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Henry Buckley, who originally committed to UNLV but played at Hutchinson Junior College last season, is a 6-11 center whom PJC coach Chuck Taylor succeeded in recruiting to the Dragons squad for the 2012-2013 season. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
PJC assistant basketball coach Maurice “Mo” Heade talks with 7-foot PJC freshman Lamar Walker during a recent practice. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Chuck Taylor, head basketball coach at Paris Junior College, has assembled what appears to be a stellar class for the 2012-2013 season.
Led by a pair of shot-blocking monsters — 7-foot Lamar Walker and 6-11 Henry Buckley — the Dragons will present an imposing challenge to opponents in the 14-team Region 14 conference of junior colleges.
Buckley is a sophomore who originally signed with UNLV before going to Hutchinson Junior College, and Walker is a freshman from Detroit who played AAU basketball with Anthony Adams, one of three returning players for PJC this season.
“Walker was our last addition, but a welcome addition. He’s a tremendous talent. Seven feet, long, athletic, a shot blocker, plays above the rim. He can run the floor, he can step out and shoot the 15-footer. He is really, really talented. He’s a prototypical Kelvin Garnett-type player,” Taylor said.
Between Buckley and Walker, Taylor agreed the Dragons will be immensely more successful this season with alley-oop passes above the rim. Taylor said Buckley “is long, runs like a deer, finishes around the rim, and has a decent jump shot from 10 feet and in. He’s very athletic, a great kid.”
Taylor said he is “ecstatic” to have signed 6-7, 225-pound Delvin Dickerson, a top 50 high school player out of Westbury Christian High School in Houston who had signed a letter of intent with South Alabama, a Division I school.
“If he can have the type of year that Anthony had for us a year ago, we’ll be in great shape,” Taylor said.
Adams was third-team all-North Zone last season and was named Player of the Week following a week in which he made a game-winning shot at the buzzer and made another shot in the closing seconds that sent a game into overtime that PJC went on to win.
Dickerson was the most valuable player of a holiday tournament in Houston his junior year in high school while helping lead Westbury Christian to a 37-2 record and the private schools state championship.
Dickerson is one of four big forwards on the squad, along with fellow freshmen Will Ransom (6-8, 225 pounds) of North Crowley and Antione Ross (6-4, 210 pounds) of Mount Pleasant and sophomore Morris “Mo” Mitchell (6-5, 225 pounds).
“Ransom is as tough as nails. He’s going to bring us some physicality. He’s a good rebounder, really tough, really physical, and he can finish around the rim. He runs the floor well. But his toughest asset is his pure toughness and willingness to win,” Taylor said.
The coach called Ross “a tough kid – a great kid, but tough. I just believe you win with tough kids. He’s the kind of kid you have to have when you play the Navarros, the Trinity Valleys, and the San Jacs.I can go down the line in this league – you’d better have some tough dudes.”
Taylor added, “In this league, you’ve got to have good players, but they also have to be mentally and physically tough.”
Mitchell was with PJC all last season, working out with the team but unable to play because the Georgia team he played with as a freshman was academically unacceptable.
“He had a great summer, and a great pre-season,” Taylor said of Mitchell.
“He’s a great kid as well. He’s got a great body and has done a good job learning how to shoot from the perimeter, as well as scoring around the rim. No question it helps our team that he was here last year and knows the system.”
Taylor signed two starters off Dallas Kimball’s state championship team – 6-1, 160-pound David Tucker and 6-5. 185-pound Sheldon Yearwood, plus 5-11, 180-pound freshman Courtney Austin, who was with Tucker and Yearwood on the 2011 state championship Kimball team. Austin was a walk-on at Southern Utah last season, but was red-shirted, so he still has two years of eligibility in junior college.
Tucker is another Top 50 high school player, a 3-point shooter “who is going to really bring a different aura to what we do here,” Taylor said. “He’s got that winning pedigree. Nothing like it. It can take you a long way.”
The coach called Yearwood “a Cornelius Commack-type player,” a tough, everyday workman without whom the Dragons could not have won the regular-season championship a year ago.
Another top incoming freshman is 5-9, 157-pound point guard Chris Jones of Memphis, Tenn. “We’re really excited to have him. You’re talking about a floor general deluxe. He’s got a chance to do some tremendous things for us. He’s got a really high basketball IQ.”
Another 3-point marksman among the PJC recruits is 6-1, 190-pound freshman Jemarea Samples, who played high school basketball with Anthony Adams. Taylor called Samples “another sniper guy that can really shoot the basketball.”
The coach is also high on Mike Harmon, a 5-9, 165-pound sophomore who played last season for Master’s College, a four-year school in California. Harmon played high school basketball at Katy, Texas.
“He’s a tremendous kid, tremendous kid. He can play either guard position and shoots the ball extremely well. He’s another guy that’s got some experience, and you know, you win with experience in this league.”
Eddie Leal, a 6-4, 160-pound sophomore, played at Collin County Community College last season. Taylor describes him as “a tremendous marksman. He can really shoot the basketball, and he had a really, really great freshman year.”
Andrew Arredondo, a 6-3, 187-pound freshman, was a Class 5A all-district player last season at Dallas Sunset. “He’s a nice player with a great attitude, and he could turn out to be a really good role player here,” Taylor said.
Besides Adams, the Dragons have two returning players from a year ago – 6-11, 200-pound Marcus Holt of Aurora, Colo., and 6-2, 195-pound Antonio Arnold of McKinney.
“I’m real excited about Marcus. He’s really improved from last year to this year. He’s improved his offensive proficiency – you know, rebounding, toughness. I think he’s in line for a breakout year,” Taylor said.
“Arnold had a great summer. He’s doing really well in the fall season so far. He’s really developed his body. He came back with a lot of confidence. You know, he’s really toughened up. I’m really happy with him from what I’ve seen so far.”
Taylor, in his third season as Dragons head coach, has two assistant coaches.
Derek Taylor is a PJC assistant coach for the second straight season.
“Derek was a manager for us when I was here as an assistant to Bill Foy. During the summer, he does all the Texas Hoops stuff, the Great America Shootout, and all that stuff,” Taylor said.
“Derek has a high basketball IQ and really understands me, understands my system because he’s been around for so long.”
The other assistant is Maurice “Mo” Heade, who was an assistant coach last season at Crockett High School in Detroit, Mich.
“Funny, I coached him when he was in middle school – a long time ago,” Taylor said. “He’s a great young man, brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”
Cory Barker, Taylor’s other assistant coach last season, is now at Arkansas State (where Seth Kisler from last season’s PJC squad is now playing) and doing well,” Taylor said.
The manager is Jay Prosser, who was the manager of Paris North Lamar’s basketball team last season.
Since the fall semester began, the PJC squad has been going through conditioning drills. Taylor can begin running plays with them on Oct. 1.
“I think we are on our way” toward an outstanding season, Taylor said, “but we’ve got a way to go to get there. I didn’t do us any favors with the schedule – you know, the schedule is the toughest schedule we’ve had.”
As usual, PJC will open the exhibition season the first week in October with three scrimmages on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Mullens Shootout at Flower Mound, followed by three more scrimmages a week later at Cedar Valley Community College in Lancaster.
PJC will go to Commerce on Oct. 29 to scrimmage Texas A&M-Commerce.
Taylor said he’s trying to work out one more scrimmage in Paris against Richland College, whose new coach is Bill Foy. Since leaving PJC a year after coaching the Dragons to the national championship in 2005, Foy had been an assistant coach at North Texas.
The Mean Green changed head coaches after last season, but Foy landed on his feet at Richland, one of the teams in the Dallas County Community College District.
Junior colleges cannot begin regular season play until Nov. 1. The Dragons’ first game will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, at home against Murray State, following a 4 p.m. game between the two schools’ women teams.
6-11 Marcus Holt, one of three returning players from last season’s PJC squad, listens to music before practice. In the background are two other returnees, Anthony Adams, and Morris “Mo” Mitchell, although Mitchell had to wait until this season before he could play. Antonio Arnold, not shown, also is back. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
As the team prepares for conditioning drills following a practice by the PJC volleyball team, Moe Mitchell, Anthony Adams and Antonio Arnold give instructions to the rest of the PJC men’s basketball team. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
Head coach Chuck Taylor, at midcourt, seemed to have had the least stressful part in the day’s exercise. (eParisExtra photos by Charles Richards)