Staff Photo by Ron Bush/Chattanooga Times Free Press Jay Price, Chattanooga State basketball coach, talks on the phone with former UT teammate Allan Houston, whose jersey is being retired.
Jay Price told Allan Houston last week that he would like to attend the jersey-retirement ceremony for his former University of Tennessee roommate and backcourt mate Sunday in Knoxville — but he hoped he wouldn’t be able to.
Indeed, Price’s two Chattanooga State basketball teams played Sunday in Dyersburg for NJCAA Region VII championships, and both won. Price and Houston congratulated each other by phone Sunday night.
“It was history for both of us,” Price said Monday in the midst of many congratulatory and recruiting calls, including from West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and such others as Mississippi State, Mississippi, Cincinnati, Texas-El Paso and Tennessee State.
Huggins somehow made it to out-of-the-way Dyersburg for the Chattanooga State men’s game Saturday after coaching his Mountaineers against Louisville early that afternoon. Also in the stands then and again Sunday were Chattanooga State’s baseball players, in town for a league series against Dyersburg State.
Much of the recruiting interest for the Tigers centers on 6-foot-11 Philip Jurick, the former East Ridge star who averaged a triple-double (points, rebounds and blocked shots) all season and was named the region player of the year and defensive player of the year.
“Latraius Mosley, Michael Robertson, Alex Wells and Alex Dean also are getting some Division I looks,” Price said.
Dean joined Jurick on the all-region first team, and Dean, Wells and most valuable player Mosley made the men’s all-tournament team. Mosley had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the 83-73 championship win over top-seeded Motlow State, when Wells — an East Ridge teammate of Jurick — scored 17 points, Michael Robertson added 15 and Jurick had 13 rebounds and three blocks while going 3-for-3 from the field.
Jurick had seven blocks with 13 rebounds in the 82-72 semifinal defeat of No. 2 seed Columbia State, when Wells and Sideeq Cooper scored 20 and 16 points and Telvin James added 14.
Mosley, Robertson, Cooper and Joshua Lee transferred from Northwest Florida (formerly Okaloosa-Walton) to add even more sophomore experience to this group of Tigers, but they hit a first-semester slump and lost four consecutive TCCAA games. Two tough wins just before the long holiday break gave the Tigers something positive to think about, and Price began starting former Chattanooga Christian teammates Stephen Cook and William Moore along with Dean and the East Ridge duo when play resumed.
The Tigers (24-5) have lost only one time in 2011, by one point at Southwest Tennessee.
“When you’ve got a lot of sophomores, everybody tends to try to prove he can do it himself. We weren’t playing very well as a team,” Price said. “But when we came back after the break, we had more balance. We were starting guys who had played together, and the other guys were coming off the bench and making good contributions.
“What happened with the women’s team was kind of the opposite,” noted Price, finishing his seventh season as the men’s coach and his third in the dual role. “The first part of the season we were really playing well, but after the break we had a little bit of a tough time and had to find the right gear again. We played some tough nonconference teams, and that really helped us in the long run.”
The Lady Tigers (22-6) went to Dyersburg as the the No. 1 seeds and ranked 25th in NJCAA Division I, but they had to beat Cleveland State in the semifinals after splitting overtime wins with the Lady Cougars during the regular season and then edged four-time defending region champion Walters State in the final. It was close all the way, Chatt State finally winning 57-55 with tournament MVP and region player and freshman of the year April Woodard totaling 21 points and six steals.
Kim Manning and Hiydaayan Williams joined her on the all-tournament team, and Williams joined her on the all-region first team with Jasmain Carey making second team.
Former Lookout Valley star April McCann had nine rebounds for Walters (22-6) in the final after scoring 17 points in a semifinal win over Roane State.
Within 30 minutes after dueling Walters’ Dave Kragel for the women’s title, Price had to coach another fully intense game in the men’s final. He may have even harder duty next week: The Tigers open March 15 against nationally third-ranked Midland, Texas, at 11 a.m. EST in Hutchinson, Kan. The Lady Tigers’ opener at Salina, Kan. — about an hour’s drive away — will be announced Wednesday.
The two teams must stay at assigned lodging in the separate cities. Assistant coach Katrich Williams will be with the Lady Tigers, and the head coach will flip a coin with chief assistant Travis Glover, Price said, to determine who will direct which team if there is a conflict.
“That’s a good problem to have,” athletic director Steve Jaecks said.
This will be the first national tournament for men’s basketball, the oldest of the school’s athletic programs. All the other teams have been at least once, including women’s basketball twice before.
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.