So last night I got a text about “Top 5 JPS Basketball Players” that I’ve seen play. I’ve been asked this question a few times over the years and as each year passes it gets harder for me to answer. The difficulty isn’t that I don’t remember “players” but it is because I’ve seen so much JPS Basketball. My dive into “Jackson’s HS” basketball circuit started in 1992-1993 when my dad would take me along to see Murrah play in front of standing room crowds. At the time I was wowed by these guys – Othella Harrington, Ronnie Henderson, Jesse Pate – being that I was only in the 3rd grade. I would’ve never imagined that years later I’d walk the same halls as those guys when I reached high school. The dominance by JPS in basketball shows when you look at the string of years (since 1995) that at least one – either Boy’s or Girl’s – team represented the school district in a State Championship basketball game.
The history in basketball for JPS goes a long way. From the times when Lanier High School was winning National Championships in the 1950s and 1960s to the days when no one was able to stop “The Dynasty” that Coach Anna Jackson built at Murrah. We saw Provine & Lanier battle it out on the court so many times. My favorite was in 1997 when a scrappy Provine team made their way to the 5A Championship game and played the favored Bulldogs. The game was an overtime thriller that set the tone for the rivalry that followed year after year. We watched as Jim Hill made a historic run to “The Big House” under late coach Fred Harris. They fell short to Lanier that time but years later we watched as one of Coach Harris’s former players Stanford Speech led the Tigers to the State Championship. We’ve seen Callaway have their taste of success over the last 10 years. We’ve seen Forest Hill come close a few times on the boys side but not be able to finish. While the girls team got there and won. Even Bailey – now only a Middle School for APAC – made a run in the State Tournament in 2006. Wingfield is the only school that I haven’t seen have that moment of glory. It’s not because of a shortage of talent. The Falcons have been subject to some bad luck. I recall Wingfield having the best team in the state about 5 or 6 years ago. They had an undefeated regular season and ended up having to travel to Meridian for an “elimination” game. They ended up losing and finished without making it to the Coliseum. I can tell stories for days about the games I’ve seen and heard about.
There’s NO WAY that I can give a “Top 5”. I don’t like doing it and as I mentioned above there are too many names that race through my mind. At one point it seemed like every school had a standout player to watch for. Speaking of names, I started to list some from each school but stopped because that was too difficult. Also I couldn’t limit it to just “boys”. I saw some of the best HS Girl’s Basketball that the State of Mississippi had to offer many a day at good ole 1400 Murrah Drive. The coaches that have roamed the sidelines at the schools have been top notch. JPS has produced numerous State Champions, State and Metro Player’s of the Year, McDonald’s All-Americans, All-State and All-Metro recipients and so on… We’ve dreaded going to “Da Dawg Pound” over at “833” (both Old and New Gym). Seen and heard it all from “Westside Al”. Gotten over to Forest Hill for a “big game” only to be told it’s already sold out. Folks have been pepper sprayed, bottles have been thrown on the court, we’ve seen high flying dunks and buzzer beating 3s. Somehow Pepsi is still sponsoring the “Christmas” Tournament and despite being told to “get your hat-your coat-and leeeaaavveee!!!” we still returned. 25 years later I’m still being wowed.