February 16, 2010 9:48:00 AM
MACON -- Daquarius Mallard smiles when he hears the description of his game: "Drop-dead shooter."
The words are those of Noxubee County High School boys basketball coach T.J. Billups, and Mallard doesn''t quibble with the moniker.
But the 5-foot-9, 150-pound junior, who is in his second season as a member of the varsity team, is focused on adding to that nickname and becoming more of an all-around player.
Mallard took a step in that direction last week by scoring 25 points in three games at the Class 4, Region 4, District 4 Tournament at Caledonia High. The final effort helped Noxubee County (16-10) secure the district title and earn the right to play host to Shannon at 7 tonight in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North Half State Tournament.
For his accomplishments, Mallard is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
Mallard has blossomed in a season in which the Tigers have had to overcome losing players to academic ineligibility and to deal with injuries to senior forward Vincent Sanders. The University of Mississippi football commitment is healthy now and is providing a much needed inside-outside spark.
"Coach told me after the players got dismissed from the team because of their grades I had to step up and be a leader," Mallard said. "I accepted the challenge and decided to raise my game to another level. It has kind of worked so far."
When Sanders goes inside, though, Mallard is just one of several marksmen from the perimeter who can make opponents pay.
A year ago, Mallard was one of those guys, too, but he was coming off the bench in a supporting role to senior Shaun Smith, who is now at Mississippi State.
This year, Mallard is more of a go-to player who is doing his best to share the wealth. He said his renewed focus on his academics and on his basketball skills has helped him in this most recent stretch.
"On game day I didn''t used to take things seriously," Mallard said. "After the players were dismissed, I got serious and became a leader of the team and helped to get my teammates around me."
Billups said Mallard will speak up at times, but he allows his game to talk for him. He said Mallard leaves it all on the basketball court, and he seldom comes off the floor.
"Not only is he a great shooter, but he also can score," Billups said. "He is not a player who needs to let everyone in the gym know he is a scorer and a shooter. He just goes out every possession and tries to help his team by helping to put the ball in the basket."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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