Daily illustration by Gary Lloyd|
The Daily's Class 4A-6A basketball honors go to Decatur player Rico Pickett, left, Decatur coach Jamie Lee, Brewer coach Ricky Allen and Hartselle player Lauren Drake.
The Daily's best in Class 4A-6A
Big names on campus
Pickett, Lee took Red
Raiders on Final Four ride
By Brooke Milam
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2460
This season's Decatur High Red Raiders left their fans with a lot of lasting memories, and a at the centerpiece of many of those highlights and the team was senior Rico Pickett.
"He epitomizes what a high school player is," Decatur coach Jamie Lee said. "He's taken a team that won nine games his freshman year, and this year went to the Final Four. He's made the level of our basketball program here at Decatur that much better."
Decatur finished 27-6, making it all the way to the Class 5A state semifinals with Pickett and Lee heading the charge.
After a season that Decatur will always remember, Pickett is named The Daily's Class 4A-6A boys player of the year and Lee is The Daily's Class 4A-6A boys coach of the year.
"It's a great way to close out high school," Pickett said. "I'm the area player of the year, and I've never gotten that before. I've matured as a basketball player, and as a person in the Decatur basketball program. I knew playing for Coach Lee that I'd learn a lot that."
Pickett averaged 19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists a game this season and never looked better than he did in the Northwest Regional finals. In beating Muscle Shoals and earning a berth in the Final Four, Pickett poured in 42 points, grabbed eight rebounds and made two steals. His points set a 5A regional record.
"The game just comes a little easier to him than a lot of people," Lee said. "His ability to see the next play and his anticipation of what's about to happen is above and beyond most kids on the high school level."
Pickett and his teammates picked the right time to shine, hitting their stride in the postseason stretch. Lee said one challenge of the season was tapping the potential of a team with 10 seniors and plenty of experience.
"A lot of what we did in the last month and a half was more managing than coaching," Lee said. "We tried to make sure we understood the different personalities we had and we tried to stay together with one goal — to get to the Final Four."
Lee said this year's finish has been a work in progress for a group that he and his staff knew had the potential to be one of the state's best.
"This was the culmination of three years of hard work with this same group," Lee said. "Junior varsity coach Byron Graham and freshman coach David Hewitt had an awful lot to do with that."
As a three-year starter for the Red Raiders, Pickett amassed 1,552 career points, along with 405 rebounds, 449 assists, 212 steals and 88 blocked shots.
He said that the talent surrounding him on his own team — as well as area opponents — has pushed him to improve.
"I think we've got the best players in our area," Pickett said. "Playing against the people I've gotten to play against these last few years — I think we've got the toughest area there is."
Lee said Pickett's balanced statistics speak to the power of his "quiet work ethic," saying that Pickett puts in a lot of time individually studying the game, along with the many hours spent honing his skills in the gym.
"He's gotten better every year and worked on something every year to progress," Lee said. "He's learned how to run the team, he's worked on his shot, and his defense was the big difference this year.
"Most of what I hear is how athletic he is, how explosive he is. I hear people talk about how much of a difference he makes on both ends of the court."
Pickett, who has signed to play for Alabama, moved up to varsity his freshman year and Decatur won nine games that season. As a sophomore, his squad had 26 victories, followed by 20 as a junior and 27 this year.
"I think he took good players that were around him and made them better," Lee said.
"He elevated their level of play and allowed them to do that."
Class 4A-6A boys all-area team
Rico Pickett, Decatur
Myles King,Lawrence County
Jarodiaus Willingham, Decatur
Jackson Holmes, Hartselle
Matthew Clem, Ardmore
Matthew Pugh, Lawrence County
Dakota Matthews,East Lawrence
Alex Brown, Hartselle
Rishard Tapscott, Decatur
Player of year:Rico Pickett, Decatur
Coach of year:Jamie Lee, Decatur
Class 4A-6A boys honorable mention
Ardmore: Will Lewis and Duron Robinson.
Athens: Zach Brock and Jeremy Stinnett.
Austin: George Williams and Quez Powell.
Brewer: Alex Brown, Rodney Childs and Jeremy Widener.
Decatur: Gary “G” Redus, Mark Mason, Drei Marthaler and Rolando McClain.
East Lawrence: Russ Stephenson and Roy Young.
East Limestone: Mario Matthews and Dresden Williams.
Hartselle: Victor Stansberry, Ryne Lindsey and Tyler Young.
Lawrence County: Cody Harville, Will Inman, Durman Cunningham and Chasten Echols.
Priceville: K.C. Green, JaColby Reid and Robert Varner.
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