New Albany boys face defending 4A champions St. Stanislaus

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

Tadarious Coburn has a problem – albeit a good one to have. The New Albany High senior is looking to take his game to the next level, but hasn’t decided on what college he’d like to play for.
In the meantime, Coburn and the rest of the Bulldogs boys basketball team will be taking their games to Jackson for the MHSAA Class 4A state semifinals. The 26-4 Bulldogs face a big obstacle in St. Stanislaus, a team that features three NCAA Division I signees and, so it seems every year, is expected to be playing at the Mississippi Coliseum this late in a season.
So much so that Rock-a-Chaws coach Jay Ladner “should have his own chain of hotels in Jackson by now,” joked New Albany coach Brad Gray.
All jokes aside, this 32-2 team from Bay St. Louis is the real deal. Just ask the Pontotoc High boys team, which lost 89-54 to the same Mississippi Gulf Coast school on Jan. 8.
“They are very, very good,” Gray said, not trying to blow smoke or give his opponent the Lou Holtz treatment to take the pressure off his team. “They’re well-coached. Coach Ladner does a good job with those kids.
“They’re intelligent, good basketball players.”
In terms of talent, the Rock-a-Chaws have a roster filled of players of Coburn’s caliber. While Coburn has drawn looks from East Tennessee State, Jackson State, Northeast Mississippi Community College, Union University and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, St. Stanislaus’ 6-foot-6 forward, Daniel Grieves, has signed a letter of intent with the Air Force Academy and 6-foot-8 senior center, Johnny Zuppardo, and 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Davon Hayes, have both signed their letters of intent with Arkansas State.
It’s Hayes who really scares Gray.
“He’s one of the most athletic kids we can say we’ll have played against,” said the New Albany coach. “He can really get off the floor. He’s quick.
“Everybody talks about the Grieves kid, but the Hayes kid scares me more than anyone. He can shoot (from outside) when he has to, but he doesn’t always have to because he’s so quick and athletic.”
At least for the Bulldogs, they have a versatile player in Coburn, who resembles a little bit of each of those three St. Stanislaus players’ games.
“As far as Tadarious goes,” Gray said about his McDonald’s All-American nominee, “he can play inside and he can play outside. His footwork and coordination allow him to post up well and score inside and pop out and shoot the ball well from around the perimeter.
“He’s very versatile as a player. … He’s had a tremendous impact with his energy, his defensive presence, his rebounding and shot blocking. He’s going to be a tough kid to replace.”

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572
or john.wilbert@journalinc.com