By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Already a McDonald’s All-American and a Dandy Dozen selection by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Devonta Pollard erased any doubts as to who would secure any postseason honors with a furious finish.
In helping Kemper County win its first state championship in 20 years, Pollard posted a triple-double in the Wildcats’ 75-65 Class 3A title game win against defending state champion Booneville.
It was the exclamation point that insured the Gatorade Player of the Year award for Mississippi and the Clarion-Ledger’s Mr. Basketball for the 6-foot-7, 190-pounder. It also showed the ability that helped Pollard be The Star’s No. 3 sports story of 2012, and it left his coach in awe.
“And offensively I didn‘t think he played that well,” Kelvin Young said. “I thought he could have played better, offensively. That just shows you how much talent is hidden in there and I hope Alabama can get it out of him. But that was amazing.
“I watch the championship game every now and then and go ‘Wow.’ I’m just speechless.”
In all, Pollard totaled 28 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks against the Blue Devils. He also had a crowd-pleasing dunk in the closing seconds of the third quarter when he thundered one home after going coast-to-coast, taking off just inside the free throw line while splitting a pair of Booneville defenders.
“You know Devonta’s going to get his,” KC’s point guard Nick Giles said after the game. “He’s a McDonald’s All-American. Devonta’s the greatest player in the state of Mississippi.”
Giles was certainly proved correct when the Gatorade and Mr. Basketball honors came Pollard’s way a few weeks later after a senior season that saw him average 23.8 points, 15.7 rebounds and 5.1 blocked shots per game.
“He swept all the awards and not many do that,” Young said. “It all could have gotten messed up somewhere along the line, playing football and he had been going through some injuries, but he got healthy towards the end and it is amazing how all that happened.
“It just shows that it was meant to be and everything fell into place and at the right time.”
Those numbers and accolades also showed why Pollard was a sought-after recruit by college coaches. The five-star small forward had entertained offers from suitors including Kentucky and Mississippi State among others that were trimmed from his list along the way. However, as the season and spring signing period passed, Pollard whittled his list to Alabama, Georgetown, Missouri and Texas with LSU getting a late chance with the hiring of Robert Kirby as an assistant away from the Hoyas.
That led to Pollard making his decision the beginning of June that he would play collegiate for the Crimson Tide. Even then, Pollard said his decision wasn’t final until that morning.
“I am going to take my talent, the talent that God gave me, to the University of Alabama,” Pollard told the crowd of nearly 50 inside the KC gym on June 1 as he reached for a Crimson Tide cap.
“To tell you the truth, I made the decision when we were leaving home to come up here today. I prayed and prayed about it and slept and slept on it and it hit me really when I woke up this morning that I wanted to go to Alabama.
“But I still didn’t know that was what I wanted to do, so I asked God again, ‘Lord, if there is something else you want me to do and somewhere else you want me to go, bring it to my mind and bring it to me before I get up on this stage today.’ And there wasn’t another school that came to mind, so that’s when I figured he wanted me to go to Alabama so I’m going to go to Alabama.”