Saturday, December 22, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> JHS program earning great rep

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville High School has developed into one of the premier boys’ basketball programs in the state, and head coach Vic Joyner plays the key role in cultivating the reputation JHS basketball has.

The evidence of that can be found at the next level. There are currently more than a dozen former Red Devils playing college basketball, including five at the Division I level.

Raheem Appleby is a sophomore at Louisiana Tech. He earned a starting job as a freshman and was the team’s second-leading scorer. This year is the leading scorer, averaging 18 points per game with a season high of 34.

A trio of former Red Devils play for former Razorback and NBA world champion Corliss Williamson at UCA. LaQuentin Miles is in his second year with the Bears and leads the team in minutes played per game. He is second on the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game. DeShone McClure is also a junior, playing his first year for the Bears after two years in junior college. McClure averages 8.4 points per game. Tirrell Brown is a freshman post player who is already playing 13 minutes and averaging three points and five rebounds.

Demetrius Harris took the longest road to DI hoops. He played junior college ball at Mineral Area Community College in Park Hill, Mo. before signing with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee last season. Harris is starting as a senior, averaging 8.1 points and five rebounds per game. He also has a team-high 11 blocks this season.

Besides Brown, three other Red Devils off last year’s team alone are playing college ball below the DI level. Dustin House was only averaging three points per game for Williams Baptist, but recently broke out and scored 27 in his last outing for the Eagles.

What’s the key to the steady success of Jacksonville’s program and the success of its players once they leave? Joyner says it is, in part, the demanding program that he, the administration and other coaches run.

“You have to have character and discipline to stay in this program,” Joyner said. “We don’t keep anyone on the team who isn’t focused on their future and being a good teammate. We don’t put up with a bunch of problems on the practice floor, the classroom or even outside of school. If you don’t show improvement from year to year, you get cut. By that I mean if you’re working at it you will get better. The ones that get cut are the ones who aren’t putting in the effort.”

Like any high-school coach, Joyner deals with student/athletes who let grades fall and lose their eligibility. He’s not a one-strike coach. Though it has borne out that those who lose their eligibility and come back, many times aren’t on the team by their senior year.

“I don’t really have to cut guys because they know the standards to be in this program,” Joyner said. “The ones who don’t want to meet those standards weed themselves out. What’s left are the high-character guys.”

Jacksonville currently has a cumulative team grade point average of 2.9. It’s the second year in a row the team has just barely missed a 3.0 cumulative average, which Joyner says is the goal for his squad.

“That starts in middle school and goes all the way up,” Joyner said. “Coach (Brandon) Weems has done a great job of getting kids ready for what we do on the court and what we demand off the court. Coach (Tirrell Sr.) Brown keeps that going, and the kids get to us already having a basic knowledge of what we expect and what we’re doing on the court.”

Joyner says college coaches tell him that players coming from his program are ahead of most freshmen in knowledge of the game and physical development.

“That’s why you see so many of them playing so much as freshmen,” Joyner said. “They can always get stronger. We hit the weight room but most young men’s bodies are going to fully mature in their college years.”

Joyner also spends a lot of time gathering, making copies and sending film of his players to colleges. He has more than 1,200 college coaches’ phone numbers in his phone. It’s even to the point where some college coaches are calling him sight unseen to see if he has a player that might fit a need.

Joyner, though, says the credit for his program’s reputation still should go to the players.

“I don’t give the guys the ability they have to get there, and I don’t give them the discipline and character it takes to make it,” Joyner said. “They have to possess that on their own. I’m going to do everything I possibly can to help them, but they have to perform and do it. Like I said, the bad ones weed themselves out. The ones left are people this community can be proud of. I’m proud of everyone of my kids who stuck with it through their senior year, because it’s not easy to do.”