Local coach, players to participate in July North/South games

Hokes Bluff girls basketball head coach Jason Shields and a pair of local players will participate in the North-South All-Star high school basketball game on July 17 in Montgomery.Hokes Bluff girls basketball head coach Jason Shields and a pair of local players will participate in the North-South All-Star high school basketball game on July 17 in Montgomery.

By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
Jeremy Brooks said there was no argument at all about naming Jason Shields as one of the two girls basketball coaches for the North in the upcoming (July 15-19) 17th annual North-South All-Star games.

Brooks, the head coach at Gadsden City High School, was one of several committee members who chose the two coaches.

“Jason and I go way back to when he was at Cherokee County and I was at Emma Sansom,” Brooks said. “I was very happy to have his name to nominate. There were several others nominated, but when the voting came up, he was almost unanimous.”

Shields won the 1997-98 state basketball title at Cherokee County High.

“It’s a very great honor,” the Hokes Bluff coach said. “I know they rotate districts to pick from, and this was District 6’s turn. Of all the great coaches in the district, from 1A up to 6A, I think that to be picked for this is one of the greatest signs of respect you can get, because it comes from your peers in the district.”

With the rotation, District 6 only gets to participate every four years. Brooks coached in the game in 2005.

“Winning a state championship isn’t a requirement,” Brooks said. “But with what (Shields) did at Cherokee County and what he’s done at Hokes Bluff, to me it was a no-brainer. Plus, he’s such a good person.”

Shields was selected to coach in the 1998 game, but found out that a long-time coach was retiring that summer, so he graciously surrendered his spot for her.

The other North girls coach is Oneonta’s Amber Deline. Her team recently won the 2012-13 Class 4A state championship.

“Talking to (Deline) and getting to learn some of her knowledge is another great thing,” Shields said. “There are so many ways to play basketball, and any time you can learn from another successful coach, you’re going a great thing.”

As anyone who knows Shields will affirm, his other bright spot will also happen.

“I’m a big-time people person, and I love to meet new people,” he said. “I should be able to meet a lot of high school and college coaches and have a chance to do some talking.”

Hokes Bluff won’t be represented in the girls game, but 7-2 Eagle center Isaac Haas will compete in the boys game.

Haas will be the North’s only true center and will be the only 7-footer on the squad.

“I’ve had a really good summer with AAU ball,” Haas said. “But I’m truly excited about the all-star game, because I can learn a lot and be seen by some other recruiters.

“I just want to play my best and let what happens, happen. I’m not going to do anything but play my game.”

Hokes Bluff boys coach Greg Watkins has full confidence that his star center will play a part.

“He was always tall,” Watkins said. “But the last couple of years, Isaac really shot up. And like his height, his level of play has also risen dramatically. He has a true center’s attitude.”

Gadsden City will be represented in the girls game by 6-3 center Dajia Williams. Like Haas, she will be the tallest girl on her team.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of talent on the team, so I just want to be able to show that I can play,” Williams said. “I hope to play my best. I know there will be a lot of recruiters and coaches in the stands, but I’ve already been seen by a lot of them because of playing AAU ball.”

Williams also relishes the chance to make some new friends.

“I’ve run into several of them because of travel ball,” she said. “And I used to play with (Sparkman’s) Alexis (Jennings) on a travel team. So it’ll be a good chance to see her again and to learn some more basketball.”

Division 1-A college programs are recruiting both Haas and Williams.

In the all-star baseball game, Etowah’s Tanner Putman will be one of the North outfielders.

“This is a huge honor and a big opportunity to get seen by some more college coaches,” Putman said. “I’m excited about the whole thing. Maybe it will open some doors for me.”

Of course, Putman knows a lot of the North players but he looks forward to meeting and playing against the South players, especially the ones from Spanish Fort.

“That team (Spanish Fort) is so good that I think it’ll be great to see them and compete against them,” he said.

Spanish Fort, which finished as Class 5A state runners-up this year, has three players on the South squad. The Toros coach, Brent Boyd, is the South’s head coach. Spanish Fort won the state title the previous two seasons.

The all-star baseball game will play on Monday, July 15, at Riverfront Stadium in Montgomery. The basketball games will be played on Wednesday, July 17, at Alabama State University’s Acadome.

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