Chayse Elliott's All-Star moment came with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Cold Springs senior hauled in a pass on the right wing, quickly dribbled to his left and smoothly released a 3-pointer with Dadeville's Terry Toler right in his face.
“It felt good,” said Elliott, who wound up scoring five points in the North's 65-57 victory of the All-Star Sports Week boys basketball game Wednesday night in Montgomery. “As soon as it left my hand, I knew it was in. It was one of those shots that you could just tell.”
It didn't take Elliott long to showcase his athleticism and basketball prowess once he made his first appearance nearly halfway into the opening quarter. In addition to his 3-point shot, the Eagle provided a pesky defense that made it hard on many of the South's best players to get in any sort of rhythm.
Cold Springs boys basketball coach Tim Burleson, who sat alongside Elliott's family and friends during Wednesday night's contest, wasn't surprised by his star player's hustle.
“I've seen that before,” Burleson said with a sly smile. “He played extremely hard on the defensive end, and he worked really hard to box out. There was a lot of size out there.”
Elliott's next big stretch of playing time came in the third quarter. The talent he's spent endless hours developing on the court and in the weight room was once again on full display, as the Eagle snuck in for an offensive rebound and put it back up for his final two points of the night.
“This is an event and an experience he'll remember the rest of his life,” Burleson said. “After his playing days are over, this will be a fond memory for him. I'm extremely proud of him.”
The North was down 32-25 at halftime before dominating the third quarter to take a lead they never relinquished. Wenonah's Derunnya Wilson was named the North MVP, while Carver's Jeremy Johnson earned the honors for the South.
Elliott became the first male athlete from Cold Springs to represent his school at the annual All-Star Sports Week with his selection to the boys basketball team. Former Eagle standouts Georgia Myrex and Paige Parker both played for the North squad in past All-Star girls basketball games.
Along with Elliott, Good Hope's Cara Goodwin and Holly Pond's Katlyn Whitehead accounted for Cullman County's three athletes chosen to compete in Montgomery this week. Goodwin and Whitehead made up the North's starting pitching and catching combo for the opening game of an All-Star softball doubleheader on Tuesday night.
“I think that more athletes from our area can compete with what I saw right there,” Burleson said. “I hope that not just Cold Springs, but Cullman County, will begin to have more representation down here.”
Todd Jeffers, one of the North's basketball coaches, spent a majority of the week with his roster in the Alabama State University dorms and in the Hornets' Acadome preparing for Wednesday's All-Star performance. In that relatively short amount of time, the Hazel Green coach picked up on the qualities that make Elliott such an exceptional person and player.
“First of all, he's got a tremendous work ethic,” Jeffers said. “He comes every day, learning and wanting to get better. He works hard. I'm telling you, he probably broke a sweat before anyone else. That's just the way he is.
“His basketball IQ is amazing. He's one of those guys who could be a coach one day. He's that kind of kid. He understands the game and is really smart. I love being around him.”
As one of Alabama's smaller Class 2A schools, Cold Springs doesn't always garner the same amount of respect that larger programs around the state tend to receive. No matter that perception, Jeffers couldn't care less what school Elliott plays for. All he knows is this Eagle won't stop soaring anytime soon.
“This kid is going to be special this year and help his team be really successful,” Jeffers said of Elliott. “He's going to be great at the next level. Class 1A, 2A, 3A, 6A, it doesn't matter. If you can play, people find you. And he can play.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.