Awards Day provided my 15 seconds of fame in high school since a list scholarship offers and a much longer than necessary speech by journalism teacher Miss Wisdom made me the center of attention for far too long.
This year's senior athletes won't get to experience that last chance in the spotlight, but I'll attempt to fill in and honor some of the area's outgoing athletes who deserve a final tip of the hat.
Most Entertaining — Michael Thomas, Hamilton Christian. Thomas has always been a wizard with the ball, a slick ball-handler and passer. Every once in a while he'd go up to attempt a dunk, which always looked impressive considering his 5-10 height and slight build. In his final home game, he smashed in an alley-oop off an inbound pass to create one more lasting memory. Bonus points for making a cameo in football, which including a long game-winning touchdown reception in his first game on the gridiron.
Overachiever — Luke Thomas, Grand Lake. Following Grand Lake's semifinal loss to Lincoln Prep, head coach Mark Caldwell told a great story about how he almost cut Thomas at freshman tryouts, but kept him around in part because of his friendship with standouts Kael Delcambre and Luke McCardle and in part because his big feet suggested a growth spurt might come.
Caldwell said he gave Thomas a shot in hopes he could become an eighth man by his senior season. Thomas, a senior this year, led a loaded Hornets team in minutes, repeatedly drawing praise from Caldwell for his all-around game and great attitude.
Big Stage Award — Garrett Edwards, Pitkin. Edwards poured in 36 points against two-time defending champion Simsboro in a Class B semifinal, ending an amazing career in which he scored more than 4,000 points.
Edwards wasn't just chucking up shots, shooting a more than respectable 12-27 from the floor, throwing down a dunk and mixing a flurry of swoops to the hoop and long-distance jumpers.
He's off the play baseball at LSU, which I guess is good, but the hoop head in me wishes someone had given him a shot to hoop at the next level.
Glenn Cecchini Award for Best Coach Interview — Dexter Washington, Hamilton Christian. Washington is, shall we say, energetic. He has to get about 10,000 steps in every game night by walking up and down the sideline nonstop during Warrior games.
He's the same way when talking hoops too. A call to get two paragraphs of comments often end up lasting at least 15 minutes and never cease to entertain, much like baseball conversations with Cecchini. Both love what they do and the kids they coach and compete against. Washington is a walking encyclopedia of Louisiana prep basketball history, and like Cecchini, is not shy about heaping praise on opposing players and coaches.
Its never a bad use of time to ring up either of these two. You always get the quotes you need and end up learning a lot more about what's going on in the area and state.
Hospitality Award — Albert Hartwell, Washington-Marion. The W-M hoops coach known for his colorful wardrobe has made himself even easier to find postgame the past few years by hanging out on the bench for a few minutes after games. It's a big help to reporters trying to crank out stories on a phone before deadline hits.
Mentor Award — Kyle Jinks, Fairview. The girls hoops legend spent most of his time with media at the state tournament talking up the abilities of his former player, Courtnee Hollins-Young, who coached the Hathaway team Fairview beat for the Class B title.
Before and after the game, Jinks campaigned for Young to be Class B coach of the year for leading the young Hornets to the title game, overlooking the fact that his own team became the program with the most state championships.