The Central Lady Red Devils play basketball at a frenetic pace, pressing and getting out on the fast break at any and every opportunity.
Senior forward Ju'el Beasley was one of the key pieces of the Central puzzle and tonight she'll have a chance to play against some of the top seniors in Alabama in the Alabama All-Star Sports Week girls basketball game.
"She's a great athlete," said Central head coach Carolyn Wright of the 5-foot-9 Beasley. "People have seen her on the boards. She can jump and get rebounds and put the ball back. She also has a good short-corner jumper. Her defense is astronomical, even when we're not in the press. Whether we're playing zone or man, she's all over the ball. If we're in the press, she sits back and read passes well."
Wright said Beasley's speed and aggression is a big asset, but sometimes she has to slow Beasley down a bit for her own good.
"I have to get on her sometimes about sitting back too much and relying on her speed," said Wright. "But she has that confidence to be able to read passes and make plays. Ju'el definitely was an asset last year and I feel like she will be one of our go-to players this year."
The all-star game, which tips off at 7 p.m. at the Alabama State University Acadome, is a part of the 16th annual Alabama All-Star Sports Week put on by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
The week started with a baseball doubleheader Monday, a softball doubleheader and boys and girls soccer matches Tuesday, a girls and boys basketball twinbill tonight before being capped off with a volleyball match and football game Thursday.
All of the all-star teams are made up of the top rising seniors in Alabama and teams are divided into the North and South All-Stars.
Beasley and the Lady Red Devils went 33-2 in 2011-2012 and advanced to the semifinals of the AHSAA Class 6A State Tournament before losing to eventual state champion Hoover.
Beasley was a first-team All-Bi-City selection following the season, having averaged 8.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.
Beasley's height (5-foot-9) makes it hard to project whether she'd play guard or forward on the collegiate level, but Wright feels like whatever school takes a chance on her will get a top-notch athlete with a motor that won't stop running.
"I do foresee Ju'el playing at the next level," said Wright. "She has what it takes and she's a three-sport athlete, too. In track, she's good in the triple jump and long jump and she's played volleyball (for Central), too. She's going to go to school in one of those sports. Playing basketball in college isn't out of reach because of her leaping ability and sometimes a player's heart is bigger than their height. We're working on her perimeter shooting so college coaches will like her more.
"(Beasley's former teammate and UNC Wilmington signee) B'Kiya Webb had to sit behind some bigger players for a couple of years, but when she got the chance, she showed what she could do. Ju'el has the heart and the athleticism and I think some coach will look at her and decide they want her. I think she'll be an asset to somebody's program."