Splendid players in Best of Preps

Splendid players in Best of Preps

December 21st, 2011 by Gene Henley in Sports

No Tyner basketball player is averaging 20 points per game this season, but the Rams have been reliable in their collective success.

Different guys have been able to have big games. Sometimes, multiple guys have good games. As a result, the Rams are 8-0 heading into the Times Free Press Best of Preps tournament, which starts today at Arts & Sciences.

Some of the other teams in the tournament have clear-cut, proven stars.

"I tell my guys that fans might come and see those guys, but if they're at our game, they're coming to watch the team," said Tyner coach Gerald Harris, whose Rams play Ooltewah in the 8:30 nightcap. "The guys have bought into that; it's what we've been good at, accepting roles and responsibility.

"Every night is an opportunity for someone to step up. It's how we play, with no superstars -- just a bunch of guys that have bought into the fact that a lot of guys can do a lot of things."

Travis Murphy had 18 points to lead the Rams over Brainerd last week. Trey Suttles is the team's top scorer, but Jemicah Bowman, Sadik Spence, Iman Jones and Antonique Bonds all have the ability to lead if called upon. Their matchup against the Owls will pit tough defense against Ooltewah's attacking firepower, led by forward Jervon Johnson and point guard Antonio Jackson.

Johnson is one of the five "players to watch" going into today's tournament.

n D.J. Bowles, junior guard, Cleveland: Bowles has lived up to the preseason hype, averaging 20 points and six assists per game for the Blue Raiders. The 6-foot-1 point guard has continued his development in his second year at the position.

"Obviously, he's a really good point guard to begin with. He does a good job of controlling the tempo and the team," Ooltewah coach Jesse Nayadley said. "But then he can start driving, scoring and hitting 3s. He's a mix of a point guard and 2-guard, and very difficult to deal with because you have to guard him as a scorer and a ball-handler."

n Stedmon Ford, junior guard, Notre Dame: Ford has been a steadying force for the Irish from the point guard position. Carrying the load while fellow junior Kywaun Davenport was injured, the 5-11 Ford has averaged 21.5 points, 6.2 assists and 5.3 steals while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range. He had 27 points in an early-season contest against McCallie, the highest individual total against the Blue Tornado this season.

"Stedmon's a really great shooter," McCallie coach Dan Wadley said. "You have to pressure him. I saw him play last year and this year, and he wasn't nearly the player last year that he is this year. He's a pure shooter, and if you give him an inch, he'll make you pay."

n Jervon Johnson, senior forward, Ooltewah: Johnson has averaged 21.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The lanky 6-4 senior has the ability to heat things up from the outside, as well as using his dribble to pull up for jump shots. He had 26 points in a game against Tyner last season.

"He went off on us last year," Harris said. "I tell our guys that we have to limit his touches. A good offensive guy will have a good game sometimes, but you have to make him work for every shot."

n Terrance O'Donohue, junior forward, McCallie: O'Donohue, ballyhooed since his freshman season, has started to come into his own this season. The 6-7 post already has a triple-double and is averaging 15.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, and he has a feathery touch from the outside.

"I think he's a really smart defensive player," Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said. "He does a really good job and takes a lot of pride in bothering shots and rebounding. I don't think he gets enough credit for that. Offensively, he has the ability to shoot over a lot of players, plus he's a good offensive rebounder and runs the floor real well."

n Reggie Upshaw, junior forward, Baylor: Upshaw has averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds through three games for the Red Raiders. He's 6-6 and can slash to the hoop for baskets and dunks, as well as hit the 3-pointer in coach Austin Clark's offense.

"He's going to present some problems for us," Notre Dame coach Brad Harris said. "He has great athletic ability and size, and we've got to figure out how we're going to match up with him."