BOYS' TEAM CAPSULES
Arts & Sciences
Coach: Mark Dragoo
Players to watch: Jonathan Kurtz (Sr., F); Frank Brogden (Sr., F)
Coach: Austin Clark
Players to watch: Leo Born (Sr., F); Reggie Upshaw (Jr., F)
Coach: Jason McCowan
Players to watch: D.J. Bowles (Jr., PG); C.J. Bryant (Jr., G); Jarod Rhodes (Sr., F)
Coach: Dan Wadley
Players to watch: Cordell James (Sr., G); C.J. Reese (Sr., PG); Terrance O'Donohue (Jr., F)
Coach: Brad Harris
Players to watch: Stedmon Ford (Jr., PG)
Coach: Jesse Nayadley
Players to watch: Jervon Johnson (Sr., F); Antonio Jackson (Jr., PG); Andre Moton (Sr., F)
Coach: Corey Lazenby
Players to watch: Fred Matthews (Jr., F); Deres Benn (Sr., F); Xavier Cummings (Sr., F)
Coach: Gerald Harris
Players to watch: Trey Suttles (Sr., F); Travis Murphy (Sr., F); Sadik Spence (Jr., PG)
Cordell James has never had to be flashy on the basketball court. Since ninth grade, his hair has stood out for him.
The fact that he's a standout basketball player only adds to the attention he gets during a game.
The McCallie shooting guard with the high-top fade has been the team's constant during his four-year career, as the Blue Tornado have gone from not very good his freshman year to back-to-back appearances in the Division II-AA state tournament, including a runner-up finish last season.
This season, those expectations are still there, but this week the focus is on the Tornado and their first-round matchup Wednesday in the Times Free Press Best of Preps tournament at Arts & Sciences against Cleveland. That opener pits James against his good friend D.J. Bowles, who played his freshman year at Notre Dame.
McCallie's Jamaal Calvin and C.J. Fritz are Cleveland natives.
"We're excited about the opportunity to play [Cleveland]," James said. "They're not a team we'd normally play against, but a bunch of us train together so we're looking forward to it."
As for the hair ...
"Before my freshman year, I just decided to try something new," he said. "I liked it, so I kept it. I've heard the nicknames, like 'Eraserhead,' 'Fresh Prince,' or 'Haircut,' but they don't bother me."
Said McCallie coach Dan Wadley: "To me, it shows that he has a security in who he is. It's not a haircut that you see often, but it doesn't bother me at all."
The Cleveland-McCallie matchup is one of two tough battles on the same side of the bracket. Offensive-minded Ooltewah will face defensive-minded, unbeaten Tyner in a battle of contrasting styles in the nightcap.
The other side of the bracket has host Arts & Sciences facing Red Bank in the first boys' game of the evening, followed by Baylor against Notre Dame.
"There are a lot of talented kids and teams on our side of the bracket," Wadley said. "The quality teams are very good, so whoever gets out of our side will be well-tested and could win if they have any gas left."
McCallie (6-0) has been led by the poise of James, who is averaging 11 points and a team-high 6.5 assists per contest. Wadley feels the competitive nature of the senior has paid dividends in his ability to lead the team, as well as his steadying presence.
"Cordell's not a flashy kid that's going to go out and get 30 [points] a night, but I think he brings what others don't understand, which is a constant work ethic and desire to work on his own," Wadley said. "He could get more points if he shot more, but he acquiesces to the team, and we're balanced because of it."