During the 2019-2020 boys and girls basketball seasons, countless local players and coaches made their marks during a winter full of big moments. Luckily for four of those area players and one coach, their achievements have led to something special this summer.
Lanett’s Kintavious Dozier, Opelika’s Brandon Howard and Kaitlyn Bryant, Smiths Station’s Donovan Pearman and Central-Phenix City girls coach Carolyn Wright have been selected to participate in the AHSAA North-South All-Star basketball games this summer. The games, which feature rosters comprised entirely of rising seniors, will be played Tuesday, July 14 in Montgomery.
“It means a lot. I’ve been working and playing hard all season. This just shows me that people are taking notice,” Howard said. “(I’m most looking forward to) winning and to also put my name in front of some more coaches.”
Dozier stepped in as Lanett’s point guard in the offseason after transferring from Valley and wasted no time in proving he was worthy of pacing the offense. In his first season at Lanett, Dozier averaged 26 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists per game and helped the Panthers reach the state championship game for the fourth time in five years.
Howard had to step up in a big way with the departure of Taye Fields to Lee-Huntsville, and he made it evident he was up for the challenge. Howard averaged 14 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as a junior to keep the Bulldogs in the hunt and ultimately send the squad to the Class 6A state tournament.
Howard will get to see Fields come game time, as Fields was selected to the North squad after tallying 11 double-doubles and averaging 19.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
“It’ll be fun,” Howard said of facing off with Fields. “We’ve always played against each other since we were younger. We are both winners.”
Pearman grew his game after a strong sophomore season and made it clear he was Smiths Station’s best shooter. Although the team just missed a state tournament berth, Pearman still excelled and averaged 17.6 points, 3.4 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 steals per contest.
On the girls’ side, Bryant was once again a key player on an Opelika team that made it to the Class 6A state semifinals for the third-straight season. Bryant ended her junior season by averaging 11 points and six rebounds per game while also recording 85 steals for a 27-win Lady Bulldogs squad.
Bryant will be coached by a South staff featuring Wright, the longtime Central head coach who along with husband Bobby Wright are the only husband-wife duo in the AHSAA Hall of Fame.
“It means a lot. Everybody doesn’t get that opportunity every year,” said Wright, who will be coaching in an All-Star game for the second time in her career. “It’s something that doesn’t happen a whole lot in your career. It speaks volumes to me to be able to coach those players across the state who have made the status of All-Star.”
Wright led the Lady Red Devils through a remarkable season this winter highlighted by the team’s first area tournament title in three years. Central kept the momentum going all the way to the Class 7A semifinals, where the Lady Red Devils hung tight with Hoover before the eventual state champs pulled away in a 58-42 loss for Wright’s squad.
“Most of this little group had to start as 10th graders. They took a lot of beatdowns and a lot of losses, but they hung in there and they worked hard,” Wright said. “For them to get back and do the things they’ve done this season was big for them and for me as well as our program. “
The July basketball games offer the coaches like Wright a chance to work with some of the best players in the state. For players like Howard, the exhibitions are an opportunity to once again showcase their skills on another big stage.
“I’ve already played with or against most of the players on the North team, and a few of them are my guys,” Howard said. “It’s very exciting to know that I’ll be able to play against them. It makes the game way more fun.”