Talladega High School students, faculty, alumni and local government leaders gathered to honor the Class 4A state champion boys basketball team in a ceremony Monday afternoon at Chuck Miller Arena.
Talladega City Superintendent Tony Ball delivered opening remarks after Talladega Principal Dr. Darius Williams recognized the guests of honor. The Tigers claimed the championship with a 60-48 win over West Limestone on March 1.
Ball provided some historical context to frame the significance of the team’s accomplishment.
“I looked it up, and Talladega has had a high school since 1906,” Ball said. “This is the first state championship that they’ve brought (back in the playoff era). Thank you so much, guys.”
Talladega County Commissioners Kelvin Cunningham and Tony Haynes presented the players with a proclamation honoring their achievement and ensured each team member and coach had a copy of it as a keepsake.
“I just want to congratulate these boys,” Haynes said. “I was telling Kelvin that winning state is a pretty big deal … That’s something that will stick with you guys for the rest of your lives.”
Talladega girls basketball coach Ryan Dawson directed traffic during the team recognition portion of the ceremony, inviting players to the podium to answer questions about the run to a championship.
“I’d have to say our toughest opponent was Anniston,” Brocker Simmons said. “They were athletic and they were hungry just like us.”
Sophomore Michael McGregor said he was happy to be a part of the journey.
“This championship is special to me because they (the coaches) brought me up from B team and I got to contribute as a 10th-grader,” he said.
Senior JQ Wilson, a key defensive player for the squad, said the team really banded together after facing Jacksonville in a sub-regional contest (a 63-60 Talladega victory), and the playoff run brought challenges that were resolved with addition by subtraction.
“We faced adversity through the (playoffs),” he said. “We had people that ... weren’t on the same page. We all knew that in order to win, we had to play as a team, and some people weren’t with that. They’ve not here with us, but that don’t matter right now. This is the team right now.”
Senior Ke’Andre Brand, affectionately referred to by teammates and coaches as “The Magician,” was asked by Dawson how long the team celebrated after capturing the title.
“We’re still celebrating it now,” Brand said. “I don’t even know when it’s going to stop.”
Talladega head coach Chucky Miller said the celebrating hasn’t gotten old yet.
“The first night, you won it, but it hasn’t (sunk) in, but each day, it’s just more and more enjoyable because you see how the kids are reacting and what they accomplished for the city of Talladega,” he said.
Miller added the community response has been great since the Tigers brought home the blue map.
“Our alumni and friends did something Saturday night on the Square, then we had all this today,” he said. “We’ll be going to a City Council meeting next week and some other meetings the next couple weeks. We’re just so happy and our kids are so overjoyed. They’ve worked real hard in a very competitive 4A area through regionals and all the way to the state. It was very competitive, but we were playing our best basketball at the end of the year.”
Talladega junior D’Corian “Deco” Wilson stepped up big during the postseason and has plenty to show for it, including an MVP award from the Final Four and a third-team all-state selection.
“It feels good winning the state championship and all the accolades that keep coming through,” he said. “We’re just enjoying the moment.”
Wilson added ending the season on a high note is a motivator going into the offseason.
“I’m ready for it,” he said. “The summer’s coming up, and we’ve got to work together. The summer’s going to be a grind, so we’ve got to work out. We’ve got to get ready … for next year. Everybody needs to work on their game and get better as a whole so can come back even stronger next year. We know what to expect.”
The Talladega College band provided entertainment during the ceremony. The team, coaches, guests and attendees were treated to burgers, hot dogs, cupcakes, beverages and Blue Bell ice cream in a reception that followed the ceremony.