Love and Basketball


February is the month.

By Luke Robinson

 

Hey. Real quick. What are you going to be doing Feb. 25–March 1 of this year? Nothing? Great! Then I advise to you run (don’t walk) to your daily planner and mark the aforementioned dates as “busy” because you will be at the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Final 48 basketball tournament at the BJCC.

In case you’ve never been, let me tell you a little bit about this event. The Final 48 is the semifinals and finals for all six high school classifications in boys’ and girls’ hoops. A gigantic basketball tournament may not seem like a big deal in a football-centric state like ours, but trust me, it is. Just to prove my point, here are four reasons for you to come to this year’s Final 48:

 

1.  It only takes a quick flip through tourney programs to learn what incredible talent has flowed through this state in recent years. A few years ago, DeMarcus Cousins of LeFlore matched up against Eric Bledsoe and Parker in a classic semifinals game. Bledsoe led the Herd to the win, but later joined Cousins at Kentucky and then the NBA. The Final 48 has seen a lot more prospects go on to star in the college ranks and beyond, though. ’Bama’s Levi Randolph and Jimmie Taylor were here. So was Auburn’s K.T. Harrell. Besides the in-state programs, players have signed with the likes of Indiana, Virginia, Mississippi State, and several others. The prospects will no doubt be out again this year. My bet is you will see Alabama signee Justin Coleman, who will hope to guide Wenonah to its fourth straight title. Another good possibility is Joshua Langford of Madison Academy, who many believe is the top sophomore in the nation.

 

2.  It’s not just the boys, either. In some regards, the girls’ stars are even brighter. Take Marqu’es Webb for example. I first saw her lead Brewbaker Tech to a state title as a sophomore. Then, the daughter of former Alabama hoops standout Marcus Webb transferred to Hoover and guided the Bucs to two straight titles. Three trips to the Final 48, three rings. In all of my years of watching these games, I have not seen a more dominant post presence for either gender. Webb will now terrorize SEC opponents playing for Vanderbilt. Young ladies from this event have signed with practically every female power in college hoops. The most fun may come from the lower classifications, though. The college prospects aren’t as numerous, but those teams are generally one-(wo)man armies.

 

3.   It is always fun to read the programs, and not just to read about the rich history of this event, either (though that is cool). Until I started calling games for the Final 48, I had no idea parents could be so creative in spelling their children’s names. Did you know there are 74 different ways to spell Stacey? Stacey, Stacy, Staci, Stacie, Stacee, Stay-C, Jstacey (the “J” is silent)—and that’s just the beginning. Don’t even get me started on Brandi or Christy. It is especially tough when I am trying to do the play-by-play for the AHSAA Radio Network. “Stacey bounce passes to Staycee…. Stay-C over to Brandy…cross court to Brandie…. They are looking to get the ball to Stacey, who is the third-leading scorer named Stacey on this team.” The only thing that can really be counted on in some of these names is that the kids will have a heck of a time finding their novelty license plates at Disney World.

 

4. With so many games every day, you are bound to see a classic on the cheap. No day among the five has fewer than six games. For less than $20, you can catch up to eight games in one day. Of those, you are sure to get at least one Pickens-County-versus-Houston-Academy-triple-OT-buzzer-beating-championship-circa-2010-quality game. Yeah, there will be a few blowouts mixed in too, but that is why you have Candy Crush on your iPhone. Mix in a few dunk and three-point contests, and it is a virtual Spring Break for hoop-heads. Even if you don’t get to see a great game, you are bound to see something interesting, like the time our broadcast equipment went out, and my partner and I called a semifinal match by passing a cell phone back and forth. Good times (and large Verizon bills).

 

So just come on out to the BJCC in February already. What else are you going to do? Watch that replay of the Iron Bowl for the 545th time? Football is months away, and there’s great basketball calling your name.

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