Minutes after Eufaula fell to Sylacauga 79-78 in overtime of the Class 5A state championship game Saturday, Eufaula’s Terrell Jones participated in a postgame press conference with two of his teammates and his head coach, Michael Smith.
It would have been understandable if Jones, a senior, had little to say after his high school career ended just short of a state title. Instead, Jones delivered a powerful message about his experience as a Eufaula Tiger.
“I remember the first day coach (Michael) Smith came in the gym. He told me, ‘If you want to be a state champion, you’ve got to be different. Everybody can’t be a state champion,’” Jones said. “Each and every second that wind down, I was just thinking, ‘I’ve got to be different. I’ve got to separate myself. I’ve got to separate myself to show that I’m different because I wanted to be a state champion.’”
Jones did his part to try and help Eufaula win its first state championship since 1999. Jones put up 20 points before fouling out of the game in the fourth quarter. Despite missing the overtime session, he still finished just behind teammate Laquaveous Nelson’s team-leading 21 points.
Even though the stinging loss meant the end of his time as a Tiger, Jones had the foresight to point out what should be coming up for his younger teammates.
“We fell one point short, but I know all those young guys in that locker room, they have a bright future,” Jones said. “Everything I’ve been through, they’re going through and they still have to go through. It’s only going to make them better.”
As Jones wrapped up his answer, he pointed to Smith, who just finished his third year as Tigers head coach, and credited him for the work he did.
“This man right there is the best coach I ever had in my life,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”
As the press conference continued, the camera panned over to Smith, who was silently crying after the conclusion of his senior’s poignant speech.