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/Mississippi Scoreboard 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. The boys story and teams run today. The girls story and teams ran yesterday.
By Robert Wilson
Madison-Ridgeland Academy senior guard Josh Hubbard and Northwest Rankin coach Joshua Luckett – the 2023 PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Boys Basketball Player and Coach of the Year respectively – made history this season.
Hubbard broke a 37-year-old record and became the all-time leading scorer in Mississippi history with 4,367 points and also became the first player in MAIS history to win the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year. He broke Robert Woodard of Houlka’s scoring record of 4,274 points, set from 1981-86. Hubbard, who averaged 27.1 points this season, was the first non-MHSAA player to win the award, which began in the 1985-1986 season. This is his second consecutive season to be named the Metro Jackson Player of the Year.
The 34-year-old Luckett led Northwest Rankin to the first boys basketball state championship in school history. The Cougars defeated Rankin County rival Brandon 66-52 for the MHSAA Class 6A state championship, the first since the school opened in 1981, and finished with a 26-8 record. Luckett is the third Northwest Rankin coach in the last three school years to be named Metro Jackson Coach of the Year. Baseball coach KK Aldridge won it two years ago when he led the Cougars to the MHSAA Class 6A state runner-up finish to nationally ranked Madison Central and football coach Toby Collums, now at Madison Central, won it two years ago when he led the Cougars to a turnaround season and won a 6A state second-round playoff game for the first time in school history.
Hubbard started at MRA since the eighth grade and finished his career as one of the most prolific scoring point guards in Mississippi history, being mentioned by many in the same breath with famous guards like Monta Ellis, Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) and Devin Booker. Hubbard caught the attention of Mississippi high school fans during his freshman season when he scored 46 points, including two of his nine 3-pointers in the last 17 seconds, in a win over the tradition rich Gulfport High program where Abdul-Rauf once played.
“I’m so proud of Josh and his career,” said MRA coach Richard Duease, who is the second winningest active boys basketball coach in the country and the winningest basketball coach in Mississippi history. “He has gotten better every year. Josh has great confidence and believes he can make every shot. He is a scorer and is a threat when he crosses halfcourt. Josh has kept his body healthy and used his strength and speed to score and has avoided serious injuries during his career.”
Seeing various defenses geared to stop him, Hubbard improved his scoring average each season, and improved his accuracy, passing ability, and range each year. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Hubbard, known for his strength as well as his speed and quickness, was able not only to score from several feet beyond the 3-point line, but also could go drive into the lane for dunks in traffic and acrobatic layups. Hubbard has a 39-inch vertical leap – only 10 NBA players have had vertical leaps of more than 44 inches, Michael Jordan had the best recorded at 48 inches. Hubbard can bench press 225 pounds and has a personal best 415 pounds for a front squat. Hubbard played football through the ninth grade and MRA coach Herbert Davis said he would have been one of the best running backs in the state if he had kept playing football. Davis said Hubbard was timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds as a freshman.
In addition to scoring, Hubbard averaged 5.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.1 steals and led MRA to a 34-8 record, the MAIS Class 6A state championship and the Overall Tournament semifinals this season. He shot 50.1 percent from the field, 35.1 percent from 3-point range, and 85.5 percent from the free throw line this season. Hubbard made 117 3-pointers this season.
Hubbard is ranked as the No. 1 overall player in Mississippi and No. 69 overall player in country and the No. 17 point guard in the country on ESPN’s 2023 Top 100 – Hubbard became the leading scorer in MAIS history last season when he passed Ken Coghlan, who scored 3,168 points from 1977-1980 at East Rankin Academy.
Becoming the all-time career leader was even better.
“For my name to be in the category with Monta Ellis (the former Lanier great, national high school player of the year and former NBA star, who is now third all-time in Mississippi behind Hubbard and Woodard) and Robert Woodard is an unbelievable feeling and blessing,” Hubbard said. “I wouldn’t be able to have a chance to break this record with the help from a lot of people over the years.”
Hubbard and Duease were excited about the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year honor.
“It is an honor for Hubb that is well deserved,” Duease said. “He has been a great player for us for five years. I’m happy for him to be first player from our association to receive this honor. It’s a great honor for him, our school, and our basketball program.
“It means a lot to be the first player in private school history to win this award in basketball,” Hubbard said. “A lot of legends have won this award in the past. For my name to be added means a lot and I’m grateful to be selected.”
Hubbard signed with Ole Miss in November but was given his release from his national letter of intent with Ole Miss after the Rebels announced coach Kermit Davis would not be coming back next season. Hubbard opened up his recruiting back up and had three finalists – Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Seton Hall and announced earlier this March he was committing to Mississippi State. He will sign with the Bulldogs during the spring NCAA signing period in April.
Hubbard scored a career-high 47 points, including six 3-pointers, and 14 points in the fourth quarter, in an 83-81 loss to Clinton Christian Academy in December.
He averaged 27 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, made the all-tournament team and led MRA to a sixth-place finish in the 18-team prestigious Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn., which featured some of the best teams and players in the country, during the Christmas holidays.
He had a game-high 34 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot in a 71-70 overtime loss to Norcross (Ga.) High, which was ranked No. 23 in the nation by MaxPreps, in MRA’s second game. Hubbard outscored Norcross’ 6-6 senior guard and Georgia signee Lamariyon Jordan, ranked the No. 74 player in the country by ESPN who finished with 15 points and 18 rebounds. MRA led by 18 points in the third quarter.
Hubbard had 21 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists in a 71-59 victory over two-time defending Class 2A Tennessee state champion Greeneville School in MRA’s third game.
“Hubb had a great tournament against some of the best teams in the country,” Duease said after the tournament. “He is one of the best players in the country and he showed it by playing well. Hubb made 3s, drove the basket, made pull up jumpers and shot free throws well. He is a complete player. I was proud of him and our entire team in the tournament. Hubb is a special player who is going to play at a high level in college.”
He averaged 28.8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals and led MRA to a 33-7 record, a MAIS Class 6A state runner-up finish and an Overall semifinal finish last year as a junior.
Luckett, a Carthage High, East Central Community College, and Belhaven graduate, has gradually built the Cougar boys basketball program since he arrived on campus six years ago. He coached at Union High for three years before coming to Rankin County. Luckett led the Cougars to a 22-8 record and a 6A state quarterfinal finish last season and exceeded expectations this season. While 6A teams like Biloxi, Starkville, Tupelo and Horn Lake were considered the favorites this season, Luckett and his Cougars – with only two returning starters from last year – continued to stay under the radar until playoff time. Then they made some noise, and everyone heard them. Northwest Rankin defeated Oak Grove 64-49 in the first round, Biloxi 57-44 in the quarterfinals, Horn Lake 58-46 in the semifinals and Brandon in the championship game.
The Brandon win was special not only because it was the championship, but because Northwest Rankin had been dominated by Brandon in the series over the past 10 years. Brandon had defeated Northwest Rankin in both meetings during the regular season, won the last five meetings and owned the series between the two schools, winning 22 of the last 25 games. But this was the Cougars’ time.
Northwest Rankin played determined and focused, both on offense and defense. The Cougars shot 51.2 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from 3-point range and 81.0 percent from the free throw line. Northwest Rankin 65 percent from the field in the second half and shot 100 percent from the line (11 of 11) in the first half. Northwest Rankin jumped out to a 20-8 lead after one quarter and never trailed the rest of the game.
“We wanted to make a statement,” Luckett said. “We got off to another dominant first quarter and it was downhill after that. We didn’t know how (6-foot-3 senior forward) LeVionne (Lindsey, Northwest Rankin’s leading scorer) would look being on his ankle for the first time since the semis, so I told (Brendan) Brown before the game to take us there and he responded with another great performance. We had three starters battling through injuries and it was nice that other guys stepped up. It was a total team effort. It feels good to bring the first boys basketball championship to Northwest Rankin especially when nobody thought we could. You’ve got to believe. It was like that since Day One. It was Big House or bust. We came to work every day. We were locked in. We played together as a team. I had a group of kids who believed they could get it done.”
Brown, a 6-2 senior who missed the first several games of the basketball season because he was playing wide receiver in football, led Northwest Rankin with 20 points (including 9 of 9 from the free throw line), 5 assists and 2 steals. Lindsey had 17 points and 3 assists. Davion James, a 6-2 senior, had 13 points, 6 steals and 3 assists.
Brown, an East Mississippi Community College football signee, had a career-high 28 points in a 58-46 victory over Horn Lake in the semifinals.
The Brandon win was icing on the cake of a tremendous season for Luckett and his group of seniors.
“The seniors really led us this year,” said Luckett, who was assisted by Rogerick Magee, Brent Webber, Corey Smith, and Henry Thompson. “They set the tone on the defensive end. Brendan was a dog on both ends of the court and really stepped up his offensive game in the playoffs. LeVionne has been our go to guy all year. He’s the most consistent guy on the team, best scorer, and rebounder. Davion was very active on the defensive end. He became our point guard and floor general and played with a lot of energy this year. Javien Crump was a high energy guy all year and played hard every single game. He may not show up in the stats but played a key part in our success.”
Luckett – who got his coaching start at Leake Central as an assistant football, basketball and track and field coach – said his mom has been the most influential person in his life.
“Mom has always been the most influential person in my life,” Luckett said. “Her standard was As and Bs, nothing less. All I ever wanted to do was make my mom proud and help others. I got into coaching because I wanted to make an impact on young people.”
“Coach Luckett took a team that leaned on the leadership of LeVionne Lindsey and Brendan Brown,” Northwest Rankin athletic director and football coach Devin Cooper said. “Coach Luckett and his staff built a mental toughness in those young men that allowed them to make a run through teams they were not expected to beat. The team carried his personality of quiet confidence that allowed them to not only win, but dominate down the stretch. He created a culture in that team that was fun to experience. The boys played unselfishly and supported each other. Northwest Rankin was excited to watch NWR basketball dominate and beat their in-county rival Brandon to claim the first NWR boys basketball state championship.”
“Coach Luckett has breathed life into a Northwest Rankin basketball program that has been on life support for a long time,” Brandon coach Fred Barnes said. “He has used a calm demeanor and a burning passion for basketball to slowly build NWR into a program that can compete with the best teams in the state. To be in a position to get that program one game away from the Coliseum last year and to win the gold ball this year is a testament to his hard work and dedication. I think that Coach Luckett will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.”
Metro Jackson Boys Coach of the Year
2022: Tim Wise, Jackson Prep
2021: Bo Clark, Lanier
2020: Brian Cronin, St. Andrew’s
Metro Jackson Boys Player of the Year
2022: Josh Hubbard, MRA
2021: Deshaun Ruffin, Callaway
2020: Deshaun Ruffin, Callaway