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Decatur High's Rico Pickett receives the Class 5A boys basketball player of the year award from Alabama High School Athletic Association executive director Dan Washburn.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Decatur High's Rico Pickett receives the Class 5A boys basketball player of the year award from Alabama High School Athletic Association executive director Dan Washburn.

He's the best in Class 5A
Decatur's Pickett wins
player of year hoops award

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

BIRMINGHAM — Just as Decatur High senior Rico Pickett took the stage at the Alabama Sports Writers Association basketball player of the year banquet, the room went dark and the house lights came on, dimly shining on the stage.

No, it wasn't for dramatic effect — it was just a brief technical difficulty. Even so, it set the tone for Pickett, who won the ASWA Class 5A player of the year award after a standout season in which he paced the Red Raiders to the Final Four.

Pickett said later that as a public address announcer read aloud the finalists' statistics, he realized the immense honor the award is.

"I'm glad to be honored with all these great players from around the state," Pickett said. "It lets you know how many good players there are out there."

Players of the year in each classification for girls and boys basketball were honored Thursday at the annual awards banquet at Birmingham-Southern College's Norton Center.

Priceville senior Josh Bedwell was a finalist for the 4A boys award, and Hazlewood sophomore Amber Jones was one for 1A girls.

Pickett was edged out for the overall Mr. Basketball award by Jeff Davis senior Courtney Fortson, who was named Mr. Basketball and 6A player of the year. Ramsay senior Katherine Graham, who has signed a scholarship to play for LSU, was named Miss Basketball and 5A girls player of the year.

Graham led her team to a state championship, while Fortson's squad finished runner-up.

Forty-two finalists, three boys and three girls in each of the Alabama High School Athletic Association's six classes and the AISA, were chosen by the ASWA all-state committee as finalists from more than 170 players nominated statewide.

Pickett was chosen 5A player of the year over 6-foot-4 Williamson forward Nick Fairley and 6-foot-3 John Carroll guard Andrew Steele, who were the other two finalists in 5A boys.

Fairley, who has signed a football scholarship with Auburn, averaged 22 points and 15 rebounds a game for state champion Williamson this year, while Steele, a junior, posted 15.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists for state runner-up John Carroll, which ended Decatur's season in the state semifinals.

When asked if the accomplishments of the players he beat out for the award impressed him, Pickett's eyes got wide.

"Yeah, (5A boys) might have been the most impressive group up there today. I think so," Pickett said.

Both Pickett and Bedwell attended the banquet in between practices for the Alabama-Mississippi all-star game Friday at Pelham Civic Complex. Bedwell said while in a room full of some of the state's best players, Friday's game was also on his mind.

"Being here with all these players, it makes me appreciate everything," Bedwell said.

Many of Bedwell and Pickett's Alabama all-star teammates also attended the banquet before their second practice of the day later Thursday afternoon.

"It's been pretty intense, but I think it's going to be worth it," Bedwell said.

Seniors Bedwell and Pickett shook hands and talked with many familiar faces among the finalists.

Just a sophomore, Jones hasn't had as much time to get to know the competition. She's been playing varsity for the highly successful Lady Golden Bears program since she was in the seventh grade, but said her eyes were opened when she came face-to-face with the kind of talent the state has to offer.

"I didn't even know half the people here, but I do now," Jones said.

Jones was one of two sophomores along with one freshman among a field of finalists in which 39 of 42 were juniors or seniors.

Described by Hazlewood coach Darin Liles as a self-motivator and a hard worker, Jones said success has not come to her too early, and if anything, being recognized among the state's best pushes her to improve further.

"It encourages me to want to work harder and keep going," Jones said. "It pays off."

Player of the year honors

Mr. Basketball: Courtney Fortson, Jeff Davis

Miss Basketball: Katherine Graham, Ramsay

Class 6A

Boys player of the year: Courtney Fortson, Jeff Davis

Girls player of the year: Catina Bett, Gadsden City

Class 5A

Boys player of the year: Rico Pickett, Decatur

Girls player of the year: Katherine Graham, Ramsay

Class 4A

Boys player of the year: Justin Knox, Central-Tuscaloosa

Girls player of the year: Courtney Jones, Midfield

Class 3A

Boys player of the year: Mick Hedgepeth, Crossville.

Girls player of the year: Brittany Leverett, Washington County

Class 2A

Boys player of the year: Frankie Sullivan, R.C. Hatch

Girls player of the year: Katie King, Samson

Class 1A

Boys player of the year: JaMychal Green, St. Jude

Girls player of the year: Kimberly Davis, McIntosh

AISA

Boys player of the year: Will Coleman, Glenwood School

Girls player of the year: Hannah Phillips, Kingwood Christian

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