Looking back on the Nashville-area boys basketball 2021-22 season
Basketball is in the rearview mirror.
It’s hard to believe the 2021-22 boys hoops campaign is over in Tennessee. But there’s a lot to reflect on before we say goodbye.
Here are some of the top moments we’ll remember.
Surprise of the year
Not many people had University School of Nashville on their radar before the season. Yet, the Tigers splashed into their first state tournament since 2012. Coach Mike Jones and senior guards Adam Miller and Adrian Samuels made people pay attention, reaching the Division II-A state semifinals and finishing with a 21-9 record.
For that matter, who had East Robertson winning the Class A state title after a 5-5 start? Its fabulous postseason run caught many off guard.
On the other side of things, Cane Ridge’s loss to Bearden in the Class 4A state quarterfinals was definitely a surprise. But the Ravens, equipped with McDonald’s All-American Brandon Miller, found themselves in a state tournament that went haywire, with Dobyns-Bennett shocking everyone in its run to the championship.
Mark Wilkins is a dynamite fit at Independence, which came out of nowhere in his first season to advance one win shy of its second state tournament appearance. Sophomore guard Jett Montgomery had a lot to do with that too. But the Eagles needed stability at the helm. Though they reached the 2017 Class AAA semifinals under Greg Glass, the Eagles had three different head coaches in as many seasons before Doug Keil, who abruptly stepped down in the middle of last season, was hired in 2018.
Don’t forget Lipscomb Academy coach Kevin Starks. He quickly turned around the Mustangs and led their deepest postseason run since 2008-09.
There are a few, for sure. Eli Rice and Tyler Moore’s move from Station Camp to Beech reshaped the Class 4A title race and set the stage for Beech’s historic 34-win season that ended in the state quarterfinals.
At East Nashville, Jarrod Taylor moved back from Atlanta and became a Mr. Basketball finalist who helped the Eagles clinch their first boys basketball title. Willie Wilson also returned from out of state to fuel the run. Both left Tennessee in 2021 when Metro Nashville Public Schools shortened its season due to the pandemic.
At Ravenwood, DJ Starr’s addition nearly got the Raptors into the state tournament.
Brentwood Academy’s 97-89 double-overtime win against Lipscomb Academy had it all. A packed gym — ask those who were there, it was shoulder to shoulder — watched the Mustangs and Willie Walton (26 points) push BA’s unbeaten record to the brink. But Tyler Tanner (28 points) and Trent McNair (27 points) would not be denied.
With their penchant for taking over games, East Nashville’s Taylor (19.5 ppg) and Jaylen Jones (15 ppg) came to be known as Batman and Robin. Jones averaged nine assists per game, but took over with 20 points in the state finals against Milan.
One for the books
This record-breaking performance wowed us.
Brandon Miller’s 11 3-pointers and 42 points against Rockvale were both school records. The McDonald’s All-American and Alabama signee made six straight 3s at one point and had 37 points by halftime.
This made us smile
MLK Magnet’s first region championship since 2004 was special in more ways than one. Royals coach Caden Anderson dedicated the win to his late mentor and grandfather, TSSAA and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame member Charlie Anderson, who had stints at Bellevue, Central, Hillsboro, Stratford and Nashville Christian. When Caden took the job at MLK in 2017, Charlie served as an assistant on staff.
“Glory to God first and always,” Caden said, “and glory to Grandad second.”
This made us laugh
Stewarts Creek coach Howard Pride had this to say about why he makes his players all wear the same color or type of shoe: “So many guys want their own individuality, and I tell them, ‘Go play an individual sport.’”
This made us think
At Brentwood Academy, think about the legacies Trent McNair lived up to. His late father, former Titans great Steve McNair, was one of Nashville’s most recognized pro athletes. Trent watched the Eagles before him pile up wins and titles. After BA’s run ended with a state runner-up finish and a 30-1 record, Trent McNair opened up about some personal struggles he went through to start the season, and how he thought about quitting basketball this year. Sometimes, the most touching stories aren’t always from the winning team.
This made us cry
Jackson Francis was a key factor behind Montgomery Bell Academy’s run to the Division II-AA state title in 2021. He wasn’t able to play this year after sustaining severe head trauma in a car accident. His battle is equal parts heart-wrenching and inspiring. The night MBA honored him and raised money for his medical care, senior Josh Roberts hit a running 3-pointer at the buzzer to upset Ensworth.
“How we won the game, it was almost like it was written before it happened,” Roberts said.