By Kevin Price
Ja’Queze Kirby didn’t need a big senior season at Jeff Davis to secure a college scholarship.
His talents and his strong play for the Yellow Jackets the past three seasons, along with his peformance in AAU ball, had already been enough to convince colleges that he could play big-time college basketball.
And before he took the floor for the Jackets this year, Kirby had already decided to pursue a collegiate career at Ohio Valley Conference power Murray State following what has been a stellar four years at Jeff Davis.
But Kirby has certainly left no doubt that he’s worthy of his scholarship with one of the best seasons of any player in Southeast Georgia and really the entire state, too.
The Jeff Davis standout is scoring 19.2 points a game while averaging 11.4 rebounds to go with 4.6 blocks, 4.2 assists and 3 steals a contest.
His consistent play, which has spanned the season, earned Kirby the first Coastal Pines Technical College Boys Student-Athlete of the Month for January. The award is presented by 912 Sports and was given to Kirby Wednesday morning at school.
“Ja’Queze is a joy to coach,” said Jeff Davis coach Bo Boatright. “He has been the catalyst of our team for a while now. He has an energy on the court that is uncommon. Mix that with tremendous athleticism and an ever-growing skill set and you have something very special.”
Kirby, who stands 6-foot-6, is listed as a guard and forward on the roster for the Jackets. And, he will go down as one of the all-time best players to ever suit up for Jeff Davis, regardless of position.
He actually has already surpassed the 2,000-point mark in his four-year career with the Jackets and has the chance to eclipse the 1,500-mark for career rebounds during the upcoming postseason.
Kirby figures to be a four-time all-state player after having already won those honors his first three seasons. Just this week, he was named the Region 2-AA Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. He also will be a candidate for the Class AA Player of the Year, an honor he received last season, too.
The unquestioned leader for the Jackets, Kirby has led the team to an 18-7 overall record. Jeff Davis finished the season second in the region with an 11-3 record against league competition.
The Jackets, who are ranked No. 6, figure to play top-rated Swainsboro a third time this weekend in the region tournament final.
Jeff Davis split with the Tigers during the regular season, but Swainsboro won the second matchup between the teams recently by a wide margin.
Both teams have a bye into the semifinals and will open postseason play Friday in the tournament at Metter.
By Kevin Price
If someone is seeing Zoesha Smith play for the first time this month in the postseason for high school basketball, it likely won’t take them long to see why she is headed to play major-college basketball after her time with the Glynn Academy girls team comes to an end.
The 6-foot-1 senior standout looks the part of a NCAA Division I athlete with her lanky and athletic build, but Smith also has a strong game to go with her muscular frame.
Smith, who has already signed to play for the University of Georgia, put together a stellar regular season for the Lady Terrors who are the No. 1 seed in this week’s Region 2-AAAAAA tournament.
And with a big showing in January as part of that, the GA standout was an easy choice for the first-ever Coastal Pines Technical College Girls Student-Athlete of the Month presented by 912 Sports.
Going into the postseason, Smith is averaging a double-double for the fifth-ranked Lady Terrors with 20.7 points and 12.4 rebounds a game. Her steady play has helped the Glynn girls to a 20-4 overall record which includes a perfect 8-0 mark in region games going into the league tournament which Glynn is hosting on their campus Wednesday and Friday.
“Zoesha is having a phenomenal season thus far,” said GA coach Sharnesha Smith. “She has taken her game to another level in being the total player. She has turned into a player with much confidence, relentlessness, leadership and commitment to her craft.”
Smith began the month with perhaps her best all-around game of the season on Jan. 3 when Glynn took on rival Brunswick at home. In the team’s 48-40 win, Smith scored 26 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, had four steals and also three blocks.
Over the remainder of the month, she scored 21 or more points in the next four games and scored no fewer than 17 points in the Lady Terrors’ final three games.
Smith finished with double-digit rebound totals in seven of Glynn’s eight games in January and blocked at least three shots in five of the eight games as well.
In the second meeting with rival Brunswick on Jan. 24, Smith had to sit considerable minutes in the first half after picking up two personal fouls in the game’s opening minutes. The Lady Terrors went into halftime trailing 24-18 on the scoreboard.
But with Smith scoring 9 of Glynn’s 15 points in the third quarter and anchoring a defense that held Brunswick to only two points in the stanza, the Lady Terrors took a 33-26 lead into the final period and went on to hold off the Lady Pirates 40-36.
Smith finished the night with 19 points and 10 boards and was named the Glynn County Sports Hall of Fame Player of the Game.
The Lady Terrors might not have won had Smith not put the team on her shoulders, and now the Glynn girls will look for their top player to lead them to perhaps a second straight region tournament crown and maybe another strong run in the Class AAAAAA state tournament on the heels of a march to the Elite Eight a year ago.
“Her focus and preparation in practice is amazing,” said Glynn’s Coach Smith. “To be honest, the best is yet to come for Zoesha. I’m excited to be on this journey with her, and I am grateful for the opportunity to coach and mentor her each day.”
Zoesha Smith and Glynn will play Richmond Hill Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in a region semifinal. The region finals and consolation games are Friday at Glynn as well.