By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
There’s nothing like the sound of swishes to Sand Rock senior point guard Jacob StClair. He’s heard that sound countless times playing basketball throughout his high school career, and he certainly heard it a lot during the 2022-23 season.
StClair shot 49 percent from the 3-point line and 90 percent from the free-throw line last season, many of which were swishes. He averaged 27 points, 6.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds in leading the Wildcats (22-11) to their first Final Four appearance since 2011.
StClair finished his career scoring 2,465 points (18.1 per game average), connected on 47 percent of his 3-point shots (367 of 785) and 87 percent of his free throws (505 of 583). He also dished out 481 assists (3.4 per game).
The Cherokee County boys basketball coaches recently recognized StClair’s court talent by selecting him as their All-Cherokee County Boys Basketball Most Valuable Player.
“I was honestly a little surprised,” StClair said when told of his selection. “Usually it comes from the winning team (in the county tournament), but I’m thankful for them voting for me.”
Sand Rock boys basketball coach John Blackwell recognized StClair’s basketball gifts early. He remembers first seeing him play in the youth league.
“I remember watching him in the sixth grade thinking he’s got good form,” Blackwell said. “You don’t worry about how many points they’re scoring in sixth grade when you realize they have good form. You realize there’s time put into that and that doesn’t automatically happen.”
That good form led Blackwell to pull StClair up on the varsity squad near the end of his eighth grade year. It was a move he hasn’t regretted.
“His second game on the varsity, we’re playing Asbury in an area game that’s going to determine who’s going to host the area tournament,” Blackwell recalled. “We started off kind of slow. We were having trouble scoring. They had thrown a different defense at us. I called a timeout and put Jacob in.
“I put him over in the corner and I told (point guard) Cade Ballenger ‘We’re clearing out. You drive. If they double team, kick it to Jacob. If they don’t, you shoot a layup.’ Three straight times we kicked the ball to Jacob and he hit three straight 3-pointers. It goes from us being down one to us being up eight. At that point, I don’t think it was just me, but a lot of people realized he’s going to be pretty good.”
StClair has made plenty more 3-pointers and scored a lot more points since then. You could say he’s become a Rock star, especially to the younger generation.
“You look at those second and third graders that he and his teammates gave high-fives to this season. I think we counted 36 at one time,” Blackwell said. “You’ve got the three referees and 36 kids lined up to the baseline waiting just to get these guys to touch their hand. Ten or 11 years from now, they’re going to be playing basketball, and they’re influenced by this group of seniors and by Jacob StClair. That’s a legacy. He’s going to be an influence in Sand Rock basketball for over a decade.”
StClair says it’s humbling to him that he’s looked at by the younger generation in that way.
“I just thank God for letting me be the person they’re looking up to,” he said. “It’s hard to describe. Every time I see them I always try to talk to them, go to their practices, help coach the third grade boys team. I always try to interact with them when I’m close to them.”
StClair continues to add to his legacy. On April 6, he’ll be among 24 boys basketball players in the state – three from each class from AISA through Class 7A – at the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Player of Year Banquet at the Montgomery Renaissance.
“It’s a huge honor to be selected as a finalist,” StClair said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a Sand Rock player to win Player of the Year in boys. I’m hoping I can make it the first.”
Whether he wins or not won’t dampen what StClair has already accomplished through his hard work.
“What he’s doing, not just at Sand Rock, but county-wide, it’s amazing,” Blackwell said. “You tell young people all the time if you want to be successful, it starts with hard work. You’ve got to put time in the gym if you want to do things.
“I was talking with his dad (Daniel StClair) the other day and a young kid asked Jacob ‘How do you know if your move will work, when do you use your move?’ Jacob said ‘I don’t have just one move.’ The kid said ‘What if the defense does this or does that?’ Jacob said ‘I have a move for everything they do.’
“That’s the difference in a young person trying to learn the game of basketball and somebody who spends a lot of time in the gym. If you’re relying on one or two moves to be successful, then you haven’t spent the time in the gym. Jacob has definitely spent the time in the gym.”
And he’s heard plenty of swishes there too.
Joining StClair from Sand Rock on the All-Cherokee County Boys Basketball Team is senior guards Kaden Justice and Ben Dale. Justice averaged 16.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Dale delivered 9.1 points, 6.2 boards, 1.8 assists and 1.5 blocks.
Representing Cherokee County High School is senior guards Jack Amos and Malachi Horton, senior forward Jaden Wilson and junior guard Eli Martin. Amos averaged 17 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Horton had nine points, eight boards, four steals and three assists. Wilson posted 7.2 points, seven boards, 6.2 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals. Martin managed 5.1 points, 1.9 rebounds and an assist.
Sophomore center John Welsh and senior guard Cam Welsh were selected from Spring Garden. John Welsh averaged 16.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals and a block. Cam Welsh six points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and a steal.
Chosen from Cedar Bluff is senior point guard Bucky Leek and junior guard MJ Adams. Leek averaged 10 points, five boards, five assists and 3.5 steals. Adams averaged 13.7 points, six rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.2 assists.
Junior guard Kyler Bradley and senior guard Tanner Eads represent Gaylesville. Bradley averaged 18.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, five steals and two assists. Eads averaged 8.2 points, 5.8 boards, four assists, 3.9 steals and a block.