Peabody High pushing for consecutive state titles
By Bob Tompkins • firstname.lastname@example.org • November 21, 2010
Peabody Magnet High School has won six state basketball titles, including four since 2000, but the Warhorses have yet to claim back-to-back championships.
With a horde of returning players from last year's team, which compiled a 41-0 record and won the Class 4A state crown, the school in Alexandria appears in good position to pursue a second straight title.
"There's a good chance," says longtime Peabody coach Charles Smith, selected last May as the ESPN National Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
The Warhorses will seek a repeat without Markel Brown, Louisiana's Mr. Basketball last season and now a freshman basketball player at Oklahoma State. Smith says that shouldn't be too imposing a task.
"People fail to realize that we played our first eight games last season without Markel, while he was out with a broken finger, and we started out 8-0, which included two tough tournaments we won here and at Opelousas," said Smith, who has coached Peabody to five of its six state titles in 1991, 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2010.
Last year's team, which had a lot of sophomores and became even more impressive after Brown's return in December, has a lot of juniors, led by Troy Jones, a 6-foot-7 junior center and two-year starter. Jones averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds a game last year and was a first-team all-district choice and was given honorable mention recognition on the Class 4A all-state team.
Both projected starting guards are juniors in 6-2 shooting guard Josh Ivory, another two-year starter, who averaged 8 points and 3 assists per game, and 5-8 point guard Dequavious Wagner (5 ppg, 3 apg), who averaged three steals a game.
Senior Sherrard Davidson, a 6-4 forward who replaced Brown in the starting linup in the first eight games last year, will again be the Warhorses' defensive specialist. Coming off the bench last season, he averaged 6 points a game.
"He will be our leader," Smith said. "He is a senior and a 4.0 student as was his older brother Travis, a senior last year."
A newcomer to the team is Darrice Whitley, a 6-5 senior transfer who had been living in South Carolina with an uncle but moved back to Alexandria over the summer to live with his mother, Smith said.
"He was here in junior high and was a center at the school where he played the last three years," said Smith. "He will play the wing, or small forward, here. He has experience as a starter, but he just needs to learn a new system."
Peabody also has a wealth of talented reserves that played a lot last year, led by a trio of juniors in forward Duan Wright, center Wilbert Thomas and guard Henry Pryor.
"I feel real good (about the team's prospects)," said Smith. "Our theme this year is, 'How well can we do without Markel?'"
Peabody will again play a tough pre-district schedule that includes participation in the inaugural Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans in early January -- a tournament that will feature some of the best high school teams from across the state and the country.
Peabody is ranked No. 30 in the country in ESPN preseason national high school poll.
The challenge to be the first Peabody team to repeat as state champion is similar, Smith said, to the challenge he posed the team last year.
"Last year was the first team to have players win a second ring while they were here," he said of Brown and Travis Davidson, who were part of the 2007 title team.
"I told those guys last season, 'You won a ring as a freshman; why not win another going out as a senior?'
"It worked," he said. "Maybe the incentive to repeat will work this year."