The reputation of Over the Mountain boys’ basketball is similar to the reputation of Southeastern Conference men’s basketball: No matter how strong the caliber of play is, it will always – in some people’s minds at least – be overshadowed by football.
And it’s really an unfair rap. Homewood reached the Class 6A finals a year ago, and Vestavia Hills took home the championship trophy the previous year. But this season may be the best yet.
In Class 6A’s Area 12, no less than three of the four boys’ teams – Spain Park and Mountain Brook, in addition to the Patriots — are all ranked in the top 10. Homewood has spent much of the season ranked number one in the polls.
And don’t forget Vestavia, where Rebel coach George Hatchett is among Alabama’s best when it comes to getting the most out of his team in the post-season. Hoover and Oak Mountain, both residents of Class 6A’s Area 10, have more than 35 wins between them this season.
In Class 5A, Briarwood and John Carroll Catholic aren’t ranked, but both are dangerous teams.
Over the Mountain basketball teams are successful for many of the same reasons that their counterparts in other sports are so accomplished: The players come from an environment where they are expected to work hard and achieve in whatever they undertake, definitely including basketball.
Of course, good talent and sound coaching are an important part of the equation as well, and our neighborhood has had plenty of both qualities in recent years.
Homewood, led by Marvin Whitt and Jeremy Watson, has fallen to sixth in the most recent polls but still should be on the short list of favorites to reach the BJCC’s Final Four.
Much was expected of Mountain Brook in 2010-2011, and so far the Spartans have mostly lived up to the lofty expectations. Junior guard Mario Stramaglia may be one of the most exciting players in metro Birmingham.
But the surprise team of the year might be Spain Park. The Jaguars entered the weekend with a shot at their 20th victory, as veteran coach Brian Moon has quietly put together a solid unit.
The sad reality is that only two teams in Area 12 will move on to post-season play, which means at least one really good basketball team will be going home early. But that’s the nature of the game.
In girls’ play, the Hoover Lady Bucs are having a “down” year in the sense that they have actually lost three – count ’em, three – regular season games in 2010-2011. But in all seriousness, Coach Donnie Quinn’s team looks as good as ever. It will be a major upset if the defending state champs don’t make it back to the Final Four.
Another girls’ team that can’t be overlooked is Mountain Brook. Coach Kevin Tubbs’ Lady Spartans are sparked by freshman Collier Ogilvie, who has a chance to become the first-ever five-time All-Over the Mountain athlete in any sport.
Class 5A’s Briarwood girls came into the new week with a 24-4 record. For some strange reason, the Lady Lions aren’t ranked in the top 10. But they will get ample opportunity to prove the pollsters wrong.
With area tournaments beginning this week, a whole new season is about to start. There will be heavy favorites losing early, and underdogs going further than anyone can imagine.
It’s a true second chance for everyone, and that, too, is the nature of high school basketball.
In case you missed it, Feb. 2 was the first day high school football players could sign letters of intent with universities and colleges. It’s hard for any such list to be totally complete, but here’s the best and most current list we’ve been able to draw together.
Briarwood wide receiver Cooper Harrington signed with the University of Southern Mississippi. His former Lion teammate, Zeke Walters, has transferred from Southern Miss to Samford University.
Homewood’s Ameer Abdullah – who can play just about any skill position – signed with the University of Nebraska.
As usual, Hoover saw several players sign on the dotted line. Offensive lineman Blake Burks signed with Jacksonville State. Defensive back Montez Carlton signed with Austin Peay University. Offensive lineman Max Elliott committed to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Wide receiver Jaylon Denson, the Over the Mountain Journal’s 2010 Player of the Year, signed with Auburn. Linebacker Marcus Matthews signed with Stillman College. Offensive lineman Brandon Morgan signed with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Linebacker Tyler Roberts signed with Troy.
John Carroll Catholic running back Marcus Richardson signed with Tuskegee University. His teammate, defensive end Kameron Wood, signed with the University of Mississippi.
Mountain Brook linebacker Miller Williams signed with Virginia Military Institute.
Spain Park defensive back Jamel Cook signed with Tennessee Tech. Jaguar defensive lineman Emmanuel Cooper inked with Virginia Military Institute. Spain Park tight end Josh Drum signed with Tulane. Running back Steven Silvio is headed to New York City’s Columbia University.
Three Vestavia Hills Rebels are headed for Tennessee Tech, including wide receiver Neil Gannaway, offensive lineman Justin Ivory and quarterback Patrick Prewitt.
There almost certainly will be more as time goes along.