May 22, 2010 11:45:00 PM
It''s all in the attitude for Demetrius Malone.
The West Lowndes High School senior didn''t like the prospect of having to settle for his team''s first loss of the season, especially in a game he thought it should have won.
Instead of accepting defeat, Malone went to West Lowndes coach Herman Peters and told his coach he was going to do something about it.
"I told him I was ready to and I was going to pick my teammates up," Malone said.
The 6-foot-1 1/2, 170-pound swingman lived up to his words -- and then some -- this season. Malone averaged a little more than 22 points per game, 14 rebounds, five assists, forced seven turnovers, and had five steals a game playing all five positions for the Panthers.
For his accomplishments, Malone is The Commercial Dispatch''s Small Schools Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
"He took the role as a senior leader," Peters said. "He is coachable and manageable. Whatever you asked of him he tried to do it with 100 percent."
Peters said Malone took control of the team several times, either by saying something in a timeout or by being the go-to player on the court. One of those times came Feb. 5 against Columbus. Already with a 58-51 victory against the Falcons, Malone (25 points) took over down the stretch. Trailing 48-38 with less than seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter, he poured in seven consecutive points, including a 3-pointer, to cut the deficit to 50-47 with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining. West Lowndes went on to win 61-57 in overtime.
"I feel I had more of a killer instinct," Malone said. "That game against Columbus I was determined not to lose. I didn''t want to lose, and we weren''t going to lose."
Malone thought his willingness to take on a bigger role would allow Peters to have more confidence in the team. He also felt it would improve his and his teammates'' confidence.
"I took it on more as a responsibility because I thought I owed it to my guys because I have been here," Malone said. "I have experienced things and that if they got down I understand and I knew I owed it to them to help get them up."
Peters wasn''t surprised by his senior''s attitude. In fact, he was looking for it. He was rewarded early in the season when after a loss to Aliceville Malone came to him and told him he was ready to take on the role of senior leader.
"Not only did he say it, but he showed it," Peters said. "He knew from the beginning of the season he had to be the leader. He took it from there and kept going."
Peters said Malone did it all this season. He was a playmaker and a rebounder. Most importantly, he realized he needed to score in clutch situations to help the Panthers be their best.
"I think he took it as a challenge at first and then as a responsibility," Peters said. "Other players started to look to him after that point (early in the season)."
West Lowndes beat Columbus twice, West Point, Noxubee County, and won its holiday tournament. Even though the team didn''t get to return to Jackson, Malone said the Panthers, who moved from Class 1A to 2A, had a successful season. He admitted, though, it was disappointing not realizing that goal again.
Malone said he learned how to work hard, the importance of being a leader, and how one person can set the tone for the team.
A year ago, Malone was a standout, but he acknowledged he raised his level of play as a senior. This season, he felt he improved his all-around game. He said he grew accustomed to playing every position, which accounted for his gaudy numbers in every category.
Malone is excited about the possibility of getting a scholarship to play baseball in college. He recognizes he has a lot of potential in baseball and basketball, and hopes he gets a chance to showcase his abilities.
"I am leaning more toward baseball, but I always will have an eye for basketball. If it happens, it happens," Malone said. "It will be something to remember (if this is his last season playing organized basketball). If I have to move on and adjust to baseball only I am going to convert to that and hope for the best."
In addition to his versatility on the basketball court, Malone also is a standout baseball player. He played most of his career at shortstop but showed against West Point he can pitch, too. This season was his first as a pitcher.
Malone hopes to realize a dream of earning a baseball scholarship to play at Mississippi Valley State University. He said at first he was care free in baseball but grew into it after he started playing the sport when he was 11.
Peters knows Malone will excel at either sport, and has encouraged him to give basketball a shot, too, if he feels he has time and will be able to make the transition.
"He can go to any junior college and start now if wanted to," Peters said. "Most of the offers he had for basketball were from out-of-state schools. He has the ability wherever he goes to play more than one sport. He is a Beta Club student, so he is able to go and do whatever.
"He has the ability to blossom. When he gets to the next level he will be able to focus on one position, shooting guard, which he is. There is no limit to where he can go."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
1. Insell makes Rebels' NCAA case COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Signs of growth everywhere for MSU in record win COLLEGE SPORTS
3. MSU baseball complete another weekend sweep COLLEGE SPORTS
4. MSU softball closes solid weekend in Florida COLLEGE SPORTS