By Robert Wilson

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 All-Metro teams in various sports for more than a decade. Wilson rebirthed this team with the Priority One Bank/MSB All-Metro Jackson Boys and Girls Basketball Teams with 20 players and a Coach and Player of the Year on each team. These are the fourth annual teams. With the help of high school and college coaches, Wilson selected the best players and best coaches for the 2021-2022 season from Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties.

Germantown’s Madison Booker and Callaway’s Ashli Sutton – the 2023 PriorityOne Bank/MSB Metro Jackson Girls Basketball Player and Coach of the Year – both finished their seasons playing in MHSAA state championship games at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson in their respective classes.

       For Booker, it was the last game of her outstanding high school career as she led her team to the Class 6A state title, the first one in the Madison County school’s 12-year history. The 6-foot-1 senior guard averaged 20 points and 8 rebounds and was named a McDonald’s All-American and the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year and won the Metro Jackson Player of the Year award for the third consecutive season.

       For Sutton, it was the second year of her head high school coaching career as she led her team to the 5A state runner-up finish and won 27 games, an incredible turnaround after winning just 12 games in her first season two years ago. She is the second Callaway coach to receive Metro Jackson Coach of the Year honors this school year, joining Callaway football coach Dameon Brown. Brown, like Sutton, had a remarkable turnaround with a 9-3 record and reaching the second round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs, six wins better than last season. Their success was even more amazing considering Callaway, as a member of the Jackson Public Schools, didn’t play in 2020 due to covid.

       Booker is one of the most awarded girls basketball players in Mississippi history. The Texas signee was a starter on two USA Basketball gold medal winning teams, a two-time Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year, MHSAA Class 6A Player of the Year and the first McDonald’s girls All-American since 2008 and fourth Mississippi girl since the game was started in 2002. McDonald’s picks 24 players across the country to play in the game. Booker is rated No. 3 in the nation in the Class of 2023 by Blue Star Basketball.

       When she was named the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year this season, she became only the sixth player to win the award for her state twice (she won it as a sophomore) since the organization started state-wide honor in 1985.

📸 Chris Todd

       “I would like to thank God because He created this path for me to follow and it has brought me to collect a lot of accolades,” Booker said. “I would also like to thank my family for also believing in my dreams. And lastly, I would like to give a big thanks to my teammates for always keeping me confident in my game and always having my back.”

       In addition to averaging a career high 20 points and career high 8 rebounds, Booker averaged 2.8 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.1 blocked shots this season. She led Germantown to a 29-2 record and won 23 straight games against Mississippi teams. Germantown’s only Mississippi loss was a 57-56 decision to defending MHSAA 4A state champion Choctaw Central. Germantown’s only other loss was a 59-49 decision to Hoover, Ala., which finished ranked No. 10 in the country by Maxpreps.

       Booker turned it on the playoffs this season, averaging a double double (27.5 points and 11.2 rebounds) along with 3.3 assists, 3 steals and 2.7 blocked shots and led Germantown to four consecutive double-digit victories. She had a career-high 33 points and 11 rebounds in a 67-58 win over Starkville in the first round and followed that up with a 30-point, 15-rebound performance in a 62-42 win over Center Hill in the second round. Booker ended her career with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 1 blocked shot to lead Germantown to a 64-43 victory over Tupelo for the 6A state title and make school history.

“Maddie had an outstanding senior season and turned it up a notch in the playoffs to lead us to the state championship,” Germantown coach Jamie Glasgow said. “I’m very proud for her success and all the honors she has received. She not only had a great season this year, but also played at a high level during her entire career.”

Like she did her whole career, Booker tried to get her teammates involved, but there were times when she needed to turn it on and take over a game. The Tupelo game was a good example of that.

“Everybody says it’s the Maddie B show and I scored the most points but I have teammates and they stepped up big time tonight. They played their game too. We just don’t have me,” said Booker after the championship game in a tv interview on MEtv. “Everybody knows who I am, and everybody is going to try to play great defense on me. I’m expected to show up every game. This is the best I’ve ever seen us play. We worked countless hours and took extra shots and did extra reps. That loss (the 6A state semifinal loss to Harrison Central last season) was in the back of our minds for a very long time and made us eager to win this one.”

“Maddie was always looking for her teammates. We have seen every defense there is this year, and if they double-team her, I tell the other girls to be ready, she is going to find you,” Glagsow said. “She did a great job of passing the ball.”

Booker averaged 16.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.6 steals and led Germantown to a 24-7 record and a MHSAA Class 6A state tournament semifinal finish last season. She scored a then career-high 30 points against Arlington, Tenn., last season.

Booker – whose father, Carlos, was a 6-10 center for Southern Miss in the 1990s – made official visits to Duke, Tennessee, and Texas. Recruited by the best programs in the country, Booker narrowed her college choices down to nine schools – Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Oregon, and Texas entering her junior year.

Booker averaged 18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocked shots and led Germantown to a 13-4 record and the MHSAA Class 6A runner-up finish as a sophomore. She was first team on the All-Metro Jackson team as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior.

Now, Booker can set her sights on Texas and coach Vic Shaefer, who led Mississippi State to two national championship runner-up finishes and was the National Coach of the Year in 2018 at MSU and in 2022 at Texas. Texas finished 26-10 and was a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament before losing to Louisville in the second round this season.

“I decided on Texas because I trust Coach Schaefer to help develop me into the best player I can be and also help get to the next level,” said Booker, who signed with Texas in November over finalists Tennessee and Duke. “I picked Texas also because Coach Schaefer knows how to win.”

“I think the Texas program and coaching staff will be a great fit for her,” Glasgow said. “Coach Schaefer is a great coach, always very professional, seems to really care about his players and knows how to get the most out of them. I’m excited that Maddie will get to play for him.”

Sutton – who played at Jim Hill High and Tougaloo College – credits several people in her life who have helped her become the coach she is today.

“I started to continue the legacy of my late Pawpaw, Jesse Sutton (who was a longtime coach at Blackburn Middle School in Jackson),” Sutton said. “My high school coach, Jacqueline Ross, and one of my college coaches, Nicholas Judgeware, took me in as a player to help mold me.

“As far as my journey this far in coaching at Callaway, two people have been the most influential – my dad, Arthur Sutton, and my mentor, Dawn Thornton at UAPB (the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff). I’ve depended on them numerous times and they’ve always come through for me. Words really can’t express my gratitude towards them and I’m forever grateful to have those two in my career.”

Sutton comes from an athletic family. Her dad, Arthur Sutton, played football at Forest Hill and Jackson State. Her uncle Frank Sutton played football and basketball at Forest Hill, football at Jackson State and for the New England Patriots and New York Giants in the NFL. Her uncle Joe Coleman was the Mississippi Boys Basketball Player of the Year at Forest Hill and played at Ole Miss. Her uncle Mark was an All-State basketball player at Forest Hill and played at Mississippi Valley. Her aunt Harriet Sutton played basketball at Lanier and Jackson State. Her aunt Doris Sutton played basketball at Forest Hill and Jackson State.

Sutton took over the Callaway program two years ago after the Lady Chargers had an 1-11 record in the shortened 2020-2021 season due to covid. She had been the head coach at Northwest Jackson Middle School for three seasons, her last two teams went undefeated. Sutton’s first team at Callaway went 12-15 and lost in the first round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs, playing several freshmen who played for her at Northwest Jackson Middle. Last season was the first winning season at Callaway since the Lady Chargers finished 23-10 and lost to Murrah by two points for the Class 6A state championship in 2016.

“Coach Sutton is a dedicated math teacher and coach,” Callaway principal Dr. Shemeka McClung said. “She takes the time to build relationships with student athletes and coaches them to discover their individual strengths and work on the areas of concern. Coach Sutton is patient and willing to put in the work. It is the belief system in her student athletes for me. She never ceases to amaze me in conditioning of the mind and body.”

“Our season was able to be so successful because my players bought into my system and coaching style,” said Sutton, who is assisted by Maurice Wilson, Melvin Austin, Dionne Wells, James Stubbs, and Dominique Brown. “Our motto has been ‘Trust The Process’ since Year One and that’s what we do and will continue to do. We put the work in. We went out bad last year with a 30-point loss to Ridgeland in the first round (of the Class 5A playoffs) and that left a bad taste for us. Also, having our freshmen grow into sophomores with a little more experience really helped. We wanted to outwork everyone and that’s what we tried to do.”

Sutton’s leadership and her team’s talent and work ethic produced one of the biggest turnarounds in Mississippi.

“I have my four horsemen who carried us all season,” Sutton said. “We were led by the top sophomore point guard in the state (Jahanna Wilson), followed by one of the top shooters in the state (sophomore Anissa Branson). We had a transition bucket getter (sophomore Jernae Ringgold), and lastly the most improved player in the state (senior Tia Richardson).”

The 5-foot-3 Wilson – daughter of Callaway assistant coach Maurice Wilson – had the best season for the Lady Chargers. She averaged 15 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.5 steals this season. She ranked first in Mississippi in assists per game, according to MaxPreps. Wilson has career highs of 26 points, 15 rebounds, 10 steals, 9 assists and 6 blocked shots.

       “Jahanna is the engine that makes this team go,” Wilson said. “She leads the team in points, assists, steals and is second in rebounds. Jahanna’s basketball IQ is far more mature than her classification and she has a knack for getting the ball where it needs to be at the right time. When we are playing our best basketball, we can compete with any team in the state.”

        Callaway finished 27-7 and 14 of last 15 games before losing to West Jones in the MHSAA Class 5A championship game. Three of Callaway’s losses came against Class 6A teams Northwest Rankin (two points), Meridian (10 points) and Clinton (two points), two losses to Class 5A, Region 4 foe Vicksburg (three points and nine points) and one loss to Class 4A semifinalist Raymond (10 points). The Lady Chargers went on a run in the playoffs, defeating Cleveland Central, West Point, Ridgeland, and Laurel before playing West Jones.

       Sutton returns three starters (Wilson, Branson and Ringgold, who combined for 34.7 points and 9.8 assists per game this season) and wants to finish with a state title next season.

       “We want to win the 5A championship without any blowouts in the process,” Sutton said. “We want to compete in every game.”

Previous Winners

Metro Jackson Coach of the Year

2022: Michael McAnally, Jackson Prep 
2021: Josh Zeitz, Clinton Christian Academy
2020: Pearlene Fairley, Clinton

Metro Jackson Player of the Year

2022: Madison Booker, Germantown
2021: Madison Booker, Germantown
2020: Rose Warren, Puckett

Click the link to see the full list of All-Metro Team