E.A. Sports Today

Stone moving on

Sacred Heart elite guard announces plans to attend Sunrise Christian Academy for his senior high school season

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
 
Sacred Heart guard Jayden Stone, the Class 2A Player of the Year and top junior prospect in the state, announced tonight he would be leaving the Cardinals at the end of the school year to attend Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas.
 
Earlier in the day Stone posted his appreciation for his latest college offers, Baylor and Illinois.
 
“As I end my  junior season at Sacred Heart, what a year it has been,” Stone wrote on his twitter feed. “I’m humbled to announce I’ll be making the transition to Kansas, attending Sunrise Christian Academy for my senior season. (I) appreciate all that Alabama has done for my family and myself.”

Stone wasn’t available for comment Monday night.

Late Monday evening, the Sunrise basketball twitter page offered the 6-foot-3 four-star guard a “welcome to the family” post.

Stone played for the Cardinals for only one season, coming to the Class 2A basketball program after his former school, Central Park Christian in Birmingham, disbanded its basketball program. He was the MVP of the Calhoun County Tournament (on a runner-up team) and the Northeast Regional and helped the Cardinals earn a sixth straight trip to the Final Four, where it lost to Coosa Central 54-52 in the final, ending a string of four straight state championships.
 
Stone’s father, a teacher at Sacred Heart, is returning to the family’s native Australia while his son attends the Wichita, Kan., boarding school with an elite prep basketball program independent of a state high school athletics association.
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“Jayden and I sat down and talked about it,” Cardinals coach Ralph Graves said. “He talked about it with his parents. It was a really tough decision for him to make because he feels like he has some unfinished business here at Sacred Heart.
 
“I told him you don’t owe us anything, you owe it to yourself. If you have opportunities that are maybe better than Sacred Heart we want you to explore those things. I think at first he felt we were going to be mad at him because of that decision. I want to do what’s best for the child and what’s best for him. On a national scale, it’s hard to tell a kid not to take that opportunity.”
 
Stone will complete his junior year at Sacred Heart and enter Sunrise as a senior with the possibility of enrolling in the college of his choice after the fall semester. Sunrise has a history of sending its entire roster to Division I college programs. Stone already has more than 20 high-major college offers, a number Graves projects will be near 50 by the end of the summer AAU season.
 
Graves knew “from the get go” the Cardinals could have the top prospect for one or two years. He was appreciative of the year they got.
 
Opposing teams constantly built their defensive game plans around stopping Stone. Those around the program said the combo guard could have scored 50 points a game, but was committed to doing things that would help his teammates succeed. Not only was he regularly the Cardinals’ leading scorer, he also was their top assist producer.

“He is a hell of a player, a hell of a person,” Graves said. “He brought a lot to our program; he basically was the transition to keep this ball rolling.

“Jayden knows we support him and his future endeavors and we would anyone else (in a similar situation). We’re proud he chose our program to compete with in Alabama. We hope the best for him.”
 
Despite Stone’s departure, Graves said he is “really confident” with the talent that remains in the program and promises the standards will not waver.
 
“That’s one thing we struggle with a lot,” he said. “Everyone else around here, when you lose a player, they graduate, they think y’all aren’t going to be as good or take a hit. I continue to remind people we were good before he got here and the standard doesn’t change if he’s here or not. No one player is bigger than the program; he knows that. It’s next man up. We’ll continue to do what we’re doing to keep the standard.”

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