Thursday, November 10, 2011
Defending champs sixth in Super 10; atop Class A poll
By BARRY BURLESON
The honors keep coming year after year for the H.W. Byers High School girls basketball program.
The Lady Lions, defending state champions, find themselves ranked number one in the pre-season in Class 1A and a senior team member is listed as one of the top players in the state.
Alexis Hardaway was selected to the prestigious Dandy Dozen, published by the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson.
“She definitely deserves it,” said coach Jason Thompson, who led the Lady Lions to state championships in 2008, 2009 and 2011. “She is an elite player. It’s a tremendous honor for her and speaks volumes about her work ethic.”
Hardaway is the third Lady Lion to be selected to the top 12 list, following Rachel Jones and Kourtney Coleman, who are playing at Jackson State and Troy (Ala.) University, respectively.
“I’m glad to have her as the third member in the Byers family named to the Dandy Dozen,” Thompson said. “There is great respect behind it.”
Because of that, Thompson has also challenged Hardaway. Jones and Coleman, in their senior campaigns, helped lead their squads to state crowns and later played in the Mississippi-Alabama all-star game.
“I believe in her (Hardaway),” he said. “I think it will be a great year for her.”
She missed two-thirds of last season (21 games) due to a knee injury. But she came back in time to provide the winning punch come tournament time. She scored 18 points in the title contest, a 48-43 win over Coldwater.
“She is a competitive player who loves the game,” Thompson said. “She carried us across the finish line (in Mississippi Coliseum), and that’s a testament to her.”
Hardaway has verbally committed to a Division 1 school, Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn.
The Lady Lions are ranked number one heading into the season by the Clarion-Ledger and also sixth in the Super 10, which includes schools in all classifications. It’s the fourth time in the last five years that small school Byers has been ranked in the Super 10 amongst the bigger schools.
“It’s a balance between good players and a steady program with kids wanting to be a part of it,” said Thompson, talking about the consistent success and recognition. “It’s about believing, togetherness and hard work with the same common goal. Then things will pay off.”
Joining them in the Super 10 are number one, Lanier; two, Horn Lake; three, Hattiesburg; four, Choctaw Central; five, South Jones; seven, Oxford; eight, Columbus; nine, Southaven; and 10, New Albany.
Trailing them in Class 1A are Coldwater, Myrtle, Hinds AHS and Coffeeville.
Thompson knows his Lady Lions will be the target for every team they play this season.
“The bull’s-eye went from the size of a dot to the size of our gym,” he said. “We certainly can’t sneak up on anybody.”
Another Byers senior, Kyra Gulledge, has also verbally committed to a Division 1 school – Furman University in Greenville, S.C.
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