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Meridian has high hoops expectations

By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
Nov. 12, 2002
Expectations are high for the Meridian High boys basketball team.
Last season, the Wildcats reached the State 5A semifinal game before getting beat by Harrison Central in the final minute.
This season, a line-up featuring both senior experience and youthful spunk will make or break the team. This past summer offered a glimpse of the team's promise as it went 18-1 overall and won the gold medal at the State Games of Mississippi's prep tournament.
The Wildcats return two senior starters and one part-timer to the regular line-up. But the biggest change is at center where Meridian will have a true center in 6-foot-9 sophomore Cyrus McGowan who transferred in from Noxubee County.
Veteran head coach Ernie Watson says McGowan will pay off big for the Wildcats.
That's because the team's two returning starters in forwards Jason Windhom and Theo Naylor are a year older and stronger. Windhom was the team's second leading scorer behind Fred Cole who is now at Alcorn State. Windhom averaged about 11 points per game.
Naylor was one of the team's top rebounders and scored at the 8-per game clip. McGowan's pressence strenghthens the Wildcats' front line.
The backcourt will have Watson's son E.J. running the show at point guard. E.J. saw plenty of time at the position last year and had a number of starts once the Wildcats entered the post-season.
Senior Reggie Cole joins the starters after a year on the B-team. He will play the two-guard.
Like always, Watson will play a lot of people. Five players from an outstanding junior high team at Kate Griffin join McGowan and West Lauderdale transfer Daniel Huggins to give Meridian a strong, seven-player sophomore class.
The second unit rotation will have Daniel Boyd and Cornelius Myles at forward. Daniel Ramsey is at center. Chris Harris is the back-up point guard and Huggins will play at the wing.
Two of the Kate Griffin products who should get some time are Jacoby Davis and Maurice Naylor. The team will also have Alvin Williams and Lamarace Tucker join when they get into basketball shape following the football season.
Meridian used a strong regular season schedule to build itself up for a strong run in the post-season which saw the club win the Division 2-5A title against the likes of Tupelo, Starkville and Columbus. The Wildcats then finished second at North State and third overall. They were 21-12 for the season.
Watson will take his team to a new, two-day event called the Mississippi/Alabama Challenge in Oxford. The Wildcats will play John Carroll High School out of Birmingham on Dec. 6 and Eufaula High School on Dec. 7. The Eufaula game will be played at Tad Smith Coliseum on the Ole Miss campus.
In late December, the Wildcats head back to the Zizzer Classic in West Plains, Mo. The 8-team tournament will feature Vashon High out of St. Louis, Mo., and Little Rock, Ark. Parkview.