Okay, so most of you know by now that I have a blog through the New Albany Gazette website, so using this the way I used to is slightly pointless (besides the point of the new website is to up traffic to the newalbanygazette.com site, not to outside web pages). Sooooo…..
I will keep everything posted here, because I see that I still get hits every day on certain stories. No sense in taking down something that’s serving a good cause. Otherwise, for all blog-like things pertaining to Union County sports, hit up the New Albany Gazette’s website to see all that fun stuff.
I appreciate all of you who continue to visit this site for whatever reason. :)
Throughout the last ten weeks, we have caught up with some of the county’s best returning athletes for the 2010-2011 school year. Concluding this week is a talk with a stand out for West Union baseball.
It has not been a typical summer for Hunter McQuary. The rising senior has been sidelined with a shoulder injury that has kept him from his usual workout routine the entire summer.
“I had surgery on my shoulder, so I’ve been in therapy all summer and not able to work out or play ball,” he said. “All I can do is go to therapy.”
Not being on the ball field has had its effect on McQuary, who is ready to start working for the 2011 season.
“This is the first summer I’ve never really played ball. I don’t like just sitting around the house with nothing to do,” he said. “I don’t like being bored, and I love playing the game and I’m ready to go back to work.”
McQuary has made a name for himself as one of the power hitters for the Eagles, who made a trip to the 2009 1A state championship.
Wanting to focus on his defensive game, McQuary will be one of three seniors returning for a young West Union squad.
The Eagles fell short in defense of their 2009 north half championship, as a loss to Myrtle placed the Hawks in the playoffs.
With the addition of Ingomar to division play, West Union missed last year’s postseason, but McQuary is hopeful the Eagles can make another run in his final season.
It’s going to take a lot of hard work and determination because we know we lost a good group of seniors last year,” he said. “We have a lot of kids with little experience, so during the preseason and during work outs, we’re going to need to be determined to get back.”
As far as recruiting, the unwanted time off should not hurt McQuary, who is looking to play at the next level.
“The injury shouldn’t play a factor in recruiting because I may not play for pitching,” he said. “I’m more of an infield and hitter, so I should be okay going into next season.
Looking ahead, the only time frame on McQuary’s mind is the one in which he will return, given by his doctors.
“They said I should be ready sometime around November. I’m just ready to get back in the swing of things.”
I would like to thank all of the athletes who took time out of their busy summer schedules to contribute to this series.
The number 24 jersey that hangs in the gymnasium at Myrtle is all the inspiration this Lady Hawk needs when focusing on her goal of playing collegiate basketball.
Aspriona Gilbert was eight years old when Myrtle legend Armintie Price led the Lady Hawks to a state championship in 2003. Now with Price making a name for herself in the WNBA, Gilbert knows that there is no limit to the success she can achieve.
“Knowing what Armintie has accomplished helps me to see that Myrtle is not just some rinky-dink school, and that we all have the chance to go somewhere,” she said.
The rising junior is one of the premier players in the area, once again taking her game to AAU play this summer with the Northeast Lady Tigers. Playing numerous teams throughout the country has opened her eyes to a new level of the sport, as the 6’3 center/power forward is starting to spark interest from several colleges.
“Playing AAU ball just helps you see what you have to do to make it to the college level,” Gilbert said. “It helps you see different players from not only your area, but nationwide. We see teams from Tennessee, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and it’s a great experience.”
Gilbert focused primarily on her outside game and dribbling this summer and is hoping for another successful year with the Lady Hawks. Last season, she led the team in scoring (21.3 ppg), rebounding (9.5 rpg) and blocks (3.4 bpg), but for her, it is all about team unity, and that is what she thinks it will take for Myrtle to make their third straight trip to the Big House.
“I’m working on my style and Halle (Knowles) is working on her style,” she explained. “We’re just trying to build together and become one team instead of all of us trying to show out.”
A knee injury sidelined Gilbert for the first six games of the 2009-2010 season with the Lady Hawks starting 2-4 before her return. While she had a relatively quick rehab, she would prefer to be with the team from beginning to end and is looking forward to this season.
“It was five months, but it felt like forever for me,” she said. “I hope to stay injury free and for us to win state. We came close last year, but we would like to take it all this year.”
Along with winning state, a county tournament title would be a nice addition as well, although Gilbert chose not to smack talk against the two-time defending champs at New Albany.
“The first time we played them last year killed me because I couldn’t play,” she said. “But when we played them in the county tournament, it was a good game. We were able to come back within five, but this year we’re going to be ready. It’s become a great rivalry.”
With two years remaining at Myrtle, Gilbert is, without a doubt, on her way to possibly adding her jersey next to the one she has long admired.
Kirk Fryar spent part of his summer sidelined with an ankle injury. Thankfully for the rising senior, he is back practicing both baseball and basketball in preparation for next school year.
“We were playing a scrimmage at the school, and I was guarding Gareth (Pannell),” he said of his injury. “I went for the rebound and hit his ankle coming down. They said I had a stage four sprain and tore some ligaments, but I’m better now.”
Back on the field and court, Fryar has participated in summer league games in both sports, while playing pick-up games with his friends. Focusing on many aspects of his game, he hopes to develop more as a leader for the Urchins.
“I’m just trying to be a better athlete, strength wise and trying to be better in every way I can,” Fryar said.
Looking at basketball, Fryar will move down to the post taking the place of Gareth Pannell; a task that will be tough, but he is looking forward to.
“Coach McDonald moved me to post, so I’m working to fill Gareth’s spot, but I don’t know if I can, I mean, he averaged like 30 points a game,” he laughed.
As far as baseball, Fryar struggled throughout the 2010 season, but the confidence Coach Basil has in him is pushing him in his practices.
“Actually, I don’t believe this, but he (Basil) told me I have probably the best swing he’s ever seen, but I don’t know, I just couldn’t make contact last season,” Fryar said. “Hopefully it will improve for next season. I’m also going to try to play in that league out at the Sportsplex in the fall. Hopefully the work will better prepare me for next season.”
Fryar credits his improvement to his former teammates, who can still be seen at East Union working out with the current students.
“Me and Drew (Dillard) and Jimmy (Marshall) have practiced a lot; batting practice. And earlier today, Craig (Bullock) worked with us, telling us what we were doing wrong all while he was able to get in practice, trying to improve his pitching,” he said.
With a lot to look forward to, Fryar is excited to enter his final year with the Urchins.
“My hope is to have a winning season. It’ll be tough in basketball because we’ve lost a lot, but in baseball, Chandler (Coleman) and I are the only two seniors, so again they won’t lose much after we leave, but we should be solid next year.”
Russ Yates is ready to do whatever it takes to become a leader for the Hawks next season. The rising senior is stepping up in place of several who graduated in 2010, including Jimel Judon and Beau Cummings.
A multi-sport athlete excelling in both baseball and basketball, Yates has worked throughout the summer with both sports, and is currently playing in the Mississippi Select July Baseball League with the North Delta Dealers.
“I am the only one from the county playing for the Dealers, but there are a lot of guys I know in the league who I’ve played with before, and it’s fun to be able to hang out with them and have the chance to play throughout the summer, working on getting better,” he said.
Yates batted .416 for the Hawks, who fell in game three of the 1A state championship two months ago. Playing primarily at short stop, he also made a couple appearances on the mound. Yates also led the team in stolen bases with 12.
Looking back at basketball, Yates has made an appearance at the state tournament in Jackson each of his three years in high school, including an appearance in the championship game.
Yates had to grow up quickly his sophomore year, playing in place of an injured Justin Jordan and started most of his junior year, where he led the Hawks with 2.7 assists per game and they finished at 28-6.
With so many close chances at a state title, he knows it will take a lot of leadership from the upperclassmen for the Hawks to make a return trip to Jackson.
“It’s going to be hard in both basketball and baseball, so I’m going to do my best to step up and take that leadership role,” he said. “With as much as we’ve lost, it’s going to take a lot of hard work from everyone.”
For now, Yates is enjoying his summer break as well as having his natural brunette hair back after the Hawks all dyed their hair blonde for the state championship.
“It was weird, I’ve never been a blonde, he laughed. “I think Jimel’s mom dyed his hair, and it took like three hours. It was crazy, but fun.”
Yates will continue to play throughout July with the Dealers in the Mississippi Select summer league, and look for him to make an impact with the Hawks next school year.
It is currently dead week for athletes throughout the state, but that is not slowing Kayla Stevens down. A rising senior for Ingomar, Stevens looks to concentrate on basketball her final year.
“Basketball’s always been my main thing. I used to be in love with softball, but in junior high I was like ‘wow,’ I found I was decent and could shoot a little bit,” she said. “When I was in the seventh grade, they started playing me in the eighth grade games, and I loved it.”
Averaging 14.4 points per game last season, Stevens earned Offensive MVP honors for the Lady Falcons and is spending the summer focusing on several aspects of her game.
“Basically I want to work of everything you can think of in basketball, because I’m nowhere where I need to be in order to get a scholarship.”
Stevens has been in contact with Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, but wanting to stay close to home, she would like to further her career in the area.
“I think it would be a really good opportunity for me to go to Oral Roberts,” Stevens said. “It’s a Christian university, so I can focus on God, sports and my education, but I’m not sure because it’s so far away. I’m hoping to go to ICC or Northeast, somewhere close, if I don’t get a scholarship.”
One area that hurt the Lady Falcons last season was fatigue, so Stevens’ way to fix that–run cross country.
“I wanted to run last year, but I got caught up in other stuff and didn’t have time,” she said. “I figured I would all out for my senior year, and it’s been okay so far. It’s something you have to be really in shape for. We’ve had about four practices so far, and it’s usually at eight in the morning on Fridays, but it’s something I’m dedicated to.”
Stevens will stay very busy next season, as she will also play softball again for Ingomar, although she chose to not participate in their workouts in order to focus on basketball.
“We’ve had some practices and games, but I talked to Coach (Kevin) Williams and told him I wanted to keep my mind focused on basketball this next year, because it will be my last,” she said. “I’m going to play softball, but missing summer league play, I told coach if there is someone more deserving to play, let them play; they’ve earned it.”
The Lady Falcons only lose one in basketball, and it is Stevens’ hope that Ingomar will surprise people next season.
“A lot of people underestimated us after we lost two great players in Maggie (Cobb) and Lyndi (Kidd),” she said. “We may not win every game, but it counts in the love of the game. We have a lot of heart and if we can play with that, I think we’ll be as good as any other team. We may not be better than them, but we can outsmart them, and we have the desire and fight to win.”
It will be hard to miss Stevens next year, as she will make the most of the senior year and hopes to bring more accomplishments to Ingomar.
“Everyone thinks that Ingomar won’t be very good because we do not have the talent, but I think they’re in for a challenge, because we’re going to come in strong and give them everything we’ve got.”
Tyler Basil is staying close to home this summer, as he is preparing for what is sure to be a busy senior year at New Albany.
The past two years have taken the Bulldogs’ signal caller to the Manning Passing Academy and Urban Myers’ camp at Florida, but this year, Basil is focusing on team workouts as well as recruiting visits.
“I’m trying to get some looks and stuff,” he said. “I kinda think my name is out there a little bit, but I want to get it out there a little more, so I can better my opportunities.”
Basil has already visited Delta State, University of North Alabama and is looking at possible visits to Mississippi State, Harding University, Southern Arkansas and Ole Miss.
Basil has improved his game with the 2010 football season marking his second as the full-time starting quarterback for the Bulldogs. Finishing 2009 with 1,894 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns and another eight rushing, he earned Offensive MVP honors during the NAHS athletic banquet last May.
It has been a busy summer, as the two-sport athlete has gone non-stop throughout June, taking part in baseball scrimmages as well as seven on seven games for football.
“I’m working to get faster and stronger, gain some weight for football, and baseball, just I’m trying work my arm up so I can get my velosity up, as well as working on my pitch selection.”
The right hander boasted a 4-2 record in 2010 for the ‘Dawgs baseball squad, pitching 40.2 innings with a 2.75 ERA and 43 strikeouts. As far as what the Bulldogs need to take it to the next level in both football and baseball, Basil looks for this year’s seniors to make a big impact.
“We need to step up and have more leadership, and that starts with the seniors. I’m going to be the biggest one pushing that as we will start practice on July 26, going to two-a-days. They’ll be very up tempo and a lot of hard work and sweat going on in that time,” he explained. “In baseball, it’s the same thing; we need to have some leaders step up. Our bats are starting to come alive this summer, and hopefully we can carry that into the spring.”
Basil will continue workouts with the Bulldogs before the start of fall football practice.