To say everything came together for University High forward Jalen Johnson would be an understatement.
The 6-foot-7 senior had a breakout season while helping lead the Cubs to their third straight Class 3A state title. The desire to win and the chance to silence skeptics drove Johnson to reach new heights.
And now one of Louisiana’s top post season honors is coming to him. Johnson was selected as the Outstanding Player on the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Class 3A all-state basketball team.
“It started during the summer,” Johnson said. “We knew people doubted us because we lost three starters, but we knew we had a chance to be good.
“I just wanted to do everything I could, but none of this would be possible without the team. I couldn’t do it without them, and they needed me to fill my role.”
Johnson averaged 21.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for the Cubs. He shares top honors with Jewel Sumner’s Bre’Ashlee Jones, who was voted the Outstanding Player on the 3A girls squad. Jones led the Cowgirls to their first state title in girls basketball by averaging 14.7 points, 6.6 rebound, 6-2 assists and 3.4 steals.
Sumner’s Cara Corkern and Casey Jones Sr. of Wossman High were selected as the Coach of the Year winners for the teams selected by a panel of sportswriters from across the state.
Corkern’s Sumner girls were a perfect 35-0. Jones, a former Ouachita coach, led Wossman to a runner-up finish in 3A in his first season, including an upset of top-seeded Peabody in the semifinals.
There was no shortage of local ties on the 3A teams. U-High’s Wayde Sims also made the boys first team. Sims, an LSU signee, averahed 21.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Two local players, Skyler Goodwin of Parkview Baptist and Kaila Anderson of University, were part of the girls first team. U-High Destiny Ephrom made the second team.
Goodwin led PBS to a runner-up finish to Sumner with averages of 25 points, 10 rebounds and 6.0 assists. Anderson averaged 11.3 points and 9.1 assists for the Cubs, while Ephrom averaged 19.3 points and 10.2 rebounds before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
C.J. Jones Jr., the son of the Wossman coach, also made the boys first team. C.J. Jones averaged 23.3 points, 7.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds for Wossman.
Jacoby Ross of Peabody and Larry Owens of Carroll complete the boys first team. Owens averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds a game, while Ross averaged 23 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
Bre’Ashlee Jones’ Jewel Sumner teammate Diamond Brooks, who averaged 18.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, also made the girls first team. So did Loyola’s Amber Smith, who averaged 21.9 points and 9.2 rebounds.
Peabody’s Cedric Russell (23.0 points per game) and Kevin Norman (17.0 ppg), St. Louis Catholic’s P.J. Hardy (22.3 ppg), Patterson’s Taylan Grogan (16.1 ppg) and Jonathan Bell of Green Oaks (21.7 ppg) made the boys second team.
The girls second team also included Iota’s Whitney Landry (14.0 ppg), Westlake’s Jaden Towner (17 ppg), Sumner’s Kiara Williams (11 ppg) and E.D. White’s Michae Jones (18.2 ppg).