Wednesday, December 27, 2006

SPORTS>> Panther standout is ‘Sharp’

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School athletics has traditionally been known for its workhorse-style heroes, and Panthers senior post Alex Sharp is no exception. A good example on the court and in the classroom, Sharp has been in the unenviable position of one of only three seniors on this year’s Panther team.

He has taken the duty in stride. What would be considered overwhelming for some young men has been a natural adaptation ac-cording to the 17-year-old. Very articulately spoken for his age, it only takes a few moments of conversation with Sharp to understand why Panthers head coach Jerry Bridges leans on him in many different areas. “At the end of last season, Al was one of the first guys I went to,” Bridges said. “I don’t want to put any more undue pressure on him than what he already has, but he understands that we have a lot riding on him this year.”

Add the fact that this is his first season as a full-time starter, and it becomes even clearer that Sharp has had little choice but to be a quick study. He started sporadically last season, but took on the role of big-man inside at the start of the 2006-2007 season last month. “I just want to be good at whatever my role is this year,” Sharp said. “Whether that is being leading scorer or leading rebounder, whatever ends up being best for the team. Individual stats are not a big issue, as long as we can do well as a team.”

Although he does not brag about his accomplishments on the court that much, he is rightfully proud of what he has done in the classroom for the past four years. Boasting an amazing 4.23 GPA, Sharp also scored a 33 on his ACTs, and is president of the National Honors Society at Cabot High School. His college plans are down to four choices, but mainly revolve around the University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix University, both in Conway. He has received academic offers from both schools, but has also received interest from the Hendrix basketball program.

“I am very much in the middle of the road right now as far as where I want to go,” Sharp said. “Right now, it is too early to tell. I am filling out paperwork as if I were going to both schools.” Sharp started his career for Cabot out strong, earning All-Metro Conference honors his freshman year. He added an MVP award form the Arkansas Hoops Summer Jam at McClellan High School this past summer. He says that although this year’s team is young for the most part, that the sophomores and juniors have come around very quickly, and he expects the Panthers to be strong one league play starts in a couple of weeks.

“I have very high expectations for the team,” Sharp said. “We started out a little bit slow, but I think that once conference starts, we will be used to each other a little more. Our defense has improved enough that we should be more competitive. I expect us to get a good seed in the state tournament, and make some noise there.”
Bridges agrees that Sharp’s role as a leader has been a very natural progression.

“He has grasp a hold of the role that we have given him,” Bridges said. “All the young men on the team look up to Al, and he has accepted that role. There have been times where I wished he was a little bit more vocal, but I think he has done a great job of getting more aggressive when he needs to here lately. He averages close to a double-double for us on the court, so I have no complaints whatsoever with his performance on the court.” With his final year of high school basketball almost halfway behind him, Sharp says he looks forward to applying the lessons he has learned on the court to his life in college, and beyond.

“Probably, the main thing I will take with me is the same thing I have already taken from playing basketball, and that is work ethic,” Sharp said. “I couldn’t have been successful, or the team couldn’t have been successful without the hard work that coach Bridges puts us through in the off-season.

“Coach Bridges has always put a big emphasis on teamwork and putting individual issues aside to work together. I think in the future, that will help me with my abilities towards classmates and co-workers, and help me to not do selfish things.”