High School Basketball 2023-2024 Preview

To tipoff the 2023-2024 high school basketball season, the Madison Record reached out to the head coaches of the two programs at each of the four schools the Madison Record covers. From those responses came the 2023-204 Basketball Preview.

 MADISON- The newest high school basketball season is one of unknowns for most of the local teams comprised of both girls and boys and Classes 3A and 7A. The scenario among the teams is wide ranging: State Runner-up, a squad strong enough to make State Tournament, strong senior classes and a coach who is facing a first in his long coaching career.

Let’s get started!

Sparkman Girls

The Lady Senators still have a sour taste when it comes to how last season came to and end. Sparkman (26-9) fell to Hoover (35-1) 55-44 in the Class 7A title game in what was a splendid season under head coach Jarvis Wilson’s leadership.

In his third season as head coach, Wilson expects to return to the title game, but it won’t be easy as the squad returns without its top scorer Kennedy Langham, a mainstay with the program for four years and First-Team All-State before graduating. Wilson does have the luxury of returning two of the team’s leading three-point shooters in Hannah Horon (SG, PG, 5-7, So.) and Elise McClain (SF, PF, SG, 6-0, So.) and the squad’s leading rebounder Laryn Scott (C, PF, 6-1, Sr.) who pulled in 8.2 rebounds a game and has committed to Nichols State. The Senators also have an additional Nicholls State commit in Jamya Griffin (SF, 5-10, Sr.) who scored 6.2 points per a game a season ago along with shooter Abethany James (PG, 5-9, Sr.) who added 8.2 points per outing despite missing half of her season due to an ACL injury.

Sparkman will also rely on a very talented sophomore class of talent including Khloe Bradley (PF, SF, 6-0, So.), Else McClain, Hannah Horton and Jurnee Moore (SG, SF, PG, 5-8, So.).

“I am very excited for these young ladies to start the season as they all had a very good summer and fall workouts,” said Wilson, who was named Alabama’s Coach of the Year after last season’s performance. “We are looking forward to having a very balanced, disciplined team this season.”

In the 2022-2023 season, Sparkman averaged 61 points a game with 22 of those coming off turnovers created by a tough defense. The squad also took a record number of three-point shots (1059) hitting on 27-percent of those 30 per game. In all, this year’s team is comprised of six seniors, one junior, five sophomores and four freshmen.

The Lady Senators have a sensational schedule on tap hitting the road for several high-profile tournaments. Those special events include the Hound Dog Classic in Tupelo, Miss., Atlanta Classic in Atlanta, the Tupelo Shootout in Tupelo, Miss., Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans.

Sparkman Boys

“For the first time in my career I have no returning players and no players with varsity experience,” explained Jamie Coggins as he tips off his 12th season as head coach of the Sparkman boys team.

Gone is the team of a season ago which finished runner-up in the Area and made its way to the Sweet 16 of the Class 7A playoffs. Sparkman (20-13) lost to Spain Park in overtime in their final contest of the 2022-2023 season.

This is the youngest team he has had as a coach which includes the last 17 at Sparkman and this is his 29th year in education. The Senators are comprised of three seniors, four juniors, five sophomores and one freshman. Of the three seniors, Jojo Moore (6-2, 230, Sr.) played on the program’s junior varsity squad last year while both Amaree Jabbar (5-9, 170, Sr.) and Malachi Chavis (6-2, 205, Sr.) are transfers with Jabbar coming over from Huntsville High and Chavis moving in from Jackson, Tenn. where he played for Sacred Heart High School. Chavis tore an ACL in summertime workouts and is expected to return to action in mid-January and looks to be a big contributor to the Senators.

“Amaree did not play basketball last year, but played both football and baseball at Huntsville,” added Coggins.

Caleb Lightford (6-0, 150, Jr.) is what Coggins described as a “Sparkman kid” as he’s been around the program for a longtime. His older brother, Calen, was a mainstay for the Sparkman program as he graduated in 2022.

Austin Rigby (6-5, 200, Jr.) is developing into an outstanding post player and is being looked at to provide impressive stats such as a double-double every game. Eli Bannister (5-11, 155, So.) could very well be the team’s best shooter and probably should be as he’s known as a “gym rat” always making himself available to hit the floor and shoot away for hours at a time. “He’s always in the gym with confidence as his personality is infectious,” added Coggins.

The season schedule includes stops at the Adidas Shootout in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Huntsville City Classic and the Grind the Shine Invitational in Florence.

“We’re playing a little more half-court play and hope to develop into a fast-pace style,” said Coggins. “We want to push the ball with our guards. We are a work in progress.”

Bob Jones Boys

Familiarity and uncharted may be the best ways to describe the 2023-2024 boys team at Bob Jones. Bryant Starkey, an assistant coach with the program since 2015, is very familiar with the players on the roster and since he took over the head coach position for this season, after the retirement of longtime coach Luther Tiggs, Starkey and his players will look at uncharted territory with a new a head coach.

Starkey will welcome three returning players, two of which saw varsity action a season ago. Those having playing time on the floor of the Bob Jones gymnasium include Dylan Willingham (G, 6-1, Sr.), Jaylen Rice (G/F, 6-4, Jr.) and Eric Marrow (F/C, 6-5, Jr.). None of those returners have outstanding numbers to bring with them to a new season as Rice averaged 2.3 points per game and Marrow added 2.6 points per outing.

“We have an extremely young team who have a lot of talent and just need to gain some varsity experience,” said Starkey.

The Pats are blessed to have six juniors and five sophomores to fill out the team roster. The most intriguing player to suit up for Bob Jones is junior Kaden Rickard (G/F, 6-6, Jr.) who transferred to the Patriots after playing at Westminster the last two seasons. The multi-position Rickard has gained some Div. I mid-major looks from many of the colleges who look to his size and speed for possible scholarship material.

Last season Bob Jones was 20-11 and made its way to regional play. Starkey has a lot of confidence in this year’s team as he has seen them play hard and work together in pre-season workouts.

“I’m excited to see how they mature throughout the season,” added Starkey.

The squad will play in the Pepsi Classic in Decatur, Jasper Christmas Class and Huntsville City Classic among its regular season lineup.

Bob Jones Girls

The Lady Patriots face an exciting schedule for its newest season with anticipated play in numerous outstanding tournaments including the highly regarded NIKE TOC National Showcase to be held in Arizona in mid-December. The squad will also sprint into action at the HOOPS 4 Hunger Showcase in Atlanta and the Tupelo Christmas Tournament in Tupelo, Miss.

“We have a very tough schedule and I’m excited to see how we compete each game and grow throughout the season,” said Jazmine Powers Carr head coach of the Pats, who has four seniors on the squad. They include Janiyah Bone (G, 5-8, Sr.), Zamyra Goode (G, 5-6, Sr.), Jordyn Fields (G, 5-3, Sr.) and Alana Obianozie (G, 5-9, Sr.).

Last season the Lady Patriots had a spectacular 30-4 season and did so without a senior on the team. Leading in scoring was Jaliyah Smith (F, 5-11, Jr.) who had 11 points and 6 rebounds per game, Obianozie who posted 9 points and 5 rebounds per outing while both Bone and Goode had 9 points each. This season, four seniors and two juniors and three sophomores fill out the roster, but Carr also looks at two eighth grade players to help when called upon. Ella Watts (G/F, 6-0, 8) and Asia Robinson (F, 6-1, 8) earned their spots on the roster as they are the two tallest players on the team.

Bone has committed to Birmingham Southern while Obianozie, Fields, Smith, Goode and Watts all are being heavily recruited from a bevy of schools.

If last year’s performance without a lot upper classmen is any indication Carr will see another winning season with experience aplenty.

James Clemens Boys

Though the roster has five seniors, James Clemens has just one returning starter from a squad which was 16-10 last season. “This team is young, but we will compete every night,” said James Clemens head coach Frankie Sullivan.

With five seniors and juniors and four sophomores, Sullivan has players who have some experience and should back up their lone returning starter Bryce Mason (G, 6-4, 175, Sr.) who has had numerous college recruiters make their voices heard in his recruiting.

Additional seniors making their way back into the Carolina blue and white uniforms are Marc Woods (G, 6-4, 160, Sr.), James Veal (G, 6-1, 160, Sr.), Caleb Eliss (F/C, 6-6, 200, Sr.) and John Allen Davidson (F/C, 6-8, 200, Sr.).

Sullivan also said some of his underclassmen are filling the slots of outstanding players. Sophomores Isaiah Cleaves (G, 6-0, 170, So.) and Seito Yokota (G, 5-10, 145, So.) and juniors Noah Gorman (G, 6-0, 170, Jr.) and London Townsend (G, 6-1, 175, Jr.) are who Sullivan is depending on to lead the Jets through the latest campaign.

James Clemens Girls

With four seniors and four juniors leading a 10-player roster, third-year head coach Monica Maxwell is looking for her Lady Jets to be even better than last year’s team which was 22-10. “This year we should be able to compete at a high level as I’m excited about bringing back a solid core of girls,” said Maxwell.

One player who continues to receive a lot of attention, which began last season as an eighth grader when she received a college scholarship offer from Fisk University, is Deyon Smith (G, 5-9, Fr.). Now as a freshman, she continues to draw the attention of many recruiters as a point guard for the Jets.

The four seniors returning to the squad are Gabby Stigger (G, 5-7, Sr.), Kimory Porter (G, 5-7, Sr.), Lailah Robinson (F, 5-10, Sr.) and Jazmin Grigsby (SF, 5-10, Sr.).

“My seniors are a huge part of our success and I’m excited to see how we do this year,” added Maxwell.

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