By Brandon Speck
The MHSAA state basketball tournament ends Saturday. The memories remain.
Even if the hoops road takes you to the NBA.
“I talk about it every time somebody wants to listen,” said former Prentiss High School star and Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson. “I talk about it.”
Jefferson has made plenty of NBA memories, drafted out of high school by Boston at No. 15 in 2004. As a junior, he led, carried really, Prentiss to a 59-52 state title win against Corinth. He had 45 points, not even a handful over his average for the season, also 15 rebounds, eight blocks and eight dunks.
“You make me feel old,” Jefferson said Saturday, while visiting the FedExForum in Memphis for a game against the Grizzlies. “That was about 11 years ago I won a state championship.”
Eleven years ago nearly to the day.
“Yeah, I won a state championship,” Jefferson turned toward Charlotte guard Kemba Walker and said.
Jefferson, 29, fondly recalled playing at spacious Mississippi Coliseum. Prentiss made it there three of his four seasons.
“It felt like an NBA arena,” he said, “the biggest that you’ve ever played at that time. You knew you’d made it.”
Jefferson said his mom keeps all the mementos and newspaper clippings from his prep days.
These days, he’s playing for his fourth NBA team. It’s been a rejuvenation.
Charlotte is currently in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, no coincidence since Jefferson arrived this season. The old school center is averaging a double-double, 21.2 points and 10.3 rebounds – he only averaged more points in 2008-09 with Minnesota.
He has owned March, averaging 28.4 points per game.
It comes a little harder these days, unlike when the national attention came his way as a junior. He turned down an Arkansas scholarship to enter the draft.
“Ah, man, my body felt young. I didn’t even have to warm up to go play. I used to step out there, put my shoes on and go, fun time, great experience,” he said.
“I knew then, even as a junior in high school, I knew basketball was a business for me on out from here.”