E.A. Sports Today

Ready to shine

Alexandria sophomore post Williams takes his big upside into his third varsity basketball season looking to be best in class

Landon Comer scored the first eight points in an 12-0 run that gave Alexandria control of Friday’s championship game against White Plains. On the cover, Landon Williams gave the Valley Cubs another dominating performance inside. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

This has the makings of a very big year for a very big player who just seems like he’s been around forever.

As an eighth-grader Alexandria’s Landon Williams was thrust into the mix to help the Valley Cubs get through a spate of injuries and was learning on the fly.

As a ninth-grader he began to establish his presence as one of the best true post players in Calhoun County.

Alexandria sophomore Landon Williams scored 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots in the finals against White Plains.

Now, heading into his sophomore season, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Williams is looking for even bigger things — like trying to be the best player in his Class of 2021 and the No. 1 big man in Calhoun County, where he’ll have some competition.

He added to that legacy Friday night, scoring 19 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots as the Valley Cubs jumped out to a big lead and then held off White Plains 45-36 in the championship game of the Champions Sports Academy boys play date tournament.

“He’s been around with us a long time,” Alexandria coach Jason Johnson said. “He’s just a 10th-grader so there’s not going to be any unreal expectations. We just want him to be the best that he can be. He’s been spending a lot of time in the summer working with our coaches and if he’ll keep doing that I think he’ll get better.”

Last year, in his first full season with the varsity, Williams had 6-7 Dalton Dodd to lean on and together they gave the Valley Cubs a dynamic set of twin towers, but this year a little more will be thrust upon him. He’ll be counted on to provide scoring until some of the newer players around him get confidence.

The teams played on this same half of the floor eight days earlier with White Plains taking a 54-35 win in their first game of Champions’ boys team camp. The difference Friday was Simeon Shadrix wasn’t 6-for-6 from behind the 3-point line first thing in the morning for White Plains and the Valley Cubs had a big inside presence led by Williams.

The loss denied the Wildcats their second tournament championship of a busy summer.

Williams, a true old-school, back-to-the-basket post player, scored inside, cleared the glass, blocked shots and defended himself when physically challenged. Those who know will tell you he’s quicker and has a better touch at this age than Isaac Haas, the former Hokes Bluff and Purdue 7-footer who just signed an NBA summer-league deal with the Utah Jazz.

“He’s collegiate,” White Plains coach Chris Randall said. “When his motor runs like it did today he’s collegiate.

“He’s got great hands and great footwork around the basket. He never looks off-balance and he always looks under control. He does one thing that’s a lost art is he uses the glass every time he shoots it. It’s funny how that works out that he shot about 75 percent from the field today.”

The Valley Cubs had another element going for them in this one. Rising junior Landon Comer hit back-to-back 3-pointers and a layup in a 12-0 run midway through the first half that gave Alexandria control of the game.

Comer, a B-teamer last year, played a big role from the outside Friday, hitting a half-dozen 3s in a 40-35 semifinals win against Westbrook Christian.

“Landon has struggled all summer, but today he has really found it,” Johnson said. “He has been a blessing to us because he can shoot the 3 and he saved us in that (Westbrook) game. We’re going to need him.”

Both teams were playing their final games of summer workouts. Randall came away admittedly feeling better about his team than he did at this time a year ago. He was “most proud” of the way his team rallied in the final, cutting a 20-point deficit midway through the second half to single digits in the final two minutes.

“We kept playing,” Randall said. “Obviously it didn’t end up like we wanted to, but, boy, I sure was proud of the way we battled back. It showed a lot of growth. I feel a whole lot better about us than I did this time last year.

“Alexandria, they expose our weaknesses – strength in the post, and that’s their strength. They really showed us things we’ve got to work on between now and the start of the season. You either win or learn and we learned a lot today, so I’m excited about the things we can work on between now and when we invite the (Oxford) Yellow Jackets to come visit us on the Plains when the season starts next year.”

And there they’ll face another outstanding big men, Zondrick Garrett.

To see a photo gallery from the final games Friday night visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Weaver’s Robert Gaines (R) and Jacksonville’s Donavon McCain battle for a loose ball in the third-place game of the tournament. Weaver won, 54-37.

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