E.A. Sports Today

County trio touted

White Plains coach Randall, Oxford’s McClendon, Faith’s Griswould make North-South basketball squad

Oxford's Jakolbe McClendon is one of two Calhoun County players who'll play for White Plains' coach Chris Randall (cover) in the North-South All-Star game in July. The other is Faith Christian's Jordan Griswould. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Oxford’s Jakolbe McClendon is one of two Calhoun County players who’ll play for White Plains’ coach Chris Randall (cover) in the North-South All-Star game in July. The other is Faith Christian’s Jordan Griswould. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The call came about three weeks ago and this time Chris Randall was sure about answering it.

Randall, the White Plains boys basketball coach, has been selected as one of the North coaches for the North-South basketball games July 20 that are part of the All-Star Sports Week this summer in Montgomery.

Oxford forward Jakolbe McClendon and Faith Christian guard Jordan Griswould were picked to play in the game.

“It’s nice to get that phone call … for the committee to think enough of you to want you to coach in the game,” Randall said Friday when the AHSAA formally announced the teams. “You get to coach some of the most talented players in the state on a big stage. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a nice honor and I’m really humbled and proud they selected me.”

It’s the second time he has been picked to coach the team. The first time, back in 2008 with Jack Doss, he thought he was being pranked when the selection committee called. This time he knew what is was all about.

“I thought it was one of my buddies playing a trick on me; I hung up on them,” he recalled with a laugh. “I thought it was a joke. They had to call me back. This time I took the call. I didn’t hang up on them this time.”

Randall was chosen to coach the team along with Cale Black of Geraldine and administrative assistant Brant Lewellyn of Lauderdale County.

They’ve already started making plans for their roster that in addition to the two Calhoun County players includes Homewood’s 2016 Class 6A state tournament MVP Luke Touliatos, 6-10 Class 7A Player of the Year Austin Wiley of Spain Park, 6-9 Alex Reese of Pelham, 6-8 Cleveland forward Khalil Johnson and 6-7 Myles Parker of Class 3A state champion Madison Academy.

Curiously, it does not include recently named Mr. Basketball John Petty of J.O. Johnson.

The South squad features 6-1 forward Marlon Williams of 7A state champion McGill-Toolen, 6-7 Herbert Jones of Hale County, 6-7 Zechariah Byrd of Stanhope Elmore and 6-1 point guard Jartavious Whitlow LaFayette, a finalist for Class 2A Player of the Year. It will be coached by Northview’s Janasky Fleming and Lafayette’s Obadiah Threadgill.

“The roster’s loaded,” Randall said. “Six-ten, 6-8, 6-7. I think we’re going to throw that ball inside a little bit when you’re that big.

“The last time I coached in the game we coached against (Sacramento Kings center) DeMarcus Cousins. He was on the South team; that was a good memory. You’re going to get to coach with and against some players who might see play on TV one day.”

Griswould is looking forward to that as part of what Faith coach Brad Yarbrough called “a busy summer ahead” for the 6-3 guard who averaged 21 points and eight rebounds this past season.

“I’m just thankful to play against the best competition in the state,” Griswould said. “I feel like the opportunity will definitely help me improve my game.”

Oxford coach Joel VanMeter was just as excited for his 6-3 forward to get a spot in the game. McClendon averaged 14.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and a team-leading 2.1 steals during the season, but was particularly strong once he got his basketball legs back from playing football. He averaged 22.7 points and 7.2 rebounds over the Yellow Jackets’ last 21 games.

“I think his hard work has paid off and I think some people are starting to recognize him as one of the better players in this area and maybe one of the better players in the state,” VanMeter said. “It propels him and gives him some confidence going into his senior year to be able to put up some good numbers for us and help us be able to make that next step of being a really good basketball team.”

The North holds a 46-26 edge in the series that started in 1953, but the South won last year’s game 72-65 to snap a 12-game losing streak. The North girls won last summer’s game 66-56 and now hold a 17-2 edge in that series.

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