By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
It’s a safe bet that Jacob Richardson of Porter will forever be remembered as being the first three-time Most Valuable Player on the All-Phoenix boys team.
Entering this season, the 6-foot senior guard had a lot to live up to, being the back-to-back choice for the top individual award on the team.
“The team probably won’t have someone three-peat like that in a while,” Porter coach Jason Jack said. “Whether he’s in the weight room, classroom or on the court, he’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve been around. He drives to be better than anyone else.”
Even after his junior season, Richardson was back in the gym shooting, practicing his 3-point shot and even doing some weightlifting. He wanted to be even better for his senior year.
“I wanted to get stronger so when I drove to the basket, I could finish better,” he said. “I worked a lot on free weights with coach Jack. He also had us working on our agility.”
The work paid off as the 6-footer, chosen as the Newcomer of the Year as a freshman, put up eye-widening numbers in averaging 33.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.5 assists per game.
Jack was pleased to see Richardson working on his game as much as he did.
“I’ve dealt with elite players who knew they were good, but they didn’t work on things because they didn’t see the need to prove themselves,” Jack said. “(Jacob) didn’t have that approach. He was always willing to try something new to improve this or that aspect of his game. That separates him from other kids.
“I credit his success this season to adding 10-15 pounds of muscle and he was bigger and faster than our opponents.”
Even with the extra work, Richardson wasn’t immune to criticism, especially this season. He didn’t pay attention to those who would say he shot the ball too much.
“I heard that probably every year I’ve played,” he said. “I didn’t listen to what people said. I just try to win.”
Jack said he always gave the “green light” for Richardson – who scored 52 points one game this season – to shoot.
“His shot selection was spot on,” Jack said. “His shooting too much was never an issue. People who said that clearly don’t know anything.”
The rest of the All-Phoenix team, in order of voting, includes Fort Gibson forward Jordan Hill, Oktaha guard Dustin Leach, Sequoyah forward Ryan Helsley, Keys guard Trevor Eubanks, Haskell guard Alex Wheeland, Oktaha guard Blake Pittman, Fort Gibson guard Jordan London, Haskell center Michael Love, Muskogee center Tramal Ivy and Hulbert forward Craig Potts.
Helsley’s teammate, sophomore guard B.J. Leach, was chosen as the Newcomer of the Year after averaging 10.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
The man who led Helsley, Leach and the rest of the Indians to the Class 3A state semifinals is Jay Herrin, the All-Phoenix Coach of the Year.
Herrin kept his team focused in spite of off-court issues. Zack Parrish was sitting out a year after transferring from another school. Caisen Green missed the Indians’ first seven games for playing in that many games as a freshman that the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association said he should not have played in without a hardship.
Green later got into trouble for killing a pit bull and posting the picture on Facebook.
“I doubt a coach has ever gone through as much,” Herrin said. “Once the story got out that the dog had been aggressive and bothered some of the neighbors and the dog threatened him and his three-year-old sister, things calmed down.
“We didn’t let that affect us. We kept going and we believed in Caisen.”
Herrin guided the Indians to a 20-9 record and their first state tournament appearance in four years.
“It was a testament to our kids and coaches that we really stayed on task. We didn’t let any of that knock us off our path,” he said.
The path ended with the semifinal loss to Okemah.
“There’s still some lingering disappointment that we didn’t make it to the finals and get to play for the gold ball, but we’re starting to realize now what kind of year we did have,” he said. “We had a really good run through the playoffs.
“I’m proud of our kids, the coaches and our school going through all we went through and made it back to where we belonged. Hopefully, we can get back next year.”
MVP: Jacob Richardson, Porter • 5-11, Sr., G, 33.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals, 3.5 assists. Third consecutive year as MVP
Coach of Year: Jay Herrin, Sequoyah • Led team to 20-9 record and Class 3A semifinals
• Jordan Hill, Fort Gibson; 6-2, Sr., F, 20.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists
• Dustin Leach, Oktaha; 6-1, Jr., G, 14.8 points, 3.1 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals
• Ryan Helsley, Sequoyah; 6-1, Sr., F, 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.5 steals
• Trevor Eubanks, Keys; 5-10, Sr., G, 18.8 points, 5.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds (repeat selection)
• Alex Wheeland, Haskell, 5-10, Jr., G, 20 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 53 steals
• Blake Pittman, Oktaha; 5-10, Sr., G, 14.2 points, 4 assists 2.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals (repeat selection)
• Jordan London, Fort Gibson; 5-11, So., G, 16.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists
• Michael Love, Haskell; 6-6, Sr., C, 14 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4 blocks, 31 total steals
• Tramal Ivy, Muskogee; 6-5, Jr., C, 13 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1 blocks (repeat selection)
• Craig Potts, Hulbert; 6-4, Sr., F, 18 points, 8 rebounds
Newcomer of the Year: B.J. Leach, Sequoyah; 6-0, So., G, 10.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists