E.A. Sports Today

At Saks, being left is all right

Wildcats have a decided left-handed lean on the floor with four left-handed players and a left-handed head coach

Here's the left-handers club on the Saks basketball team (from left): Landun Peters, Alfonza Ward, coach Jonathan Miller (he's left-handed, too), Jaylen Britt and Demetrius Powell. (All game photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Here’s the left-handers club on the Saks basketball team (from left): Landun Peters, Alfonza Ward, coach Jonathan Miller (he’s left-handed, too), Jaylen Britt and Demetrius Powell. (All game photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Perhaps only the most astute observer in the stands picked up on it or it might have gone unnoticed at all, but late in the third quarter of a recent game at Cleburne County there was a distinctive lean to the lineup Saks put on the floor.

If the game looked like it flowed to one particular side of the floor at that time it’s because the Wildcats had all their left-handed shooters on the floor at the same time.

It’s not unusual for teams to have one or two — and some of the top players at this week’s Calhoun County Tournament are lefties — but the Wildcats have four: Starters Jaylen Britt, the team’s leading scorer, Demetrius Powell and Alfonza Ward and reserve Landun Peters.

Experts say a little more than 10 percent of the world’s population is left-handed, yet 80 percent of the Saks lineup could be at one given time. That percentage increases when you consider Quin Smith dribbles with his left and shoots with his right, and not to be left out, coach Jonathan Miller is a left-hander, too.

“People think it’s weird, that left-handers are just weird period and you shoot funny,” Britt said, “but in my opinion it’s a beautiful thing to have, to be left-handed.”

Saks leading scorer Jaylen Britt is one of the Wildcats' four left-handers and one of their two who does everything in life left-handed.

Saks leading scorer Jaylen Britt is one of the Wildcats’ four left-handers and one of their two who does everything in life left-handed.

The degrees of the Wildcats’ left-handedness vary. Seniors Powell and Britt are 100 percent southpaw. The other two shoot the basketball left-handed, but eat, brush their teeth and do homework with their right.

Powell tried to hit a baseball right-handed once and it just didn’t feel right. He can do a layup right-handed, but dribbling with that hand “is not too pretty.” Depending on where he’s sitting on the bus, eating his snack neat and holding his gear is nearly impossible. Britt tried to dunk right-handed once; “it didn’t work out.”

The others are more ambidextrous, a word Peters made sure he understood before meeting with a reporter so not to be like player Charles Shackleford, the former North Carolina State star who was famously and humorously quoted as saying he was “amphibious” for being able to shoot with his left or his right.

It takes a while to figure out what hand Ward shoots with; assistant coach Michael Easley told an observer when asked to watch the junior and decide for himself. Ward looks to shoot a two-handed jumper, but it’s left-handed (there are pictures).

“To most people it looks two-handed at first,” Ward said. “Coach tried to change it before, but when he noticed that’s how I shoot and I can hit it like that he just let me shoot like that.”

“I couldn’t figure it out,” Powell said, “so I just asked him if he was left-handed, he said yeah.”

Being left-handed has its drawbacks. Depending on where he’s sitting on the bus, Powell finds it hard sometimes to eat his snack and hold his gear at the same time.

“Without my left-hand I don’t think I’d be able to live,” Powell said. “I don’t think I could make it – ever.”

Peters has figured it out. He started out life playing sports with both hands, but now the junior attacks life with his right hand and basketball with his left, what he calls his “sports hand.”

“I used to be ambidextrous, but my dad told me when I was younger, maybe 6 or 7, if I want to start working on one hand, work on the left more because there are less left-handers,” he said. “I don’t go out and say I’m going to be right-handed today or something like that. I’ve always been left-handed sports-wise.”

While having a team full of left-handers on the floor at the same time might create segments of directional chaos, it does have certain advantages — at least until other teams figure it out.

Clemson still remembers painfully its 1990 NCAA East semifinal loss to UConn that became an instant classic when they lost on a last-second shot because Elden Campbell guarded Scott Burrell’s right hand and Burrell, a left-handed pitcher who became a first-round draft choice, threw a court-length pass to Tate George who buried the winning jumper.

Powell remembers a game during his B-team season where a defender kept taking his right side away the whole game because he dribbled right once and he kept going left the whole game. It helps Britt’s 3-point shooting when he’s in the deep left corner, because no one can get at his shooting hand. He remembers a situation late in the fourth quarter of last week’s double-overtime loss to Piedmont when his defender guarded him right and he took him left to hit a wide-open important 3.

“It can throw a defender off, unless you’re smart,” Miller said. “If it’s a smart defender then they understand. When I was playing I would’ve recognized it.”

Actually, being left-handed on the basketball floor in Calhoun County is not all that uncommon. Some of the best players in the county are lefties.

Count Anniston’s Tray Croft, who proclaimed himself the best left-hander in the county after a big win earlier in the week, Alexandria’s Jamal Tucker, Oxford’s Jakolbie McClendon and White Plains’ Kevin Carr are just a few. With a lineup like that, how neat would be it be for an all-lefty all-county tournament team?

The Wildcats, seeded fourth, make their 2016 County Tournament debut Wednesday 5:30 p.m. against the Oxford-Faith Christian winner.

Junior Alfonza Ward lays it up left-handed, but his jump shot keeps everyone guessing as to his dominant hand.

Junior Alfonza Ward lays it up left-handed, but his jump shot keeps everyone guessing as to his dominant hand.

All four Saks left-handers close in on White Plains' Macey Carr.

All four Saks left-handers close in on White Plains’ Macey Carr.



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