The 2010-11 high school basketball season was all about big achievements for the Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City boys and girls basketball players and coaches of the year.
For his role in pushing the Warriors to the playoffs for the first time in his career and on to the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A quarterfinals while averaging a Bi-City best 31.3 points per game, Russell County’s Rodney Cooper was voted by area coaches as the Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Because they led their teams through tough challenges and on to postseason success, Kendrick’s Jacqueri Cannon and Hardaway’s Alex Davis were voted by coaches as the All-Bi-City Boys Basketball Co-Coaches of the Year.
And on the girls side of the honors, Central-Phenix City swept the honors as Monique Jackson repeated as the All-Bi-City Girls Basketball Player of the Year and her coach, Carolyn Wright, was voted the All-Bi-City Girls Basketball Coach of the Year after they led the Red Devils to the AHSAA Class 6A quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.
The 2010-11 season left Cooper with a lot to celebrate. There were first-team all-state and Parade All-American honors, along with his spot as the All-Bi-City Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
But each of those were just complementary to his main goals, said Cooper, a 6-foot-6 Alabama signee.
“This season was all just about having fun with my teammates,” Cooper said. “We had so much fun together this year, and we got better every game.”
And for the first time in his career, Cooper led the Warriors to the state playoffs. He averaged 31.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game as Russell County reached the AHSAA Class 5A quarterfinals and finished 24-8 overall.
“It was a relief that we finally made it to the playoffs,” Cooper said. “It was a really good experience to finally have. Every year that was our goal, and I was just glad we could finally do it.”
Each team starts the season with a long list of lofty goals, but few did as well scratching them off as boys co-coaches of the year.
The 2010-11 season was Cannon’s fourth as Kendrick’s head coach, and each year he saw his team progress with a better record. But a region championship always was missing.
With four four-year varsity players in the starting lineup, Cannon’s team finally broke through to capture the Georgia High School Association Region 5-AA tournament crown and reach the second round of the Class AA state playoffs before finishing the season with a 22-7 overall record, another best for Cannon.
“Out of my four years, I would definitely rank this one as our best year,” Cannon said. “It was just a great feeling to finally bring closure to some of the goals we had set in previous years, especially winning the region. We always came close to that but never did it before this year. To finally do it felt like a major accomplishment for us.”
Davis and the Hawks had serious aspirations for the season, too, and a chip on their shoulders a year earlier when they fell in the first round of the playoffs. With that motivation, Davis and his senior-heavy lineup marched through the regular season, winning the William Henry Shaw Christmas Tournament championship and making it back to the playoffs, where they advanced to the Class AAAA quarterfinals before finishing 23-5.
“This season, we accomplished a lot of our goals by winning the Christmas tournament, making the playoffs and making the (quarterfinals),” Davis said. “Our kids wanted to help us as a school sort of recognize Hardaway basketball again and bring it back up to where the standards were in the past, and they really wanted to go out in style.”
Help from each other
This year’s girls player and coach of the year said neither could have won their honors without help from the other.
For Jackson, that came by way of trust from Wright, who played her on varsity as a freshman. That early experience developed Jackson’s leadership skills and taught her how to work under pressure.
“I take from Central a great mind-set in being able to say nothing is handed to you and you have to work hard for everything,” said Jackson, a 6-foot Mississippi signee and the 2009-10 All-Bi-City Girls Basketball Player of the Year. “I came in as a ninth-grader on varsity, and a lot of weight was put on my shoulders, and that taught me how to be strong.”
Jackson averaged 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and helped Central to a 24-5 overall record, a Class 6A Area 7 tournament championship and a second consecutive berth in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
Wright credited her talented roster, which also included forward Kristi Mokube, a Florida State signee, with making her job easier.
“When I look back to the last four years, my job was really easy having some good forwards,” Wright said. “It made our other girls more comfortable shooting the ball and handling the ball because we had that kind of strong inside game. And this year, it was even easier to coach because Monique and Kristi brought so much leadership and had improved so much.”
All-Bi-City nomination packets were dropped off at each school at the start of the winter sports season and emailed to Bi-City coaches. When coaches did not respond to requests for nominations, the Ledger-Enquirer attempted to compile statistics for several of that team’s athletes to include on the nominations list. Coaches were invited to attend a March 19 meeting to discuss their nominations.
Coaches at the meeting received a master list of all nominees and a ballot, which were emailed to all coaches at the end of the meeting. Only those coaches who nominated athletes were eligible to vote. Ballots were tallied at the end of the day March 22.