Local players gear up for All-Star WeekPublished 6:00pm Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The 14th annual Alabama All-Star Sports Week in Huntsville starts on Monday, and Tallapoosa County will be well-represented.
Six players and one coach will be on hand for the festivities, which include all-star games in girls and boys soccer (Monday), baseball (Tuesday), softball (Wednesday), volleyball, girls and boys basketball (Thursday) and football (Friday). All teams are comprised of rising seniors in 2010.
The basketball portion of the week features three local ties: Josh Martin and Brittney Keel of Horseshoe Bend will be playing in the games, while Edward Bell head coach Mitch Joiner will help lead the South boys.
Martin has started since his freshman season in New Site, with last year being his best so far. The 6-foot-7 center easily averaged a double-double in 26 games, grabbing 15.2 rebounds per game and scoring 14.6 points. He swatted more than three shots per game on defense, as well.
HBHS head coach Mike Boyd said he was happy for Martin and called him one of the best players in his class.
“Josh has been with the program a long time, and he has improved a ton,” Boyd said. “He deserves the honor. He is one of the best 2A players around.”
Martin was on a young team last year, but he said the team is close and he’s looking for a strong senior year.
“One thing I think I’ve improved on is leadership,” Martin said. “We all get along pretty well, and I’ve tried to help lead the rest of the team.”
Keel has been a part of some record-setting teams at HBHS. She and her teammates have set school win records the last two years, with last year culminating in a trip to regionals at Alabama State after 26 victories.
She was a dangerous offensive player last season, putting up 13.2 points every night to go along with 7.3 assists. Keel also hauled in 8.1 rebounds per contest.
Boyd said Keel is so valuable because she can take control of the game if she needs, or she can spread the wealth.
“Sometimes, Brittney has to assert herself on offense and get her own shot,” Boyd said. “She’s aggressive and can shoot off the dribble, but she can also get in the lane and create shots for other people. She and Josh have spent a lot of time in the gym this summer alone just working on their game. They both want to win and get better.”
Boyd’s Lady Generals camped in Pensacola, Fla., among other places, this summer. He said the team didn’t do as well as he had hoped, but added that the girls are still learning to get motivated for each and every game.
“It’s never easy for our team,” Boyd said. “Sometimes we’ll beat a really good team and then turn around and lose to someone we shouldn’t. They still haven’t learned to get up and be ready to go every time, no matter who we play. But, after a lot of wins, it’s good to get knocked off the pedestal every now and then. (Getting complacent) happens from time to time, we just have to focus on cutting down on it.”
Keel said she’s been practicing in the gym this summer and thinks her team can have another great year.
“I’ve definitely been working on my free throws and just practicing my form,” Keel said. “I think our team can go far. We’ve been together a long time and we know what it takes to win.”
Martin said he’s anxious to face the top players in Alabama.
“I’m just ready the whole experience,” Martin said. “Some of the best guys in the state are going to be there, and I get a chance to show what I can do against them.”
Joiner just completed his first season with the Bears, and all he did was win a state championship. EBHS went 27-2 overall and captured the school’s first title in any sport with a 66-65 overtime victory against J.F. Shields in Birmingham.
“This is a great honor for me and I’m thrilled to do it,” Joiner said. “I guess it’s like going to Talladega. Even if you don’t like racing, you have to do it once. As a coach, it’s a lot of work to go up there and practice and keep up with the kids and everything that goes with it, but it’s something I’ll remember for a long time and it’s great to be a part of.”
Boyd said there is no better choice than Joiner for an all-star setting.
“Mitch deserves this a lot and he is a player’s coach,” Boyd said. “From a personal standpoint, there’s no reason why these guys wouldn’t like him and respond to him. He gets a lot from his guys because they play for him. He’s going to be coaching for a long time and he’s a great representative for our county.”
The other four players from the county are Darius Reese (BRHS baseball), Cameron Carleton (Dadeville baseball), Lysa Haynie (BRHS softball) and Jonny Roberts (BRHS soccer).