By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Jasmine Fayne & Andrew Anderson
To win this honor you have to be talented, charismatic, smart and a leader. Munford High School was blessed to have Jasmine Fayne as part of its softball program for four years. Then at Tipton-Rosemark Academy, Andrew Anderson made a huge impact on the basketball program in just two seasons.
Both come from a strong lineage of athletes. The Fayne family is sports royalty in Tipton County. And down the road in Memphis the Anderson brothers are competing with the Lawsons to be the first family of hoops.
Andrew did his part as the go-to floor general for the Rebels. He took his father/coach Cedric’s vision and brought it to life. Andrew played hard and work even harder in practice. He was good at doing the little things like pressuring the opposing point guard into mistakes.
While executing his game plan to near perfection, Andrew made it his mission to disrupt the opposition’s into submission.
He will take those skills to the University of South Alabama. Andrew is following in the footsteps of his two older brothers who played college basketball as well. If you ask all three of them, the best might be yet to come in youngest brother Alex.
There is no debate, the glue piece of the Anderson brothers is Andrew. If you challenged the brothers to a four-on-four game, He’s going to be the man in charge on the court.
Fayne was in charge on the field and dugout for the Lady Cougars throughout 2019. She led by example and her voice grew during her senior year.
With so much young talent, Fayne knew she had to be an all-around leader in her final campaign. Before heading off to Southwest Tennessee to continue her career, Fayne did whatever Coach Glenn Goulder needed to give her team a chance to win.
She made a name for herself in the process. Her father Jeff was a legend in Tipton County and went on to play professional baseball. But he will tell you his best moment involving the game was watching his daughter sign her letter of intent.
Hours of practice in the batting cage and fielding ground balls paid off for Jasmine. She is a great example for any player on why dedication is so important to reach your goals.
Austin Russell/Cody Strickland & Sydney Downing
Up at Brighton the storied careers of Austin Russell and Cody Strickland came to a conclusion in May. They rewrote the Cardinal Tennis History Book with the best doubles career ever. They are the prime example of what a true friendship should be.
Then over at Tipton-Rosemark Academy Sydney Downing followed in her sisters’ footsteps and joined the Lady Rebel Softball team. And just like them, Sydney was a great teammate and person.
Her smile was so welcoming and her sweet spirit eased the tension during a close game. Sydney kept the dugout lit. Although her last name is Downing, she just kept everything up.
A friend to so many, Downing was a consistent face at the signings either cutting cake or pouring punch.
Downing was a vital part of the TRA Rebel Basketball team making it to State. She was the manager on that squad and kept the boys in line. She worked hard making sure the coaches and players didn’t have to worry about uniforms, gear, warmups and those little things. She gave Coach Anderson peace of mind.
Despite being so busy, Downing was going to make sure she paid me a visit and flash that beautiful smile. On a cold winter’s night, her greeting warmed my heart. I’m going to miss seeing her on a frequent basis.
I’m blessed I didn’t miss the bond between Russell and Strickland. Through highs and lows, the Brighton duo has grown to be brothers. They will be heading to Freed-Hardeman University this fall continuing their tennis careers.
Strickland is seeking a path toward becoming a preacher and minister. He said God blessed him to meet Russell back in middle school. He inspired Cody to take up tennis and pursue it.
Russell chased his tennis passion while earning a top 10 spot in the Class of 2019. They are a dynamic duo going to State back to back years as Regional champions. The combination of spiritual integrity and intelligence have these gentlemen poised for greatness as long as they stay together.
T. Brown & Tysen Banks
One overcame a knee injury to get back in time to help his team reach the State championship game. The other winner of Most Dependable 2019 endured the growing pains of a program trying to reach new heights.
You learn about the true character of a person when times are rough. Tysen Banks tore his ACL during his junior year and knew the road back would be tough. He stopped playing football and focused on his primary sport of basketball.
He was the point guard who loved to play lockdown defense. He was the heart of the State runner-up team. Banks was a combination of power, speed and intelligence wrapped in a humble spirit. Now when he needed to get nasty and in your face, he transformed into a version of “Mike” Tysen. (Although he could never get a charge call his way).
With his glasses and curly faded hairstyle, some of his teammates jokingly called him my son.
I would be proud to have a son like Tysen. He’s a great person in addition to being a top-tier athlete. I witnessed from a distance his road to recovery. When times got tough, Tysen was still there supporting his teammates, rooting on his fellow athletes and becoming a strong part of the TRA fabric.
Speaking of being a part of a program’s history, T. Brown will go down as one of the best Lady Cardinals to ever play the game of basketball.
She reached the 1,000 point mark in her career. Brown was only the second player I witnessed to accomplished this goal as a Lady Cardinal since I started covering the program in 2003.
During her freshman year, Brown had flashes of things to come. She wasn’t afraid to shoot, attack the basketball and hit clutch shots.
But the wins were few and far between. Then the program started to head in a positive direction. By the time Brown hung up her Cardinal sneakers, Brighton was one of the top teams in Region 7-3A.
Her dedication and never quitting was a crucial part of the Brighton turnaround.
Camryn Bruce & Dean Karash
Who were the two highest ranking student/athletes in the Class of 2019? Just like the way they approached the ACT, this was easy to answer. Camryn Bruce of Munford High School and Dean Karash at Millington Central High School finished among the best at their school.
Dean was salutatorian only finishing behind his twin brother Rockwell. Bruce was No. 2 in her class rankings with Matthew Tanner Casey first. Bruce was a starter on the Munford Lady Cougar Basketball team earning a spot on the All-Academic Team for District 13-3A. She was in the running for an All-District spot as one of the leading scorers on the team.
Bruce left her mark on the William Osteen Gymnasium during her junior season. She dropped 29 points on the rival Lady Trojans hitting 9 three-pointers. Bruce was dangerous from behind the arch. But she never tried to play outside of her limits. She was good at translating Head Coach Steve Poindexter’s teaching points to the court.
She complimented a star player like Gabby Crawford and assisted an upcoming player like Maiya Reed.
Bruce will be phenomenal in her future career. She is a great team player (even in cornhole). Her next educational step is studying at Mississippi College as a Trustee Scholar (one of four in United States).
Meanwhile Dean-O is choosing an alternative route for his future. The man who has the ideal ACT score and grades, he will go to TCAT in Covington.
He wants to deal with machines more than people in his future. Which is surprising to his golf and baseball teammates from Millington. Dean was there cheering on his peers and kept them encouraged. He was an easy conversation in class and never judged anyone unfairly. Karash’s easygoing style allowed him to break the ice with me in the dugout during his junior season. I always thought of him as the Jesus-looking guy. After a few innings, I realized he had a spirit to unite people.
His beard and long hair was the perfect look.
Ayonna Lemons & James Carson
Two singing I attended this year illustrated hard work really pays off. Ayonna Lemons of Munford and James Carson of Brighton didn’t get the spotlight. They were unsung heroes to their teams and programs. It was rewarding for all involved to see them achieve a National Signing Day. Carson overcame a knee injury to sign with Central Methodist University Football. Lemons will take her talents to UT-Martin for track.
Lemons was inspired by her late mother to fulfill her promise. April said her baby girl was going to be an athlete and good at track. Under the guidance of coaches Benard Ivie and Thomas Walters, Lemons won several awards and gained the attention of the Skyhawk program.
Lemons was dedicated to validate the investments made by her aunt Olivia and cousin Sharon who raised her. She also wanted to make her coaches, school and teammates proud. Her hard work paid off and she validated the words spoken by her mom almost a decade ago.
Carson was a hard worker before he had to take on rehab for his knee. His chiseled physique proved he was no stranger to the gym.
Carson also played a key role in the Cardinal Football program reaching the State Semifinals in Class 5A in 2017. The junior wide out threw several crucial blocks for star running back Lance West.
Carson did the little things to help his team win. He sacrifice his stats for the greater good of the program. He spent his senior season on the sideline nursing that injury but Carson was still there rooting on his brothers of the gridiron.
Carson told me hard work is making yourself stronger to be able to support others in their time of need. And he wants to make sure he can carry his weight and then some.
Mr. and Miss Millington Star
Corey Smith & Haley Simpson
Each year I concluded my look back at the TSSAA year that was with The Millington Star’s Mr. and Ms. Millington Star award.
While no physical plaque comes with this honor, this recognition is special to me because this boy and girl would be the representation of a combined high school. It is my pleasure to announce the male winner is Corey Smith of Millington and the female winner is Haley Simpson of Brighton.
Recently The Millington Star presented Smith with a plaque for 2019 Male Athlete of the Year. The definition of class, Smith humbly accepted the award. He declared in that moment he will add to the legacy of the recognition like previous winners Buck Wakefield, Connor Alexander and Alan Cross.
Smith is heading to UT-Martin to compete in track and maybe football down the road.
He heads off to college with a strong foundation established by his parents Barry and Mia. They trusted good coaches and teachers to assist in Corey’s development as a student/athlete.
Smith was smart enough to take the increase and shine in football, track and the classroom. Smith has a bright future because he is willing to listen, he esteems others higher than himself and his work ethic.
The lasting impact Smith made on me as a reporter came in his last event as a Trojan. Smith along with Eddie Macklin, Reggie Caldwell and Adrian Dowell just earned seventh place in the 4x200m relay at State. Coming off the podium in Murfreesboro, the quartet of Trojans was heading off the field a little disappointed. Smith spotted me preparing to interview them. He quickly sucked up his emotions and gathered his teammates.
“Come on, let’s go other here and talk to Thomas.” They quickly followed his lead and represented Millington, Trojan Track and themselves with pride. I know the two sophomores Caldwell and Dowell got a quick lesson in leadership in that moment.
Leadership comes in different forms. Haley Simpson is a leader by example. She doesn’t seek the spotlight. She’s not worried about camera time or being the voice of a program.
Simpson just went about her business in basketball and softball.
Shane and April did a great job of raising their daughter to be a caring, devoted and intelligent young lady. Haley and I developed a friendship slowly but surely.
First interaction was her freshman year when she build up the courage to tell me I covered her sister Hunter previously.
Then her sophomore year, she would bring me the peanut butter cake her mother made for me. I gave her a hug for giving me the sweet dessert. That brief embrace seem to break the ice officially for Haley and me.
By her junior year we were routine chatting buddies. But our friendship really took off during one of the many softball signings for Brighton that year. In need of a camera person to film the interviews, Haley said, ‘I’ll do it. It can’t be that hard.’
She did make it look easy. Then eventually Haley was my go-to person for all Brighton signings. It didn’t matter if the sports was tennis, football, basketball or baseball, Haley was there.
She was a friend to many and respected by all. And she was my camera girl. I could trust her timing and I could run any idea by her. She would execute my plans to perfection.
The irony is that her signing interview was tough because she doesn’t like being in front of the camera. Our last collaboration was the signing of Cody Strickland. I pulled her in front of the camera to say thank you.
Haley I want to express my sincere gratitude for your dedication to The Millington Star, Brighton High School and your peers. You made us all look better. Your contribution to my job and efforts is sweeter than a piece of your mother’s cake.