James Walker of Jonesboro was the only freshman in the state named to the Georgia Sportswriters Association All-State boy’s basketball team. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — Anybody associated with the Jonesboro Cardinals boys basketball team will tell you that James Walker is a special caliber of player.
The freshman led the Cardinals in scoring as they captured the Class AAAA title this season.
To further validate his prowess, Walker was the only boys freshman in the state named to the Georgia Sportswriters Association All-State teams. The 6-foot-4 Walker was a first team Class AAAA selection.
He was one of seven players from Clayton County selected to the GSWA all-state team, which was picked by sports writers throughout the state.
Walker averaged 15.8 points and seven rebounds for the Cardinals, who defeated Columbia last month for the program’s first basketball championship. He was also named to the first team All-Region 4-AAAA squad, which was chosen by the league coaches.
Last season, Walker played at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy after leading Rex Mill Middle to the county middle school championship.
There were five female freshmen that made all-state, but none made the first team.
In addition to Walker, Clayton News Daily Player of the Year Quincy January was named to the Class AAAA first team. The 6-foot-4 January was the Region 4-AAAA Player of the Year after averaging 18.9 points and 11.2 rebounds to lead the Raiders to the runner-up finish in the region tournament and into the second round of the state playoffs.
Tracy Hector, who starred for the Cardinals in the state title game against Columbia, was chosen as an honorable mention. Former Forest Park standout Costa Anderson was also named to the honorable team as a senior at South Atlanta.
Cardinals coach Dan Maehlman was named the Class AAAA Coach of the Year by GSWA. The Cardinals finished with a 29-6 record with a roster that included only one returning player that had significant playing time last season.
Drew standout Maleek Taylor was named honorable mention in Class AAAAA. The junior averaged a county-leading 23.4 points per game for the Titans. In addition, he averaged six rebounds and two steals for the Region 4-AAAAA team. He was named to the all-region first team.
On the girls’ side, Lakiah Sims, who was the Clayton News Daily Girls Player of the Year, was a first team Class AAAAA selection.
The senior center averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Titans to the Region 4-AAAAA title and into the state semifinals.
Until this season, Drew had never won a state playoff game in two previous appearances. Sims finished her career as the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Breasia McElrath, who helped Forest Park to its second consecutive Class AAAAA semifinals appearance, was named to the honorable mention squad. The junior averaged 10.1 points for the Panthers, who finished runner-up to Drew in the region tournament.
In Class AAAA, Jonesboro standout Michaelle Smith was named to the first team. She averaged 18.6 points and a county-leading 15.5 rebounds per game for the Cardinals, who lost in the first round of the state playoffs.
Smith, who is also a standout volleyball player, was named the Region 4-AAAA Player of the Year by the league coaches earlier in the season.