Thursday, March 17, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

These Hawks define team

Most high school basketball players never make it to a state tournament.

I didn’t.

Few are ever a part of a state championship team.

Being on back-to-back state title teams is very rare.

The 2004-05 Holly Springs High School Hawks are special players experiencing a special time.

Friday night, coach Naylond Hayes and his high-flying, extremely-talented Hawks left Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson for the second straight season as the best team in Class 3A in the state of Mississippi.

That’s a big-time accomplishment.

Winning one state crown is very tough.

Repeating is much tougher.

Coach Hayes and I talked several times during the season about his Hawks having a big target on their backs. Everyone wants to beat the best.

And this group of Holly High players are the best — no doubt about it.

In addition to the “gold ball” which proves their status, they’re being called the best team in school history, and one thing I know for sure, they’re the best high school basketball team I’ve covered in about 20 years of community journalism.

I’ve seen it all this season from the Hawks — dunks, precision passing, long-range threes, smothering defense, lopsided wins, clutch wins — and the list goes on and on.

This team isn’t about individuals. It’s about team.

There are great players — including floor general Kenny Dawkins and his partner in the backcourt, Clevin Hannah. They’re likely the best guard combination on a high school basketball team in the state of Mississippi. Then there’s big man Justin Nabors and forwards DeUntral Mosley and Brandon Ayers, all with their spectacular dunks.

But that isn’t all. This team is not about just five players. It’s about the entire group — practicing hard, playing hard, supporting one another, celebrating together.

Dawkins could score 25 points every night. He doesn’t have to. That’s the story of this team. Looking back through the game stories throughout this season, they all shared in the glory and the wealth of wins. They don’t care who gets the most points.

Bottom line — this team is fun to watch. I love seeing this team play — and so do lots of other Hawk supporters in the Holly Springs area. You had to get to most of their games several hours early just to get a seat.

They won 34 games and lost only one (when two starters didn’t play).

Add those 34 victories to the 30-4 state championship season a year ago — that’s 64-5 with two “gold balls.”

Wow!

But even with all the victories and the two trophies, the thing I appreciate most about these Holly Springs High School Hawks is the players themselves and their attitudes. For two seasons, I’ve watched them represent their school in the right way — with class and sportsmanship and pride. I’ve shaken their hands many times, and they always say something about the pictures in the paper and follow that with a thank you for the coverage.

I have the utmost respect for head coach Naylond Hayes — for his knowledge of the game and his ability to coach, but mostly for being a positive role model for these young people.

This team has brought tremendous recognition to not just the school but to our city. This team will be remembered forever in the Holly High history books and through the pages of this newspaper. And remember the most important thing in this tribute — team.


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