By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — DAVENPORT — Jalen Jones and Brady Ernst certainly lived up to their billing during the boys basketball season, and the honors are coming in for them in the postseason.
Jones, who before the season signed a letter-of-intent to play at NCAA Division I Nebraska-Omaha, and Ernst, who almost certainly will join Jones playing at the highest collegiate level after he graduates next year, both represented Clinton High School on the All-Missisippi Athletic Conference first team when the honors were announced Monday.
“It’s definitely a credit to those guys and the time and effort they put in,” Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said. “I’m pleased with the seasons both had. They brought a lot to the table, not just statistics, but as leaders of the team.”
Jones, a 6-foot-5 senior, and Ernst, a 6-8 junior, joined Bettendorf seniors Nicholas Baer and Cole Clearman on the first team, along with North Scott juniors Cortez Seales and Marlon Stewart, and Pleasant Valley sophomore William Carius. Baer, who led the Bulldogs to the state tournament and a share of the conference title with North Scott, was named Player of the Year.
Seales ranked second in scoring to Jones (17.3 points a game). Carius was fourth in scoring at 16.7 points and second in rebounding (9.7), while Baer averaged 13.9 points and 8.4 rebounds. Stewart averaged 13.7 points, Clearman 12.1.
The conference changed its all-conference format this season, scrapping the old system of three teams of six players each, plus honorable mention, and going with two seven-man teams plus honorable mention.
“I like the format we have now,” Lawrence said. “I think it’s much more distinguished.”
Jones and Ernst probably would have been first-team picks under any system.
Jones led the conference in scoring at 19.3 points a game in 16 conference contests.
“I think Jalen’s biggest area of improvement was mentally how he approached the game and handled games,” Lawrence said. “He was definitely a much better player than in the past. His whole game was enhanced. He looked to attack the rim lot more than in the past. He did a lot for the team. He played very unselfish.”
Lawrence said he thought Jones’ decision to commit to Nebraska-Omaha early helped.
“I really think it did,” Lawrence said. “From the day he committed he was a different person. A weight was lifted off his shoulders. He played a lot more relaxed.”
Ernst could find himself in a similar position next year. Lawrence said Ernst already had offers from Northern Iowa, Drake, Lehigh, San Diego and South Dakota, and he has been contacted or visited by several major programs, including Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Wichita State, Stanford and Colgate.
Ernst averaged 17.2 points and led the league with 10.2 rebounds a game. His value showed through when the River Kings went through a swoon after he suffered a hand injury that kept him out of four of the final five conference games.
“He did a lot of what he did last year, controlling the glass, but he was scoring more,” Lawrence said. “He led Class 4A in blocked shots (70 in 18 games), even missing four games. His leadership was good, and he pushed himself every day to get better.”
In addition to the two first-team picks, Clinton also had an honorable mention pick in sophomore Derrick Howard.
“He provided a third option on offense,” Lawrence said. “He will contribute in every statistical category and is a real solid player.”
ALL-MISSISSIPPI ATHLETIC CONFERENCE BOYS BASKETBALL
Nicholas Baer, sr., Bettendorf; Cortez Seales, jr., North Scott; Jalen Jones, sr., Clinton; Cole Clearman, sr., Bettendorf; William Carius, so., Pleasant Valley; Brady Ernst, jr., Clinton; Marlon Stewart, jr., North Scott.
Kendall Jacks, sr., Bettendorf; Dylan Sortillo, sr., Bettendorf; Geo Butler, sr., Davenport Central; Grant Graham, jr., North Scott; Evan Wadsager, jr., Davenport Assumption; Nasir Shabazz, jr., Davenport West; Adam Miller, sr., Muscatine.
Derrick Howard, so., Clinton; Jeffrey Kardell, jr., Pleasant Valley; Trey Hollingshed, jr., Davenport Central; Brice Plein, sr., Burlington; Kyle Buhman, sr., Bettendorf; Jayden Clayton, jr., Davenport North; Roman Youngblut, jr., Davenport Assumption; Kyle Calvert, sr., Muscatine; Ricky Grimes, jr., North Scott; Matt Wieskamp, jr., Muscatine; Michael Lintz, sr., Bettendorf; Hunter Grenier, jr., Davenport Assumption; Matt Moran, jr., Davenport Central; Corey Iossi, sr., Davenport North; Trey Kilburg, jr., North Scott; Chase Kipper, sr., Pleasant Valley; Michael Evans, jr., Davenport West.
Player of the Year — Nicholas Baer, Bettendorf.
Coach of the Year — Curtis Clark, Bettendorf.