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Andrew Jackson High School

New Attitude, Dedicated Players Molding Andrew Jackson Academy Into A Class A Playoff Contender After Years Of Mediocrity

By Billy G. Baker


Ehrhardt—As you read this story about the surging Andrew Jackson Confederates (13-5, 6-1) boys basketball team please do not adjust your television sets, or attempt to change the channel, for this team, after years of hope and struggle, have finally arrived at the door steps of greatness.

Not too long ago this team endured running clocks, often down by 35 mid-way through the third quarter, and certainly there are no more concerns about a player fouling out with only five players on the team! Yes, this bunch of rim rocking’, defense smacking country boys under the tutelage of banker Josh Barnes have arrived at the scene in full force.

You might call AJA the “Pay Back” Team of the Decade because they are certainly reversing some scores pined on them just a few short years ago with their play this season.

This Friday night (January 18th) AJA is hosting an 15-0 undefeated Clarendon Hall team needing to beat the Saints by more than 12 points to claim a region title. “This is the biggest game all year in SCISA Class A basketball and the gym will be packed out,” said Coach Barnes. “We were only down by three to them on the road with three minutes left before they pulled ahead and won by 12. We think it is going to be a very close well-played game and the community is fired up about it. We are even having a chicken bog for the game and that has never happened for basketball before.”

The chief enforcer for AJA has been 6-4 senior Conner Gleaton who sat out his junior year with hip issues after an outstanding sophomore season that helped land him on the HSSR all-state SCISA basketball team. Gleaton is currently averaging 20.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.9 steals a game all while playing at about 80 per cent as he still fights inflammation issues from surgeries he has had fighting though injuries sustained during his high school career.

“Having to sit our last year with his injury has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Conner because his entire mental approach to the game has changed and he doesn’t let opposing players thrash talking bother him like it used to,” said Coach Barnes. “Heck, I got upset at an official one game not too long ago and it was Conner telling me to sit back down on the bench and not let a bad call bother me. A couple years ago I might have been on the court pulling him away from a bad situation as he was getting a technical but not anymore. He has come to terms with a much better mental approach to the game for sure.”

Gleaton has been a gym rat all his life and he bear a close physical resemblance to former basketball legend “Pistol” Pete Maravich. “Conner can certainly help a college program at the next level,” said Coach Barnes. “He is a hard-working dedicated athlete and he does a lot of things on a basketball court you simply can’t coach.”

In a recent 95-48 pay-back win over Dorchester Academy four AJA players scored in double figures. Gleaton had 32 points, freshman Jonathan Schaffer had 27, talented and unselfish junior Chandler Hayden had 15 points and junior point guard Tykel Hoover had 11. This core group of players are all hard-nosed season veterans of the hardwood.

“We made 36 of 69 shots from the floor against Dorchester Academy and we made 20 of 24 free throws and the entire game was just a thing of beauty,” said Coach Barnes. “We were playing well as a cohesive unit and we are running the game plan to perfection.

“Schaffer made 9 of 11 free throws, Hayden had five assists and four steals, and 6-4 Jeb Ficklin had two great blocked shots. This game was about as well as I’ve seen us play in a long time since I have been coaching at Andrew Jackson.”

On January 8th AJA beat St. Johns Christian Academy 79-62 and a few days later they beat Calhoun Academy 91-50.

Hayden is a shooting guard averaging 9.1 points, 9.6 rebounds 5.4 assists and 2.7 steals a game. He might the most polished player on the team in all aspects of the game. Hoover, on point, is averaging 8.3 points, 2.4 assists and 2.4 steals a game.

Schaffer (6-0, 180) is averaging 14.8 points and 9.9 rebounds a game as a small forward type. “He is a rock solid and physically put together athlete as you will see,” said Coach Barnes. “Schaffer imposes his will on teams and he can drive to the basket and score as well as anyone I’ve coached.”

Banks Wallace, the only other senior on the team, is considered the team’s best three-point shooter. “When we need an outside shot, Banks is the one to take it,” said Coach Barnes. “He is also a great on ball defender.”

Coach Barnes describes Hayden as the player with a lot of basketball smarts. “He can break down a defense and kick the ball back out for the open man as good as you can see,” said Coach Barnes. “He has good length that gives people he is guarding a fit on defense. Hayden is a very unselfish player also.”

Coach Barnes describes point guard Hoover as a good ball handler with great defensive skills also.

The first player off the bench is guard Drake Mathias. “Drake is a lock down defender and when he comes in he brings a lot of energy to the team on defense,” said Coach Barnes.

Flicklin is 6-5 shot blocker in the paint and junior guard Bryce Hughes plays quality minutes as well. Another guard who contributes is Bryce Waltz.

Coach Barnes said he has tweaked his coaching strategy this season. “My number one goal as a coach is to keep my players healthy,” said Coach Barnes. “When you are playing three games a week and going 100 per cent all the time you know longer need long, hard physical practices with a lot of running. I am letting the team off for one full day a week now to get their legs back under them.

“We are having more shoot arounds and shorter practices this season,” said Barnes. “In the past I thought have long practices with a lot of drills and running was going to make them tougher. It might have just been making them tired and they were worn out by the time we had to play a game.”

No doubt the success of the football program at AJA has extended over to the basketball program at AJA. On Friday night the largest crowd to ever watch a basketball game near Clear Pond is expected and this writer has only question left.

(Can you save me a plate of that chicken bog because I am coming to cover this game?)


© 2017 High School Sports Report

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