Robert Wilson spent 23 years at The Clarion-Ledger/Jackson Daily News as a sportswriter with more than half of those years covering high school sports, mostly in the Metro Jackson area. He helped choose the Dandy Dozen in various sports for more than a decade. Wilson rebirthed a similar team with Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Elite 11 Preseason Baseball Team based on our All-Metro team selections from the previous season. Wilson selected the best players from Hinds, Madison, and Rankin Counties from their performances last season. The players below are in alphabetical order.
By Robert Wilson
Graham Busbea, Jackson Prep, Senior, First Baseman-Pitcher
The Hinds Community College signee hit .386 with 12 doubles and 3 home runs with 27 runs scored and 29 runs batted in and helped Prep to a 31-7 record, a fifth straight MAIS Class 6A state title and a No. 21 final national ranking by Perfect Game. A right-handed pitcher, Busbea had a 4-0 record with a 1.62 earned run average with 21 walks and 53 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.
Busbea was a second team first baseman on the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson team last season.
Busbea allowed only two hits with five strikeouts in four innings and hit a home run to lead Prep to a 12-2 victory over Madison-Ridgeland Academy in five innings in the deciding and third game of the best-of-three series for the 6A state championship last season.
“Graham had a really good consistent year at the plate,” Prep coach Brent Heavener said. “We are excited about his senior year both at the plate and on the mound. Graham should really help us as we compete to try to win another state title.”
“Graham has a really bright future because of his versality and upside,” Hinds CC coach Dan Rives said. “As he continues to add strength, his velocity and power numbers will increase, plus we know he’s a winner who has competed at a high level for a great program. We are excited about the type of player he will be 12-18 months from now.”
KK Clark, Brandon, Senior, Pitcher-Infielder
The Mississippi State signee had an 8-1 record, a 1.91 ERA with 30 walks and 84 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings and helped Brandon to a 26-8 record and the MHSAA Class 6A semifinals last season. A right-handed hitting third baseman, Clark hit .309 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, 22 runs scored and 25 RBIs.
Clark was a second team starting pitcher on the All-Metro Jackson team last season.
Clark had Tommy John surgery this past summer and is expected to be used as a designated hitter this season as he recovers from his surgery.
“KK was a big part our success last season,” Brandon coach Daniel Best said. “He had a great year pitching and was consistent hitter in the middle of our lineup. KK has a bright future at Mississippi State, and we want him to be as healthy as he can be, so he will be our designated hitter this season. He will be in the heart of our order and one of leaders on our team.”
Jackson Evers, MRA, Senior, Pitcher-First Baseman
Evers, who has signed with defending national champion Ole Miss, had an 8-3 record and one save with a 2.83 ERA and 27 walks and 73 strikeouts in 56 innings and helped MRA to a 36-6 record, a final No. 33 national ranking by National High School Baseball Coaches Association and its third straight MAIS Class 6A runner-up finish last season. A right-handed hitting first baseman, Evers hit .308 with 6 doubles and 3 home runs. He is a three-year starter and team captain.
Evers was recently named to Collegiate Baseball Preseason Second Team All-American.
“Jackson really began to improve as a hitter last season and we are needing him to have a big presence in our lineup this season,” MRA coach Allen Pavette said. “He is a three-year starter and team captain who will give our team experience and leadership this season.”
“We are very excited to be adding Jackson to our program,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “He is a big-time competitor on the mound with an elite slider. Jackson is a talented kid with a work ethic that separates him from the pack. It will be fun to follow his success in his senior season.”
Konnor Griffin, Jackson Prep, Junior, Shortstop-Pitcher
The LSU commitment is rated No. 1 player in the country by Baseball America and MLB ProspectsLive in the Class of 2024. Griffin was projected by Baseball America last summer as the No. 1 high school player in the country for the 2024 MLB Draft. If Baseball America’s projection comes true, Griffin would be the highest high school player to be selected in the Major Baseball Draft in Mississippi history.
Griffin, who played as a freshman last year, had a .476 batting average, a .617 on base percentage, a .870 slugging percentage, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 5 home runs, 28 runs batted in, 43 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, struck out only 9 times in 84 at bats and made only 2 errors. A right-handed pitcher, Griffin had an 8-2 record, 1.64 earned run average with 59 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 42 2/3 innings. He helped Prep to a 31-7 record, a No. 21 final national ranking by Perfect Game and its fifth straight MAIS state championship.
Griffin was named to the MaxPreps Underclassmen All-American team. He was the only freshman on last year’s Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Team, making it as the first team shortstop. He reclassified as a junior this year.
Griffin was recently named to Collegiate Baseball Preseason Second Team All-American.
“Konnor is now not only one of the best players in the state, but also the country,” Prep coach Brent Heavener said. “He has worked hard and been able to succeed at a very high level against some great competition. We are extremely excited to watch what the future holds as Konnor continues to work. The future is very bright for him and I’m glad he’s on our team. Konnor makes our team better both on and off the field and we are excited to watch his junior year.”
Griffin starts on Prep’s defending MAIS Class 6A and Overall Tournament champions basketball team. He leads the team in points and rebounds per game, blocked shots, and field goal percentage this season.
Walker Hooks, Brandon, Junior, Pitcher-First Baseman
Hooks, who has committed to defending national champion Ole Miss, had a 4-0 record with two saves, a 2.68 ERA with 19 walks and 67 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings after recovering from knee injury in football and helped Brandon to a 26-8 record and the MHSAA Class 6A semifinals last season.
“Walker finished off the year strong and pitched great,” Brandon coach Daniel Best said. “He had a great fall and is throwing in the low 90s now. He is 6-foot-4, 235 pounder coming at you from the left side. We are going to lean on Walker for some quality innings this year. He is also going to play first base for us, and we are counting on him to be a good left-handed hitter at the plate.”
Jacob Keys, Brandon, Senior, Catcher
The Southern Miss signee hit .412 with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 9 home runs, 17 runs, 42 RBIs, a .531 on base percentage and a .784 slugging percentage and helped Brandon to a 26-8 record and the MHSAA Class 6A semifinals last season.
Keys was a first team designated hitter on the All-Metro Jackson team last season.
“Jacob had an outstanding year for us at the plate and improved his defense as a catcher last season,” Brandon coach Daniel Best said. “He has a strong arm and is one of the leaders on our team. Jacob is fun to be around and works very hard to be the best he can be.”
“Jacob is an outstanding addition that we are looking forward to having in our program,” Southern Miss Scott Berry said. “He’s a blue-collar player that works hard and exemplifies what our program is about. His tools bring a unique balance from both the defensive and offensive side of the game. Jacob brings a wealth of athleticism that should enable him the opportunity to get on the field quickly.”
Cole Manuel, Clinton, Senior, Infielder-Pitcher
The Jones County Junior College signee hit .438 with 7 doubles, 13 runs, 23 RBIs while playing catcher, third base and second base and helped Clinton to a 15-10 record last season. A right-handed pitcher, Manuel had a 4-2 record with 1 save, a 3.08 ERA and 6 walks and 55 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
Manuel was a first-team utility player on the All-Metro Jackson team last season.
“Cole is a leader who is the model of character and consistency who makes his teammates better through his work ethic every day,” Clinton coach Sam Temple said.
“Cole is a player we are really excited about getting to Jones next year,” Jones coach Wes Thigpen said. “He is a player that can play a lot of different positions in the field. We really think Cole is going to hit at this level and beyond. He is a great kid that comes from a great family and we are glad he is going to be joining the Jones family soon.”
Duncan Mathews, Jackson Prep, Senior, Catcher-Second Baseman
The South Alabama signee hit .412 with 12 doubles, 2 home runs, 34 runs scored and 34 RBIs and helped Prep to a 31-7 record, a fifth straight MAIS Class 6A state title and a No. 21 final national ranking by Perfect Game.
Mathews was the second team second baseman on the All-Metro Jackson team last season.
“There is no better leader than our captain, Duncan Mathews,” Prep coach Brent Heavener said. “Not only is he a great leader on and off the field, but there’s no one in the country that out works Duncan. He will lead our team both defensively and offensively. Looking for him to have a great senior season.”
“Duncan is a multi-sport athlete who can play multiple positions – infield and catcher,” South Alabama coach Mark Calvi said. “He is very athletic behind the plate with plus makeup. Duncan was a stud football player who has a great motor and is tough as nails. He is the kind of guy you want in your program, especially this program here. I think he fits right in.”
Mathews, a linebacker, had a team-high 123 tackles and helped Prep to a 12-1 record and the MAIS Class 6A state football championship this past fall. He made the PriorityOne Bank/MSB Metro Jackson Football Team.
Ford McDaniel, Jackson Prep, Senior, Pitcher-First Baseman
The Hinds Community College signee had 2-1 record with two saves, a 1.52 ERA, 12 walks and 25 strikeouts in 23 innings as left-handed relief pitcher and helped Prep to a 31-7 record, a fifth straight MAIS Class 6A state title and a No. 21 final national ranking by Perfect Game. A left-handed hitting first baseman, McDaniel hit .444 with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 2 runs scored and 4 RBIs.
McDaniel was a second team relief pitcher on the All-Metro Jackson team last season.
“Ford is going to be a big asset to a good pitching staff this year,” Prep coach Brent Heavener said. “We are excited about his performance from last year and plan on it continuing into this year. He will have a bigger role this season, looking forward to a great year.”
“Ford showed remarkable consistency every time we saw him last year,” Hinds CC Dan Rives said. “He was placed in some big moments for Prep and seemed to be a guy that the coaching staff had a great amount of trust in. I’m sure he will play an even bigger role this year. We know he has a strong future ahead of him as his body continues to mature.”
JP Robertson, Germantown, Senior, Pitcher-First Baseman
Robertson, who signed with defending national junior college champion Pearl River CC, had a 9-1 record, a 1.04 ERA, 20 walks and 73 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings and helped Germantown to a 18-13 record and the MHSAA Class 6A quarterfinals last season. A right-hitting first baseman, Robertson hit .320 with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 6 runs scored and 10 RBIs.
Robertson was a second team starting pitcher on the All-Metro Jackson team last season.
“JP is the most competitive player I have coached,” said first-year Germantown coach Chris Peden, who coached at Ridgeland for six seasons before coming to Germantown and was an assistant coach at Madison Central for eight years before going to Ridgeland. “He takes that approach to practice and weight room, pretty much anything we do. JP is a leader and an awesome young man. He has an off period before baseball and works every day before practice in the cage and helps us with the ninth grade. JP leads by example.”
“JP is a guy that we are very excited about not only bringing into our program, but watching as he goes through his senior year,” Pearl River CC coach Michael Avalon said. “Last year he had a very strong campaign on the mound. This summer JP showed a lot of growth and maturity with the bat in his hands. That is what we are most excited about with JP, is his versatility and athleticism. He should be a force on the mound and has turned himself into a potent hitter with a chance to both showcase some power at the plate as well as hit for average. That’s what makes JP a strong prospect.”
James Woody, Ridgeland, Senior, Catcher-Third Base-Pitcher
The Grambling signee hit .378 with 12 doubles, 2 triples, 1 home run, 7 runs scored and 32 RBIs and helped Ridgeland to a 22-13 record and the MHSAA Class 6A quarterfinals last season. A right-handed pitcher, Woody had a 4-0 record, 1.93 ERA with 16 walks and 27 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings.
Woody was a second team utility position player on the All-Metro Jackson team last season.
“James is a hard worker and has been his entire career at Ridgeland,” said first-year Ridgeland coach Eddie Easley, who came to Ridgeland after four seasons as head coach at Meridian. “We are expecting a lot from James offensively and as a leader for this year’s Ridgeland team. We have a lot of experience returning and we are excited and our goals as high this year and James will play a big part of that for our team.”
“James has a physical presence as a high school kid, which I think will continue to grow when we get him into our strength program,” Grambling coach Davin Pierre said. “He’s a super utility guy that’s extremely versatile. James being able to play multiple positions makes it fun for me as a coach, but the number one thing about James is that I believe he can be an offensive presence early. He can swing it and has a good idea of what he’s doing at the plate. I see James competing early as a freshman for playing time.”