By Thomas Sellers Jr.
For the next two issues, The Genuine Article will focus on the Class of 2018.
Some of the student/athletes from Millington Central, Brighton, Munford and Tipton-Rosemark Academy have earned the destinations of Who’s Who. This week will highlight seven categories ranging from Best Looking to Most Likely to be a Comic.
The impact these athletes made on The Millington Star and me as a reporter will last for years to come. This is a chance to recall some special moments from some of the student/athletes who made the past four years wonderful.
Eli Davis & Onyx Magno
Brighton High School was home to a pair of outstanding student/athletes the past four years. Both Onyx Magno and Eli Davis could be professional models. In addition the duo made watching them compete memorable.
Magno was a joy to watch develop and mature on the track. She cut her teeth with the EDA Flyers in Millington competing across the nation. The hard work paid off when she suited up for the Brighton Cardinals. Magno reached Sectionals in her senior season and earned a scholarship to Millsaps.
Although track is her college sport, Magno’s time in basketball left the biggest impression on me. She was a team leader and did the ugly things to help her team get better each season.
She was the smallest post player in District 13-3A battling the likes of Munford twin towers Deja Potter and Gabby Crawford in the paint. Those quick feet came in handy giving Magno good position on defense against much taller opposition. Magno just has a way of making whatever she does look picture-perfect.
The picture-perfect swing at Brighton I captured on camera several times came courtesy of Eli Davis. The future Arkansas State Red Wolf had technique at the plate as sweet as honey. It was a result of rhythm and repetition. Davis worked hard on getting his swing to become a dependable part of the 30-win Cardinals.
Now if you came on a night Davis was schedule to pitch, you would think he was an unstoppable ace. You would be right because Davis started the season 7-0.
Davis was a vision of baseball beauty in the field or at the plate. The reasons he was a Class 3A Mr. Baseball finalist.
If you are around Davis off the field, you know he takes his craft serious. But his cool, calm flow makes you think he just woke up with those skills. Keep on making it look easy Eli.
Most School Spirit
Kenny Harris & Teanna Johnson
I’m being paid to attend these games, banquets and special events. But there was a pair of student/athletes who seemed to be at most of these activities and I know they weren’t receiving a dime. Millington’s Kenny Harris and Brighton’s Teanna Johnson found time in their busy schedules to represent their schools and support classmates.
Johnson played volleyball and softball for the Lady Cardinals. Harris was a star golfer for Millington and did the dirty work on defense for Trojan Soccer. Harris even participated as a team manager for Millington Basketball.
Harris is Millington through and through. He grew up cheering for his older sister Lindsey. Then it was his turn to wear the black and gold in competition. Outside of his own events, Harris wore the black and gold at football games leading cheers.
As his peers signed college scholarships, Harris became their public relations guy telling you all about their accomplishments and stats.
But what makes Harris most school-spirited male for 2018 is his participation in other clubs that also promote Trojan Athletics like Trojan TV. Most importantly his keen knowledge of his peers’ achievements, Harris was genuinely more proud of point guard Bryce Mattox’s assist-to-turnover ratio improving than his score at the Glen Eagle Golf Course.
Chasing his hoop dreams for three years, Harris told Head Coach Jewell Gates, ‘Coach I will better service this team as manager than being a reserve.’ Harris was my go-to guy on stats, updates and opponent previews. Can you say Coach Harris.
Up the road, Johnson was a fixture helping with hospitality rooms, the concession stand or office work at Brighton. She learned that tireless volunteering from her mother Tetrice. For a woman who doesn’t like cameras, Ms. Tetrice is near organizing tables and providing meals for signing days.
Her daughter Teanna was right there as a good friends to most of the record-setting group of signees. Johnson, who is blessed with great athletic ability, didn’t mind sharing the spotlight. She would even step out of the way for her teammates to get the glory.
She just did what she had to do to make the team better. Sometimes that meant cheering them on and showing up to games loaning her Cardinal spirit.
Teanna would volunteer whenever she was needed, even for this reporter. My most memorable moment of Teanna was on her sister Ta’mya’s signing day. In need of a cameraperson, I requested Teanna. After my detailed instructions, I reminded Teanna after my countdown to hit the start button to record. Visit Millington Star at Youtube.com and check out the results. Teanna wanted to make sure I would never forget her. She didn’t have to do that, I will remember No. 12 for explosive spikes on the volleyball court and a timely bat in softball. I will especially remember her smiling face supporting her classmates, encouraging them reach their dreams.
Danny Chandler & TZ House
Student/athlete fashion is judged in two realms — on the field and off the field. Tazerria “TZ” House and Danny “DC” Chandler are both fresh when they take the field. Then at school in Millington, they standout with an original style. And when night falls, House and Chandler transform anywhere they go into a runway.
House can make a Senior Poster look like a glamour shot. She can give you nerdy chic in her glasses or stunning beauty with them off. She is going to coordinate her sports gear or causal wear.
If House is a part of the student section at a football game, the black and gold is popping with accessories only TZ can pull off.
In action, House makes Trojan gray look trendy. She can pull off the gold with a shine of her own. And House in the Millington black is intimidating with the right amount of softness. As long as she doesn’t wear any silver and blue, House will be my top fashion star for years to come.
Speaking of intimidating, Chandler played on the offensive and defensive lines for the Trojans. He stood out because his cleats and sock game was top flight. He paid attention to details in his appearance.
Chandler was the standard for how to look in the Millington road whites. He appeared like an angelic warrior dipped in swag.
Outside of the field, my boy DC won this honor with his appearances at Millington Basketball games as a fan. The shoes would always compliment the shirt. As a big man he could pull off skinny jeans in a masculine way.
At one softball game, DC rocked a combination of 1960s tie-dye with 21st century jeans. But Chandler’s elite outfit this past year was dressing as Santa and taking a lesson on appropriate gentlemanly behavior from Millington Choir singers. He was a good sport and even better singer.
Most Likely to Succeed
Corey Mitson & Gabby Crawford
Usually the winners of this destination signs a Division I scholarship, plays on a high level and becomes a fixture with their program. Tipton-Rosemark Academy’s Corey Mitson pitched in a State Tournament, ranks among the best in school history and is heading to SIU.
Munford’s Gabby Crawford will be a part of the Alabama Crimson Tide after taking the Lady Cougars to Sub-State multiple times and winning various MVP honors.
The futures are bright for Crawford and Mitson. Both have similar personalities as fiery competitors. Crawford and Mitson would run through a wall for their teammates and shoulder a lot of the responsibility. But they are not afraid to voice their opinions.
The duo dedicated hours to improving on their natural gifts. Mitson put in countless hours on the mound learning different pitches and speeds to be the ace for Head Coach Brad Smith. He lived up to the hype and pressure. High expectations greeted Mitson as he arrived on the TRA campus five years ago. Once he learned how to balance his work and the thoughts of others, Mitson was a vital part to the program.
He was a colorful leader and made sure his teammates felt no pressure with his humor and dependable pitching. Being able to adjust on the fly lets me know Mitson is destined for greatness.
Crawford traveled down a similar path. Coming out of Brighton Middle School, all of Tipton County knew she would be the next basketball star in the area. She surpassed that benchmark as an All-State level player.
Crawford had to take on varsity responsibilities as a freshman. She benefited from guidance from Head Coach Steve Poindexter and great teammates like Shania Johnson, Johnna Jones, Deja Potter, De’Asha Banks and more. But the focal point of the recent run of success for Munford was Crawford.
Crawford loves a challenge and doubters. The SEC will provide plenty for her and once again Crawford will exceed them.
Tae’lyr Gatlin & Rachel Whitley
Brighton’s Tae’lyr Gatlin and TRA’s Rachel Whitley are two of the best I’ve had the privilege to cover. I first started watching Gatlin games on the hardwood when he played at Munford Middle School five years ago. Meanwhile his fellow eighth grader Whitley was playing a major role in helping the 2014 Lady Rebels win the State softball title.
Fast forward to 2018, both are legends at their respective schools. Gatlin and Whitley have tabulated various school records, won statewide awards and will attend college to continue their athletic careers. Gatlin is heading West to the University of Denver to hoop for the Pioneers. Meanwhile Whitley will take her softball talents closer to home at Christian Brothers University.
Best Overall reflects on a total body of work from a student/athlete. Gatlin’s crowning achievements include All-Time leading scorer in school history and guiding the Cardinals to the school’s first Sub-State appearance in 2017 taking on Penny Hardaway’s East Mustangs.
Whitley had countless pitching records at TRA, a 2014 State championship ring and a title game appearance to close out her prep career.
The other factor that goes into being Best Overall is the player’s attention to detail. Does he or she leave the program better. Whitley invested in her younger teammates, especially Charli Rice. Rice is the next in line of Roxy Kimes, Ashton Needham and Whitley. Rachel made sure of that by leading Rice by example. She shared her knowledge. She was willing to also share the spotlight with her talented freshman teammate because it helped the Lady Rebels reach greatness in 2018.
Whitley was willing to sacrifice for the betterment of TRA and did it with a glowing smile. The best smile was supported by great play on the field, and an even better human being.
Gatlin knew all about sacrifice as a point guard. His gift of court vision made teammates better around him on the court. Gatlin worked nonstop on improving his skills, physique and to erase his weaknesses.
When other Cardinals saw the best player being humble in his approach to the game, it made them step up to a higher level.
Gatlin knew he was being watched by his father/head coach Stan. Tae’lyr had the added pressure of validating his Dad’s investment of time, money and attention to be the best he could be.
The honest relationship between father and son allowed them to critique each other and encouragement one another. Stan’s love for his son allowed Tae’lyr’s love of the game to grow. As Tae’lyr matured he was a leader on campus and ideal face for Brighton High School.
Banners, awards and stories from those who knew them will pump life into the legacies of Gatlin and Whitley for decades to come.
Aaron Alston & Deja Potter
Tipton County is blessed with some phenomenal student/athletes. The Millington Star has given me the platform to showcase some of these talented players. One of the most intelligent, gifted female athletes I’ve come across recently has been Munford’s Deja Potter.
Then up the road in Brighton, maybe the greatest Cardinal athlete ever Aaron Alston just wrapped up a decorated career in football and basketball.
Let’s start with Alston. Leaping ability that Spider-Man envies. Hands that rival all-time NFL great wide receiver Cris Carter. Toughness that has been shaped by Tipton County values.
Alston comes from talented and intelligent family having the privilege of playing with his cousin Malik Jackson. The duo was a prime connection on the field with Jackson locating his best target many times for touchdowns.
Alston was a fantastic receiver but earned All-State honors as a defensive back. His timely hits and big interceptions drove the Cardinals to a 2017 Region 8-5A title and State Semifinal appearance.
Then Alston was the interior force for the District 13-3A champion Brighton Basketball squad. It was his sophomore year the first time I saw him dunk from a flat-foot stance in the paint with a pair of defenders on him. Coach Stan Gatlin tried to warn me of his freakish athletic ability. I still had to see it to believe it.
After that I had my camera ready to capture the brilliance of Alston. It was an honor to witness Alston in a Cardinal uniform. One word summarizes him — special.
Potter knows what special means. After her knee injury last year, Potter had to watch from the sideline as the Lady Cougar Basketball team reach Sub-State. But Munford didn’t have enough firepower to overcome Central that night. They were missing Potter.
The top 10 student worked hard to get back on the court and give Munford another shot at reaching State. Potter and the Lady Cougars did reach Sub-State this past season with Potter winning the District 13-3A Tournament MVP along the way.
Then Potter wrapped up her Munford athletic tenure right beside her sister Ciara with track. Both Potters reached Sectionals. The elder Potter displayed her natural gifts and abilities in field events. She would study the sport or event, then apply her knowledge. Her mind would fall in line with her physical gifts to create what appeared to be effortless magic.
But The Star saw the work Potter put into her crafts and her recovery. She didn’t want the spotlight but the spotlight found her because she’s special too.
Most Likely to be a Comic
Kesean Triggs & Keyanna Jones
We wrap up this week’s Who’s Who with a pair of student/athletes who brought me countless laughs and smiles. At Millington, football player Kesean Triggs could be the energy and life of the party. And when his fellow Trojan Keyanna Jones wasn’t busy with soccer, basketball or softball, she was the comedy relief for those around her.
Keyanna is a gifted athlete blessed with speed, coordination and a mind that picks up on good coaching quickly. She played striker, point guard and centerfield. All three positions draw attention from spectators. Keyanna could command a crowd with her well-time humor.
It came in handy one night in Memphis when her teammate Kamyiah Tomlin was basically attacked by an opposing player. Tomlin kept her composure and was able not to retaliate. It was Jones who rushed by her teammate’s side. She jokingly says, ‘You want me to go get her!’ Tomlin had to smile and laugh.
Keyanna’s bubbly personality pumped life into her outfield mates during softball games. And for most of the basketball season, she kept her teammates level headed with her sense of humor.
Sometimes it seemed Triggs first sense was purely humor. The Trojan lineman had a serious side being tough on the line of scrimmage, but he was a ticking time bomb of humor. Triggs would crack a joke in uniform. He would be the center of attention in the student section leading chants at basketball games.
Triggs would even have the teachers and facility laughing in the halls. Triggs didn’t even have to be present to get a laugh. One day via text message, I delivered information on his behalf to Mrs. Marshall’s desk. Triggs wanted her to collect his flash drive loaded with senior pictures.
Marshall told me to text him back, ‘She’s not your secretary!’
Triggs went into full R&B singer begging mode. He tried to sweet talk his favorite person at MCHS through my phone. He had no shame. It must have worked because he got that flash drive.