E.A. Sports Today

Oxford gets the point

Future looks bright for Yellow Jackets as freshman point guard leads them into Calhoun County Tournament semifinals

Eugene Leonard is just a freshman, but he has developed into a reliable point guard for the Oxford basketball team. On the cover, Jalen Moore (2) lunges for a steal against Saks. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Eugene Leonard is just a freshman, but he has developed into a reliable point guard for the Oxford basketball team. On the cover, Jalen Moore (2) lunges for a steal against Saks. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – It takes a special player to start at point guard in 6A or 7A basketball and be a freshman.

Oxford coach Joel Van Meter think he has one.

Eugene Leonard, a 15-year-old freshman, has started at the point for the Yellow Jackets since early in the season and his stock has done nothing but rise. He directed the show Wednesday night and added to the offense as the Jackets took down fourth-seeded Saks 55-37 in the quarterfinals of the Calhoun County Tournament.

“You’ve got to be pretty good – and he is,” VanMeter said. “I knew he was that good in the seventh grade, but I knew it was going to take a while. I’m going to win a lot of games over the next couple years with him playing the point guard.”

Especially when the four players surrounding him are 6-4 and 6-5.

VanMeter has never started a freshman at the point in his head coaching career and Oxford athletics director Larry Davidson couldn’t remember one — and he should know, having been at the school 36 years, 26 as head basketball coach.

One of the non-freshmen things Leonard does is make sure he’s on top of his opponent. He regularly calls VanMeter to ask if they have film on the team they’re about to play, he said, “because I like to know what I’m going against before the get on the court with them.”

He did that Tuesday night, then spent two sessions Wednesday – once in the morning and once before getting on the bus – to absorb all he could about the Wildcats.

“Since we’ve put him in the starting lineup he’s just continued to grow and grow and grow,” VanMeter said. “Physically and mentally he can play. He’s got a chance, a real chance, because he can shoot it, he can pass it, he’s aggressive – and he’s only going to get better.”

Leonard started to make his presence felt in the second quarter, scoring eight points as the Jackets opened a 22-13 halftime lead. He had 17 in the game on 7-of-12 shooting.

“I just play and take what the defense gives me,” Leonard said. “I just wanted to score. Coach gave me the ball, so I wanted to score.

As for his play since being inserted into the starting line, he said “I think I’m doing good. I just pray every night and work hard every day in practice to get better.”

Jakolbie McClendon had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Yellow Jackets (14-8), who have won nine of their last 11 games. Jalen Moore and Braden Jones had seven rebounds apiece.

Jaylen Britt led Saks with 11 points. Quinn Smith was the Wildcats’ only other scorer in double figure; he had 10 points.

The Jackets now play the top-seeded defending champion Sacred Heart Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Oxford 55, Saks 37

SAKS – Demetrius Powell 3 2-2 8, Quay McCord 0 0-0 0, Quin Smith 3 3-4 10, Jaylen Britt 4 1-4 11, Davienutae Booker 0 0-0 0, Alfonza Ward 0 2-2 2, Demario Burnett 1 0-0 2, Trae Hughley 2 0-0 4, Landun Peters 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 8-12 37.

OXFORD (14-8) – Torry Robertson 1 0-0 2, Jalen Moore 1 5-10 8, Jakolbie McClendon 5 9-12 19, Jacob Baker 0 0-0 0, Eugene Leonard 7 2-2 17, Jordan Swain 1 2-2 4, Braden Jones 1 3-4 5, Zach Lackey 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 21-30 55.

Saks 4 9 14 10 — 37
Oxford 5 17 20 13 — 55

3-point goals: Saks 3 (Smith, Britt 2); Oxford 2 (Moore, Leonard). Fouled out: Burnett, Hughley. Total fouls: Saks 21, Oxford 12. Officials: Davie, Coleman, Horn.



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