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Tallassee Basketball builds off 2021 success

Photos and Story by Griffin Pritchard | Publisher

CENTRAL ALABAMA SCOREBOARD OFFICE –The Tallassee High Basketball Tigers advanced to the second round of the AHSAA 5A playoffs for the first time in … well … a long time and cemented the expectations for a program on the rise.

“I feel like we’ve got a strong core group coming back and it’s probably the strongest jv group I’ve ever had,” said Keiven Mixson, coach of the Tigers. “The qualities I’ve seen so far; this group looks to be very coachable. They are very coachable and are the type of kids that say: ‘tell me what to do and we’ll do it.’ That’s something [coachability] that as a new coach coming in four years ago, we had to work on. This group plays hard. Is it the most talented; not right now because they are so young, but I do think this group could be as good as we’ve ever had.”

That’s the purpose of a summer season though, to begin developing those skills so when October roles around the Tigers can hit the court running and be ready to tip off in November.

Mixson: “We’ve played nine games so far and seen competition from across the board; some of it average and some of it above average; some inside our class and some outside. We played a 1A from North Alabama when we are at the Auburn Camp that beat us pretty good and they were one of the better teams we’ve seen all summer.”

On Monday the Tigers hosted a playdate with Jefferson Davis, Prattville Christian, and Montgomery Academy.

Mixson: “I love playing Jeff Davis, any of the Montgomery schools (Lee, Lanier and Carver) and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t schedule one more just to play them because they make you so much better. I love having the opportunity to play those teams.”

Tuesday, the Tigers will cap the summer session with a trio of games against Trinity.

Mixson: “I was excited to see the way we competed [Monday]. We got a lot out of the Auburn camp a couple of weeks ago and then [Monday] was beneficial. We are trying to get some young guys some playing time.”

Entering his fifth season, Mixson said the coaches evaluate the players weekly and have a continuous conversation about the first five and then who’s coming in off the bench.  They are also using this opportunity to see who’s going to step up since Jalyn Daniels (who has been getting offers to play football collegiately) is nursing a nagging hamstring injury.

Mixson: “We’ve been sitting [Jalyn] out which in turn has been helping Tim Washington (a sophomore this season). He’s always had someone else to depend on, but now he’s having to take the spotlight and run the show. So it’s been a transition for him. That’s been so helpful for him and then when you get Jalyn back, that’s going to make Tim that much more confident. But I want the guys on the bench to be able to come in and contribute. I told the guys after [Monday’s] games that whoever is on our final varsity be it 11 or 12 or 13, I expect them to contribute. We are trying to get our sixth, seventh and eighth man some playing time because those guys are close and we are trying to catch them up.”

And right now, unlike years past, Tallassee’s basketball team has basketball players and not just multi-sport student-athletes playing basketball.

Mixson: “We probably have five basketball only kids. I told them if they were only a basketball player, and that’s their only sport, they’ve got to carry the load in the gym and be in there working. These other guys are playing baseball and football. {The basketball-only guys) have got to be in the gym improving their game. And I’ve been lucky in the years that I’ve been here that those guys who only play basketball live in the gym.”

Finding basketball players in a town that hangs its hat on baseball, wrestling and football (and now softball) is key to the program’s newfound prominence in amongst the school and the community. Mixon said that it’s not lost on him.

“This is my fifth season and when you have success and put a good product out on the floor, people enjoy it and want to come watch,” said Mixson. “I looked up at one point this morning and we had about 30 students in the stands watching our games today. That says a lot. I’m working to build a report with not just the basketball players. I care about all the students and try to make a connection with all of them that I can. Nobody wants the basketball coach to care only about basketball and I don’t want to be that type of guy. I try hard not to be that person. The kids are a blessing to me  and I look forward to building a relationship with all the kids – band students, baseball players, football players. But to look up in the stands and see students coming out to watch Tallassee basketball in the middle of the day, it’s pretty neat.”

The real season starts in October and the Tigers will begin their quest for a second playoff run in as many years.  

Founder/Publisher of Central Alabama Scoreboard. Former sportsguy, managing editor, currently working for the City of Tallassee as a Public Information Specialist and grant writer.

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