After watching the Austin Anderson-Austin Westlake game and their extended senior night ceremonies on Friday, I didn’t get out of their gym until 10:15pm. It was on the road to Killeen where I checked in to my hotel at midnight. The event? The Killeen ISD’s 8th grade championships. Old friend, and Texas D1 Ambassadors coaches Darrell Cress and Earl Battley cught up with me for breakfast at Cracker Barrel and then we headed to Harker Heights High School to watch the youngsters perform.
Over the last 10 years Killeen’s greatest players have worn the uniform of the Texas D1 Ambassadors. From Killeen PG Benjamin Pitts, to Ellison SG Matt Addison we’ve had them all. Harker Heights Walt Harris (Stephen F Austin), Killeen PG Tre Nichols (Boise State), Killeen F Ta’Shawn Thomas (Houston), Killeen’s Cory Jefferson (Baylor), & of course the man with the ultra mad hops Harker Heights D.J. Stephens (Memphis) have all worn the orange and black of Texas D1. Current unsigned seniors who are a shoo in to land their D1 scholarship for the coming spring & summer also include Ellison’s 6’6″ W Jaleel Williams & Harker Heights 6’5″ WG Royce O’Neale.
They love their basketball in Killeen, which is adjacent to and supports the world’s largest military installation, Fort Hood, TX. The high school coaches love it too as Killeen’s Jason Fossett and his staff were there, Coach Pritchett from Shoemaker & of course the host staff from Harker Heights including Head Coach Celneque Bobbitt whose team has wrapped up this year’s district championship. I didn’t see Ellison Coach Alberto Jones, but his staff may have been there in the crows too. These guys don’t miss a beat in keeping an eye on their soon to be incoming freshmen.
The 8th grade championship was won by the Palo Alto Middle School Patriots. They were deeper and hit the boards harder than their two opponents.
Semi Final: Palo Alto 43 Rancier 41
Palo Alto had a slim lead for most of the game as two kin folk went head to head. Rancier G Demarius Cress showed superior quickness and an ability to get to the hole at will. He finished with 18 points to lead all scorers and finally put Rancier up by 2 with only two minutes to play. With Proud Papa Darrel Cress looking on this kid showed his roots, Brooklyn, NYC. He may be in Central Texas but he’s inherited his Pops’ big city playground style. Cress can also fire it up from 25 feet out. Coach Fossett was licking his chops. Don’t be surprised as like Pitts & Nichols before him that young Cress ends up being a 4 year varsity player for the Runnin’ Roos.
The Cress Household couldn’t lose in this game as his grandson, 2015 F Mickell Clark led the way with 16 points to secure the win in the late going for Palo Alto. With a strong frame, the 6′ Clark dribbled, shot and bullied his opponents on the boards. He’s a load and from what I understand will end up at Killeen High as well.
Championship: Palo Alto 48 Nolan 41
Palo Alto raced out to a near 20 point lead but Nolan kept fighting back and had cut the lead to two points at 37-35. This time it was Mickell Clark, once again leading in scoring with 27 points. Unlike the semi final game though, his team mate 6’1″ Martin Shaqur was not in foul trouble and he went to work both inside and out. He hit two big three pointers and finished around the goal as well as he registered a double double to take home the championship. Shaqur is headed to Ellison and judging by his body and the size of his dad, could end up being as big as 6’8″.
This isn’t the first rodeo for the trio as they’ve all garnered honors at my good friend, Leigh Klein’s Five Star Camp at Baylor University and at Max Ivany’s All American Prodigy Camp held last September in Austin. Harker Heights Coach Celneque Bobbitt, himself a Killeen playing legend knows he’s won the recruiting wars on one key area player. That’s his own son, 6’4″ C.J. Bobbitt who is a skilled big who is likely to shoot up to about 6’7″. All in all it was a great day watching basketball prospects that with a few years of seasoning, hard work and maturity will be the cream of the crop in the Class of 2015….and the Killeen college stars of tomorrow.