-grader then moved to the freshman squad, where he came off the bench.

It was time for change so Crain undertook an extensive regimen with a personal trainer the following summer, focusing on basketball-specific drills and weight training, including lots of jump rope.

The work paid off for the 5-foot-10 player. One day before his sophomore year, while playing around in the gym, someone threw up a pass near the goal and Crain caught it and dunked it.

He started for the junior varsity that season then moved up to varsity near the end of the season. The 6-2 Crain has started every game since his junior season.

As a 16-year-old, Crain also earned a spot on the Birmingham Ice 17-and-under AAU team following his sophomore year and continued to play with the team last summer.

Crain is an excellent 3-pont shooter and rebounds well because of his leaping ability.

Hoover started this season quickly, rolling to a 10-0 record before floundering at midseason. The Bucs, playing well recently, defeated Oak Mountain 44-43 on Friday after the Eagles embarrassed Hoover 54-29 a week earlier.

“I’ve seen a lot of good Hoover teams come through that didn’t show up when it counted,” Crain said. “I think we have the tools to make it pretty far this year. All the guys on this team get along well and everybody is shooting for the same goal. We all want to win.”

Crain approaches academics with the same fervor as basketball. If he decides to play basketball in college, his 33 on the ACT and 4.16 GPA should spark plenty of interest, with Yale showing interest recently.

“I’ve been trying to look at everything, but I’m going to wait until the season is over before I make any decision,” Crain said. “I need to focus on this basketball season before I worry about next year.”

Updated: February 1, 2011, 10:37 PM ET

Rookie Challenge rosters announced

NEW YORK -- Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin lead a group of 18 players selected for the Rookie Challenge.

The squads for the game pitting rookies against second-year players were announced Tuesday. They will play Feb. 18 in Los Angeles ahead of the NBA All-Star game.

Joining Evans on the Sophomore team are: Spurs center DeJuan Blair, Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, Bulls forward Taj Gibson, 76ers guard Jrue Holiday, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, Bucks guard Brandon Jennings and Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews.

The other rookies are: Wizards guard John Wall, Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, Nets forward Derrick Favors, Knicks guard Landry Fields, Timberwolves guard Wesley Johnson, Pistons center Greg Monroe and Spurs guard Gary Neal.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press


Homewood's Mikhail Lamar fits nicely

at point guard

, January 19, 2011 11:03 a.m.


A year ago, Mikhail Lamar watched the Homewood boys basketball team advance to the Class 6A Final Four and finish runner-up.

He had a good seat as a member of Homewood’s junior varsity for most of the season. He was moved to the varsity when the junior varsity’s season ended.

As he watched, Lamar wondered how he would fit in this season with the Patriots, especially with the graduation of Winston Brooks, Ben McLeod and Brian Feldman and the return of senior guard Marvin Whitt, the 2010 Birmingham News Metro Player of the Year.

Two months into the season, Lamar is fitting in quite nicely, thank you. The presence of the 6-foot-2 junior point guard has allowed the 5-10 Whitt to spend more time at shooting guard.

“It’s been a good experience playing with a good group of seniors,” Lamar said. “It’s not as difficult as I thought it would be.”

It helps that Lamar was already familiar with Whitt’s game.

“Marvin and I used to go to the gym every day in middle school, so I already knew how he played,” Lamar said. Even so, Homewood coach Tim Shepler said there still was an adjustment period for Lamar, and it’s ongoing.

“Mikhail is a kid who has been in the program a long time and he’s come a long way, but he’s still learning how to play hard at the varsity level,” Shepler said. “He’s got a lot of natural ability and a good feel for the game. We saw some maturing throughout the junior varsity season last year. He’s still maturing on the court in a lot of ways, especially his mentality for the game.”

Lamar is having a solid season for the top-ranked Patriots, helping Homewood enter this week with a 16-3 record. They played at Vestavia Hills on Tuesday and face Mountain Brook on the road Friday.

Lamar is averaging 7.0 points, while shooting 52 percent from the field, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

“He’s been a key part of our success,” Shepler said. “He doesn’t mind not scoring a lot. He’d just as soon get the ball to the other guys and let them score.”

Lamar learned he would have to set up his teammates for scoring opportunities during the offseason in team camp.

“When we played during the summer (that’s) where I really was able to define my role,” he said. “My job is to find the shooters and score when I have a chance.”

Lamar has tried to pattern his game after NBA guard Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls.

“I watch him every time he’s on TV,” Lamar said. “I’ve been watching him since he was in college at Memphis. I like his style of play, the way he stays calm. That’s how I try to play.”

Lamar hopes his steady hand will help the Patriots make another run at the Class 6A title. He believes defense will be the key.

“We’ve got to get our defense stronger and play it the way we’re supposed to,” he said. “We also have to make smart decisions and stay focused.”


Brotherly push moves Jarvis Calhoun to starring role for Hewitt-Trussville

, January 19, 2011 10:55


Whether playing in the park or shooting in their backyard, Michael Calhoun always made sure little brother Jarvis knew his status in the family’s basketball hierarchy.

Jarvis, four years younger than Michael, can’t recall one time he reigned supreme in one-on-one. Michael says it might have happened on a couple occasions, but only because Jarvis owns a smooth jump shot.

“I remember one time, he did get real lucky,” Michael said, laughing.

He may not be able to hold his own in the family, but Jarvis is more than doing so as Hewitt-Trussville’s freshman point guard. Through 21 games entering this week, Calhoun averaged 13.3 points for a Huskies team competing in one of the region’s most evenly matched areas.

At 5-foot-11, Calhoun seems to glide effortlessly on the offensive end, complementing his bursts to the basket with a smooth outside shot. It’s a skill he can attribute to years of competing against older and tougher competition while tagging along with his brother.

“When we were little kids, we would play one-on-one and I just had to learn to play stronger than everyone and go to the basket explosively,” Calhoun said.

Huskies coach Tim Reeves said Calhoun has proven himself capable of competing on the varsity level. Calhoun has twice broken the 20-point mark this season, though his most impressive performance might have been his 19-point outing in the season opener against Mountain Brook, one of Class 6A’s top teams and employs a relentless full-court defensive press.

“He’s so skilled that it does look effortless for him, but at the same time, he’s just scratching the surface of what’s in there,” Reeves said.

While Calhoun has garnered attention for his jump shot and quickness with the ball, both he and Reeves see room for improvement.

Calhoun, a lefty, points to his right-hand dribbling and his conditioning. Reeves wants a more consistent defensive effort. He’s even adjusted his rotation to give Calhoun more breathers to ensure maximum effort.

“That’s part of being a freshman, just understanding that you can’t take possessions off on defense,” Reeves said. “That’s for everybody, but as a freshman, that is what’s got to come along the most.”

For pointers on defense, he needs to look no farther than his big brother, who was known as more of a defensive stopper in his two years playing with Hewitt-Trussville.

It isn’t always easy for first-hand communication, however. Michael is a freshman basketball player at Finlandia University, a Division III school near the snow-covered northernmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Still, the brothers communicate regularly over the phone and get updates on each other from their father and aunt.

“I got to see him a lot in AAU and middle school, so I know he’s playing real good right now,” Michael said. “As a freshman, he’s definitely putting up some pretty good numbers.”

With the four teams in Class 6A, Area 13 so evenly matched at this point, no team has won by more than six points.

Calhoun’s development could be the key to Hewitt-Trussville (11-10, 1-1) distinguishing itself from the pack.

“I’ve had to prove something to everybody since I’m a freshman,” Jarvis said, “But I just want to go to Jacksonville and the BJCC (for the state tournament), and I feel like this team can do it.”

July 31st, 2007

Jeff Sutton
Sentinel Institute
July 29, 2007

View Original Story Here

Originally Posted at

As halftime came to a close, the Birmingham Ice gathered around their coaches as any other team would.

But when the basketball players broke the huddle, something made this scene different.

Birmingham, unlike any other team at last weekend’s 16-and-under Amateur Athletic Union Super Showcase competition at Disney, has an all-female coaching staff.

With head coach Ava Herndon screaming instructions, the Ice (2-1) came out firing, turning a 38-35 halftime lead into a decisive victory against the Boston Amateur Basketball Club 86-73 in pool play last Sunday.

Herndon, who is the cousin of star player Nigel Ramsey, has been with the team since its inception more than four years ago. She thinks those years of dealing with male players has helped her develop a good relationship with her team.

In fact, she thinks female coaches can be more effective than men.

“It’s a respect thing,” she said.

“We [female coaches] instill more discipline than men, so I know my players respect me. And I respect them.”

Many players on the Ice agree.

“She may be my cousin, but she doesn’t go easy on us in practice,” Ramsey said.

It’s hard to argue with the results.

Center Edward Daniel scored 26 points and Ramsey added 19 to lead the Ice, who used a full-court press and frenetic style to spark an 18-3 run early in the third quarter — capped off with dunks by Daniel and forward Andres Gentry.

“We love to run,” Ramsey said.

“That’s all we do in practice. We’re always pressing teams, and that’s when we play our best.”

The lead never dipped below eight points again as Birmingham point guard Eric Bledsoe calmly sank six free throws late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Guard Phil Pressey, the son of former NBA forward and current Boston Celtics assistant Paul Pressey, paced the BABC (2-1) with 22 points. Only eight, however, came in the second half.

“All year we’ve let teams back into the game after having a halftime lead,” Herndon said.

“I told our players to make sure they closed out the game.”

Jeff Sutton is a senior at Trinity Preparatory School. His Institute mentor is columnist Mike Bianchi.


BABC Falters At The Super Showcase For 16s

Posted Jul 22, 2007
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA -- The BABC rosters is filled with many division one prospects. In fact, two of them, Alex Oriakhi and Jamaal Coombs, have given verbal commitments to the University of Connecticut program.

So it was a bit surprising to watch the highly regarded and respected AAU program take it on the chin with some punch in today's pool game held inside the Milk House at the Wide World of Sports complex on the grounds of Disney World.

Edward Daniel, a 2009 prospect, led the Birmingham Ice to a 86-73 victory over BABC in the afternoon pool game. The playoffs begin later tonight and conclude tomorrow evening with the championship game to be held at 7:30 PM ET inside the Milk House.

Daniel hammered his way inside the BABC defense for 26 points while teammates Eric Bledsoe (15 points) and Nigel Ramsey (19 points) helped the Ice to the big victory.

Connecticut recruits Oriakhi and Coombs could never get it going in this game. Each scored their first basket in the second half and both finished the game without reaching double digits in scoring.

Phil Pressey was the main bright spot for BABC. The 2010 prospect dashed and darted his way between defenders for 26 points.

Pressey is being recruited by many division one programs. While some may suspect he is too small to handle himself against big time schools and players, Phil seems to always score against the big bodies around the rim with his soft floaters.

The Ice led 17-16 after the first quarter and had a 38-35 advantage at the half. The Ice stretched the lead to 63-52 heading into the fourth quarter where the Birmingham based team maintained control throughout the final eight minutes of play.