Thursday, January 8, 2009
January 3 was a date circled on the Burlesons’ calendar.
That’s when the Memphis Tigers were hosting the Lamar Cardinals. While Memphis is just up the road and we have enjoyed the Tigers’ success on the basketball court under coach John Calipari, this time we were more interested in the visitors. Or better yet, make that one visitor.
Holly Springs’ own Kenny Dawkins runs the show for the Cardinals. And we hadn’t seen him play since he helped lead coach Naylond Hayes’ Hawks to back-to-back state championships in 2004 and 2005.
We only wish we could have seen Justin Nabors, another Holly High grad on the Lamar roster. But Justin is redshirting this year due to injury.
We got there in plenty of time Saturday evening to watch Kenny and his Lamar teammates warm up. We browsed through the program, too, which featured photos of Kenny and his head coach, Steve Roccaforte, on the Lamar page.
Then it was time for the starting lineups. First came Lamar.
“At guard, a 5’9” senior from Holly Springs, Mississippi - Kenny Dawkins,” the public announcer said.
There were cheers from 20 or so family members and friends in the crowd of 17,386 at the FedEx Forum – including us.
Saturday’s Commercial-Appeal had a preview of the big game. Of course, the Tigers, who made it to the national championship game last season, were heavy favorites. The daily newspaper broke it down position by position, including point guard - Kenny Dawkins vs. Memphis’ 6’6” freshman Tyreke Evans. The preview said Evans would be going against “a pint-sized point guard who finds a way to make things happen with his quickness.” The Tigers certainly had the overall size advantage.
Kenny is Lamar’s leading scorer, and he showed his stuff early. He hit his second three-pointer with 14:39 to go in the first half. It gave the Cardinals a 15-12 lead and Calipari called a timeout.
Lamar was up 17-14 but then Memphis went on a 16-0 run and took control.
The Tigers won 108-75.
Kenny finished with a team-best 19 points. He was six of 19 from the field with two threes and five of five from the free-throw stripe. He had five rebounds, one steal and dished out three assists. He played the entire 40 minutes.
Evans had 25 to lead Memphis, while Antonio Anderson recorded the second triple-double in Memphis history with 12 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.
At game’s end, I made my way to the rail near the tunnel at courtside. I was hoping to get Kenny’s attention as he left the floor.
“Kenny, Kenny,” I shouted.
He smiled, waved and told me he’d be back out after going into the locker room for the post-game meeting with his coaches.
I saw some other familiar faces gathering nearby, too, all wearing Lamar Cardinals shirts. I recognized Kenny’s mom and told her we were going to get some pictures.
It was really good to see Kenny. I gave him a hug and we talked.
He hopes to lead Lamar to the NCAA Tournament, and then enter the NBA draft. If he goes undrafted, he said he plans to play professional basketball overseas.
It was a joy watching Kenny and the Hawks a few years back. You might recall that 70-66 Class 3A title win over Marshall County rival Byhalia in 2004 at “The Big House” in Jackson. Kenny scored 12. Or you might recall that 47-35 win over Franklin County in 2005 for a second straight state crown. Kenny scored 23, including five threes.
A dazzling Kenny Dawkins and his talented Holly High teammates went 64-5 those two seasons.
From Holly High, to Arizona Western College, to Lamar, Kenny Dawkins continues to shine. And it was special for my family to see him play again in person and visit with him briefly at courtside Saturday.
“Thanks for coming,” he said.
We wouldn’t have missed it.
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